Replace your home broadband with 4G? That’ll be £131 per month, please

Replace your home broadband with 4G? That’ll be £131 per month, please

Summary: 4G LTE has arrived in the UK - but unless prices fall, the service will never become a replacement for fixed-line broadband or a stop-gap measure to help solve the rural broadband crisis.


On average, Brits use 23GB of data a month on their broadband at home, going by Ofcom's figures for this year. Now combine this nugget with the idea that 4G can stand in for fixed-line broadband in rural areas, and an interesting, if prohibitively expensive, picture starts to emerge.

Many remote parts of the UK can only get sub-1Mbps download speeds on fixed-line connections. Given this, 4G has often been talked about as a potential lifeline and substitute in those areas.


What would this look like in reality? Assuming you used the UK average of data, what would it cost you to replace home broadband with 4G service?

EE is the only retail 4G network in the UK right now, and it delivers decent download speeds (I've personally seen a range between 6Mbps and about 45Mbps). If you went for a SIM-only (and lower monthly cost) package with EE, rather than a handset-inclusive deal, it would cost you £131 per month.

To break that down: you'd be on the highest 5GB per month plan, which costs £36. You'd also need four 4GB top-ups at £20 each, and a single 2GB top-up at £15, to take you to 23GB. That adds up to £131, or £1,572 for the year.

If you went for a handset-inclusive deal, your best bet is EE's 8GB plan for £56 a month, with four 4GB top-ups. That makes a total of £136, or £1,632 over a year.

By comparison, BT's fixed-line Infinity 2 broadband, which promises up to 76Mbps downloads, costs around £26 per month. Even with phone-line rental (a pre-requisite) at about £14, the service for the whole year would be £480.

To be fair, 4G pricing could come down once rivals emerge to EE — something that should start happening next year. For now, though, the sheer cost makes replacing fixed-line broadband with 4G nothing but a pipe dream.

Topics: Networking, 4G, United Kingdom

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • agree

    And when there is competition then the cells will be full and it will be a lot slower.
  • Unlimited plan?

    Is there no unlimited plan? Well, air is a shared medium and it will never do better than a dedicated cable to a subscriber.

    FTTN should be a stopgap, while FTTH should be the endgoal.
  • Not as long as there are caps.

    "Replace your home broadband with 4G?"

    Not as long as there are caps. I download multi-gigabyte games and movies on my PC. If I were on some theoretical plan, I would have already blown the cap sky high out of the water.

    Even on my cell phone, I have to pay careful attention to what I pull in via the plan and via WiFi.

    I own 10+ GB games. If I were to need to re-download them for any reason whatsoever - no cell phone company has caps that high. I simply would not be able to re-download them without massive overage fees. Without unlimited plans, it would be impossible.
    • Still not viable

      I agree that it might be viable for the Grandma who just does email and reads the news. The cap problem and high overage fee's will not provide a good fit for many. While my other posts blasts Comcast for its rapid rate increases. Its still the most viable option for me. One who watches steaming video content, has several PC's accessing the internet. 4G limitations in my area in throughput, signal quality and costs would not work.
  • Is 4G really better everwhere?

    Having used several 4G services I can definitely say that 4G is not consistent and its certainly more subject to network slowdowns from higher user capacity. While I agree that it beats 3G in many ways. I think its a expensive alternative to a cable broadband or FIOS and even more so compared to slower DSL. Although I know DSL has so many limitations. My Father in law uses a Wireless broadband service which is really nothing more then a community WiFi system that uses a WiFi band to distribute a ISP service. His speeds are basically DSL averaging 2Mbps down and 1.5 up. He would be considered one of those rural customers with limited options. Satellite broadband being the only other. Comparing satellite to cellular 4G I guess the price is going to be close. In the US I can eventual see carriers offering home broadband options with their phone plans probably using a sharing option. If it was consistent enough I may be convinced to say bye bye to Comcast which has raised my rates from $42 three years ago to $65 today. Making other options like 4 G a possibility. I welcome competition as it will eventually bring prices down hopefully.
  • Poorly researched fluff piece

    For a replacement for home broadband , surely you would look at mobile broadband plans,not a phone sim only, only an incompetent hack would make such a mistake which I am sure you are not. If you want a broadband mifi device with 5gb of data it is 25.99 per month on an 18 month plan, with much smaller data add on costs than a phone plan. Or if you go for the sim route as you've suggested, there is now a mobile broadband sim only with 5gb data available in store at 15.99 per month. Less than£90 for 30 GB is a lot less than your quote, and whilst its still high compared with a fixed line option, there's no excuse for such a badly written lazy piece from a respected tech site
  • All you can eat data.....

    So get an 'all you can eat' data plan then. 3 do one for £25 a month with a rolling monthly renewal. There is no fair usage cap and it allows tethering for up to 5 devices.
  • Anyone who goes for it has more money than sense

    Sorry Mobile computing is and should be just that, House builders need to start thinking ahead and start including wired networking in to a basic house design. Most people in the House buying age are having home networks, which is better speed wise Wired or Wireless? obvious Wired. Which is more secure Wired or Wireless? obvious Wired. Mine is a three bedroom house with a work area that contains two computers each Bedroom has a Computer (FYI I am not young and disabled so sometimes I work from my bed via the computer) ONLY wireless items on my network is My son and his laptop My Galaxy Tab and three phones Personally I would quite happily turn the wireless off as we have a decent 3G signal for the phones and the only reason I dont is for my Eldest Son (I hate seeing a supposed Grown man cry).

    A WiFi Household has IMHO more money than sense and is asking for problems security wise, and if something happens to the local tower they are dead in the water and quite honestly can you say that the local tower is perfect? very few are.
    The BarnOwl