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Choosing between fixed-line broadband internet and mobile internet services

It is very difficult to live without internet in the current age. The aim of this article is to highlight the differences between the fixed line broadband and the mobile internet services and also to list pros and cons that need to be considered while deciding which one to opt for.


There was a time when internet connection meant only the fixed line connections through wires. We all remember slow dial-up connections we used to have in earlier days, with landline phone and modem which barely used to give us the speed of 56 kbps. As the time progressed and with the digital revolution, these slow dial-up connection got replaced with high speed fixed line connections popularly called broadband connections. These were high-speed connections and gave users speed of 256 kbps in earlier days to 100 Mbps as of today. But with the mobile and smartphone revolution, surfing the internet while on move became a necessity and people wanted to remain online and connected while on move. This resulted in another form of internet service called "mobile internet" becoming popular.

Both broadband and mobile internet services are equally popular nowadays and both have their technological differences as well as pros and cons. Sometimes people looking to get new internet connection may feel a bit confused as to which service to go for, "mobile internet" or "broadband internet"? Here I would like to highlight the factors that should be considered when deciding between the two services.

Technology difference between broadband and mobile internet

I would first start by explaining the basic technological difference between the two services without going into much technical depth. The fixed-line broadband internet is a fixed internet service where the user can only access the internet only within their house premises. Here the internet is provided with help of copper or fibre optic cables which run from user premises to the service provider exchange. This type of internet is not useful to the users when they are out of their house premises and are travelling. While the mobile internet is a service provided by the mobile operators through their mobile towers just like they provide mobile voice service. So users can access it while on the move just like voice services.

In the fixed-line broadband services, there are different standards like DSL, ADSL, and Fibre (FTTH) based on the type of connectivity between customer premises and the exchange. DSL, ADSL have copper cable connectivity and require a phone line while the fibre has optical fibre connectivity and does not require any phone line. Modems are required in all the cases. Similarly, for mobile internet, there are different standards like 2G, 3G, 4G where G stands for generation. Each newer generation offers better speed than their predecessors. 3G and 4G mobile internet services sometimes are also called as "mobile broadband" since their speed is lesser but still comparable to the fixed line broadband services.

One more major technological difference between the two is that in a fixed line connection there is a dedicated channel between the customer premises and an exchange, while in mobile internet connectivity resources available from mobile towers are shared among many users and there is no dedicated channel for each user.

Pros and cons for Fixed-line and Mobile internet

  • Internet speed - The biggest advantage of fixed-line broadband internet services is that they offer better speeds compared to the mobile internet. Since there is a dedicated wired medium between the customer premises and exchange, users almost get constant committed speed from the service provider. The situation is hugely different for mobile internet. Since communications medium is wireless between the users and mobile towers and it is shared among many customers, internet speed also gets divided among the users. So although mobile internet service providers like Airtel, Vodafone and Jio may promise particular speed practically it is not feasible for them to provide it. It is the ideal case maximum possible speed which they advertise. So if you are having mobile internet service then you may notice that during peak hours, evening time speed drops considerably and at late night you get very good speed. It all depends on available bandwidth to the user. When more users are there bandwidth and speed gets shared among the users while during lean hours users get more bandwidth and speed. Hence there is nothing like committed speed in case of mobile internet services.

  • Mobility - Mobile internet stands a clear winner as far as the mobility is concerned. In fact, the sole reason behind mobile internet becoming popular in recent days is due to the fact that people can use it and remain connected while on the move. Fixed line internet holds a marked disadvantage in this regard because the internet can be only used at home and once the user is travelling he needs to buy data packs for mobile internet to remain connected. So even being slower mobile internet has become very popular due to the mobility factor.

  • Cost factor - As far as cost is concerned fixed line broadband internet turns out to be cheaper compared to the mobile internet. Monthy rentals for the fixed line broadband services are far more competitive compared to data pack costs for mobile internet. Hence most of the users prefer to have fixed line broadband connections at home and keep small data packs active on their mobile to be used while travelling. In the mobile internet, you have to pay a premium for the fact that you are getting internet connectivity while on move. But here it is worth mentioning that with the advent of Reliance Jio 4G services a price war has been triggered between mobile internet and fixed-line broadband service providers and there has been a considerable reduction in data costs for mobile internet. Reliance Jio is currently offering 4G mobile internet even cheaper than the fixed line service providers. Thus the price gap between both the services is reducing nowadays.

  • Downtime - As far as downtime is concerned, mobile internet is slightly more at an advantage, being a wireless service. Fixed line internet services are liable to disruption when there are cable cuts due to digging and other factors. Also due to loose wire connections at ports in its path many times service gets slow or completely down. On the other hand, just like mobile voice service disruption is minimal in mobile internet service also as there is no wired medium between the users and the mobile towers. Many times there are disruptions in mobile internet too but, generally, these are few and gets rectified fast. One condition where mobile internet is at a disadvantage as far as disruption is concerned is during riots. When riots happen at a particular place then as per the government orders mobile internet is barred in riot-affected locations to prevent spreading of rumours through social media. Mobile internet users may experience bottleneck at such times while fixed-line internet users remain unaffected.

