Should You Use 4G over a Wired Broadband Connection?

Most of us who are fortunate enough to have access to 4G services have already surmised that 4G is a lot quicker than 3G or older connections. Some of us have discovered that, for surfing the Internet or checking email, 4G speeds may suffice and the need for a wired broadband access from cable or DSL may no longer be needed. But there are some questions and issues that you should be aware of before you rush out and buy a new 4G cellphone. In this article I am going to compare various services, provide information from a recent Nielsen survey, and provide you with my own real life experience comparing 4G to my cable broadband service.

According to a recent survey by the people at Nielson, a well-respected company in the TV industry, young users are the ones most considering the use of 4G in lieu of wired broadband. Nielson also stated in its report that satisfaction is very high for users of 4G; some 86 percent are satisfied with their 4G smartphones. Nielson also provided the following chart that indicates, by age group, which age group would be most likely to switch entirely to 4G for all of their connection needs:

Depending on where you live, the type of phone you have, and also the carrier you currently use, this will determine just how well 4G will work for you. PC World recently did what it defined as real-world testing of different carriers and determined (and provided) the following chart listing how well each carrier rated:

Chart courtesy of PC World

Before you can connect (tether) other devices to your cellphone, you may need to check with your carrier and purchase a plan from it that allows tethering. I am currently with T-Mobile and have a tethering plan, and I have found that using two free Android applications, FoxFI and PdaNet 3.50, provides me with the best tethering experience and connection for multiple devices.

I am also a cable broadband user with service being provided through Suddenlink. My current plan is for 10 Mbps and this level is plenty fast for surfing the Internet, checking email, downloading software, and most important for me, streaming video from Netflix or cable channels via the Internet.

I don’t have any sophisticated equipment in my arsenal to test either my 4G or cable connection and merely relied upon the speed testing tool provided by CNET. As CNET states on its website, the speeds represent the current throughput, and factors such as network congestion can affect the speed rating. I ran the speed test on both my cable connection and 4G connections from various devices and obtained the following speeds:

Cable: 5.6 Mbps to 12.7 Mbps download.

4G: 2.2 Mbps to 5.8 Mbps download.

What surprised me was that my Amazon Kindle Fire recorded the lowest speeds and my Windows 7 laptop computer the highest speeds. Testing my wife’s Apple iPad ranked second highest speeds and my Chromebook came in third, just ahead of my Fire tablet. But how different are these speeds and is the difference noticeable?

For simple surfing and emails, either works well and there is no noticeable difference. But when it comes to streaming video from Netflix or other online cable TV stations such as TNT, A&E and so forth, 4G does not perform as well a faster wired broadband connection. What I observed was that when using 4G, my streaming experience resulted in choppy, slow playback.

If you are not interested in streaming video or downloading large files, 4G could be the perfect answer to cutting the cord with your cable or phone company. I would make sure the smartphone you select and the carrier of your choosing provides reliable and solidly performing download speeds that meet your needs. I would ask your family, friends, co-workers, or anyone else who is using the carrier you are contemplating what their personal experience has been.

In addition, there is one more significant issue that you need to be aware of when buying a 4G-enabled smartphone. When using a 4G connection to tether to, battery life on your phone is diminished quickly. I usually keep my phone on its electrical charger while using the phone as a hotspot.

Source: Nielsen

Source: PC World

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Mike Saechang

Article Written by

I have been writing for LockerGnome since relocating to Missouri seven years ago, where I continue to be a technology enthusiast who enjoys playing with the newest and latest gadgets.

  • Kyle Polansky

    Until they remove the data caps, match the speed of my current wired connection, and allow more than one user on the same account, I’ll just stick with my Verizon Fios connection. I’ve probably already explained my reasons in other comments on other articles.

    4G isn’t designed to transfer TBs of files each month. It’s just ridiculous to be charging per GB, and carriers are charging around $10 a GB in some cases, that would mean $10,240 per TB of data.

    The next issue is speed. I can get around 30 mbps download, and around 20 mbps upload on my current connection. 4G speeds just aren’t that fast. Plus, my wired connect is throttled way down, which means the speeds remain fast during peak hours, and the speeds don’t vary much when downloading large files, just a consistent speed. I should probably mention that the ping on my connection is also very low, often less than 30 seconds for local connections. This is huge when hosting servers as each ms counts when trying to serve content as fast as possible.

    My next point is about the way 4G is implemented. Most plans are per device which is just a terrible way of doing it. I use 7 computers on a regular basis, and that isn’t including mobile devices such as phones, tablets, or other internet-using devices. It’s very easy to buy 1 dynamic IP from a fiber company and then NAT to allow all the devices to share the connection. Plus that’s just me, my family and any friends that visit are able to use the private connection. This just isn’t possible with 4G. It is usually distributed per device. This means my house would need around 10 dedicated 4G accounts for non-mobile devices, and then probably 8 or 9 more for tablets and phones. Even if all these devices could work with the same account, managing them would be hard. It’s possible to have more wireless interference because of all the devices instead of having a central device to transmit data to the internet.

    I guess this would be useful for people that only have 1 or 2 devices, and don’t need to download large files like you mentioned in the story. I just wish that phone companies would actually give us what we want. For example, most plans still have calling and text messaging options. For users like me using voip and smsoip (might have just made that abb. up), I’m just paying extra money for nothing. Carriers that used to offer unlimited data are now throttling or charging per GB. It’s hard to even buy mobile devices without being locked down into a contract. It would just be nice for mobile providers to give us what we want. Name 1 person who would pay per GB if you could get unlimited data for the same price, or 1 person that likes to be throttled on their unlimited connection. I’m really hoping that a new mobile carrier will show up in the market that actually cares what the customers want. Right now AT&T and Verizon pretty much dominate the US market, and customers are forced to accept any new policies they decide on. Sorry for this very long rant on why I dislike mobile service providers. I guess it’s the reason that I don’t purchase any services from them. Unfortunately, most people are unwilling to try to change the way these companies work and just pay money for new contracts.