Phone Deal Finder
Plan Finder

Mobile Broadband: What Is It and How Does It Work?

a bus on a road
Table of contents

Mobile broadband, a.k.a wireless broadband, builds off of fixed-line broadband by expanding the freedom you have when connecting to the Internet. Instead of being fixed to a phone line, mobile broadband works by connecting a device directly to cell phone towers. 

This allows you to take your Internet connection on the go, whether you’re using a laptop, tablet, cell phone, dedicated hotspot, or any other type of device that can connect to a Broadband Internet network. 

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into what mobile broadband is, how it works, its pros and cons, the kind of speeds it’s capable of, and popular mobile broadband providers.  Read on to learn about all things mobile broadband. 

What is Mobile Broadband Technology?

Broadband Internet is defined by the FCC as a connection that transmits at speeds of at least 25 Mbps. Most broadband connections are wired, including DSL, Cable Internet, and Fiber Internet

Mobile broadband, however, doesn’t rely on fixed wired connections, and instead makes use of cell phone towers to work. Specifically, mobile broadband harnesses these 4G and 5G cellular networks to send and receive data, and give you the ability to browse, stream and game from your mobile device. 

These mobile broadband-ready devices include tablets, laptops, dedicated mobile hotspots, and of course, cell phones.  

How Does Mobile Broadband Work?

Mobile broadband makes use of the same 4G and 5G cellular networks that we use everyday to browse and stream on our phones. These networks are made up of towers that transmit radio waves that have the ability to carry data. Mobile broadband leverages these networks of radio frequencies to deliver Internet connections to your computer, WiFi hotspot, tablet, or other device. 

What Kind of Speed Does Mobile Broadband Offer?

If we’re to adhere to the FCC’s definition of broadband as an Internet connection that transmits speeds of at least 25 Mbps, we have to take 4G LTE networks out of our discussion here. That’s because 4G connections offer speeds somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-15 Mbps. 

Newer 5G wireless networks, by contrast, deliver average speeds of 100 Mbps to 500 Mbps. Certain 5G bands can even achieve 1 Gbps (i.e. 1,000 Mbps) speeds. Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T are the foremost mobile broadband service providers in the U.S., make use of their 5G networks to deliver mobile broadband connections to their customers. 

Mobile networks are constantly being refined and developed, so there may come a day that the speeds you’re able to achieve via mobile broadband connections outstrip those offered by fixed-wire broadband (e.g. cable and fiber). 

5G Home Internet Plans

A handful of telecommunications companies offer mobile broadband plans, which they market as “5G Home Internet.” This moniker refers to the 5G wireless networks upon which they run. The biggest players in this space are also cell phone carriers—specifically, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile

Of these carriers, Verizon claims to offer the fastest 5G Home Internet plan, delivering 1 Gbps speeds via its 5G Home Plus offering ($45/month). T-Mobile’s high-speed 5G Home Internet plan ($40/month), as a point of comparison, tops out at 182 Mbps. AT&T is far more vague about the speeds available via its single 5G Home Internet plan, AT&T Internet Air. 

The list of mobile broadband—a.k.a. 5G Home Internet—providers and plans is sure to grow in the coming years as more 5G (and eventually, 6G) networks are built out.  

Benefits of Mobile Broadband

The clearest benefit of mobile broadband is that you can go wherever you want without having to look for a connection point.

While both wireless and wired home connections require you to either plug in or stay near the access point, mobile broadband Internet connects you directly to local cell towers. This means that you can travel without worrying about how to connect to the Internet, so long as you have purchased a data plan for your device.

It is also very convenient given that a huge percentage of people already own devices that can act as mobile hotspots. Now that home Internet and mobile phone networks have been made separate, not everyone is willing to take on the extra expense of in-home Internet.

In fact, some homes don’t even have a fixed-line as an option anymore due to changes in our infrastructure. Mobile broadband is fast, reliable, and easy to use wherever you are.

Cons of Mobile Broadband

The biggest issue with mobile broadband is the cost. You could potentially be paying per gigabyte of data, which will usually come out to more than you would be paying for home Internet given how much data we go through in the modern era.

Many fixed-line plans are considerably cheaper than what you can get a limited data mobile broadband plan for.

Another issue is that you need to be in an area where cell service is excellent. Since you are not getting your Internet through a wired connection, we you need to make sure that you have strong access to local cell towers. If you don’t, you could end up with slow speeds.

The Bottom Line

Mobile broadband is a growing technology that allows users to connect to the Internet without the hassle of a wired connection (like modems and routers). This makes its utility enormous, especially with the rise of remote work. 

While the number of mobile broadband providers and plans is somewhat limited right now, that’s sure to change in the coming years. This will no doubt be coupled with an increase in 5G mobile network innovation, so you can expect the kinds of speeds offered by mobile broadband to improve.  

Find phone deals based on your
trade-in and carrier
Find a Phone Deal

Phone Deals