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About 4G LTE internet
If you can get a phone signal in your house, you can probably get 4G LTE home internet. Much like your phone, 4G LTE home internet uses cellular signals to provide internet access. This allows people to connect to the internet anywhere they can get phone reception without needing to install a physical cable to their home. And if you get a mobile 4G LTE hotspot, you can even take it with you when you travel.
Unlike a phone plan, however, 4G LTE internet plans give you a lot of the perks of a traditional internet plan. Plans are generally geared toward meeting the needs of an entire household, with higher data caps or unlimited data.
4G LTE home internet is one of the most widely available types of internet and can be a definite improvement if you’ve got a slow dial-up, DSL, or satellite plan, making it a great alternative to these connections in rural areas. That said, it’s still one of the slowest choices, so if you have other internet options, you can usually get a much faster speed for the same price.
Certain 4G LTE plans have the added bonus of portability, allowing you to take your router with you when you travel and use the same network and internet plan you use at home on the road. The trade-off is that these plans are usually more expensive than those that are designed to work in a fixed location. They also differ from mobile hotspots and phones, as they typically require being set up in a stationary location before you can connect them to the internet.
Popular 4G LTE internet providers
|Provider||Download speeds||Starting price||Important features||Get it|
|Verizon||25 Mbps||$40.00–$60.00/mo.*||Great price|
|T-Mobile||9–47 Mbps||$50.00/mo.†||Great price||View Plans|
|Ultra Home Internet||25–115 Mbps||$59.99–$149.99/mo.||Fast 5G Speeds||View Plans|
|UbiFi||Location dependent||$129.99/mo.‡||Wide availability|
|Ladybug Wireless||Up to 60 Mbps||$124.99/mo.||Portability||View Plans|
Data effective as of post date. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.
*Plus taxes and fees. With Auto Pay.
†With AutoPay via a $10/mo. bill credit
‡30-Day Service Trial Included with purchase of Gateway.
In general, home 4G LTE providers like Verizon and T-Mobile can offer lower prices because your home stays at a fixed location. Mobile hotspots, like UbiFi and Ladybug, have a higher monthly cost but give you the freedom to connect to the internet anywhere you have service.
Pros of 4G LTE Internet
Wide availability—The main advantage of 4G LTE home internet is that it uses existing cell infrastructure, which already covers the vast majority of the US population. Large cell phone providers like Verizon and T-Mobile each have their own extensive 4G networks, while smaller companies like UbiFi purchase bandwidth from multiple providers, extending their availability even farther. If you can get a phone signal in your house, you can probably get 4G LTE home internet.
Low monthly costs—You can usually find 4G LTE home internet for a reasonable price, around the same cost per month as cable, fiber, or DSL. It also doesn’t require the more expensive equipment and installation needed for a satellite connection, so there are fewer upfront costs too.
Higher data caps—One of the disadvantages of using the internet on your phone is that there are often very restrictive data caps on phone plans, leading to extra fees or throttled speeds. Because they are meant for use by an entire household, 4G LTE home internet plans have higher data caps so that everyone in the home can use the internet without running up against these data limits.
Some portability—Providers like Ladybug Wireless offer mobile hotspots rather than fixed home internet. Unlike most other types of internet connections, you can take your 4G LTE hotspot with you wherever your provider has service. Although 4G hotspots are not as portable as a cell phone, you can easily take your hotspot with you on vacation or on business trips to keep using your normal internet service, even when away from home.
Cons of 4G LTE Internet
Low speeds—The biggest downside of home 4G LTE is that it’s slow. If you own a smartphone, you’re probably familiar with how long it takes to download a video when you’re not on Wi-Fi. Those wait times on your home computer might not be very appealing. Data rates also drop the farther you get from a cell tower, so if your house is near the edge of a cell boundary, you might get even less than expected.
