4G as a home broadband replacement

A little over 3 months ago I moved from Islington to west London. After a bit of searching I found an ideal place, cheap (ish, for London) and not too far from work. A cursory glance on SamKnows revealed that the exchange was fibre enabled so at a minimum we should be at least able to get FTTC. After moving in I went to order broadband from BT, and I was greeted with this: 
12.5Mbps max speed from BT

Needless to say, this was not great news. After some further digging it was revealed that whilst the exchange was fibre ready, our specific cabinet was not (and with no plans in place to upgrade it).

With Virgin Media also not a viable option, I started investigating alternatives. Relish was the first option that sprung to mind, having seen advertisements on the Underground for their unlimited service. There were 2 problems however:

  • No idea how good the signal would be at the apartment
  • 10Mbps capped upload speed

I was not super enthusiastic about potentially locking us into a 12 month contract where the service might not even be viable. I did however know that I had close to perfect signal on my phone with my provider (EE) with whom I routinely get 140-200Mbps down and 40-80Mbps up.

Looking on their site, they were selling a contract with a home 4G router! There was one catch however, the service has caps with a different price at each of the following tiers:

  • 100GB for £35/month
  • 200GB for £50/month
  • 300GB for £80/month
  • 500GB for £100/month

Unsure of how much exactly I’d need, and with the assurances from the salesperson that we could upgrade our tier at any time, I started at 100GB. After setting up I initially only achieved 100 Kbps download speed, this was super concerning but after waiting for a couple of days the speeds picked up to ~70-80Mbps.

100GB This did not last very long, with that in mind we went up to 200GB. 200GB was mostly ok, but still felt constrained towards the end of the month. I didn’t want to feel constrained in that way, but I also didn’t want to pay £80 or £100 a month for internet. With some quick searching I determined that Netflix was our primary consumer of bandwidth at ~3GB per hour, and that by lowering the quality of the stream to medium we could reduce that to only 0.7GB per hour! Certainly the drop in quality was initially noticeable, but with time we grew accustomed to it and we can now comfortably reach the end of the month without being anxious about running out of internet.

The largest problem hurts, but is sadly unavoidable: the internet connection is NATed and as such Super Smash Bros ultimate does not work online.

Conclusion – is 4G home broadband viable?

For practically everything other than gaming: go for it, it’s definitely better than ADSL. For uploading it’s probably one of the best home products on the market. For gaming, at least in my experience, it’s not viable. Other non p2p online games probably will work fine, but Smash Bros does not.

Jan. 19, 2019, 11:41 a.m.