What is 5G mobile broadband?
5G mobile broadband is a way to get devices such as laptops and tablets connected to a 5G network without them needing their own SIM cards – they just need the ability to connect to a Wi-Fi network.
In most cases, a 5G mobile broadband device will be a battery-powered router, which broadcasts a 5G signal to nearby devices as a Wi-Fi network. So if you have one of these and you’re in a 5G area then you can get all your gadgets online at super-fast speeds, wherever you are – whether you’re outside, in a hotel or café, on a train, or anywhere else.
There are also different types of mobile broadband devices, such as dongles which are like a USB stick that you plug into the device you want to get online. These don’t need their own battery, but also only get one gadget online at once, and 5G ones aren’t offered by any networks at the time of writing.
5G mobile broadband is an ideal option any time you’re away from home or the office, even if there’s public Wi-Fi available, as it’s both more secure and typically faster than public Wi-Fi networks.
Which networks offer 5G mobile broadband?
EE offers a 5G mobile broadband device called the 5GEE WiFi. This has a 6,460mAh battery and can get up to 64 devices online at once – which is more than many 5G mobile broadband routers can manage.
It also has a 30-metre range and offers average 5G download speeds of around 150Mbps according to EE, which is faster than many fibre broadband connections. The 5GEE WiFi is a hybrid device which EE advertises as also being a good option for bringing internet to your home or shared accommodation. So whatever your internet needs, this is likely to suit.
At the time of writing you can get up to unlimited data with the 5GEE WiFi, so however heavy a user you are there’ll be a plan to suit.
On O2 you can get the Huawei 5G Pocket Hotspot Pro, which has a huge 8,000mAh battery and offers download speeds of up to 1.65Gbps. That’s far faster than almost any fibre broadband, but also far faster than you’re likely to get in the real world. Still, you can expect the real-world experience to be very speedy too as long as you’ve got a 5G connection.
It also supports 40W fast charging and you can get it with up to unlimited data on O2.
Which networks offer unlimited 5G mobile broadband?
O2 lets you customise 5G mobile broadband plans to your liking, meaning you can get up to unlimited data. EE also offers unlimited data, though all its plans are pre-built, so the options are slightly less customisable.
How fast is 5G mobile broadband?
5G mobile broadband offers similar speeds to 5G smartphones, which means you can expect very high speeds.
A September 2020 study from Point Topic recorded a top speed of 753Mbps with a 5G phone, while average speeds come in at between around 120-160Mbps, depending on network, location, and which tests you look at.
That’s in line with EE’s claim that the average speeds with its 5GEE WiFi device are around 150Mbps. Theoretical top speeds with any 5G mobile broadband device could be well over 1Gbps, with the Huawei 5G Pocket Hotspot Pro for example supporting speeds of up to 1.65Gbps. But you’re unlikely to get that unless you’re right next to a mast, and even then, possibly not until 5G networks improve. That does mean 5G mobile broadband devices are future-proofed though.
Can I use 5G mobile broadband at home?
5G mobile broadband is designed for when you’re away from home and don’t have easy access to a secure, speedy Wi-Fi network. That said, there’s no reason you can’t use it in your home. It could be a good option if for example you’re having broadband issues, or waiting for your home broadband to be connected. And as it’s 5G it can be just as fast as fibre broadband, so it shouldn’t feel like a downgrade.
What about 5G home broadband?
5G home broadband is also available, and this is similar to 5G mobile broadband, except the devices don’t have batteries in them, as they’re designed to be plugged in and to provide long-term internet to your home.
While you could also plug a 5G mobile broadband router in, if your main objective is bringing internet to your home then a dedicated 5G home broadband router is a better option.
Frequently asked questions
Which network offers the best 5G mobile broadband plan?
At the time of writing only EE and O2 offer 5G mobile broadband, and the best plan depends on your needs. O2’s plans are more customisable in terms of data limits and duration, but EE launched its 5G service first, so it likely has better coverage than O2, and both networks top out at unlimited data.
How many devices can I get online with 5G mobile broadband?
That depends on the mobile broadband device, but in some cases you can get up to 64 online. The 5GEE WiFi for example supports this many. Some support less, often in the region of 20, but given that these devices are designed for use away from home, it’s unlikely you’d often need to get many gadgets online at the same time anyway.
Why would I want 5G mobile broadband?
5G mobile broadband is ideal if you ever want to get a laptop, tablet or other device that doesn’t have its own SIM card online when away from home.
As long as you can get a mobile signal, you’ll be able to get connected, and with a 5G signal the speeds will be very high – so you can still get great performance even with loads of devices sharing the connection.
5G mobile broadband is also a good option even when there’s public Wi-Fi available, as it’s more secure and usually also faster.
What if I don’t have a 5G signal?
If you don’t have a 5G signal, then a 5G mobile broadband device will still work over 4G or 3G. As long as you have signal of some kind on the right network, you’ll be fine, the speeds you get just might be lower.