What Is Mobile Broadband?

Mobile broadband refers to wireless internet access you can get by using your phone as a modem.

It happens when cellular towers transmit internet access and your phone picks up the signal. Your mobile broadband connection happens behind the scenes, and it’s why you can scroll through Instagram even when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi.

Your mobile broadband connection will either be a 3G, a 4G, or eventually a 5G connection.

What’s the difference between 3G, 4G, and 5G?

Here’s something you probably never knew—the “G” stands for generation. (So simple, yet so profound.) The more G’s you have, the faster your internet speed will be. Here’s a breakdown of what speeds to expect with each generation:

Mobile broadband speed comparison
GenerationTop download speedAverage download speed
2G0.3 Mbps0.1 Mbps
3G42 Mbps8 Mbps
4G1 Gbps50 Mbps
5G10 GbpsTBD

The older the network, the more it will struggle meeting the demands of our internet use. It’d be like trying to play Fortnite on a Windows XP operating system. (Your poor computer.)

But what if you don’t want to part with your beloved oldschool iPhone that runs on a 3G network? It might still meet your needs now, but it won’t soon. Take a look at the latency you can expect with older mobile broadband connections:

Mobile broadband network latency comparison
NetworkLatency (milliseconds)
2G300–1000ms
3G100–500ms
4G50–100ms
5G1–10ms

Yes, we are dealing with milliseconds here, but we both know how annoying it can get waiting for the internet to load. How many of us have been in the awkward situation of showing someone a video and the connection craps out on us? Filling that silence is always uncomfortable.

(Not to mention how much harder it’ll be to check email and social media.)

Now that you know, here are your next steps.

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