4G mobile broadband

ByDuncan Heaney

There’s a lot to think about when you’re taking out a new mobile deal. What phone do I want? How many texts am I really going to send each month? And what’s this 4G thing everyone’s talking about?

What is 4G?

4G stands for the 'fourth generation' of mobile communications technology. What that means in layman's terms is this: through your mobile phone provider, you can access not only calls and texts, but also mobile internet.

1G, the first generation, was analogue; 2G was digital and allowed a tiny bit of web browsing; 3G added proper mobile internet access; and now 4G has full mobile broadband at way faster speeds. And yes, we can expect 5G to be widely available in the not-too-distant future.

The average speed of 4G connections in the UK is 15.1Mb, according to an Ofcom report - though it can reach a maximum of around 30Mb. Compare that to the relatively slow 6.1Mb average that 3G offers.

4G basically lets you do everything you could do with 3G, but better. With a 4G connection on your phone, you can browse the internet, download apps, make voice calls, watch videos, play online games, and even tether your connection to a computer or make your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Best 4G Deals 

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6GB data

2000 minutes

Unlimited texts

broadbandchoices exclusive!

£12.00 a month

30 day contract

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5GB data

1000 minutes

Unlimited texts

 £15.00  a month

30 day plan

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8GB data

600 minutes

Unlimited texts 

Includes roaming and tethering! 

£15.00 a month

1 month contract

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25GB data

PAYG minutes

100 texts

£15.99 upfront

£24.00 a month

Free Office365 subscription

24 month contract

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8GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

6 months half price

£17.00 a month

 12 month contract

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15GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

12 month contract

£16.00 a month

£21 a month for non existing customers

12 month contract

£95 Amazon or iTunes gift card

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How do I get 4G?

To get 4G on your mobile, you'll need to do three key things:


1. Get a 4G-capable phone

Your connection starts with your handset. A huge number of smartphones are now set up for 4G, but always check before you buy. Some of our favourites are the iPhone 7 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

All kinds of other devices can operate on 4G too, such as tablets, dongles, and portable Wi-Fi hotspots.


2. Sign up to a 4G mobile plan

Next, you'll need a mobile plan that lets you connect to the provider's 4G network. Thankfully there's a wide range of plans to choose from - whether you're after a SIM-only deal, or a contract on a handset. Plans that include 4G cost generally the same or a bit more than 3G plans.

Remember that with a 4G connection, pages load faster and you can get used to having reliable speedy mobile internet, meaning you may end up using more data and might need a plan with a higher data usage cap.


FreedomPop Virgin Mobile
Minutes 1,225 5,000
Texts 1,250 Unlimited
Data 1.25GB 20GB
Contract length 1 month 1 month
Cost £4.99 per month £25.00 per month
  Get this deal Get this deal


3. Be in a 4G coverage area

There's no point in shelling out for a 4G plan if you can't even use it. 4G coverage across the country is still limited, especially in rural areas - and while it's generally okay in big towns and cities, even they have the occasional dead zone. Always check your chosen provider's website before you take out a deal with them to make sure their 4G can reach you where you need it.

  • EE, BT Mobile and Virgin Mobile have the best 4G coverage, covering up to 90% of the population
  • Vodafone and TalkTalk 4G covers 85%
  • O2 and giffgaff 4G covers 70%
  • Three and iD 4G covers just 63%

Bear in mind that these figures are based on the UK population - not by geography. 

However, there's no need to panic if you find yourself outside of a 4G zone - you'll automatically connect to 3G instead so you can carry on browsing and downloading, albeit at a slower speed.

You can also make the most of 4G by using a mobile broadband dongle or personal Wi-Fi device. These handy little gadgets let you get online wherever you are. Have a browse over our mobile broadband page and check out the best of what the broadband world has to offer.

What's good about 4G?

  • It's really fast - more than twice as fast as 3G, in fact.
  • The improved infrastructure in the UK means it's efficient, and can cope well with high demand and lots of users.
  • There's pretty good coverage, especially in towns and cities.
  • The older 'generations' are slowly becoming obsolete as more and more of the spectrum is auctioned off - so it's only logical to go for a 4G plan.

What's bad about 4G?

  • Since everything loads faster, you'll download more data in a shorter span of time -  4G allows things like autoplay on Facebook videos - so you may reach your monthly download limit pretty quickly.
  • 4G plans cost a tad more than 3G ones.
  • Not everywhere is covered, particularly if you're out in the sticks.
  • Outside of a 4G area, your connection will drop to a 3G one… and you'll still be paying for a 4G plan.

Ultimately, when it comes to 3G vs 4G, 4G will pretty much always win. A good rule to follow is new generations of tech are better, and this rule remains true with the battle of 3G and 4G.


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