What is Mobile Broadband Network?

Mobile Broadband Network

About mobile broadband networks

Mobile broadband network is the industry term for wireless internet. When you connect to the internet with your smartphone, a dongle, a fixed home wireless modem, and so on, you’re using a mobile broadband network.

The technology has made waves over the years, as wireless network speeds get faster and more reliable. And with 5G coming into the picture these days, 5G mobile broadband networks are becoming a viable alternative to wired broadband networks like the NBN, ADSL, and cable connections.

The benefits of mobile broadband networks lie in their wireless, portable nature. In this post, we’ll tell you all about how they work and the speeds of the major telcos’ mobile broadband offers, then we’ll compare mobile data broadband to mobile data plans, and discuss the pros and cons of the technology.

How does mobile broadband work?

A mobile broadband network connects to cellular towers through devices that are usually equipped with SIM cards. Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • SIM card slot
    Devices that already have SIM card slots, such as your smartphone, can connect to mobile broadband networks without secondary devices, by plugging your service provider’s SIM into the device.
  • eSIM
    Devices with eSIM (embedded SIM) can connect to a mobile broadband network without a secondary broadband device or a physical SIM card.
  • Dongles
    These devices resemble thumb drives, and they plug into the USB drive of the device you want to connect. Dongles have SIM card slots where you plug in your telco’s SIM to make use of their service plan.
  • Pocket WiFi
    These devices can also be described as dongles, but they don’t have to be plugged into your device’s USB port. Instead, they emit WiFi signals that you connect to, and can handle multiple connections unlike the traditional dongle which can only connect the device its plugged into.
  • Fixed Home Wireless Broadband
    Some telcos provide fixed home wireless broadband devices that are just for the home (unlike pocket WiFi’s on-the-go approach). They emit WiFi signals to your devices.

Network speed of Telstra, Optus, Vodafone

Mobile broadband networks offer some impressive download speeds, comparable to (or even better than) the NBN. This is true for both 4G mobile broadband and 5G mobile broadband set ups.

Network speeds depend on a lot of different factors, such as the devices you’re using, your location, the service provider, the plan, the generation of wireless network, and more.

Here’s a look at the network speeds for Australia’s major telcos:

  • Telstra advertises download speeds from 2 to 300 mbps. You’ll get the best speeds with their 4GX category 16 devices.
  • Optus is pushing their 5G fixed home wireless broadband service to the forefront, and it guarantees minimum download speeds of 50 mbps. Last year, that mobile broadband plan averaged 100 mbps and maxed out at 295 mbps.
  • Vodafone doesn’t have a lot of official figures out for their mobile broadband network’s download speeds. However, Broadband Speed Checker reports the telco averages 31.16 mbps download speeds in Australia.

Mobile Data Broadband vs Mobile Data Plan

So what’s the difference between mobile data broadband and mobile data plan? Well, they refer to two different parts of the same mobile broadband network.

Mobile data broadband refers to the network itself as well as the data being used, which is the internet. Your mobile data plan, on the other hand, is the service plan sold to you by your telco or service provider to access their mobile broadband network.

Pros and Cons of using Mobile broadband

Like everything else, mobile broadband comes with benefits and drawbacks. Here’s a look at some of the key pros and cons:


  • Mobility
    Mobile broadband devices are usually portable and, because they use wireless networks, you can carry them around to connect on-the-go.
  • No installation
    Unlike wired broadband devices, mobile broadband devices hardly ever need any installation. Just plug them in or turn them on and connect your device.
  • No clutter
    Again, the wireless nature and portability of mobile broadband devices mean you won’t have to deal with a lot of clutter, unlike wired networks that need cables to connect.
  • Postpaid or prepaid
    You also have the option of either postpaid or prepaid with mobile broadband networks. Most wired broadband services only offer postpaid plans.


  • Cost
    While the cost of mobile data continues to decrease, mobile broadband plans can be characterized as expensive. That’s because they usually come with data caps, unlike wired broadband plans that offer a lot of unlimited data options. Optus 5G fixed home wireless plan is the exception – they offer unlimited mobile broadband data.
  • Locked devices
    A lot of mobile broadband devices (especially dongles) are locked to particular networks, so you can’t switch if you see a better offer elsewhere without having to purchase a new device or unlock your current one.

Summing up

Mobile broadband networks give you a wireless, portable, on-the-go option for connecting to the internet. Their devices keep getting better and better as mobile networks continue to improve. And with 5G networks currently rolling out, mobile broadband is becoming more of a competitor to traditional wired networks like ADSL, the NBN, and cable.

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.