Mobile broadband and 4G data is becoming more and more relied upon every day as we commute to work and travel around the country. There are occasions where many may even use a 4G mobile connection more frequently than a home broadband connection as they spend more time away from home. With improved infrastructure and access across the United Kingdom, it raises the question of whether broadband through your phone line is becoming obsolete and mobile networks may soon take over. I am going to take a look into both mobile and home broadband to see where I think one wins over the other and look at how our current broadband usage and future broadband usage may change the way in which we connect to the world.
One of the most problematic areas of mobile broadband is that reliability of the connection. It’s reasonable to expect that there will be fluctuations in mobile coverage from time to time and it is certainly a problem when traveling from place to place. Mobile networks work by allowing data to transfer through the air in a similar fashion to your WiFi at home, only over a much larger distance through a big antenna.
The problem comes when there is interference to that signal, and it can be caused by a number of things. First and foremost the signal may be blocked by building or land mass that could prevent the signal from getting to you home. Another factor is the weather, while this is a rare problem, interference by weather such as electrical storms can prevent you from getting any signal at all.
Home broadband does not suffer from these issues as the data reaches your home through wires, usually wires that run underground directly to your building, with the exception of homes that are connected at the last point via telegraph poles. For this reason, home broadband wins in the reliability of signal category.
In a report on the state of mobile networks by OpenSignal in April 2016 a speed test was performed on all carriers and Three Mobile won with speeds of up to 18.66Mb per second. Although O2 and Vodafone have speeds of around 12Mb per second. These speeds are comparative to ADSL 2+ speeds and while they are fine for most mobile operations, using a mobile network for more data-heavy operations such as streaming and gaming may be problematic for some. Even for those with the strongest mobile signal.
Fibre speeds, in contrast, offers speeds of up to 200Mb per second if you are in a Virgin Media enabled area. Openreach reported in April 2016 that Fibre Optic reach 86% of the United Kingdom at that point, which is around 25 million homes and businesses. That means that the majority of the UK can access speeds of at least 40mb per second, nearly three times as quick as mobile broadband.
Depending on your usage this may not be an important factor however for the purpose of this article it is clear that home broadband offers much better infrastructure currently.
The government announced that they would be providing funding for 5G testing during their autumn statement in 2016. This fund would allow local councils to apply for grants to test 5g in their area. This increased funding proves that the government is keen to improve connectivity and mobile broadband.
5G is impressive technology and allows mobile networks to tap into existing fibre networks and expand by building new fibre lines. At the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey, researchers have developed technologies that allowed them to reach speeds of 1 Terabyte per second over the air. However, these speeds are not expected to be replicated in real-world scenarios, and Ofcom expects speeds to be between 10 and 50 GB Per second. These speeds are still huge and could shape the future of 5G technology. Those speeds could mean that mobile broadband overtakes home broadband due to the advanced capabilities. The question that arises from this though is how much will it cost?
The benefit of being connected to a mobile network is that you can stay connected for the most part when you are on the move. This is a great benefit if you are in the middle of a large download or require access on the train or in the car. A lot of devices now come with sim card slots to allow a device to become truly mobile.
This ability clearly trumps home broadband due to its versatility. It’s no good having a home broadband connection if you are often on the move. Should infrastructure improvements be made to mobile broadband, especially with 5G, mobile broadband will be the obvious answer to those of us that need remote access.
One of the largest drawbacks to mobile broadband is the cost. Most mobile contracts will have a data element attached, with the data plans growing and growing due to increased usage. With that comes cost as the mobile networks try to recover the costs of the infrastructure improvements with some making large profits on the growing need for data on the go.
Currently, due to the high costs of mobile data, home broadband is a much more economical way to access the Internet and so wins in the cost category.
The benefit of having home broadband is its security. Mainly due to that fact that you are in control of that network and so you can set your own protection on the router before it even gets to your devices. While you can also have anti-virus, firewalls and anti-spyware on each specific device, it is not as robust as being able to set up firewalls and security measure on your router.