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What is 5G home broadband?

5G broadband is the latest innovation in home internet, promising lightning-quick speeds. But how does it work and is it a good alternative to standard, wired broadband? Here’s what the 5G revolution could mean for your home.

5G broadband is the latest innovation in home internet, promising lightning-quick speeds. But how does it work and is it a good alternative to standard, wired broadband? Here’s what the 5G revolution could mean for your home.

Written by
Sajni Shah
Utilities comparison expert
Last Updated
21 FEBRUARY 2023
6 min read
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What is 5G? 

5G is the fifth and newest generation of mobile technology, following on from 4G and 3G. It not only offers much faster download and upload speeds than the earlier generations, but also less lag time, so you can stream and game without any annoying delays. 

When we think about 5G, most of us would probably associate it with mobile phones. But the same technology can also be used for a home broadband connection. 

Want to download a HD movie in seconds? Or stream your favourite TV shows in 8K? 5G can do that.

How does 5G broadband work? 

5G broadband lets you get online without the need for a phone line or fibre optic cable. It works in a similar way to the latest smartphones, using a 5G mobile signal and connecting to the internet via a 5G-enabled SIM card. But instead of the SIM being in a mobile phone, it’s in a home router. This 5G-enabled router sends out a WiFi signal for all your home devices, like laptops, smartphones and tablets, to connect to quickly and easily.

Connecting devices don’t need to be 5G enabled for them to work with a 5G home router, so there’s no need to buy loads of compatible new kit. You can still connect your 5G home router to your devices with an ethernet cable for optimum stability when it counts most.

The router will have to be connected to a power socket, but it won’t need to be fixed to a phone line like a traditional router. That means you can position your router to catch the strongest 5G signal, or even take it with you when you go away on holiday or move home.

Can you get 5G broadband in your home? 

If you live in an area with a 5G signal already in place, you’ll be able to run your home internet on 5G by signing up to a 5G broadband deal. This will usually involve paying a monthly bill like you would with a standard broadband contract. You’ll be sent a 5G broadband router and SIM by your 5G broadband provider. Then all you have to do is plug in, switch on and connect.

As we’re still in the early stages of the rollout across the UK, 5G is not yet available everywhere, particularly in rural locations. So, if your area doesn’t currently have 5G capability, unfortunately you’ll have to wait before you can choose a 5G home broadband deal.

Mobile networks Three, Vodafone and EE all offer 5G broadband plans, ranging from rolling monthly contracts to 24-month contracts, so you can check whether any of these are available in your area.

How fast is your typical home broadband? 

Home broadband speeds depend on your provider, package and where you live but, overall, they have been getting faster as the fibre technology has progressed.

The average download speed of broadband in UK homes now stands at 50.4Mbps, according to the latest Ofcom data (September 2021). The speed has increased by 20% compared with November 2019, as households upgraded to faster speeds during the pandemic.

Around 85% of connections are superfast (30Mbps or higher), while 5% are ultrafast (300Mbps or higher).

How fast is 5G home broadband? 

In theory, 5G broadband has the potential to reach speeds of over 20Gbps (gigabits per second). But, right now, we’re a long way off that – with 1Gbps a more realistic target once networks are upgraded.

The fastest 5G home broadband speed you’ll get depends on the strength of the 5G signal where you live and who your network provider is. Those based in UK towns and cities with excellent 5G coverage are currently best placed to receive ultrafast broadband speeds as the rollout of game-changing 5G technology continues.

These are the average 5G download speeds offered by the main network providers:

  • Vodafone  – 150-200Mbps
  • EE  – 110 Mbps
  • Three  – 290 Mbps.

Is 5G broadband faster than fibre-optic broadband?

Although the download speeds offered by 5G broadband are considerably higher than the current average UK home broadband speed of 50.4 Mbps, where available. These kinds of download speeds are matched and, in some cases, surpassed by the top-end FTTP (fibre to the cabinet) or full fibre broadband deals.

Meanwhile, the award for the fastest UK broadband speeds currently goes to cable broadband. Although like 5G broadband, the cable broadband network is currently only available in certain areas and through a limited number of providers.

What are the advantages of 5G home broadband? 

Along with speed, there are many benefits of 5G broadband, including: 

  • Capacity: 5G broadband is ideal for large households as it’s capable of handling a large number of devices and users at once without interruption.
  • Portability: as a 5G router isn’t fixed to one address like standard broadband, you can take it with you if you go on holiday or move home. Because it doesn’t need to be connected to a phone line, you could also easily move it around your home to ensure you have a strong signal.
  • Easy set-up: 5G offers you a convenient way to get online quickly, without the hassle of installing cables to your home or the need for an engineer to visit. That also means you don’t have to pay line rental or any installation costs.
  • Flexibility: Three and Vodafone both offer the option of rolling monthly/30-day contracts so you don’t have to commit to a long-term deal.

What are the disadvantages of 5G home broadband? 

