Pros and cons of 5G home broadband
- Fast average speeds can support a large household of heavy internet users.
- Similar price to high-speed fibre alternatives.
- Flexible monthly plans are a great short-term option.
- Portable routers mean you can stay connected on the go.
- Currently only available in limited urban areas with a 5G signal.
- Generally more expensive than conventional cabled home broadband.
- Less providers to pick from with no option to bundle with your TV or landline service.
What is 5G home broadband?
5G is the latest widely used wireless network standard, and the successor to 4G.
5G home broadband is where a household uses a 5G Wi-Fi router to access the internet, instead of a fixed line connection (such as fibre or ADSL).
This is unconventional because, historically, homes have always accessed the internet via physical cables; wireless technologies had not been fast enough or reliable enough to connect a whole household to the world wide web.
But 5G is here, and offers much faster and more reliable connections than previous wireless technologies. But does that mean you should ditch your conventional home broadband connection for a 5G one?
Maybe, maybe not. Read on to find out more about 5G broadband and see if it is the right fit for you.
How does 5G home broadband work?
5G home broadband works pretty much like how the connection in your phone does, that being that you connect to the internet through a sim card.
The main difference is that you use this sim card using a specialist 5G Wi-Fi router, one that will broadcast the internet to your devices wirelessly (rather than just to one device, your phone).
So, like how you use your smartphone to connect to the internet to surf the web or access social media, you can do this at home with a 5G broadband connection with multiple devices.
The end result is that you and the rest of your household will connect online in the same way as you always have done; via a router.
Which is faster: 5G or fibre?
This is largely area and technology dependent, so keep that in mind.
Fibre optic can offer speeds of 1Gbps in some places in the UK, but speeds above 100Mbps are still quite rare for most households.
The most commonly accessible speed for fibre is around 60-70 Mbps, but most people don't opt for this; according to Ofcom data the median broadband speed un the UK is 50.4 Mbps.
Whilst 5G has a theoretical maximum of 10Gbps, it is no where near achieving this now.
It is quite difficult to specifically say what speed 5G you can get on 5GT in the UK right now, as it varies from provider to provider and city to city.
Looking specifically at London, Rootmetrics carried out a study in 2020 on 5G bandwidth. According to their research, the main four mobile networks were able to achieve the following median download speeds:
|136.8 Mbps||145 Mbps||114.7 Mbps||216.6 Mbps|
When reading the above, be aware that Rootmetrics noted that 5G speeds were "outstanding", and speeds experienced here are likely faster than you will find in other cities.
So, it looks like 5G can be faster than Fibre, but there is more to it than that.
Fibre is certainly more widely available than 5G; 5G can only really be found in select built up Urban areas right now, although it is expanding rapidly (for more information on where it is available, see our page on where you can get 5G in the uk).
Furthermore, latency with fibre is much better than on 5G.
According to the above study Three had the best latency available of the big 4 networks with 17ms, with other achieving scores of around 30-40ms; with fibre you should expect latencies of 10ms or less.
Will 5G replace home broadband?
It might, in the future.
Rolling out fibre cables is expensive and time consuming; it often requires digging up the road, upgrading local infrastructure to cope with the new technologies, connecting new cables to your home...
5G is much simpler. Yes, you need to update some local infrastructure to manage connections to any 5G masts, as well as install 5G masts, but as it is a wireless standard you do not need to dig up roads to lay cables and connect buildings to the local exchange.
So at some point in the future, we expect 5G, or its successor wireless standard (6G?), will replace home broadband, as long as it can achieve the same speeds and similar levels of reliability.
Which providers offer 5G home broadband?
So far three of the UK's four mobile network operators offer 5G home broadband: EE, Three and Vodafone.
EE 5G broadband
- Speed: EE tells customers to expect speeds between 100 and 150Mbps and independent analysis has backed up those claims. During the first half of 2020, Opensignal found average speeds on EE's 5G were just under 150Mbps.
- Data allowance: 1,000GB (1TB)/month
- Cost: £70/month on an 18-month contract, with an upfront charge of £100
- Router: 5GEE Home Router (Huawei 5G CPE Pro)
- Coverage: EE has the most widespread 5G network, available in 112 locations across the UK. While other networks have just toeholds in some cities and towns they claim to cover, EE covers large swathes of them, including 40.2% of Birmingham, 37.4% of Belfast, 33% of Cardiff, 28.8% of London. Use EE's coverage checker to see if its 5G network has reached you.
Three 5G broadband
- Speed: Three says subscribers to its 5G home broadband plans see average download speeds of over 400Mbps and peak speeds of 1.1Gbps (1,100Mbps). Independent analysis from RootMetrics brought those figures down to Earth a little, finding median speeds on Three's 5G network just under 200Mbps. Mobile broadband users on the network have reported that speeds can be inconsistent and that sometimes they revert to Three's 4G home broadband network, with average speeds of just 22.4Mbps.
- Data allowance: Unlimited
- Cost : £35/month on a 12-month contract, with a router included, and no setup fees.
- Router : Huawei 5G CPE Pro
- Coverage: Initially coverage was limited to a few London boroughs but it's expanded as Three's 5G network has grown and now you can hook up with Three's 5G home broadband in 68 locations, including Birmingham (15.4% coverage), Manchester (6.7%), Leicester (6.1%) and London (5.2%). Use Three's postcode checker to see where its 5G network covers.
Vodafone 5G broadband
- Speed: Vodafone says you can expect average speeds between 150 and 200Mbps and peak speeds over 1Gbps. Independent analyses have put average speeds on Vodafone's 5G network between 120 and 140Mbps.
- Data allowance: 100GB/month, 200GB/month or unlimited
- Cost (100GB allowance): £30/month and £100 upfront on an 18-month contract or £325 upfront on a rolling 30-day contract.
- Cost (200GB allowance): £40/month and £50 upfront on an 18-month contract or £325 upfront on a rolling 30-day contract
- Cost (Unlimited data): £50/month and £50 upfront on an 18-month contract or £325 upfront on a rolling 30-day contract
- Router: GigaCube (Huawei 5G CPE Pro)
- Coverage: Vodafone 5G has reached 57 cities and towns across the UK, with the most widespread 5G coverage in Bristol (16.8%), Cardiff (11.2%) and Liverpool (10.5%) and 5.2% coverage in London. Use Vodafone's Network Status Checker to see if 5G if available at your home.
Last reviewed: 01 October 2022
Next review: 01 November 2022