3G Vs. Broadband

By Sasha Maggio

Internet connections all lead to the same place but vary in speed, stability and cost.
i Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Internet service providers all offer access to the same Internet, though service plans may not be as comparable. Broadband and 3G are two distinct Internet services that bring you to the same place but in slightly different ways with different potential and costs. The service stability or consistency is also different. Before choosing 3G over broadband, or vice versa, take time to learn about each and choose the service that offers the best deal for what you need.

3G Connections

Third generation mobile telecommunications meets standards set by the International Telecommunication Union for mobile communications. Specifically, 3G is a term that encompasses a variety of services applied to cellphone networks and data plans, including the 3G hot spots that Kindle and iPhone users access, for example. The download speeds for 3G will vary, much like the bars on a cellphone vary from one location to the next, although this is only a problem for access while moving around. Generally, if you're sitting in one location with decent signal strength, the connection is steady. Plans for 3G may be unlimited, such as with unlimited data plans from cellphone providers, or limited, such as the 3G data plans for iPad users.

Broadband Connections

Broadband commonly refers to cable Internet connections, though it may also refer to a DSL connection; basically, "high-speed" connections. Unlike 3G, which is entirely wireless, broadband may be wireless, known as Wi-Fi, or wired, known as Ethernet. The connection strength is fairly consistent unless there's a problem, such as weather conditions or power outages. The packages for broadband Internet are often bundled with cable television service or, in the case of DSL, phone service or both, and the price is for unlimited access; in other words, you're not restricted to a set amount of data. The downside in comparison to 3G is that broadband is generally for a set location, so if you have a broadband connection at home, you can't take that with you to the store or school.


Access to 3G is limited to wireless coverage locations. As long as your device can access a 3G signal, you'll have a connection, though the signal strength of that connection will vary so you may be able to access email but not necessarily stream video with every coverage area. Broadband connections are restricted to a given location, though with Wi-Fi you can move around that location and maintain Internet access with a steady strength. Additionally, with broadband access, if you're downloading or streaming something on Wi-Fi that takes up a considerable amount of bandwidth and slows your connection, you have the option to switch to a wired connection to speed things up.

Which Is Best?

Which service is the best ultimately boils down to what your individual needs are and which Internet connection will meet those needs. If you want Internet access for online gaming, movie streaming or consistent connections for work or school, broadband will offer the most consistent Internet connection along with the most reasonable price, especially if downloading a lot or streaming movies. If you want a connection that you can take with you for checking email or social networking, 3G is sufficient, but you'll be limited in the amount of data you can pull, so streaming one movie may use up your monthly data allowance with your 3G plan if it's not unlimited.