6th Mar 2023

The Best Option For You: Home Wireless Broadband or nbn®?


There are a lot of ways to get online in 2019. While the country’s national broadband system (nbn®) expands around Australia, a great many people are choosing that option for accessing the Internet. But there are still some other possibilities out there.

What about home wireless broadband? Operating using different technologies, is it possible that home wireless broadband is a viable alternative to using nbn? Let’s take a closer look.

nbn and Home Wireless Broadband: How They Work

When looking to determine if home wireless broadband could suit your needs, it’s best to understand how it works, and, specifically, how it differs from nbn.

Home Wireless Broadband Basics

The fundamental aspect to comprehend about Home Wireless Broadband is that it doesn't necessitate a fixed line or physical connection. It bypasses the need for the National Broadband Network or traditional copper wires for internet connectivity. Instead, it operates over the same wireless networks that your mobile phone uses, such as the familiar 3G and 4G (and upcoming 5G) networks.

A network signal is required to connect to the internet via Home Wireless Broadband, and this can be accessed through any compatible device in your home.

To establish a connection, you would typically use a Home Wireless Broadband modem that comes with a pre-installed SIM card. This modem, which is designed to connect to 4G networks, creates a Wi-Fi hotspot in your home. This allows multiple devices, such as laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, to easily connect to the internet. The entire process is still powered by the wireless data networks.

nbn® Basics

The nbn uses several different methods to connect Australian businesses and households to the Internet. The method your premises will use depends primarily on where you live. And typically, a combination of methods will be used. In totality, nbn incorporates fixed fibre optic cable, copper cable, fixed wireless broadband, and satellite.

For the vast majority of Australians, connecting to nbn will be done via a method known as FTTN or fibre to the node. While the name might sound intimidating, this connection is fairly straightforward. It essentially works by linking the existing copper wiring inside your home to fibre optic cable that is attached to a connection cabinet. The connection cabinet (or local node) is basically the hub of the connection and is connected via fibre optic cable to the nearest nbn point (an even larger hub). The result for you? Internet!

FTTN is the most common method of nbn connections, used in most urban and suburban areas. Yet there are lots of other methods that might apply, particularly if you’re in a rural region.

For those hooked up via nbn, the system within your home is probably not going to differ much, if at all, from the way you’ve been getting online for the last several years.

So the basic difference between home wireless broadband and nbn boils down to how your Internet connection is achieved. With home wireless broadband, you’re using a 3G/4G/5G signal like you would on a mobile phone. With nbn, you’re using a combination of fixed services (like fibre optic wiring) and satellite, and you’ll be enrolled in an Internet service package.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of these options.

Pros and cons of Home Wireless Broadband

If you're residing in an area with strong 4G coverage, chances are high that Home Wireless Broadband could serve as a reliable alternative to the nbn. However, if you're located in a region with unreliable 4G reception, Home Wireless Broadband might not be the optimal solution for you.

One of the major advantages of Home Wireless Broadband is the extensive reach of the 4G network. If the signal is solid, you can connect with minimal setup. Power outage? Not to worry. Home Wireless Broadband doesn't require a connection to the power grid, although your devices will need power.

Speed is another advantage of Home Wireless Broadband. In areas with good coverage, 4G speeds can often surpass other connection methods. This depends on factors like your hardware and location, but within a capital city, you could potentially experience speeds faster than an nbn connection. Outside of the city, 4G speeds typically range from 20 Mbps to 100 Mbps.

Flexibility is another benefit. Home Wireless Broadband isn't tied to a specific location, making it ideal for frequent travellers or renters unsure of how long they'll stay in one place. You can take your modem with you when you leave home, providing portable, reliable internet access across various devices.

Convenience is also a significant factor. Some people prefer a pay-as-you-go option for internet access. If you have an unconventional lifestyle or schedule, being locked into an nbn plan might not be ideal. With Home Wireless Broadband, you can adjust your data allowances as needed.

However, Home Wireless Broadband does have some drawbacks. The most notable is cost. Data tends to be more expensive than an nbn plan, so that's something to consider. In a larger household, you might run through data quickly, leading to more frequent top-ups.

Dependence on 4G signals can also be an issue. In areas with excellent service, this isn't a problem, but service can be "spotty" in some places. It could be frustrating if your signal repeatedly drops with Home Wireless Broadband. For that reason, you might prefer a connection that works even when 4G service is unreliable, such as the nbn.

Pros and Cons of nbn

If home wireless broadband isn’t going to be a good alternative to the nbn for you, don’t worry. The nbn has plenty of advantages which you will certainly appreciate.

Reliability will be number one on that list of pros. There is comfort in knowing that you are connected to a national network, and if you are connected via one of the fixed methods, like FTTN, you are physically connected to it. This leaves a lot less to chance than when you’re using a 4G network (especially if the 4G is spotty).

You also know what to expect when you have a plan on nbn. With your provider, you’re signed up to a certain nbn tier. This means you know what speeds to expect and even what times of day are best for top speeds. Plus, if you’re experiencing slow speeds, you can troubleshoot fairly easily by changing your plan or by upgrading your equipment, etc.

Affordability is definitely a huge benefit of the nbn. You choose a tier, choose a service provider, and know exactly what you’re paying and when. Many people like the routine nature of this kind of setup, and overall, this is going to be the cheaper option. Paying as you go for data, like with home wireless broadband, can add up, especially if you have a large household of Internet users.

So, what are the cons of choosing nbn vs home wireless broadband? The lack of flexibility is probably the main disadvantage. Your nbn service is tied to your residence. This is not problematic for most people, but for those who travel frequently, having a more mobile option can be helpful. Or, if you’re not home often enough, you might feel like your regular nbn service payments are going to waste.

Another con is that a power outage or blackout is going to render your nbn unusable because it depends on electrical power to function. This is where having a secondary Internet option can be useful (and some nbn customers can receive a battery backup for such situations). And of course, home wireless broadband will still be going strong, even when the power is out.

Which One is Right for You?

Ultimately, deciding which way to access the Internet in your home is a personal choice that depends on many factors. Some things to consider:

  • Where you live?
  • How long do you plan to live there?
  • How many people live in your house?
  • What kind of devices you use?
  • How you prefer to pay for a plan?
  • How consistent is your data use?
  • Are you frequently on the go?
  • How reliable do you need your Internet to be?

Both home wireless broadband and nbn make sense for Australians with different needs and goals. Neither is right or wrong, or good or bad.

Which setup do you prefer?

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