Mobile broadband vs home broadband: What's the difference?

Dan Howdle | May 4th, 2023

Person working on their mobile device and laptop

It's only been recently that home broadband users have had a feasible, workable alternative to broadband delivered through a fixed line. But, increasingly, mobile network providers are offering 4G and 5G home broadband packages in direct competition to them.

So how do they compare, and which is best for you? There are going to be a number of factors involved in answering those questions, chiefly around how the technologies differ, and your living situation. Let's take a look.


When it comes to availability, fixed-line home broadband has a wider coverage area in the UK compared to 4G/5G home broadband (sometimes called mobile broadband). This is because fixed-line broadband infrastructure, such as fiber optic cables and copper wires, have been in place for decades and are well-established. As a result, fixed-line broadband is available to all but about 0.4% of households in the UK. However, some rural areas still struggle with poor fixed-line broadband availability due to their distance from the nearest telephone exchange.

On the other hand, mobile home broadband has seen rapid expansion in recent years and is increasingly available to many households in the UK. With the deployment of 5G technology, the coverage area of mobile home broadband has expanded even further. However, availability of mobile home broadband may still be limited in some areas, particularly in more remote or rural locations, which is less than ideal, since it's those sorts of locations that are also most likely to struggle to get useful speeds via a fixed-line broadband connection.

In terms of availability, it is important to note that fixed-line home broadband may be subject to capacity limitations in certain areas, leading to slower speeds and connection problems during peak usage times. In contrast, mobile home broadband is generally more consistent in terms of speed and performance, but may also be subject to network congestion during peak usage times, particularly in urban areas. Ultimately, when comparing fixed-line home broadband and mobile network home broadband in terms of availability, it is important to consider the specific needs and circumstances of each household.

Availability comparison

Technology Fixed-Line Home Broadband Mobile Home Broadband
Availability Widely available, limited in some rural areas (~0.4% without) Increasingly available, but limited in remote/rural locations (~4% without)
Deployment Requires significant infrastructure investments, resulting in slower deployment speed Quickly deployable in areas with existing 4G/5G coverage, ongoing network maintenance/upgrade required
Service quality Provides stable and consistent service quality, but affected by network congestion/hardware malfunctions May experience fluctuations in service quality due to network congestion, signal interference, or distance from mobile network masts

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Speed, performance and reliability

Fixed-line home broadband has been a standard for high-speed internet connectivity in the UK for years. However, with the advent of 4G and 5G networks, mobile providers are now offering home broadband solutions that allow users to access high-speed internet without the need for a fixed line. Here is a quick overview.

Technology Fixed-Line Home Broadband Mobile Home Broadband
Speed Offers higher maximum speeds (up to 1Gbps) Maximum speeds usually top out at around 150Mbps
Performance More stable and consistent due to physical cables Can experience fluctuations due to wireless signals affected by environmental factors
Reliability Generally more reliable More susceptible to outages due to environmental factors


When it comes to speed, fixed-line home broadband offers higher maximum speeds than 4G/5G home broadband. Fixed-line broadband speeds in the UK can range from about 10Mbps all the way up to 1Gbps (1,000Mbps or more) depending on the type of connection and the package chosen. In comparison, 4G/5G home broadband speeds usually top out at around 150Mbps. While 4G/5G home broadband can be faster than some fixed-line broadband connections, it is not as suitable for users who require the highest possible speeds for downloading games or tuning into multiple 4K video streams.


Performance is an important consideration when choosing between fixed-line home broadband and 4G/5G home broadband. Fixed-line broadband is generally more stable and consistent in terms of performance compared to 4G/5G broadband. This is because fixed-line broadband connections use physical cables to transmit data, whereas mobile connections rely on wireless signals that can be affected by environmental factors such as weather or interference from other devices. As a result, fixed-line broadband is less prone to drops or fluctuations in speed or interruptions in service.


Reliability is another critical factor when choosing between fixed-line home broadband and 4G/5G home broadband. Fixed-line broadband is generally considered to be more reliable than 4G/5G broadband. Fixed-line broadband providers offer service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee a certain level of uptime and reliability. In contrast, 4G/5G broadband is more susceptible to outages and service disruptions due to environmental factors such as poor weather or network congestion. While 4G/5G broadband providers do offer backup solutions to ensure service continuity, they are not as reliable as fixed-line connections.

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Cost and value for money

One of the most critical factors for many consumers when choosing between fixed-line home broadband and mobile home broadband is the cost. Both technologies have different pricing models, and there are various factors that can affect the overall cost of service. People should consider their internet usage needs, such as the amount of data they consume and the speed required for their specific applications, when choosing a plan that offers them value for money.

Fixed-line broadband pricing tends to be more straightforward and predictable with pricing, with providers offering various packages that differ primarily in terms of download speed, router, and bundled extras. On the other hand, 4G/5G home broadband packages tend to be more flexible, with some providers offering rolling contracts or pay-as-you-go options. However, these options can be more expensive than traditional fixed-line broadband packages when comparing speeds like for like, so users may end up paying more for the convenience and flexibility.

