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Is It Worth It to Get Fixed Wireless Instead of Using Your Phone for Internet?

Fixed wireless vs. mobile broadband: Which is right for you?

  • Best fixed wireless plan
    Verizon 5G Home
    • Price: $50.00/mo. ($25.00/mo. for Verizon Unlimited phone plan subscribers)*
    • 300 Mbps download speed
    • No data cap
    • Installed in your home
  • Best hotspot data plan
    T-Mobile 2GB
    • Price: $10.00/mo.
    • Speed varies by location
    • 2 GB/mo. data cap
    • Mobile internet access

Many cellular providers compete with traditional internet service providers (ISPs) by offering home internet over their cellular networks. But if you can already access the internet using your phone, why would you want to pay for a separate home 4G plan?

Mobile affordability and mobility are two good reasons to ditch your home internet, but there are lots of reasons to keep a separate home internet plan too.  Depending on your internet habits, there might be a better option:

  • Mobile hotspots give you maximum flexibility.
  • Portable 4G lets you take your internet with you when you travel.
  • 4G LTE home internet can give you a cheap, reliable connection.
  • 5G home internet gives you blinding speed over a wireless connection.

Fixed and mobile wireless internet each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Keep reading to find the best fit for you.

Looking for affordable internet options?

If you don’t want to pay for a home internet connection, there are ways to get internet free of charge, rather than simply doing without. There are also government internet discount programs to make internet service more affordable, which might make a home connection a better option.

What’s the difference between fixed wireless and mobile wireless?

Fixed wireless is generally cheaper, faster, and more reliable than mobile wireless connections. The trade-off is that your connection is stuck in one place. But even though fixed and mobile wireless have practical differences, they use basically the same technology.

How does cellular internet work?

All wireless internet uses radio waves to send data between transceivers and your devices. When looking at connections like 4G and 5G, we’re talking specifically about cellular technology.

Cellular networks, like your phone uses, are a type of wireless network that breaks large networks up into smaller regions called cells. Each cell is connected to the larger network, but neighboring cells broadcast their signal on slightly different frequencies. This allows cellular networks to have larger capacities, achieve higher speeds, and cover more area—and enables cellular devices to use less power, have smaller antennas, and be manufactured cheaper. Mobile phones wouldn’t be as popular if you had to hold up a two-foot satellite dish to get reception and your battery lasted only ten minutes.

Isn’t all cellular internet mobile?

Although we often simply equate “cellular” with “mobile,” there are a lot of benefits to using cellular networks even if your device is stuck in one place. Perhaps the biggest advantage is the US’s massive existing cellular infrastructure. Between the three big cellular networks—AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile—over 98% of the US population has 4G LTE coverage.1 That’s almost as much coverage as satellite internet.

Will 5G change how cellular networks operate?

Nationwide cellular networks are upgrading from 4G technology to 5G. 5G signals can carry much more information, but have a shorter range. While this creates many hurdles to making 5G technology practical in rural areas, it’s safe to say that cellular-based internet services are here to stay—and hopefully they’ll continue improving or even surpassing certain types of wired connections.

Why choose a mobile connection?

Mobile connections are incredibly convenient. Most of us rely on our phone every day. For most people, the question isn’t, “Do I want a mobile connection?” it’s, “Can I get by on just my mobile connection?”

If you already have a phone plan, canceling your home internet can save you a lot of money. And if mobility is a top concern, a phone or other mobile internet solution might give you the flexibility you need.

Before you rush out to cut your cable, get the details on the types of mobile internet and their pros and cons. One might fit all your needs, or you might need multiple options. You might even find that the cost of mobility isn’t worth it for you.

Using your phone

Ditching your home internet can save you money. Most of us already have a phone that can access the internet, which is convenient for looking up directions or listening to Spotify on your commute. Most smartphones can also serve as a mobile hotspot, setting up a small Wi-Fi network for your computers and TVs. If you use the internet infrequently to pay bills and check your email, a phone might be all you need.

