Which is better - 4G or satellite broadband?

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

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

In this post we explain the differences between these two services and help you understand what's best for you. So, is it 4G or satellite broadband?

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

For several years, 4G broadband has been viewed as by far and away the best solution to provide fast and reliable internet connections to properties in locations where fibre-based services either don't reach or don't perform adequately.

Feel free to read on for a full explanation of the many advantages of 4G broadband over satellite broadband - but if you'd rather cut straight to the chase and find out how you could be up and running on our literally life-changing fast 4G broadband services in a matter of mere days, just take a look at our monthly plans.

Our 4G Broadband Plans

Alternatives to landline broadband

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

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

What is Satellite broadband?

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

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

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

What is 4G broadband?

4G broadband, also known as 'mobile broadband', uses the exact same signals as your smartphone or mobile phone to access the internet by connecting to a nearby 4G mast and using this connection 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. This can provide good quality and stable broadband to one fixed location and can happily handle multiple devices connecting to it simultaneously.

4G broadband 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. And 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.

If you want to learn more about 4G broadband, and how it works, you can find out more here.

Fast 4G Broadband

Illustration of 4G and satellite broadband

What are the benefits of 4G broadband over Satellite broadband?

Data allowances and speed throttling

Satellite broadband offers a number of different subscription packages including unlimited data options.

However with most types of satellite broadband, 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 broadband connection speed will immediately and automatically be throttled right back to frustratingly slow levels for the rest of the month.

With our 4G broadband service, your data allowance is unlimited and your entire monthly data is delivered at the maximum speed available all of the time.

Find out more about our best 4G broadband plans.

Fast 4G Broadband

Average speeds

If you're lucky enough to live near a mast that's been 4G+ enabled, with our equipment you could potentially experience 4G broadband speeds in excess of 150 Mbps. That said, when measured across the UK as a whole, the average 4G broadband performance that customers can expect is around 25 Mbps download and 9 Mbps upload, as has been independently audited here.

Opensignal

But if you're using satellite broadband, as highlighted above, only a small so-called “priority” data allowance is provided at full speed. Once this has been consumed, your satellite broadband connection will automatically be throttled to a fraction of this initial speed 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

Stability of connection

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 broadband 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 broadband 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.

Latency

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 broadband 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 broadband is much higher, normally running at least 10 times higher at around 400ms. That's because all your internet communications are running both ways through a satellite that 36,000km away. That's a round trip of at least 72,000km - and even at the speed of light, that induces a significant and frustrating delay while waiting for things to load. That's another important consideration to be aware of, when weighing up what broadband service is right for you.

Property aesthetics

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 4G broadband 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 4G antenna to the outside of 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 broadband 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 broadband. For that, you'll need a large 30 inch round metal 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.

Summary

There are always pros and cons with any option you select for internet service provision to a property which is poorly served by landline broadband providers.

In general, a 4G broadband service is considered to be the best connectivity solution by far for more rural and remote properties. Satellite broadband is a viable alternative if a 4G-based broadband service is simply not available at your location.

We hope that this guide gives you all the information you need to make the best decision for your home or business. Do think carefully about the details we've given here and what 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