Which is better - 4G or satellite internet?

Selecting the right internet option for your home or business can be confusing, especially if good landline connectivity is not available where you are.

If you live in a poorly-connected area, there are two key options to look at - 4G internet or satellite internet.

Here we explain the differences to help you understand what's best for you. So, is it 4G or satellite internet?

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The short answer? It's 4G internet every time

Start-Up Costs

Getting set up with 4G internet is hundreds of pounds cheaper than satellite internet

Monthly Charges

The monthly costs of 4G internet are less than half those of satellite internet

Speed Restrictions

4G internet speeds are not throttled. Satellite internet speeds are, unless you pay a lot more

Service Responsiveness

A 4G internet service is faster to respond and more stable

Property Aesthetics

4G internet may need a small outdoor antenna. Satellite internet will need a large metal dish

So be sure to try out 4G internet first

Get set up from just £99 and then from only £31.99 per month

Our 4G Broadband Plans

and with our Money Back Guarantee, there's no risk in seeing what we can do for you

What's more, if we find we're unable to help you out with 4G internet,
we'll then recommend a satellite internet service for you

Need more information? Read on for extra detail

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Satellite internet and satellite broadband...
is there any difference?

In a word, no. The two terms are used interchangeably.

Okay, very strictly speaking, the "internet" is the wealth of online resources that you connect to and "broadband" is what is used to make a connection to that online world. But nowadays, "internet" and "broadband" have become synonyms and so people use either word to mean the exact same thing.

Alternatives to landline broadband

If you're searching for information about the differences between 4G and satellite internet, you’re probably already aware that like good landline broadband, other options such as 5G broadband or fixed wireless access broadband simply aren't available where you are.

But if you're still unsure and want to find out more about the different types of broadband that exist, we have a very handy guide explaining these here.

Types Of Broadband

Both 4G internet and satellite internet offer a potential solution for rural connectivity issues, so if you can't access decent broadband via a landline, one of these options will almost certainly be right for you... but which? If you're actively considering getting your internet access delivered via 4G or satellite, read on to learn more.

What is satellite internet?

Satellite internet is transmitted direct to properties from satellites either in low-earth or geostationary orbits around the earth. Each property wanting an internet connection via satellite will need to have a special satellite dish installed which sends and receives broadband signals to and from the orbiting satellite in space.

Graphic to show the ways that 4G and satellite broadband are delivered

This functions in much the same way as watching TV from Sky, but rather than just receiving information, a satellite internet service also allows you to send it.

Satellite internet has the one major advantage of being available anywhere in the entire UK. However, because it tends to be the slowest and very much the costliest type of alternate internet connection, it is generally considered as a last resort, once homes and businesses have exhausted all other options.

And what is 4G internet?

Internet access via 4G, also known as 'mobile broadband', is provided by using the exact same signals as your smartphone or mobile phone to deliver a fast and reliable broadband service to homes and businesses.

Typically, you'll be provided with a dedicated 4G router which takes a SIM card, just like your mobile phone and which connects to a nearby 4G mast. This can provide good quality and stable broadband to one fixed location and can happily handle multiple devices connecting to it simultaneously.

4G internet is now available to around 98% of all UK properties, but this does depend on where your home of business is located and how strong the 4G coverage is in your area. But even if this on the weaker side, a small but highly effective outdoor 4G antenna can be installed to give great results even where smartphones may show 4G signal levels to be weak or flaky.

Find out more about 4G internet and how it works here.

Fast 4G Broadband

A satellite dish in space

What are the benefits of 4G internet over satellite internet?

A satellite internet service offers a number of different subscription packages including unlimited data options.

However with most types of satellite internet, only a small "priority" monthly data allowance is actually delivered at full speed. Once this has been used up (and in most households, it very quickly will be), your satellite internet connection speed will immediately and automatically be throttled right back to frustratingly slow levels for the rest of the month.

With our 4G internet service, although a 'fair use' policy does apply, this is set at more than twice the average household's monthly data usage, so your connection should operate at the maximum speed available all of the time.

