How Do 4G Data Limits Translate In Reality? Are They High Enough?

If you’re considering getting a mobile broadband connection, then the faster speeds promised by a 4G, rather than a 3G, network might be tempting you into paying a little more. This article will look at what 4G is all about, in particular those pesky data limits, and whether or not it’s worth making that switch to a 4G network.

4G Communication- A Brief Intro

Traditionally, mobile networks have used 3G networks to provide data either to mobile phones, or using dongles and MiFi devices getting mobile internet connections to PCs, tablets and laptops. The problem with 3G networks is that speeds are limited, offering maximum speeds of only 7.2 Mbps. For gaming, video streaming and efficient web browsing these speeds just aren’t optimal for most users.

New 4G networks offer far faster speeds than this, which can be very tempting, particularly for customers who are looking to use mobile broadband to connect at home. What kind of speeds are we talking about? We don’t actually know the real limits of 4G yet, but advertised speeds are between up to 40 Mbps and up to 80 Mbps. As tempting as those speeds are, there are some problems with 4G networks.

What’s Wrong With 4G?

There are a few issues that should concern you when it comes to 4G, all of which lead us to our question about data limits. The first of these is purely cost. 4G connections are far more expensive than 3G options, and you’re going to be looking at paying more because you’re getting faster speeds. This price might be worth it, but that’s only going to hold true if you’re actually going to get 4G in the first place.

This is because 4G availability is not yet wide spread. Whilst you might be fine on a 4G network if you’re inside a city, once you get outside of towns you’ll find that your devices are switching back to 3G networks since there’s no 4G network available to connect to.

You can add to that the availability of providers. On the current market there’s only one company that will provide you with decent 4G speeds, which is part of the reason that prices are still high, and as you’ll see in a moment, your options when it comes to data limits are going to be quite restricted.

What Sort of Plan Limits You’re Looking At

The only provider option that you have at the moment for a 4G connection is EE. The company is currently offering several plans with different data limits. A monthly plan with a 1 GB limit is the cheapest, costing £13, whilst a 3 GB limit goes for £16. A 5 GB plan costs £21 a month, and the largest available package includes an 8 GB limit and will cost you £26 a month.

As you see, there’s a glaring lack of unlimited data options here. Partly this is because 4G data is simply so expensive, as a consumer you’d have to pay so much for an unlimited plan that most customers would just settle for a high data limit instead. You do not have an option though, and you’re going to need to keep to a data limit or else risk having to pay a lot more for using extra data.

What’s the Problem With a Limit?

A data limit restricts the amount of internet time that you have. Don’t be confused into thinking that this limit refers only to the number of downloads that you can make, despite sometimes being referred to as a download limit, a data limit concerns everything that you do online. Every time you send an email, open a web page, watch a video, you’re using data that’s being subtracted from your limit.

Whilst even traditional ADSL broadband plans had data limits in the past, the falling cost of data has meant that many of us have become used to having unlimited data plans for home broadband and even on our mobile phones. The habit of continually turning to the internet to be entertained or informed could end up costing you a lot of money if you’re suddenly switching from an unlimited 3G plan to a limited 4G plan.

This is because once you go over that data limit you’re going to have to pay extra costs for using extra data, and these fees are high and will add up quickly. Are you going to be in danger of exceeding your limit?

How Much Data Do You Really Need?

Whether or not you’re going to go over your data limit depends, rather obviously, on what size plan you go for and how often you use the internet. For something like a mobile phone, a 1 GB limit is probably going to be enough, though heavy users might need 2 GB. You’re going to be using maps, sending emails and maybe playing a few games on your phone. For connecting a laptop or computer though, those low limits probably aren’t going to give you enough.

The highest 8 GB limit, on the other hand, will be enough data for most people. The problem is though that with many people these days turning to streaming services such as Netflix to get entertainment, our data usage is getting higher and higher. If you’re getting most of your television and films from a streaming service such as this, even that 8 GB limit is going to be too low.

What Can You Do?

Unfortunately, right now you don’t really have much option. More and more companies are opening up their 4G networks, and as more competition appears prices are likely to fall and data limits will rise accordingly. Until then though, you’re stuck with the low data limits that are on offer. If you’re an avid streamer or even game player or downloader, you might be better off sticking with a slower 3G mobile broadband option for the time being and saving yourself some cash.

Phil Turner decided to look into 4G mobile broadband while he was buying a new phone in any case. He used sites like uSwitch.com for most of his research.


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