You’ve probably heard of 5G, the new wave of technology set to transform our lives for the better. But what is it, exactly? And how will it change the way we use the internet at home?
If you’re unhappy with your current fixed-line broadband deal
, or you don’t have access to high-speed fibre broadband where you live, then 5G home broadband could be the answer you’ve been looking for.
What is 5G home broadband?
5G home broadband uses 5G signals to deliver data as opposed to fixed-line ADSL or fibre optic cables. As opposed to its predecessor 4G, which has average speeds of around 20Mbps in the UK, 5G signals can support speeds of up to 400Mbps, and have the potential to reach a dizzying 10Gbps or more.
However, the strength of 5G signals is compromised by a shorter range than 4G. This means that the rollout of 5G technology, which involves building telephone masts up and down the country, will inevitably be a slow and expensive process. So, while 5G may be the future of broadband, it’s currently only available to those who live in certain urban areas, and those with the money to spend.
How does 5G home broadband work?
When you sign up to a 5G home broadband deal, you will receive a 5G router installed with a SIM-card from your provider which will be used to pick up signals from the 5G mobile data network. The router will then connect to your devices via a Wi-Fi signal, just like a standard broadband router. This means that, unlike a 5G mobile data plan which requires an expensive 5G-compatible smartphone, your devices only need to be Wi-Fi compatible to benefit from the superfast speeds.
Why would I want 5G Home Broadband?
The most obvious benefit to is the superfast speeds on offer. With average download speeds currently sitting around 150Mbps in the UK, and the potential to go much higher, 5G home broadband can already offer speeds matching those on some of the fastest fixed-line broadband deals.
If you don’t have access to a high-speed fixed line broadband connection where you live, or you’re unhappy with the service you’ve currently got, then you should consider 5G home broadband as an alternative. It can also be a good option as a back-up connection for when your fixed-line broadband goes down, especially if you work from home.
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.
- More expensive than standard ADSL broadband deals.
- Less providers to pick from with no option to bundle with your TV or landline service.
Which providers offer 5G home broadband?
So far three of the UK’s four network operators offer 5G home broadband: EE, Three and Vodafone.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 200GB allowance—£40/month and £50 upfront on an 18-month contract or £325 upfront on a rolling 30-day contract
- 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 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.
Who has the best 5G home broadband?
5G networks are currently so limited that you likely have a choice only of one provider for 5G home broadband, if any. And you’re most likely to live in an area covered by EE’s 5G network than Three and Vodafone's.
Speeds are broadly similar on all 5G networks, easily exceeding 100Mbps in nearly all locations they cover. Although they’ve branded it differently, all three operators use the same Huawei mobile router, with the same theoretical speeds (2.33Gbps downstream and 1.25Gbps upstream) and maximum number of devices accommodated (64).
But if you do have a choice, Three’s network is probably the best. It offers unlimited downloads for just £35 per month with no upfront charge—cheaper than most fibre and cable broadband tariffs with similar speeds.
Vodafone charges £50 a month for a similar package, with a £50 upfront charge or £325 if you opt for a rolling, 30-day contract. EE doesn’t offer unlimited downloads, but its 1TB allowance is so generous you’d struggle to exceed it. But it charges £70 per month, and £100 upfront, for the plan—more than you'd pay for some comparable fixed-line plans.