The term ‘broadband’ has become almost synonymous with ‘internet’. But are they the same thing? Can you connect to the internet with a WiFi connection, at home, without broadband?
In the UK, broadband refers to internet delivered over in-ground cables. But there are other ways to get online, used by people in remote locations and those who move frequently and don’t want to be locked into a broadband contract:
Using mobile data to get online will be very familiar to most people, as that’s how we connect to the internet with our mobile phones whilst out and about. And thanks to recent technological advances in mobile data technology, it’s become an increasingly viable alternative to fixed-line broadband. The latest generation, 5G, delivers speeds that keep pace with many fibre-optic broadband connections.
To harness mobile data and create a WiFi network, you can simply use your connected smartphone to create a hotspot.
If you’re regularly doing this, you should look into buying a dongle, a device with a SIM card that plugs into a laptop to give it access to mobile internet. A personal hotspot, also known as MiFi, works similarly but can create a WiFi network that more than one device can connect to.
However, mobile broadband plans, which you can buy from mobile providers, typically have data allowances, something the vast majority of fixed broadband plans have done away with. Mobile plans with unlimited data do exist, but they are typically more expensive than their fixed-line broadband alternatives.
You’ll also have to ensure mobile signal is strong in your home, particularly if you want to do data-intensive things like streaming or video calls.
Satellite internet is a type of internet connection delivered through geostationary satellites hundreds of miles above the earth. It’s available everywhere in the world, so it’s a popular choice among people who live in very remote places.
Satellite internet operates through a dish, affixed to your home, which grabs an internet signal that can be used to create a WiFi network that your devices can use.
Satellite internet has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years, but it’s still slower and less reliable than fixed broadband connections, especially in bad weather and for tasks like video calls and gaming. It’s also more expensive, particularly when you factor in the cost of the satellite dish, and comes with data allowances. But satellite internet is a great option for households and businesses that can’t access broadband or good mobile coverage.
Fixed wireless internet
Some rural villages in the UK have access to fixed wireless networks. This technology beams an internet signal from a central wireless transmitter installed in a high location - often a church spire - to internet receivers on each home. Your property will need to have a direct sightline to the transmitter to get online, but the technology can deliver speeds that keep pace with the fastest broadband connections.