portable WiFi modems and internet comparison

4G - 5G wireless WiFi modems

Almost every internet plan in Australia has a WiFi router and a modem. Plans based on 4G-5G mobile technology with SIM cards should have a portable WiFi router. You also could use a phone as a router, called WiFi tethering. Let's look at the wireless modems offered by the biggest ISPs with wireless internet plans.

Telstra portable WiFi modems

4GX hotspotUSB Type C, 2.4GHz WiFi$144
5G Wi-Fi ProUSB Type C, 1 ethernet port, 2.4 and 5GHz WiFi$599
5G Nighthawk M6Wi-Fi 6$574
5G Nighthawk M6 Pro$740

Optus portable WiFi modems

ZTE MU5001 5GUSB Type C, 1 ethernet port, 2.4 and 5GHz WiFi$435
5G Nighthawk M6Wi-Fi 6$640

Other portable modems

Tenda 4G185 4G LTE$85
Vodafone 4G Pocket WiFi$96

Telstra fixed 4G WiFi modems

Orbi 4GX + WiFi extenderethernet ports, 2.4 and 5GHz WiFi$399
5Gon the plan

Optus fixed 4-5G WiFi modems

ZTE MF289D 4G or B628 ethernet ports, 2.4 and 5GHz WiFi$216
Nokia 5G$576

4G - 5G wireless internet prices

These are probably the best wireless internet plans in Australia. Some other ISPs offer better per month prices although for fewer data and less speed coverage. On average, a person spending hours per day online and watching Netflix needs less than 100Gb per month. If you only check emails and browse the internet you may get away with less than 25Gb per month.

wireless 4G and 5G internet plans comparison 2023

plandataper monthper Gbmodemspeed
Telstra5G Home1Tb$85$0.085not includedup to 1Gbs
mobile Upfront Large400Gb$85$0.21not includedup to 1Gbs
Optus4G HomeUnlimited$59included25Mbs
5G Home$79up to 1Gbs
large Plus220Gb$69$0.31not included
Vodaphone70Gb$40$0.57not includedup to 25Mbs
TPGUnlimited$55includedup to 16Mbs

WiFi vs wireless internet

Both WiFi and mobile 4G-5G are wireless technologies that transmit data over the air. But a 4G - 5G mobile network is a public internet, while WiFi is your private network created by your router. WiFi by itself is not the internet. It needs a connection to the public internet via an NBN modem and to the wall OR a wireless modem with a SIM card. More often, the modem and WiFi router are in one piece. Confusingly, it is still called a WiFi router.

WiFi vs wireless internet
WiFi4G - 5G wireless broadband
Distance to a transmitter1-30 metersup to a few kilometres
TransmitterWiFi router owned by youTower owned by mobile network provider
Maximum speed900 Mb/s10-1000Mb/s

It seems like WiFi provides a better connection speed. But WiFi connects only from your computer/iPad to the router. The overall speed is limited by the link to the internet provider. In the case of ADSL connections, the internet and speed is limited by the phone line, not the router. A typical ADSL speed is only 10Mb/s. Typical NBN speeds are around 20-50Mb/s. That is why even brand new expensive WiFi routers do not improve internet speed much.

Modems and types of the internet connection

Depending on the type of connection to the internet there are a few types of modems in Australia; DSL NBN (via phone line), HFC NBN (via coax cable) and mobile 4G - 5G. Again they call mobile 4G network - just "wireless network". So the router with a WiFi connection to a computer and mobile 4G connection to the internet can be called a Mobile 4G WiFi router. Mobile 4G WiFi routers can be fixed and connected to the main power or movable and work on battery. The battery ones BigPond called Pocket WiFi Modems. Optus calls Mobile 4G WiFi routers Mini WiFi Modem. Regular WiFi routers can connect up to 255 WiFi devices, but some Telstra and Optus mobile WiFi routers are limited to 10 - 20 simultaneous devices.

X Mas - December 2018 Update

Optus now enforces Optus 4G modems costing $179 outright. If you attempt to connect Optus data 4G sim in the third-party 4G modem, it connects to nowhere but the Optus warning page. There is a way around though. On the positive side Optus maximum number of devices connected to Optus 4G B525 modem now limited to 64 and Optus does not limit maximum 4G speed as old plans do to 12Mb/s. That latest Optus Cat 6 4G modem should deliver speeds exceeding 120Mbs. In practice, you'd be lucky to get 100 Mbps near the mobile network tower.

Tethering - Smartphone as a portable WiFi modem

You can use a smartphone as a portable WiFi router - no need to pay for another mobile 4G internet account. Just turn on the WiFi hotspot in Android or Personal Hotspot in iPhone to share an internet connection. There is also USB tethering for secure connection via USB without WiFi. If you already have an iPad with 4G, you can use it as a WiFi router. When tethering a device to your phone, one thing to remember is the data limit. Most mobile accounts come with at least 5Gb of data which is enough for internet browsing and emails, but you need more data if you download a lot. A movie download can exceed 10Gb.

You also can combine the mobile phone and the 5G internet plans. For example, as of Nov 2022, you can have an Optus $500Gb mobile plan for $69 plus a $20 SIM card 20Gb for 5G portable WiFi modem. That gives you unlimited mobile calls and 520Gb per month data altogether and delivers up to 1Gbs internet on the same day, no waiting NBN connecting wires.

If you want mobile internet even faster than 1000Mb/s, you'd need a 5G. Although Optus and Telstra cautiously guarantee only 50Mbs on 5G plans, with an average speed over 300Mbs. All wireless modems are modems and routers in one, no need for the second router. However, you will need a network switch to connect a few computers to such modems. Most wireless Telstra modems are portable and have a battery.

2018 - 2023