Cost comparison factors

  • Cost of equipment: Both fixed-line and 4G/5G mobile home broadband provider will most often supply you with a free router. Sometimes, there is a charge for the cost of posting this to you, however
  • Monthly cost: Fixed-line home broadband plans can range from around £20-£60 per month, depending on the download speed. 4G/5G home broadband plans tend to be at the cheaper end of that scale, but do not provide like for like value when it comes to speeds
  • Value for money: Fixed-line home broadband typically offers better value for money when it comes to speed and data allowance. For example, Virgin Media's Gig1 package offers average speeds of 1140Mbps and unlimited data for around fifty quid a month (it varies throughout the year, though), while 4G/5G home broadband plans can be similarly priced, but largely can't touch those speeds
  • Installation cost: Fixed-line home broadband may require an installation fee, depending on the provider and the complexity of the installation. 4G/5G home broadband typically does not require an installation fee, primarily because it doesn't involve setting up a line into your home, although some providers may charge a setup fee or delivery fee for the router regardless
  • Contract length: Fixed-line home broadband plans usually require a minimum contract length of 12-24 months, while 4G/5G home broadband plans may offer more flexibility with shorter contract lengths or even monthly rolling contracts, making them ideally suited to temporary home rentals, as well as homes that cannot get good speeds any other way

Which is best for you?

While both technologies have their advantages and disadvantages, the choice of which is best for you depends on your specific needs and circumstances. One advantage of fixed-line home broadband is that it generally offers faster and more reliable speeds, which can be especially important for online gaming, streaming, and video conferencing. However, fixed-line broadband may not be available in all areas, especially those that are very rural, and may require installation fees and a long-term contract.

On the other hand, 4G/5G home broadband offers greater flexibility and portability, as it relies on cellular networks rather than physical cables. This can be a major advantage if you move frequently or if you live in an area where fixed-line broadband is not available. Additionally, some 4G/5G home broadband plans offer unlimited data, which can be a major benefit for heavy internet users. However, 4G/5G home broadband speeds can be slower and less reliable than fixed-line broadband, especially during peak usage times.

Ultimately, the choice between fixed-line home broadband and 4G/5G home broadband depends on your specific needs and circumstances. If you require fast and reliable speeds for online gaming or streaming, fixed-line broadband may be the better option. However, if you need greater flexibility and portability or live in an area where fixed-line broadband is not available, 4G/5G home broadband may be a better fit. It's important to carefully consider your options and compare plans, prices, speeds and features before making a decision.

Why choose fixed-line broadband?


  • Fast and reliable speeds
  • Stable connection
  • Low latency
  • Very high availability


  • Slower than some fixed-line deals
  • May not be available in all areas
  • May require installation fees and long-term contracts
  • May experience slower speeds during peak usage times

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Why choose mobile home broadband?


  • Flexible and portable
  • No installation fees or long-term contracts
  • Unlimited data plans available
  • Can be faster than fixed line broadband in some areas


  • Slower and less reliable than fixed-line broadband
  • Not available in all areas or may have limited coverage
  • Affected by signal interference and dropouts
  • Data usage may be subject to throttling

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See also

Frequently asked questions

What are the differences between fixed-line and mobile home broadband?

Fixed-line broadband uses a physical line (copper, fiber optic or a mixture) to connect your home to the internet, while 4G/5G home broadband uses a mobile phone network. Fixed-line broadband is generally faster, more reliable, and more widely available than 4G/5G home broadband, but mobile home broadband offers more flexibility and can be faster in some, often rural, areas.

What are the advantages of fixed-line broadband compare to mobile broadband?

Fixed-line broadband offers faster and more reliable speeds, more consistent performance, and lower latency than 4G/5G home broadband. It also usually comes with more generous data allowances and is better suited for activities that require a lot of bandwidth, such as streaming movies or playing online games.

What are the advantages of mobile home broadband?

4G/5G home broadband is more flexible than fixed-line broadband since it doesn't require a physical line to be installed. It can also be faster than fixed-line broadband in some areas, and more flexible when it comes to contract length. Some providers even offer unlimited data plans for 4G/5G home broadband.

Is mobile home broadband suitable for online gaming and streaming?

4G/5G home broadband is suitable for online gaming and streaming, but it depends on the quality of the mobile signal in your area. mobile broadband can be affected by signal interference and dropouts, which can result in higher latency and packet loss. Fixed-line broadband is generally better suited for activities that require low latency and high bandwidth, such as online gaming and streaming.

How do I choose between fixed-line and mobile home broadband?

When choosing between fixed-line and 4G/5G home broadband, consider your location, your internet usage habits, and your budget. If you live in an area with good fixed-line broadband coverage and require a lot of bandwidth for activities such as streaming movies or playing online games, fixed-line broadband may be the better choice. However, if you need a more flexible or portable solution, or if fixed-line broadband isn't available in your area, 4G/5G home broadband may be the right choice.