Variable signal strength—Anyone who’s used a cell phone has had experiences with losing their signal or walking through a dead zone. Most 4G LTE home internet providers have tools to help you find the best spot in your house to set up your receiver, but the quality of the connection will still vary from house to house.
How 4G internet works
4G internet works on cellular technology, just like your cell phone. 4G stands for “fourth generation” cell phone technology, which is the generation of technology that was introduced just after the development of smartphones like the iPhone.
The fourth generation of cell phone technology was a new set of standards for how cellular providers built their networks. This introduced new kinds of broadcasting equipment and new methods of connecting that made possible many of the features that we’re accustomed to using on our phones—like HD video, livestreaming, and interactive apps.
Perhaps the most noticeable change is that 4G technology dramatically increased the download speed on cellular networks. If your phone has ever defaulted to a 3G network while you were trying to use the internet, you probably know what a big difference this makes. Current 4G technologies are fast enough that they can actually surpass some wired technologies like DSL in some situations, which is why many ISPs have begun using their 4G networks not just for phones but for home internet as well.
Cellular technology generations don’t refer to a single product or device, but instead are a set of standards. These standards are set by the International Telecommunications Union-Radio communications sector (ITU-R), and they are officially known as the International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced (IMT-Advanced) specification.1
Long-term evolution (LTE)
For a cellular technology to be considered 4G, it has to use certain types of technology (such as IP telephony and worldwide roaming capacity), as well as meet certain technological thresholds, such as speed requirements. For 4G, this includes data rates of 100 Mbps.1
When these new 4G technologies were first released, they allowed cellular providers to offer vastly improved speeds over 3G networks, although most still struggled to achieve the speeds necessary to be officially classified as 4G networks.
Providers began referring to these networks that used 4G technologies but didn’t yet meet the speed requirements as “4G Long-Term Evolution” or 4G LTE, with the assumption that these networks would eventually meet 4G requirements in the long term.2 A decade later, most of these networks are still 4G LTE.
The future of 4G
At this point, cellular research is shifting toward developing 5G technologies, which have the potential to reach even higher speeds (5G also has much higher speed requirements); however, 4G technologies still fill an important niche in our telecommunications ecosystem. Some home 4G providers, like Ultra, offer 5G speeds in their plans. But to take advantage of these speeds, you need 5G-capable equipment (which is more expensive) and an available 5G signal. Currently, most 5G coverage is located in densely populated urban areas.
4G, on the other hand, is already widespread, reaching the vast majority of the US population. It’s not as fast or reliable as technologies like fiber, but it offers a cheap and immediate way for millions of people to connect to the internet without requiring any additional infrastructure to be built. This makes it a great alternative to satellite internet in rural areas that don’t have access to wired connections.
4G internet FAQ
Can I get unlimited 4G LTE home internet?
Yes, you can get unlimited 4G LTE home internet. In fact, unlimited data is one of the main reasons to get a dedicated 4G LTE home internet plan, rather than getting data through your standard mobile wireless plan and using your phone as a hotspot. It’s also why 4G LTE home internet might be a better option for you than satellite internet, which comes with low data caps.
If multiple people will be using your internet connection, it’s helpful to have a dedicated router or hotspot and a plan with high data caps or unlimited data. It’s also worth noting that while many providers advertise unlimited data with no overage charges, some still throttle or deprioritize your connection once you pass a certain data threshold. Make sure to read the fine print to make sure your connection is truly unlimited for the whole month.
What’s the difference between 4G home internet and a 4G hotspot?
4G LTE hotspots are portable, which means that you can take them outside your home and still connect using the same internet plan as long as you get reception. 4G LTE home internet is designed to be used in your home and won’t function if you take your router to a different location.
Fixed plans, like those offered by Verizon and T-Mobile, are usually cheaper than hotspot plans and have higher data caps or unlimited data. So if you don’t need the flexibility of a mobile hotspot, getting 4G LTE home internet is a better option.
What’s the difference between 4G and 4G LTE?
