Wireless Broadband: Is It a Good Option for Your Household?

There are now an abundance of high-speed broadband plans available courtesy of the UFB (Ultra-Fast Broadband) rollout. However, if your household is unable to access fibre broadband, or you’re simply looking for a quick-and-easy, no-fuss connection, a wireless broadband plan could fit the bill.

Wireless broadband harnesses 4G and 5G mobile networks to get you online in a matter of minutes, without the need or commitment of cable. So, if you live out in the wop-wops, or move homes often, you might find a wireless connection is better suited to your needs. Whether that’s due to the fact that running a fibre cable to your property isn’t an option, or you feel as if you might not be staying at your current spot for the long-term.

There are a number of internet service providers currently offering wireless broadband plans, providing a point of difference in the wider broadband market. It’s also noteworthy that 5G plans are beginning to emerge, which have the capacity to significantly boost download and upload speeds. 

In the following guide, we cover:  

What is wireless broadband?

Just as it says on the tin, wireless broadband is a type of broadband that operates without a cable connection. Whereas UFB and older ADSL/VDSL set-ups require a physical connection to the provider’s network, wireless broadband provides plug-and-play functionality.

That means there’s no waiting around for a technician to get you connected. It is simply a matter of plugging in the modem/router (which your ISP typically provides) and wirelessly connecting to the provider’s mobile network. From there, you can set up a wifi network and connect multiple devices, just as you would any other broadband connection.

The only real difference is, instead of plugging into a wired connection, you are accessing your internet provider’s 4G/5G network wirelessly, via cell towers. Not all too different from turning on your phone data and instantly connecting to the internet.

Although, it is still a bit different… Notably, it’s designed to be used at one location. So you can’t access it on the go, like you can with your phone data. Although, technically, you could probably unplug your modem and take it with you wherever you go. If you do use it at another location without informing your provider, your service could be disconnected.

How do wireless broadband speeds compare?

Wireless broadband is more than capable of catering for browsing online, making video calls, and HD video streaming. However, wireless broadband speeds are significantly slower than UFB (fibre) connections. Especially now that a recent lines upgrade has increased the standard fibre connection from 100/20mbps to 300/100mbps.

Simply put, if you’re looking for high-speed broadband then UFB should be your focus.

Average broadband speeds NZ

Putting the sort of download/upload speeds on offer into context, the Commerce Commission’s Measuring Broadband New Zealand (MBNZ) June 2022 report provides the following rundown of average 24/7 speeds:

Broadband type Download (Mbps) Upload (Mbps)
Fixed wireless 35.7 17.9
ADSL 8.6 0.7
VDSL 40 10.1
UFB – Fibre 300 310.5 110.3
UFB – Fibre Max 859.1 502.7

As you can see, while a wireless connection outperforms old ASDL connections, and provides similar speeds to a VDSL connection, it clocks average download speeds almost 10x slower than that of Fibre 300.

So if fibre is a feasible option for you, it’s definitely the way to go.

However, it’s worth noting that the ongoing 5G rollout is poised to add another element to the market. The MBNZ report doesn’t currently report on the performance of 5G plans (presently only available in limited areas). But there is potential for significant speed boosts over 4G. 

For instance, Vodafone advises that at launch in New Zealand, 5G speeds started at between 150-200 Mbps on average, with the potential for speeds to be up to 10 times faster than what is on offer from 4G. This is much closer to the speeds seen on a fibre connection.

What should you look for in a wireless broadband plan?

Wireless broadband may be a good option if you don’t have UFB in your area, or if there are issues establishing a cable connection at your household. It could also be a convenient option if you’re looking for a short-term broadband solution in a rental property.

As a first step, it is worthwhile seeing what’s on offer from providers in your area (we’ve run through a number of offers below). Most providers will allow you to search your address via their website to determine broadband availability.

Features to keep in mind when shopping around for a wireless broadband plan include:

  • Modem/router – you’ll need to use the provider’s modem/router, allowing for connection to the 4G/5G mobile network. Is the modem free, or are you charged upfront? Or is it paid for over the life of the plan?
  • Fixed or open term – fixed-term plans typically include the cost of the modem/router. However, if you cancel early, you’ll need to pay a termination fee. Open-term plans provide the flexibility to cancel when you wish. However you’ll probably need to pay for the modem/router upfront.
  • Data caps – many wireless broadband plans come with data caps, however unlimited options are becoming more common. If you’re considering a plan with a data cap, it is worthwhile confirming the cost of data add-ons should you exceed the cap.
  • Home phone – many wireless broadband plans also come with the option of a home phone line, provided at an additional cost.
  • Incentives – keep an eye out for any additional sign-up incentives, such as discounted or free introductory monthly rental, along with any other included services and bundle discounts.

In addition, it’s worth weighing up the provider as a whole. How is their customer service? What online tools and management do they offer?