Using your phone for your household internet connection can also work in extenuating circumstances. In the case of financial insecurity, your phone’s internet connection can help you keep up with the basics of life while allowing you to eliminate your home internet bill. There are much better long-term options for free and low-cost internet or getting assistance on your internet bill, but a phone can be an important temporary solution.

Phones also make good internet connections in the case of unexpected moves. Installing a new connection often takes time, so having a phone to fall back on can be crucial, especially if you’re moving for work. Again, this works best as a temporary solution. If you know in advance you’ll be moving in less than a year, a no-contract internet plan will give you the flexibility you need with a much better online experience.

For those of us who rely on the internet on a daily basis, a phone plan probably isn’t the best or even the cheapest option. Although they connect to the same cellular network as a home 4G router or a hotspot, phones usually have the smallest data plans, so if an entire household is trying to connect using only your phone plan, you’ll probably end up paying for a lot of extra data.

In fact, if your main goal is to save money, it can be cheaper to have a home internet plan and keep your phone connected to Wi-Fi as much as possible so it uses data from your home internet connection (or public Wi-Fi) instead of those precious phone plan megabits.

Mobile hotspots

Mobile hotspots are similar to a phone set to hotspot mode, but better. Hotspot devices are designed for this one function, and they can easily handle between 10 and 30 devices while delivering 4G and 5G speeds. The biggest trade-off is that a hotspot is only a hotspot, not a phone.

As with phone data, hotspot data is much more expensive than data from a home internet plan. But if you frequently use your phone as a hotspot and it’s not quite cutting it, a dedicated hotspot device and plan might be the answer. Get a hotspot with a generous data plan—it’s a lot cheaper and more convenient than dealing with data overage charges on a phone plan.

Having a hotspot and phone generally costs more, but it maximizes your mobility.  Hotspots can also connect plenty of devices to Wi-Fi—including your phone—and you can choose a device optimized for specific situations like international travel, where your usual phone plan might not work.

Using a hotspot also frees up your personal phone so other people don’t have to worry about the Wi-Fi going out when you leave the room. If you often use your phone as a hotspot but want it to be more convenient, it might be worth it to upgrade to a dedicated hotspot.

ProductPriceConnectivityMax devicesOrder online
Inseego 5G MiFi M2000$129.995G, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)30View on Amazon
NETGEAR Nighthawk M6 5G WiFi 6 Mobile Router$799.995G (mm-wave, C-band), Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)32View on Amazon
Alcatel LINKZONE$99.994G LTE, 802.11n16View on Amazon

Portable 4G LTE

Portable 4G LTE plans are the middle ground between home 4G and mobile hotspots. The equipment is similar to a standard home Wi-Fi router that has to be plugged in, but it doesn’t need to remain in a single location. So it’s not something that you carry around on your morning jog or commute, but you can take it with you on vacations and business trips to keep the same internet connection you have at home.

As with hotspots, mobility comes at a premium. These portable internet plans usually cost quite a bit more per month than a similar home internet plan. Still, if that flexibility of being able to take your own internet connection wherever you go matters, it can be a great option.

ProviderDownload speedsStarting priceImportant featuresGet it
UbiFiLocation dependent$129.99/mo.*Wide availability
View Plans
Ladybug WirelessUp to 60 Mbps$124.99/mo.PortabilityView Plans

Why choose a fixed connection?

If you’re looking for the best deal, fixed wireless usually offers cheaper plans, more data, and more consistent speeds than a phone plan. A fixed cellular internet connection—usually referred to as 4G LTE home internet or 5G home internet—works similarly to other types of home internet. Your provider sends you a wireless router, you use it to set up your home Wi-Fi network, and then you can connect your computers and other devices.

Instead of a jack on the wall, your router might use an antenna placed on a window or an internal antenna, which you’d just move around to get the best signal. Either way, setting up your internet connection is easy and doesn’t require professional installation. A very nice perk.

Although your home 4G or 5G equipment uses the same cellular connection as your phone or mobile hotspot, they’re designed to stay in one place. Even if you do take your router with you when you leave home, it generally won’t work if you go and plug it in wherever.

