Understanding Cell Phone Speeds: What’s Best for Me?
Whether you’re on the go or working from home, mobile data can be a great way to stay connected. Fast downloads, live games and smooth streams: what more could you ask for? (Well, maybe a good-value mobile phone plan too!)
So if you’re considering switching, let’s unpack what you can expect from different mobile speeds.
When comparing mobile speeds and connection strength, telcos typically use the term “Mbps” (megabits per second). This abbreviation measures bandwidth, or the volume of information transferred over time, rather than literal speed.
In this way, it is more analogous to the flow of water from a pipe than to the speed of a car. (For more definitions, see our Mobile Jargon Remover Tool).
If you think of Mbps in terms of video game power levels, then:
Level 1 (n00b)
- 0.1 – 5 Mbps
- Barely enough to send an e-mail.
- Potato quality videos.
- Either a network tower is down, or your phone is on 2G/3G by mistake. (Is 2G still a thing?)
Level 2 (I just downloaded the game)
- 5 – 12 Mbps
- Well, not bad!
- Generally minimum speeds for 3G/4G network access.
- Your videos might lag a bit, but you can usually get uninterrupted standard 720p quality without worry.
Level 3 (you have exhausted all side quests)
- 12 – 25 Mbps
- Yeah ! Now we can text videos, download top 10 apps, zoom in on colleagues (and play games while your camera is off).
- Speed common to most 4G networks during peak hours. If no one else is clogging the network with traffic, this range definitely does the job!
Level 4 (final boss, here we come!)
- 25 – 100 Mbps
- Now we cook! We’re talking crystal-clear 4K UHD streaming, live gaming at its finest, and lightning-fast downloads.
- Usually reserved for decent 4G or 5G network access.
- Great for flexin’ on n00bs.
Level 5 (could take on Chuck Norris in a fight)
- 100+ Mbps
- Galaxy-brain mode.
- Either you have 5G or you’re using multiple towers at once because you’re in the middle of town (called “carrier aggregation”).
- If you exceed 450 Mbps, congratulations: you are officially faster than NBN.
Mbps applies whether your Internet connection is data, Wi-Fi or broadband. Generally speaking, providers should offer at least 12 Mbps for reasonable coverage, while anything 25 Mbps or higher is best for heavy internet users.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Mbps speeds are different from your actual network connection, which is usually tiered as 2G, 3G, 4G, or 5G.
But what is a G? Continue reading!
“G” stands for generation, so 5G networks are just the latest upgrade in mobile internet connectivity. (2G has been phased out in Australia since 2018 and 3G is currently decommissioned. Don’t worry, 4G is here to stay).
The vast majority of modern mobile phones these days have at least 4G access. However, if you bought your handset within the last couple of years, chances are you’re already on 5G. Welcome to the future!
There are three main differences between 4G and 5G networks:
- Faster speeds. 4G is powerful with typical speeds between 20 and 50 Mbps, but eats dust compared to 5G, which can reach 20 Gbps, almost 100 times faster!
- Reduced latency periods. Latency is the time it takes for information to travel from your phone to the network and back to your phone. Think of it as loading time or lag. While 4G can usually load something in 0.05 seconds, 5G can go up to 0.001 seconds!
- More devices on one network. Usually, when the number of users on a network increases, your mobile speed decreases. 5G expands the capacity of the network more than ever, which not only accommodates the huge volume of smartphones in the world, but also all other smart devices connected to a single network. (Experts say 5G could be the future of smart homes and home internet – even agriculture!)
Unfortunately, as 5G is still so new in Australia, not everyone has coverage yet. But the three main telecom operators (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone) have some degree of 5G coverage, and the infrastructure is changing every day.
Needless to say, times are changing!
RELATED: 5G vs. NBN: What’s the Better Broadband Option?
There are a few other things to consider when it comes to your mobile speeds.
- Latency. How long does it take for things to load?
- Network coverage. Are there tours in your area? This particularly affects rural customers.
- Network traffic. How many other devices are on your network?
- Diffusion. How often do you release stuff? This can eat into your data, and multiple streams on the same network at the same time can slow things down considerably.
Optimizing both your device, the above, and your carrier plan has the potential to boost your mobile speeds. All you have to do is compare what is on offer with what suits your budget and your needs!
Looking for a mobile plan with big data? Check out some of the offers below.