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Wireless broadband plans

The following are some of the wireless broadband plans currently on offer from providers in urban areas around the country. Keep in mind that rural wireless broadband plans typically have a different structure.

Spark logo

Spark

Spark offers a range of wireless broadband plans, catering for both light and heavy users. All of Spark’s wireless broadband plans are available on open terms.

Plan Monthly data Download/Upload Cost (per month)*
Basic Wireless 40GB 4G/4G $45
Lite Wireless 120GB 4G/4G $55
Everyday Wireless Unlimited 4G/4G $60
Max Wireless  Unlimited 5G/5G $85

Plan features:

  • The Spark modem is not included with the Basic, Lite and Everyday plans (a $106.20 cost applies).
  • If the Max plan is cancelled, the modem will need to be returned (if not returned, a non-return fee will apply, calculated according to when the plan was terminated).
  • The Basic plan includes a $50 Spark gift card, the Lite plan a $100 gift card, and the Everyday and Max plans a $200 gift card.
  • If the data cap on the Lite plan is reached, a 10GB data boost will automatically be applied for $10, after which users can purchase an additional 10GB data boost for $10 (up to five times). On the Basic plan users can purchase an additional 10GB data boost for $10 (up to six times). Once the data allowance is reached (including data boosts), the service will stop working, resuming once the allowance renews the following month.
  • The Max plan comes with a Netflix Standard subscription.
  • The Basic plan comes with a landline included. Users can add a landline to the Lite, Everyday and Max plans at a cost of $10 per month.

vodafone logo

Vodafone

Vodafone’s wireless broadband plans are designed for both light and heavy users. All of Vodafone’s wireless broadband plans are available on 12-month terms.

Plan Monthly data Download/Upload Cost (per month)*
60GB 60 GB 4G/4G $40
300GB 300 GB 4G/4G $55
Unlimited (4G) Unlimited 4G/4G $65
Unlimited (5G) Unlimited 5G/5G $79

Plan features:

  • A modem is included with all plans. The Unlimited (4G) and Unlimited (5G) plans are also eligible for Vodafone’s SuperWifi.
  • The plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • Customers can save $10 per month if they also have an eligible Vodafone pay monthly mobile plan.
  • Extra data can be purchased for the 60GB and 300GB plans at a cost of: $4 for 1GB, $20 for 15GB or $30 for 50GB.
  • The 60GB plan includes a home phone connection. Users can add a home phone connection to the 300GB, Unlimited (4G) and Unlimited (5G) plans at a cost of $10 per month.

2degrees

2degrees offers a number of wireless broadband plans with data caps, catering for medium-to-heavy monthly data use. 2degrees’ 4G wireless broadband plans are available on open and 12-month terms, with its 5G plan only available on a 12-month term.

Plan Monthly data Download/Upload Cost (per month)*
300GB Wireless 4G 300 GB 4G/4G

$55 (12 months)

$65 (open term)

600GB Wireless 4G 600 GB 4G/4G

$65 (12 months)

$75 (open term)

600GB Wireless 5G 600 GB 5G/5G $75 (12 months)

Plan features:

  • 2degrees is currently offering two months free, then $10 per month off for 10 months across each of its wireless broadband plans, for customers who sign up for a 12-month term.
  • The 12-month plans come with free modem rental, while under the open-term plans a $299 modem charge applies.
  • Customers can trial a plan for 30 days and if unsatisfied get their money back. 
  • Customers with an eligible 2degrees pay monthly mobile plan receive $10 off per month.
  • Customers who exceed their data limits can buy additional data top-up packs of 10GB, 30GB or 50GB.
  • There is no option for a landline.

skinnymobile

Skinny

Skinny’s wireless broadband plans, harnessing Spark’s mobile network, are designed for light, medium and heavy data users. All of Skinny’s plans are available on open or 12-month terms.

Plan Monthly data Download/Upload Cost (per month)*
60 GB 60GB 4G/4G $45
120 GB 120GB 4G/4G $50
Unlimited Unlimited 4G/4G $55

Plan features:

  • Customers receive one month free when signing up for a 12-month term.
  • A free modem is provided on the 12-month term, while a $199 cost applies on an open-term plan.
  • The plans come with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
  • Customers will save $10 per month if they have an active eligible Skinny mobile plan.
  • Customers can repurchase their plan at any time to get another 60 or 120GB, or buy a 10GB data add-on for $20.
  • There is no option for a landline.

*Further information on pricing can be found at individual provider websites. This should be used as a starter guide and not considered an actual quote.

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About the author of this page

 Martin KovacsThis report was written by Canstar author Martin Kovacs. Martin is a freelance writer with experience covering the business, consumer technology and utilities sectors. Martin has written about a wide range of topics across both print and digital publications, including the manner in which industry continues to adapt and evolve amid the rollout of new technologies


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