Australia's National Broadband Network build keeps rolling on, with more than 50% of the country now able to connect to our brand new internet. While some have had great experiences with their new NBN connections, the rollout hasn't been without its's challenges. Performance issues, technology changes, and setup troubles have marred the project. And of course, some will still have to wait years before the NBN comes to their area.
Essentially, if you're connected to the NBN and aren't happy with your performance or if you're sick of waiting, you might want to consider an alternative like mobile broadband.
If you'd prefer not avoid the NBN, mobile broadband is the only widely available alternative; once the NBN comes to your area, your existing fixed connection will be disconnected within 18 months (unless you're in a satellite area).
Mobile broadband comes in two different forms: "traditional" mobile broadband and home wireless.
Traditional mobile broadband is where you simply buy a data-only SIM from a telco of your choice and throw it in a device, whether it's a spare phone, a tablet, a dongle, or a portable wireless hotspot.
Home wireless is a newer offering where you buy a complete package include a plug-in modem that connects to a 4G network, rather than wiring in your street. Home wireless packages tend to have larger data allowances than data-only SIMs, but slower speeds.
Optus was the first provider to offer home wireless in Australia, and it is now whole-selling its solution onto other providers. As such, we're expecting to see more home wireless options in the market in the near future.
There are three big benefits to mobile broadband as an NBN alternative.
The first is flexibility. Since mobile broadband doesn't require a physical connection, you're free to take it wherever you want. If you don't have a fixed address, move regularly, or just can't get a fixed line connection, mobile broadband is a perfect alternative to the NBN.
After you sign-up for a mobile broadband connection, it's active within the day, if not within minutes. You're online almost instantly. It can be weeks between when you place an order for an NBN connection and when it's ready for you to use, and that's assuming you're in an NBN area.
Mobile broadband speeds can match (if not exceed) those available on the NBN. 4G connections can typically deliver speeds between 50Mbps and 100Mbps these days, which is what you'd expect from a high-end NBN connection. It is however worth noting that some mobile broadband plans - specifically in the "home wireless" space - will cap your speeds.
While there's a lot to love about mobile broadband, it won't be right for everyone.
In most cases, you'll end up spending more for less when it comes to mobile broadband. While the starting price of an unlimited fixed line connection is a little as $60, you're looking at around $70 per month for 100GB a no-contract mobile broadband connection. 200GB tends to be largest widely available download allowance, and that's only on home wireless plans, where your download speeds are restricted to a maximum of 12Mbps.
Vividwireless is one of the few exceptions to this; it offers an unlimited home wireless plan, but this is only available in select areas, and once again, restricted to speeds of 12Mbps.
Since mobile broadband requires a reliable cellular connection, it might not be ideal if you've got patchy coverage at your place of residence.
Mobile broadband and fixed wireless NBN both use 4G technology, but the NBN has its own cellular towers exclusively used to deliver internet to premises where deploying a fixed connection would not be practical. NBN fixed wireless connections are also tied to a home or business, whereas mobile broadband solutions are portable and can be taken from residence to residence freely.
At a minimum, you need a data-only SIM card and a device to put it in to get a mobile broadband connection going. This could be a simple as putting a SIM in your iPad, and using it as a hotspot, or alternatively, as involved as buying a modem with a SIM card slot.
Most telcos selling data-only SIM plans will also have a range of 4G capable modems available. These include portable battery-powered solutions, as well as more traditional modem replacements that plug into a spare power outlet.
If you've got a SIM-enabled iPad or Android tablet, you can simply put in a data-SIM and then use it as a Wi-Fi hotspot to share its connection with another device. An old phone would also work.
A USB modem is a great portable mobile broadband solution, provided you only need to take one computer online at a time. While it doesn't need to be recharged, it needs to be plugged in directly to the device you want to get connected.
|Portable Wireless Hotspot|
A portable wireless hotspot lets you share a mobile broadband connection with a number of devices simultaneously. These are typically battery powered, and will need recharging.
|Fixed Home Wireless Modem|
A fixed home wireless modem is much more like a traditional modem, in that it needs to be plugged into a power outlet to work. As such, these are more appropriate for those who don't need their mobile broadband on the go.