With most of us either working from home or furloughed until further notice due to Covid-19, we nowhave a massively increased demand for fast broadband. If the government hadn’t dragged its feet for years over fibre rollouts, we could all be working from home as seamlessly as possible right now. Sadly that is not the case in many scenarios; people will have broadband but be limited to ADSL with pathetic speeds. Then many people just don’t have broadband.
So if you are now working from home with barely usable Internet, the quickest solution will be to use mobile data. This solution can be surprisingly good or predictably terrible depending on where you live, but it is what it is, and most towns and cities will have at least one network that can sustain a good signal in your home.
For short term use, there is no stopping you from tethering your mobile to your laptop, but that is not ideal for 8 hour days over the next 3+ weeks. This solution won’t be effective for provided data to all your devices within the home either.
The best option would be a router that is either a dedicated mobile data router or often has multiple connection options. Alternatively, some mobile hotspot devices have an ethernet port allowing you to then plug then into the WAN port of a normal router.
This option is not ideal as a temporary solution to your home internet as you will be subscribing to a long contract, but it is the best solution for getting mobile data in your home in general.
In my opinion, the Vodafone Gigacube looks like the best option, there is a 4G and 5G option and the contract is only 18 months vs 24 by other networks. if you are signing up to an 18-month contract, I would suggest just getting the 5G deal with the best option being £50 upfront and £50 monthly. If you can get 5G this is a pretty good alternative to VDSL and Virgin in general.
For 30 day deals, which is likely a better option during our lockdown, the 4G option will be more suitable with a much lower upfront price of £100 – the £50 plan only offer 300GB of data but that should be more than enough for most users, and for general office work the 100GB £30 plan should be enough.
EE have multiple options with the best for temporary Internet being the 4GEE Home Router which is £129.99 upfront then it looks like you can get 20GB of data for 90 days included, and then presumably pay as go for the rest.
On the pay monthly plans they have six devices, but the 4GEE Wi-Fi and 4GEE Wi-Fi lack ethernet so I wouldn’t get them for working at home.
That leaves the Netgear Nighthawk M2, for our current sitation the best option would be the 1-month plan which is £150 upfront then £32 for 30GB of data. It is not a lot of data at all, but for general office work, it should be fine.
Their top of the range solution is quite expensive with the 5GEE Home Router with Antenna being £100 upfront then £70pcm for 18 months giving you 1000GB of data. That is a lot of data for general use, but if you download a lot of big files like games or movies, it is possible to easily exceed this.
With O2 you only have one worthwhile device, and that’s the Pocket Hotspot Pro Netgear M1 as this is the only one with ethernet.
They have a build your own plan pay monthly scheme so you can customise it to suit your needs. For example, a 3-month plan with no upfront and 50GB of data is £98pcm, quite expensive but that’s £300 over three months, and you are not committing to a multi-year deal.
Paying an upfront seems to reduce the monthly accordingly to what you would have paid for the full contract roughly. So £170 upfront gives you £41.34pcm and a 3-month cost of £294.02
Mobile Routers on Amazon
Alternatively, you can skip getting the device direct from the network and buy from Amazon or another supplier then add your own data card.
778 ratings 4.3 out of 5
TP-Link have three options that are very attractively priced:
TP-Link TL-MR6400 is just £72.99, but the 4G speeds are capable of theoretically 150 Mbps (unlocked to all networks), and the Wi-Fi can only do 300mbps.
TP-Link Archer MR600 is £134.96 – If you can stretch your budget this is a wiser investment with faster 4G speeds of up to 300Mbps and 300Mbps over 2.4GHz, and 867Mbps over 5GHz for Wi-Fi.
TP-Link Archer MR400 at £109.49 this sits in the middle with 4G speeds of 150Mbps and 50Mbps upload speed then offering up to 300Mbps over 2.4GHz, and 867Mbps over 5GHz
Huawei seems to have a lot of options, which is unsurprising as this is one of their main businesses
Huawei B311 for £64.99 – 4G download speeds up to 150Mbps and upload speeds of up to 50Mbps. Wifi 300mbps on 2.4Ghz
Huawei B535 for £104 – download speed of 300 Mbps – WiFi AC1200 over 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz (probably 400/800)
Huawei B618 for £194 – download speed of 600 Mbps as it uses CAT11. Wifi speeds not stated but it has 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz.
2,291 ratings 4.1 out of 5
Two options again, both routers so with multiple ethernet ports, Wi-FI and a WAN in for ADSL/VDSL.
D-Link DWR-953 £105.34 – 4G LTE/3G with up to 150 Mbps download – Wireless AC1200 (866 Mbps on 5 GHz + 300 Mbps on 2.4 GHz)
D-Link DWR-921/B for £77.99 – 4G LTE/3G with up to 150 Mbps download – Wireless N300 (300 Mbps on 2.4 GHz)
1,236 ratings 3.6 out of 5
Under the first listing I found for Netgear, they have two products, one a modern the other a router
4G LTE Broadband Modem for £129.99 – this will then need plugging into a Wi-Fi router such as a mesh system
Netgear R7100LG-100EUS Nighthawk for £298.99 – expensive but high specced this is a proper router than also has a SIM card slot for data. The 4G is designed as a failover solution if you broadband cuts out, but ti still works in this scenario with 150 Mbps 4G LTE download speed then a high Wi-Fi spec of 600+1300 Mbps speeds over 2.4Ghz/5Ghz
Then the next listing is fo the mobile hotspots, but there are two models with gigabit ethernet ports allowing them to work as modems, these are a good investment if you want to have mobile data when travelling (in the future). They are not cheap though:
447 ratings with a score of 4.3 out of 5
Nighthawk MR1100 for £259.99 with maximum download speeds of up to 1 Gbps and Category 16 LTE Advanced connectivity
Nighthawk MR2100 for £384.92 – an LTE CAT 20 device capable of up to 2 Gbps downlink data transfer
Assuming you are reading this during the current Coronavirus lockdown and want a temporary work at home solution then I would skip the long contracts or expensive routers unless your boss is willing to pay for it.
The EE 4G monthly plan option with the Gigacube looks like an excellent choice, that’s £100 upfront then £50pcm for the top option.
Buying the gear yourself, if you already have access to a router that handles Wi-Fi, I’d be inclined to go for the cheaper options overall, so that is the Huawei B311, D-Link DWR-921/B or TP-Link TL-MR6400.
If you need Wi-Fi to reliably cover your whole house, because everyone is at home, then I would suggest looking into a mesh Wi-Fi system also.
The TP-Link Deco E4 is probably the best value option at the moment or the TP-Link Deco M5 is a superb higher specced alternative, and the TP-LINK Deco P9 if you have a large home with thick walls as this uses the electrical cabling within your home to connect the devices
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Last update on 2020-03-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API