Wednesday, 7 June 2023 | 9 min read
5G Broadband vs NBN: Which is better?
Written by Sarah Edwards, Communications Officer
Comparing 5G mobile broadband to NBN
Are you searching for a fast and reliable internet connection for your home? You might be considering 5G broadband or NBN. Both technologies have their pros and cons, and the best option for you depends on your needs, location, and budget. Here are some key factors to consider when comparing 5G broadband and NBN.
5G broadband has an advantage over some types of NBN that use copper cabling. WhistleOut states that 5G plans can provide speeds of up to 200Mbps or higher. In areas that use slower connection types, like Fibre to the Node (FTTN) or Fixed Wireless, typically cap at 100Mbps.
Mobile broadband offers great speeds, but there are drawbacks. To get the most out of a 5G connection, it is best to be in an area with good coverage. Additionally, speeds can vary depending on a number of factors such as coverage, signal strength, interference, as well as potential speed caps enforced on some plans.
Faster speeds are becoming widely available on the NBN network through their Fibre Connect program, enabling more customers to access high-speed and reliable internet in metro, urban, and regional areas. Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology enables you to get download speeds as high as 1,000Mbps. While weighing up your options, it’s worth asking your Internet Service Provider (ISP) if you’re in one of the 1,900+ areas that NBN has announced will be eligible for a free upgrade to FTTP.
Is 5G faster than NBN?
It depends on what broadband technologies are available to you in your area. Some NBN technologies are capable of speeds up to 1000Mbps, such as Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) and Fibre to the Premises (FTTP); and the current state of 5G broadband in Australia typically can’t exceed 250Mbps during the evenings when congestion peaks.
When you haven’t got these faster broadband technologies available, 5G broadband has great potential to be faster than what could be attained with an NBN plan.
Another important factor to consider is coverage. NBN is available to more Australians in more locations than 5G, which is still in its early stages of rollout. Currently, NBN has reached more than 11 million premises across the country, while high-speed mobile broadband coverage remains limited.
According to Finder, some providers claim that their 5G network is already available to at least 75% of the Australian population. While this figure may seem exciting, 5G technology is still relatively new in Australia, a large portion of that coverage is within capital cities where the majority of the Australian population lives. Providers are rapidly continuing to expand their footprint beyond these areas to reach regional cities and their surrounding areas, so these limitations of coverage may soon become a thing of the past.
If you’re considering switching to 5G broadband in 2023, it’s important to thoroughly research the availability between providers in your local area and confirm if their 5G broadband coverage is different to their coverage for 5G mobile services.
Reliability is another factor that can affect your internet experience. Both 5G and fixed-line broadband can suffer from interruptions and outages due to various reasons – such as weather conditions, network maintenance, or technical issues.
5G mobile broadband is becoming a popular alternative for gamers compared to using the NBN where some communities remain stuck on dicey copper connections that struggle to maintain a low latency in the evenings. In these areas, most notably Fibre to the Node, NBN service interruptions are more frequent – leaving online gamers stuck in the lobby because of a poor connection.
But not all connection types are made equal. Fixed broadband using Fibre to the Premises technology has a significant advantage over 5G broadband in terms of consistency, as it uses reliable physical connections with greater bandwidth – which is less prone to environmental interference.
Outages are one of the biggest pain points for NBN customers, and depending on where you live they may happen more frequently compared to places where the infrastructure is more stable; while full service outages typically happen less often for mobile networks, there are more ways that the quality of your 4G or 5G connection can be negatively impacted.
5G relies on wireless signals that can be affected by physical obstacles, such as buildings, trees, or walls. Radio interference is another large factor that can impact your mobile broadband connectivity – as mobile networks use radio waves to transmit data. Interference can be caused by aerospace traffic, nearby bodies of water, dense building materials between you and your nearest tower, or congestion when lots of users accessing the same mobile network at once.
Interference caused by congestion is the biggest performance issue faced by mobile broadband users – and it can become a significantly greater weakness over time as more customers join the 5G network in your area. Congestion can make the quality of your internet service inconsistent during different times of the day, depending on which times of the day are busy for the network – such as the typical evening period where many people hop online to stream and game after dinner.
In some homes, the wall point used for NBN might be installed in a location that is inconvenient – like inside a spare bedroom that’s far from the TV and computer, or in the kitchen close to the microwave (which can cause WiFi interference!).