While having your equipment and Wi-Fi network fixed in place sacrifices mobility—one of the main advantages of using a cellular network, the trade-off is that your provider knows exactly where you are and doesn’t have to plan for all the places you might go, making it much easier to manage its network. This means it can offer lower prices, more reliable speeds, and more data compared with mobile plans.

These connections come in two flavors: 4G LTE and 5G. The biggest difference between the two is download speed, but there are a few nuances to each type of service.

Are there 4G and 5G internet options in your area? Enter your zip code to find out.

4G LTE home internet

The most widely available type of cellular home internet service is 4G LTE home internet service, and although it’s not the fastest, it’s a much cheaper alternative to options like satellite internet. Technically, 4G LTE home internet is available just about anywhere you can get a cell signal, but in practice, providers only offer the service where in their networks they know they can reach their advertised speeds. It’s possible to live in an area where your cell phone can connect just fine, but your provider doesn’t offer home internet.

4G internet generally isn’t as fast or reliable as a wired connection like cable or fiber, though in some areas it can be faster than DSL. 4G really shines in rural areas that lack internet infrastructure. If your only other choices are satellite and slow DSL, a 4G LTE home connection might give you a faster and cheaper connection.

Like most wireless connections, 4G home internet is limited by fairly restrictive data caps. 4G home plans usually offer more data than satellite and mobile phone plans, but it’s not as much as you get from wired internet.

5G home internet

5G home internet is for those who want speed. It’s still a relatively new technology, but it’s also one of the fastest developing areas of 5G research. Having your equipment in a fixed location gets around a lot of the tricky technical issues in making 5G connections work. In many cities, 5G coverage was initially available only for home internet.

5G technology is already fast, but it has the potential to become incredibly fast. Under experimental conditions, 5G speeds can reach up to 20 Gbps—faster than any current connection type other than fiber.2 Actual 5G connections have a long way to go before we get anywhere close to those speeds, but you can already find advertised speeds ranging from around 100 Mbps to 1 Gig. This puts 5G connections in the same league as many cable and fiber plans.

Another nice feature of 5G connections is that because they can burn through data so fast, 5G plans are some of the few wireless plans where data caps are uncommon. Even if you don’t need the extra speed, 5G might be a cheaper option if it keeps frequent data overage charges at bay.

The high frequency of the signals that allow for ultrafast download speeds also limit the range of these signals. Unlike 4G, which can cover huge distances with limited infrastructure, 5G coverage is currently limited to cities with dense populations where ISPs can build a lot of antennas relatively close together.

Most 5G home internet equipment can use a 4G network if it can’t get a 5G signal, but you don’t get the full value out of your 5G plan if that’s the case. Before switching to a provider that advertises 5G speeds, make sure that 5G connections are actually available at your home address.

ProviderDownload speedsStarting priceImportant featuresGet it
Verizon25 Mbps$40.00–$60.00/mo.*Great price
Easy installation
T-Mobile72-245 Mbps$60.00/mo.Great priceView Plans
Ultra Home Internet25–115 Mbps$59.99–$149.99/mo.Fast 5G SpeedsView Plans

The bottom line

Dumping your home internet and relying solely on your phone plan is a great way to save money if you’re not a heavy internet user, and it’s a great thing to fall back on in an emergency. For those of us who are chronically online, however, the savings might not be worth the inconvenience, and overage charges might make it cost even more money in the long run.

Among wireless plans, 5G and 4G LTE home internet are the best bets for an internet plan to meet the needs of an average household. Mobile options are great for those who travel a lot, but if you don’t rely on a fast, reliable internet connection when you’re on the go, you can probably get by with your normal phone plan.

Looking for a fast 5G home internet connection? See what options are available in your area.


  1. Federal Communications Commission, “2020 Communications Marketplace Report,” December 31, 2020. Accessed October 31, 2022.
  2. ITU-T, “5G Basics,” 2017. Accessed October 31, 2022.

Author -

Peter Christiansen writes about satellite internet, rural connectivity, livestreaming, and parental controls for Peter holds a PhD in communication from the University of Utah and has been working in tech for over 15 years as a computer programmer, game developer, filmmaker, and writer. His writing has been praised by outlets like Wired, Digital Humanities Now, and the New Statesman.

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