Ask LH: Is There A Cheap 4G Plan For Home Mobile Broadband?

Hey Lifehacker, I live in an area with terrible internet connectivity. The available DSL service is horribly slow (ADSL1), there’s no prospect of the NBN around here any time soon, and I have no other options for fast internet. Does anyone offer a 4G/LTE data plan that I could actually use at home if I needed 60GB-100GB for less than $150 a month? Thanks, Disconnected

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Dear Disconnected,

Alas, the short answer is “no”. While 4G services can offer excellent (if unpredictable) speeds, there’s a big cost premium compared to ADSL or other alternatives. Even for 60GB a month, the lower total you quoted, you’ll pay a small fortune.

Here’s what you’d pay for 60GB each month on the consumer 4G data plans available from the major carriers. We’ve calculated this by taking the biggest available monthly plan (which is invariably much lower than 60GB) and then adding the excess data charges you’d pay to reach 60GB. It’s an ugly story.

Carrier Plan Cost Excess Cost for 60GB
Optus 10GB $60.00 $10/GB $560.00
Telstra 25GB $150.00 $0.10/MB $3734.00
Vodafone 8GB $45.00 $0.10/MB $5369.80

Note that Optus — the “cheapest” option listed here — reserves the right to limit your usage after 20GB, so in practice you probably couldn’t get 60GB anyway. Even that 20GB would cost you $160 a month. (Virgin Mobile, which offers access to Optus 4G, isn’t in the table: it offers 13GB for $60 a month, which is cheaper than Optus, but shapes you after you hit the limit and cuts you off for the month once you’ve been through an additional 250MB.)

If you have to use 4G, the reality is that the affordable upper limit right now is somewhere around the 20GB-25GB mark. It’s a more expensive alternative than ADSL, and we don’t expect that to change any time in the near future.


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