How to Set Up a 4G LTE Wi-Fi Network as an Alternative to Broadband

For many of us, especially in rural areas, broadband speeds over cable or DSL (or heaven forbid, satellite) aren't as reliable or as fast as we would like—if they're even available at all. But the increase in speed and capacity of 4G LTE (and now 5G ) networks has opened up another option.

Traditional hurdles that made this less than an ideal solution—data caps, expense, bandwidth, coverage, compatible hardware—are slowly becoming less of an issue as the technology improves, and it's now very possible to switch completely from standard broadband to 4G LTE broadband—with a few caveats and conditions.

How 4G LTE Internet Works

Routers such as the Netgear Orbi can bring 4G LTE into your home. Photograph: Netgear
The idea behind 4G LTE at home is pretty simple at its core: Deliver internet access to your home in the same way that your phone gets online when it's away from Wi-Fi. If you've ever tried to connect your laptop to a hot spot running from your phone, then you know what's involved, together with all the potential pros (wireless internet access anywhere) and cons (interference and bandwidth issues).

Using a 4G LTE home internet service isn't quite the same as running a hot spot though. Instead of having everything come through your phone, you set up a router to speak directly to the 4G LTE network, and then that router converts the signal into the conventional Wi-Fi that we all know and love. You don't need SIM cards for every gadget you're connecting, because they just see your home Wi-Fi as normal.

We'll explain some of the speeds you might get in the selection of packages we've outlined below, but the theoretical maximum transfer speed is around 1 Gbps for 4G LTE (and 10 times that for 5G ). In reality and outside of a laboratory, you won't see that, but if you're in the right area to get a good signal, then a 4G LTE connection can make your existing home broadband seem sluggish by comparison.

Latency—the speed with which your inputs reach the web and ping back again—can be a problem for certain uses such as gaming, but like most other technologies, 4G LTE is getting better over time. As the years go by it's also getting cheaper, reaching more areas at faster speeds, and becoming more viable for more people. Other restrictions such as data caps are starting to disappear in some cases too, though it's still worth bearing these caps in mind when comparing services. Traditionally, restrictions on data use have been one of the main reasons not to make the switch to 4G LTE for home connectivity.