Mobile Broadband Technology

Keep reading to find out more about the technology behind mobile broadband, as well the main mobile networks.
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Mobile broadband is a wireless alternative to wired internet connections. Used by households and businesses that want a connection delivered “through the air”, this plug and play technology offers the convenience consumers had previously been missing out on.

It allows you to connect your device - smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc. - to an internet connection without having to physically plug it into a phone jack, and usually without having to wait for a visit from a technician.

How does mobile broadband work?

Mobile broadband mostly uses the same technology that mobile phones run on, where digital information is transferred via radio waves1. During a phone call, this digital information would be voice data, whereas mobile broadband sends data such as emails and web pages.

Some hardware is required to get mobile broadband up and running. This could be:

  • A USB modem: Also known as a “dongle”, a modem which is portable and can be easily plugged into a USB port or a power point
  • A SIM card: This is plugged into your mobile device
  • The device itself

The digital information or data is sent from a transmission tower to an outdoor antenna, which then connects to the premises (household or workplace). This data is able to travel up to 14km, which is why mobile broadband is more readily available in CBDs and major towns, and less so in regional areas.

Mobile networks explained

We’ve left 2G in the past and now the majority of mobile devices operate on 3G and 4G broadband, with 5G close on the horizon. Here’s what you can expect from the most commonly accessed networks.

3G: Faster voice and data services than 2G

When 3G was introduced, users were able to access content at much higher speeds than they could before. Around a decade ago, it was estimated to provide coverage to 99% of Australians with peak download speeds of up to 14.4Mbps, a substantial improvement from its 2G predecessor2.

4G: The current common network in 2019

The 4G network, also known as “LTE”, is probably the one you use to access internet services on your mobile device, when WiFi isn’t available. This fourth generation of mobile technology is another step up in terms of data speed and voice quality.

Most mobile devices will run from 4G and where it isn’t available, such as in regional areas or in tunnels, will automatically switch back to 3G.

5G: The next generation of mobile broadband

As mobile broadband continues to evolve, the industry is progressing towards 5G, or “fifth generation mobile”. It’s expected this will first begin to be deployed in Australia in 2020 and will offer two main features that separate it from previous technologies3:

  • It will have an almost zero-latency capability
  • It should offer data rates of 1-10 Gbps

What does this mean? It means that users can expect virtually no delay between request and response and that 5G will play an integral role within a wider deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT). You can also expect 10 to 100 times more connected devices on the network.

mobile broadband comparison

NBN Broadband: Upgrading Australia’s broadband infrastructure

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is a drive from the Australian government to improve the country’s broadband4. The reasoning behind NBN is to provide a faster connection to more people, in some cases using wireless technology that connects to a specific location. This differs from “mobile” wireless technology.

Over the next few years, NBN will become increasingly available to new areas across Australia. Availability in each location will depend on its existing infrastructure, population density and some other factors.

If you’re wondering when NBN will be rolled out in your location, a map is available with estimated dates5.

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