4G and 5G Broadband (and Starlink)

Following on from discussion on another thread, topic for ideas / recommendations for using a mobile connection in place of fixed broadband.

Any ideas on kit that works especially welcome (and if for cadets, how you got the RFCA to install it!)

GMG: nothing OpenReach can do about the upload speed; it’s a length of line problem. The exchange is 3 miles away!

Next call is to the ISP to cancel the contract whilst I order Starlink.


Star link is meant to be incredible

Recently switched a router from landline to 4G and the 4G is on average faster (with Vodafone). This surprised me.

The only real downside is sometimes the 4G seems to lock up and won’t load websites at all. But it fixes itself after a few minutes.

I got a rolling 30 day contract with unlimited data via a comparison site so it is worth a try (if you can get 5G so much the better but the 5G routers are still expensive so for this use case not worth it).

I did consider a 4G/5G router, but most of my house only seems to get HSDPA, with flitting instances of anything strong.

However I’m apparently “not rural enough”, to qualify for the council’s rural internet offer…

If I can be on a Teams call and open a website at the same time, that’d be a start!


Long wire.

One of our old and bold ex radio officers tells tales about throwing wire up a tree in Belize or Borneo or some such for the HF sets.

There’s lots of practical ways to boost a 4G signal - probably outside the scope of this thread - it’s more whether you can get a free test somehow without buying all the kit and drilling holes in walls!

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Created a 4G/5G topic, if any Mod can move posts across that would be fab!

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@pEp thanks for moving the posts over

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I’m sure there were more but I couldn’t find them

Soooo. It depends on how data hungry your squadron is as to whether this will work for you. This reflects my home setup - but thinking about how our squadron works, I’d imagine it would be enough to get by for everything EXCEPT multiple flight sims flying online with every staff member logging on to Teams for a meeting…

My home setup is currently a TP-Link Archer 4G router, shared via IPoP across the farm. It enables 6 people to simultaneously browse, surf and play. It does start slowing up with MS Teams meetings across multiple devices - but Zoom across multiple devices is fine. And we can happily have the kids streaming/playing games whilst we work. We also have a MiFi hotspot which we take on holiday with us (to stop the kids chewing through their personal data!).

Setting up the router was a PITA. We used a mobile strength finder app on our mobiles, trying a range of different areas in the house to identify the strongest signal strength, then plonked the router there - but that didn’t necessarily give the best coverage INSIDE the house; so then hooked up the Internet over power device with signal repeaters at key points. Our router can take an external antennae - which I’m currently looking into as sometimes (especially in poor weather) we can get some signal drop outs - which can be improved by having the external rig attached.

We’re with Smarty on their Unlimited Data plan at £20 per month. We’re chewing through 300-400Gb per month - and have been for 3 years. No speed drop. No challenge from them about data use.

Smarty is driven by Three - which, thankfully, we have good coverage for (otherwise our data costs would’ve been much, much higher!!!). You can check for the optimum provider here - View mobile availability - Ofcom Checker - the map is reasonably accurate too!

We have looked into 5G at home - but we’re not in a 5G zone (at the moment!). And router prices are still VERY high relative to the 4G ones…

For Sqns with alarm hubs don’t forget you need a phone line too so you can’t go full fibre.

I think there are non land line options there, depends on how old the alarm is.

Looking at the data use on the Squadron, the main ‘culprit’ is Windows updates. Yes Teams is data hungry compared to Zoom or Google Meet but as staff are only there 2x a week paying for landline and fixed broadband seems daft.

I had a ‘mifi’ personally which I have used for
Cadet courses where there is no fixed broadband.

We have now got a TP-Link 4G router which is much better, and finding a mains socket isn’t usually a challenge. It works as a fail over so of the home broadband goes down it kicks in, but it won’t ‘bond’ and use the 4G and fixed connections together as far as I can tell.

But overall experience is positive and considering ditching the Squadron fixed line package at the end of our current deal. We only get <20mbps from the landline anyway so won’t be much worse.

When I was looking at Satellite broadband in the past the upload was still using the landline connection so will Starlink solve your issue?

Not quite rural but an outlying part of town so always last to get any upgrades and the community trust managed to do a deal to get fttp extended to the estate and we think they only did as Virgin media were extending their coverage to include our estate at the beginning of 2022.

Yes, Startlink uses low earth orbit satellites, which is very different to ‘normal’ satellite internet. It has a much lower ping (generally) and can also work at full speed up and down.

As @JoeBloggs has covered, the set-up is different with Starlink and it uses the satellite connection for both upload and download. Most of the country is receiving 200 down and 20 up, looking through social media, with both positive and negative outliers.

It’s pricey (Inc equipment rental, rather than purchasing, it’s £90/month) but given that I can barely do my job at the moment, it’s even pricier not to get it.

4G/5G is a much better option for most compared to Starlink. Even if you need to get a suitable aerial it is usually a much better experience.

Starlink has some pretty special installation requirements as well so unless you have clear sky at the right angles from your unit or some place you can mount it and hope RFCA don’t notice it can cause problems.

I personally use a refurbished 5G router, a ZYXEL NR5103E. It’s my backup line and doubles the speeds of my previous Huawei router.


Yeah. It’s pricy when compared to things like FTTP/FTTC or 4G/5G routers. But it’s really not aimed at people who would otherwise have access to such services. As @bob1 has said, if you can get 4G/5G, even if it needs an aerial, then it will probably be a better and cheaper experience.

Where Starlink comes in is when none of the above is available, or reliable. Or if you need a secondary backup that doesn’t get effected by things like local power cuts, which might knock out 4G/5G/FTTP etc.

Starlink you can set up in a field in the backside of nowhere miles away from the nearest copper cable! Perfect for people in remote areas, of which there are actually very few in the UK, compared to places like America or Canada. Most people in the UK have a copper cable coming to their house/farm in one form or another. But for those who don’t, paying £90 a month is nothing compared to the cost of running their own broadband line!

Another good example use of Starlink in the UK is for large events, where the local 4G/5G network would normally get overloaded. Think big festivals, shows etc. I’ve seen many ice-cream vans using Starlink at such events to keep their card readers working! HQ also have a Starlink set to use at air shows with the immersive tech kit. Another great example of when it come into it’s own, as otherwise you’d be relying on the 4G coverage which might be really busy with other people at the show.

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The crowded space thing is a great use of Starlink. 4G is very susceptible to issues, 5G should be better but most places that have big air shows etc aren’t covered yet.

You’ll notice a lot of stadiums and city centres will randomly have 5G and it’s because they’ve rolled it out in isolation where there are contention issues.