We get lots of people contacting us with questions about mobile broadband: what it is, what are its benefits and what are its limitations. We cover the most frequently asked questions here, but fee free to email or call us on 1300 106 571 if you want to know something that has not been covered here.
What is mobile broadband?
Mobile broadband is an internet connection delivered over the mobile phone towers. Unlike fixed-line broadband (such as ADSL2+ or cable), mobile broadband can be used on the move, just like a mobile phone.
What's the difference between mobile broadband and Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi is a wireless network, not a type of broadband. A wireless network can be set up on any type of broadband connection, including mobile broadband, by using a Wi-Fi modem. Wi-Fi can be used to connect several devices at once to one internet connection.
What is 3G?
3G refers to the third-generation technology that made internet connections over the mobile network fast enough to be useable. 3G is not available everywhere in Australia and if you travel around your mobile broadband may sometimes 'roam' onto a 2G network. This results in a much slower connection speed.
What is 4G?
4G refers to fourth generation technology. It's the next step from the current standard of 3G. As 4G is still quite new to Australia, it is restricted to capital cities and airports, and to people with a Telstra 4G modem.
What are the different speeds?
When searching for a plan, you may notice that speed is not mentioned much in the marketing. That's because mobile broadband speed depends on so many different factors it is impossible to predict how fast your connection will be. 3G speeds in most cases vary from no connection at all to around 3Mbps. As network carriers improve their technology, speeds will improve. Telstra claims its new 4G service can hit speeds of 40Mbps.
What can affect mobile broadband speeds?
Mobile broadband is affected by the number of customers accessing the network at the same time. That means a customer who gets a reasonably fast connection during the afternoon loses all their speed in the evening, when more people want to go online. Other problems include being too far from a tower, living near hills, trees, tall buildings...
How do I know what the speed will be?
You should always ask the provider about coverage in your area before signing up. While a coverage map won't tell you all the problems you might encounter with mobile broadband, it will at least give you an indication of how close you live to a tower on your network. Ask if the provider offers a two-week 'cooling off period' or similar, so that if the connection is much worse than expected, you can cancel the plan without penalty.
Do I need a modem?
Just like any other type of broadband, you will need a modem for mobile broadband to work. Many tablets and smartphones have a mobile broadband modem built in, so all you need to access the internet is a SIM card (microSIM for an iPad) and a plan from a network carrier.
Devices without a built in modem can access mobile broadband with a USB modem (also known as a dongle). As the name suggests, a USB modem is plugged into a USB port on your computer. If you want to connect several devices at the same time, you can use a Wi-Fi mobile broadband modem. These are also known as 'pocket Wi-Fi'. Wireless modems are ideal for customers who get great reception in one spot in their home or office but patchy reception elsewhere, as the device can be positioned in the optimum area.
What is the best mobile broadband plan?
The best mobile broadband plan is the plan that best suits your needs... for the best price. We've picked our favourites but you can also use our search all our plans by the amount of data you need, contract length or provider to get the best deal on the market.