Find out more about our best 4G broadband plans.

Fast 4G Broadband

A satellite internet service offers a number of different subscription packages including unlimited data options.

If you're lucky enough to live near a mast that's been 4G+ enabled, with our equipment you could potentially experience 4G internet speeds in excess of 150 Mbps. That said, when measured across the UK as a whole, the average 4G internet performance that customers can expect is around 25 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload.

But as mentioned above, if you're using satellite internet, only a small so-called “priority” data allowance is provided at full speed each month. Once this has been consumed, your satellite internet connection will automatically be throttled to a fraction of this initial performance until the start of the next month.

If you'd like to find out how the performance of your current broadband connection measures up, check out our quick and easy broadband speed test.

Speed Test

As might be expected, a “wired” broadband connection to a property will always be more reliable than wireless technology, which can be affected by external factors like high winds, heavy rainfall or snow.

Satellite internet relies upon a wireless connection to a satellite that is anything up to 36,000km away. As such, a satellite-based connection is far more likely to be adversely affected by factors such as poor weather, tree growth or any minute movement in dish alignment.

In contrast, 4G internet is delivered via mobile phone masts that are typically no more than 8km away, so your service will be much more robust and weather conditions would have to be remarkably severe to impair performance.

This is slightly technical, but we'll try to explain this in simple terms!

Latency is an important factor in internet connection performance. It's the time it takes for an online resource (like a website) to receive a request and respond. It's usually measured by a ping test in milliseconds or ms. Latency with traditional landline broadband is typically around 10-20ms.

For a 4G internet connection, the latency will usually be a little higher - typically around 30-40ms. Unless you're a fanatical gamer where split-second feedback is desirable, this minor increase won't have any noticeable impact on your online experience.

However, latency with satellite internet can run far higher, with levels of around 400ms not being unusual. That's because all your internet communications are running both ways through a satellite that's in orbit around the earth. That means a round trip of thousands of kilometres - and even at the speed of light, that induces a significant and frustrating delay while waiting for things to load. This is another important consideration to be aware of, when weighing up what broadband service is right for you.

This may well be important to you if you're in a rural setting.

If there's strong 4G signal where you are, all you'll need to receive a 4G internet service is a normal sized 4G WiFi router that sits inside your property. And even if you're in a weaker 4G coverage area, we'll fit an unobtrusive outdoor 4G antenna to your property, measuring just 11.5 inches by 7 inches. This small yet very effective device latches onto and amplifies the best available 4G signal before piping it down to the 4G router installed inside your property.

Our antenna really does make a world of difference and lets us provide fast and stable 4G internet at locations where smartphones report the available 4G signal as being very poor. You can find out more about our 4G antenna and router here.

Our Equipment

Things are very different with satellite internet. For that, you'll need a large 30 inch diameter dish with protruding arm fitted to the outside of your property. This is much larger than a Sky TV satellite dish and is also solid metal rather than mesh, so it will be very conspicuous.

A 4G antenna installed on a roof

An outdoor 4G antenna

A satellite dish on a wall

A satellite broadband dish

A church in the countryside


There are always going to be pros and cons with any option you choose to get a good internet service at a property which is poorly served by landline broadband providers.

However, a 4G internet service is generally considered to be by far the best connectivity solution for more rural properties. And for those locations where 4G coverage is only weak or flaky, a fast and stable internet connection can still be provided by fitting a high gain outdoor 4G antenna. This will latch onto any available 4G signals and amplify them, before piping them down to the router inside a property. Find out more about how 4G internet is successfully deployed in very rural locations.

Rural 4G Broadband

A satellite internet service is a viable alternative if simply no other method of getting a good internet connection at your particular location is available.

This guide should give you all the information you need to make the best decision for your home or business. Do think carefully about the details given here and which service would suit you best.

Don't just take our word for it - here's what our customers think

Would you like to know more? Give us a call on 03333 447700 or email us
at enquiries@national-broadband.co.uk – or just fill in the enquiry form at the top of this page