While 5G broadband has many benefits, it’s not without its drawbacks, including: 

  • Limited coverage: 5G technology is still being rolled out so might not yet be available in your area. Rural households may have the longest wait for 5G broadband.
  • Limited choice: with only a small number of providers currently offering 5G home broadband, your choice of packages could be very limited. With less competition, that also means prices might be higher.
  • Reception issues: 5G WiFi works well in most homes, but the signal can sometimes be interrupted by physical obstructions like thick walls and bulky furniture. This could cause a patchy reception in larger properties.

How do I know if I can get 5G broadband where I live?

If you can get a 5G signal on your smartphone, you’ll be able to get 5G broadband too. 5G broadband providers Three, EE and Vodafone all have tools that will you let you check their 5G network coverage in your area before you sign up to a 5G broadband deal.

The 5G routers offered by all three providers will also allow you to connect to the 4G network, depending on the signal strength, although the download and upload speeds are likely to be considerably slower for 4G broadband.

Not sure which broadband option is right for you? Use our broadband postcode checker to see what broadband deals are available in your neighbourhood and compare broadband speeds, and prices for your home broadband.

5G or fibre? Which home broadband should I choose?

5G broadband is set to be a game-changer, reaching speeds that at one time would have been unimaginable. And as availability widens across the UK, many households could see it as a convenient and superior alternative to standard broadband.

That said, it’s worth considering that just as 5G technology advances, so does wired fibre broadband. Openreach is in the process of upgrading the UK’s network to ultrafast full fibre broadband and aims to have 25 million homes and businesses connected by December 2026. Enter your postcode into the build planning map tool to see when the rollout of ultrafast full fibre broadband is coming to your area.

Not only that, the next generation of WiFi – WiFi 6 – is on the horizon. Like 5G broadband, this will be much better at handling multiple devices at once, resulting in faster speeds and less lag time. You can already buy routers that operate with WiFi 6 but none of the main broadband providers currently offer them. Plus, for it to work at its best you’d need to upgrade your devices to WiFi 6-enabled kit too, so it may be a while before you can take advantage of this next step in wireless evolution.

So, whether 5G broadband is the right choice for you or not really depends on your individual circumstances. If you can’t get fibre broadband where you live or you’re not satisfied with your existing service, 5G home broadband could be a good option. It’s also handy for short-term needs or as a back-up in case your fixed-line connection goes down.

It’s a good idea to have a clear picture of what’s available to you before you choose so you can compare price and broadband speeds. That’s where we can help. Simply enter your postcode into our broadband postcode checker to see what deals we have available in your area.

Where can you find 5G home broadband deals? 

5G home broadband deals are not widespread at the moment and will only be available to a relatively small number of people. If 5G broadband isn’t in your area yet but you still want faster broadband speeds, you can check out great-value fibre broadband deals here at Comparethemarket.

Simply type in your postcode and we’ll show you a list of deals in your area from our panel of leading providers. You can order the results by speed, contract length and overall price to find a deal that’s right for you.

Frequently asked questions

How much does 5G home broadband cost?

As you’d expect from the latest technology, you may have to pay more for 5G WiFi than a standard plan. Costs will depend on the 5G broadband package you choose, how long your contract runs for and which provider you choose.

Three’s 5G Hub comes with unlimited home 5G broadband for £20 a month on a rolling monthly contract, with the first six months currently half price*, while Vodafone’s GigaCube unlimited data plan costs £60 a month when bought as a 30-day contract* but promises top speeds of up to 1Gbps depending on local conditions.

*Prices correct as of October 2022.

What is a 5G dongle?

A 5G dongle is a device that lets you connect one device to a 5G signal and use it to download and upload data from the internet. Dongles plug into the USB sockets of compatible devices, meaning you can carry your internet connectivity with you wherever you go, but unlike 5G routers they only work with one device at a time. 
 
Mobile internet dongles could be a good option for those who work remotely or travel a lot for work and need to connect on the go. Although they’re more portable than lugging around a router, with the UK 5G network still very much in the rollout phase, you may find yourself on slower 4G speeds outside of major urban areas.  

When do you need to upgrade your home broadband?

A good time to upgrade your home WiFi is when your existing contract ends. That way, you won’t have to pay an early exit fee to quit your deal early.

With more people working from home now, there’s more demand for a broadband connection that’s fast and reliable. Thanks to its lightning speeds, 5G broadband offers huge benefits for those who need to download many large files – and very little equipment is needed once a 5G network is in place. If you’re thinking of a future upgrade, it’s also worth looking to see when ultrafast full fibre is coming to your neighbourhood. Or if you’re ready to upgrade right now, we can help you compare what’s currently available in your area.

Can you get 5G broadband for your business?

Yes, many businesses are already starting to adopt private 5G networks, which don’t rely on the public rollout. You can use 5G broadband to connect a large number of smart devices, including laptops, tablets, phones and printers. The portable nature of 5G WiFi also means you can take it with you to construction sites and marquee events, for example, that don’t have broadband infrastructure installed.

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