  • Quality of service - Fixed line broadband internet definitely scores over the mobile internet as far as quality of a connection is concerned. Users on the fixed-line network will get more or less constant and uniform speed throughout the day without much ups and downs. Whereas in mobile internet there are chances that the speed and quality of network connectivity will vary throughout the day depending on the loading of the network. There may be an intermittent drop in speeds and slowness of the network. Reason for this is that in wireless medium signal quality may suffer due to several reasons like interference and reflection from the obstacles while these kinds of issues are not there in the wired medium.

  • Installation overhead - For fixed-line internet, an installation is needed at customer premises which involves laying of cables and configuring modems and routers. So upfront installation cost is involved and service providers charge anywhere from Rs 500 to Rs 1500 as installation charges. While the mobile internet is ready to use service. You just need to subscribe to a data plan and start using the internet on the same SIM which is used for a voice call. So installation overhead is not there on mobile internet.

Which service to choose?

Now an obvious question which might come across anyone who wants to go for a new internal connection is whether to go for fixed line internet or mobile internet? Well, the answer to this will depend much on pros and cons listed above and on the fact that which factor holds greater importance to you. For some users who are always on the move, the mobile internet may be a better choice even at a higher cost and unpredictable speed. Whereas for other users who normally use the internet at home and want uniform speed fixed line broadband internet may be a better option. Broadly speaking three factors likely to play a major role in this decision are cost, quality, downtime and mobility.

One thing I would like to add here is that with the advent of 4G mobile technology, data speeds have increased and have come to a step closer to the fixed-line internet. So many users now think of mobile internet due to the flexibility of use while on the move. Tariffs wise also as already said earlier by me Reliance Jio 4G has triggered a price war and tariffs for mobile internet have come down to a great extent and have even beaten fixed line internet.


To conclude both the mobile internet and the fixed-line broadband internet are two different variants of providing internet service and the prime difference between the two is that one is internet on the go while other is internet at a fixed location. So users nowadays have to make a smart choice as to which one suits their needs the most and make an informed decision.


Author: Venkiteswaran18 Dec 2017 Member Level: Gold   Points : 1

Wi-Max combines the features of wired and wireless broadband, but after the advent and popularity of 4G and 4G LTE, it is more convenient to have a mobile internet which serves us with speed as well as mobility. As of now, to create market share and upper hand, there is fierce competition in reducing the data charges. However, we have to wait and see whether this stays affordable and also how consistent the speed and stability will be.

Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao23 Dec 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 1

The article discussed the advantages and disadvantages of having a fixed broadband internet or mobile internet and the author concluded that mobile internet with the emergence of 4G is attained very good popularity and it is almost beating fixed broadband internet. As a constant user of the mobile internet, I fully support and am in agreement with the views of the author. Now the addition of Wifi hotspot facility in our smartphones, we can use our laptop with internet while on the move without any additional device, which is making many to go for mobile internet. I feel the coming days are full of the mobile internet than fixed broadband internet.

Author: Natarajan26 Dec 2017 Member Level: Gold   Points : 2

It is a well-known fact that mobile internet is preferred for on the move net connectivity.The choice of what we take depends on the number of users or whether it is an individual or a family use.

For instance, we have on mobile with an unlimited access and rest of mobiles with the basic internet data pack. At home, we have a fixed broadband line connectivity. So, for a family, both are often used. Many cities have broadband provided by the same cable provider. We have found that the price of the broadband when taken with the cable, is cheaper than mobile or broadband alone.

I think, once the mobile companies reach a point beyond which they cannot absorb the losses incurred on the ridiculously cheap mobile internet charges, then the prices might change.

One issue that needs discussion is the safety while we surf or stay online. Here a password protected fixed line or a virtual private Network would be safer for a home user which children rather than a mobile network alone.

Regarding installation charges, many service providers at apartments are charging very less, because the outlets are already present and they need the business. BSNL also sometimes waives off the installation charges for new connections. (eg: the Hindu had an article about BSNL waiving off installation charges, dated July 2017)

Lastly, we all have bought Dongles for internet on the move and at home/office. Is there a role for Dongles or have they outlived their purpose?

Author: K Mohan16 Mar 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 2

For me both fixed internet and mobile internet are important and each have their own advantage. Those who have huge writing jobs at the desk, it is better for them to opt for fixed internet at the home which would ensure uninterrupted feed and the speed would be nice. But for those who are in the move and want to have the chat while they are travelling in bus or train, the mobile internet would be so important to have their say. But again many people does not want to use the mobile for chatting in public places due to fear of others penetrating into the contents who may peep into the mobile. So it all depends on the users as to what to chose best for them.

Author: Satyanarayana ch14 May 2018 Member Level: Bronze   Points : 3

Both Broadband and mobile internet services have their own pros & cons. High data transfer speeds and the low price is a major advantage while choosing the broadband connection. Nowadays we are getting 150 GB of data merely at 600 rupees along with 20MBPS of downloading speeds by broadband connections. Mobile internet service like 4G is providing approximately the same amount of data for the same price but restricting at daily 1GB data usage per day. With this daily usage limit, users are not able to download or watch a movie online through mobile data services.

Mobile data usage is best for the users who use less than 1 or 1.5 GB of data per day.

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