You use mobile networks to surf the internet from your smartphone when you’re out and about, but at home, you most likely rely on a fixed-line broadband service like fibre or cable. This is because, compared to previous mobile network generations 3G and 4G, fixed-line broadband is much faster, has more capacity and better specs, and is more reliable.
Why would I want 5G Home Broadband?
That’s all changed with the fifth-generation mobile network, which can keep pace with even the fastest broadband connections. To take advantage of the dazzling speeds 5G—150Mbps on average in the UK and peak speeds of more than 1Gbps—mobile operators have expanded their sale of mobile broadband plans, at more attractive prices and with more generous data allowances than before.
When you sign up you’ll receive a device like a mobile router that creates a home WiFi network you can connect devices to. This way you can run everything in your home, from your laptop to your smart refrigerator, through your mobile network, without the installation required by fixed-line broadband technologies.
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.