4G LTE stands for fourth generation (cellular technology) long-term evolution. It’s a marketing term for cellular networks that don’t hit true 4G speeds but still use many 4G technologies. Providers call their networks LTE to show that, although they didn’t hit 4G speeds, they use fourth-generation cellular technology in hopes of eventually upgrading them to handle a true 4G network.
4G LTE speeds have improved dramatically over the past decade, but since “LTE” covers all networks that are still working toward meeting 4G standards, you’ll still find a great deal of speed variation between carriers.
It’s also important to note that although 4G LTE networks don’t reach true 4G speeds, all 4G devices are compatible with these networks. You don’t need a special router or hotspot to connect to a 4G LTE network. Any 4G device will work.
Can a 4G hotspot replace home internet?
Yes, a 4G hotspot can be used for home internet and can even replace other kinds of internet service. Mobile 4G LTE hotspots are generally more expensive than plans for fixed 4G LTE home internet and have lower data caps. So if portability isn’t an important factor, you should get a 4G LTE home internet plan instead.
4G LTE, whether fixed or mobile, isn’t the fastest type of internet connection. If you have the option for cable, 5G, or fiber, you probably wouldn’t want to replace it with a slower 4G connection. 4G and 4G LTE are definitely faster than dial-up, and in some cases might be an improvement over satellite or DSL. If you’re not sure which is faster, it’s a good idea to contact your local 4G provider and ask about specific speeds for your area. You can also take an internet speed test from your phone and compare it to your home network speeds.
Is 4G home broadband any good?
4G home internet is good enough for doing a lot of tasks, such as checking email and surfing the web. For more bandwidth-intensive activities like streaming Netflix or online multiplayer games, 4G might not cut it. If you’re not sure what your household bandwidth requirements are, check out our How Much Speed Do I Need? Tool.
Is 4G considered high-speed internet?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines high-speed internet (or broadband) as an internet connection with at least 25 Mbps download speeds. Some 4G LTE providers reach these speeds, but many do not.
Does 4G internet use a router?
4G internet uses a specialized router/receiver, sometimes called a hotspot, though the terminology changes a bit depending on the provider. This device connects to your provider’s cellular network and then broadcasts a Wi-Fi network inside your home that your devices can connect to.
What is the best 4G Wi-Fi hotspot?
There are a lot of 4G hotspots on the market, but the best one for you depends a lot on which providers have reception in your area (or areas you might travel). For that reason, it’s often best to buy a hotspot through your cell phone provider. For more information, check out our round up of the best mobile hotspots on the market today.
How does 4G LTE compare to 5G?
5G is the fifth generation of cellular technology, and has the potential to be much faster than 4G and 4G LTE—potentially reaching speeds of 20 Gbps.3 As it becomes more widespread, this new tech will be great for mobile phone users, but it will be especially important for home internet. 5G offers the speeds necessary for multiple devices to connect to your home network and do things like watch videos and play online games.
The downside is that the higher frequencies used by 5G signals have a much shorter range, so it will require constructing many more cell towers in closer range to cover the same area as 4G. 5G technology currently makes use of several different spectrum bands, which means that there is a lot of variation between 5G providers. While low-band has the potential to significantly improve internet speeds in rural areas, it doesn’t support the same features and speeds as high-band 5G.4
The great thing about 4G home internet is that 4G and 4G LTE networks are already here.
- ITU-R, “Report M.2134, Requirements Related to Technical Performance for IMT-Advanced Radio Interface(s),” November 2008. Accessed July 26, 2021.
- ITU, “ITU World Radiocommunication Seminar Highlights Future Communication Technologies,” December 6, 2010. Accessed July 26, 2021.
- ITU-R, “Report M.2410-0, Minimum Requirements Related to Technical Performance for IMT-2020 Radio Interface(s)” November, 2017. Accessed August 19, 2021.
- GSMA, “5G Spectrum GSMA Public Policy Position,” March 2021. Accessed February 22, 2022.