Get internet for the whole household with 4G and 5G home broadband.
4G home broadband is an internet service for your home that uses a 4G connection (like your smartphone does) rather than a more typical ‘fixed line’ (generally delivered through your landline and/or a fibre optic cable). 5G home broadband is much the same, except it can tap into faster 5G networks, allowing for higher speed internet.
There are a number of benefits to 5G and 4G home broadband. For one thing, as the data isn’t sent through your landline, you don’t need a landline. This is a potentially big deal as many people rarely use their landline for calls these days, keeping it simply because it’s a requirement for their internet. So by taking it out of the equation you can also remove line rental costs.
The setup process is also simple. We’ll get into a bit more detail on this below, but it’s basically just plug and play. So you can set it up yourself without needing to wait for (or pay for) an engineer visit.
Contracts are also often shorter. In fact, you can sometimes get as little as a 1-month contract with 4G or 5G home broadband. So if you only need it briefly – say if you’re only going to be in your accommodation for a couple of months, or you need something to tide you over until your fibre broadband gets installed, it’s a flexible option. But if you’re happy to commit long-term there are longer contracts too, which can save you some money each month.
Depending on where you are, 4G home broadband may also be faster than your fixed line options. This isn’t always true – far from it – but in places with good 4G signal but poor fibre infrastructure it can be.
5G home broadband is even faster, and therefore even more likely to be faster than fibre broadband – though again exact speeds will depend on the network, coverage, and other factors, such as the ability for the signal to pass through obstacles. For a clearer idea, you can check your coverage on Three’s home broadband coverage checker.
And finally, due to its plug and play nature, 4G and 5G home broadband is easy to take with you. So if you move house (or are even just traveling somewhere with plug sockets but no Wi-Fi), then you can bring your router with you and simply plug it in again in the new location.
With 5G and 4G home broadband the signal is sent wirelessly from a nearby mast to your router, whereas with fixed line broadband the signal is sent through wires all the way to your router. In either case, once your router receives a signal it then sends it out (usually wirelessly) to the rest of your devices so they can get online.
So in short, with 4G and 5G home broadband there are far fewer cables involved.
This lack of cables also makes setup simple. While the process can vary slightly depending on which 5G or 4G home broadband device you have, it’s basically a case of inserting the supplied SIM card, plugging the router in, and turning it on.
From there it should start broadcasting a network, one you can access using the name and password supplied with the router. That’s enough to get online, but there should also be details on accessing the admin panel, which will allow you to change the password and any other router settings you might want to.
Other than having to put a SIM card in this is all similar to the setup of most routers – except without the engineer visit that usually comes first to get the internet itself up and running.
The 4G home broadband speeds you’ll get will depend in large part on coverage in your area, as well as other factors, such as the number of users and the obstacles between the mast and your router. Speeds are also affected by the actual router you’re using.
At the time of writing, Three offers the Three 4G Hub (a rebranded ZTE MF286D), the hardware of which is capable of maximum theoretical speeds of 600Mbps for downloads and 150Mbps for uploads. However real-world speeds are typically far lower and will vary from place to place, so use Three's broadband coverage checker here to ensure the product is suitable for you.
The network additionally offers a Three 4G Plus Hub, which has largely the same specs and the same maximum speeds, but higher average speeds. Though the same caveats apply as above.
5G home broadband is significantly faster, with the hardware of the ZTE 5G Hub theoretically supporting maximum download speeds of up to 3.8Gbps. However, current speeds with Three 5G broadband are typically much lower, often coming in at around 100-200Mbps on average and topping out at around 1Gbps. That’s still very fast though, and you can check whether 5G is available in your area here.
The difference between home broadband and mobile broadband is that the former requires you to plug in a router – so it requires access to a plug socket – and is designed to be left on permanently in your home, while the latter is typically battery-powered and designed to be used when out and about.
Battery aside, 4G and 5G mobile broadband generally works a lot like 4G and 5G home broadband in that you have a router with a SIM card in it that beams a signal to other electronic devices, getting them online.
As such, you could use mobile broadband in place of home broadband, but the number of devices you can get online at one time is often lower and data limits are often more restrictive, so it’s not ideal.
You can also get ‘dongles’ for 5G and 4G mobile broadband, which are designed to be plugged into the device you want to get online. This is done via USB and means they can only generally get one device online at once – and only one with a USB port.
4G Home Broadband router
5G Home Broadband router
|Max Download Speeds||Up to 600Mbps (LTE CAT 12/13)||Up to 3.8Gbps|
|Max Upload Speeds||Up to 150Mbps||Up to 542Mbps|
|Maximum Connected devices||64||30|
Dual Band 802.11ac
(2.4GHz and 5GHz)
Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax (Wi-Fi 6) 4 x 4 MIMO
(2.4GHz and 5GHz)
|External Antenna||Yes x2 (sold separately)||Yes (sold separately)|
|Power||Mains Power||Mains Power|
|Three 4G Hub Review||Three 5G Hub Review|
The Three 4G Hub (or ZTE MF286D) and the Three 5G Hub (or ZTE MC801A 5G Hub) are primarily different based on the mobile technology they use and their maximum speeds.
With its support for 5G, the Three 5G Hub is far faster – as you can see in the chart above. Though note that the listed speeds are what the hardware is theoretically capable of, not what Three is promising. In the real world your speeds are likely to be much lower in both cases – check the speeds section above for more details.
Beyond that, the main difference other than the design is that the Three 4G Hub has four Ethernet ports, while the 5G Hub has just two. So if you rely on a lot of wired connections to devices then the 4G Hub actually has an advantage.
The 4G Hub can also get around twice as many devices connected to the internet at once – though with 30 simultaneous connections the 5G Hub can still manage far more than most people will need.
And remember, there’s a Three 4G Plus Hub too, which is very similar to the 4G Hub but with higher average speeds (though still far lower than the Three 5G Hub offers).
Overall though the Three 5G Hub is by far the fastest and best home broadband router on Three. However, you should check your home actually has Three 5G coverage before buying this. Entering your postcode during the purchase process will inform you of whether you have 5G coverage or not.
Yes, all of the devices listed above are available with unlimited data on Three.
Yes, Three offers a 14-day money-back guarantee on both Three 5G Hub and Three 4G Hub plans, so if you find that you don’t have a good signal or speeds, have other issues, or just decide that it’s not for you, then you can return the Hub and cancel your plan for a full refund within the first 14 days.
Note that while this information was correct at the time of writing, it’s always worth double checking Three’s terms and conditions direct before buying.