Additionally, in some circumstances, you might need to get NBN installed for the first time before you get an internet service up and running.
If you are facing some of these inconveniences, it’s a no-brainer to weigh up the pros and cons of choosing a NBN service. Mobile broadband is a considerable alternative for folks who live in a property without a fixed line internet connection already installed, such as a newly built house, granny flat, or bungalow.
5G broadband is easier to install than traditional wired broadband because you don't need to drill holes or run cables in your home. You just need a 5G router, typically supplied by the internet provider, that connects to the nearest tower and delivers fast internet to your devices.
On the other hand, if your property already has NBN installed and ready to go, getting connected is a breeze – many ISPs can remotely activate your NBN service within a day or two without needing to send a tech out. When choosing a NBN service, many providers will allow you to use your own chosen modem/router - and unlike mobile broadband, there is an abundance of products available to suit your specific household’s needs.
Need more mobile data?
Add a data-only SIM for your tablet or dongle and share the data across all mobile services on the plan*. No hotspots required!
*Data sharing currently available only on 4G plans on the same account.
When it comes to cost, 5G broadband might offer better value than NBN depending on the speed on offer. Plans with a lower cap on download speeds are priced roughly in line with NBN Home Standard plans (50Mbps), while ‘uncapped’ 5G plans are priced a little less than most NBN Home Fast plans (100Mbps).
This means that most 5G plans are comparable to the cost of fixed-line broadband plans at a similar price point. However, NBN plans might have more flexibility in terms of data allowance, contract length, and bundling options.
Another important thing to consider when weighing up these options is the upfront cost or fees in the fine print.
Many mobile internet providers will supply you with a compatible modem for the service, often without any upfront cost – but the terms and conditions might say that you’ll need to pay it off if you cancel your plan early. In circumstances where a fixed-line connection hasn’t been installed at the property yet, 5G broadband might be a more affordable option than technician fees when weighing up the costs.
Future trends and developments in 5G and NBN
NBN has recently announced that they will be upgrading its Fixed Wireless and Satellite networks, which will expand the availability of these services and deliver better speeds. These improvements also include adding 5G technology to Fixed Wireless towers, along with some new plans which they claim will offer higher download speeds up to 250Mbps. According to NBN, works on the Fixed Wireless and Satellite Upgrade Program are expected to complete by the end of 2024.
These upgrades mean that internet users could enjoy the same speeds as 5G mobile broadband in many regional and rural areas, even where 5G isn’t available yet for mobile service.
Will 5G replace NBN?
In its current form, 5G is not a direct replacement for NBN as both have their different advantages and disadvantages as we’ve outlined in this post.
Meanwhile, as NBN continues to expand its fibre upgrade program it seems far from likely to become redundant any time soon. It’s safe to say that for now that the current status of how we use broadband at home is not under threat; 5G and NBN are complementary technologies that can work together to meet the diverse needs of internet users.
Recap: The pros and cons of using 5G broadband
In conclusion, both 5G broadband and NBN have their strengths and weaknesses, and there is no clear winner between them. To sum it all up, we’ve highlighted the following pros and cons of using 5G mobile broadband.
5G can be circumstantially faster compared to NBN in areas connected to copper, such as FTTN.
Reception and coverage is strong in most metro and regional cities.
5G internet offers more affordability and flexibility as it doesn’t need professional installation.
Mobile broadband services experience less system-wide outages unlike some types of fixed line connections.
Many 5G broadband providers limit the download speed on their plans, and uncapped options are limited.
5G broadband is not as widely available compared to NBN, even in areas where it has been rolled out for mobile services.
Speeds experienced on mobile broadband can be harshly impacted by many external factors, especially when there are lots of customers accessing the same network.
NBN remains the ultimate winner in the residential space with a maximum download speed of up to 1000Mbps, in areas connected to fibre.
The best option for you depends on your personal preferences and circumstances. If you want more mobility and flexibility, you might prefer 5G broadband. If you’re looking for more stability or super fast speeds, you might prefer to sign up for an NBN plan. Ultimately, both technologies can work together to provide Australians with better access to a quality internet connection.
Sarah is a Communications Officer at Aussie Broadband with 10 years of various experiences in the tech sector under their belt. Responsible for the continuous improvement of Aussie's Help Centre, Sarah also authors editorial blog posts, and...See all articles
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