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What's the best mobile network speed for me? Breaking down data and Mbps

Collage of adults smiling at their smartphones with fast mobile speeds.

Mobile data can be a great way to stay connected. Zippy downloads, live games, and seamless streams: what more could you want? (Well, perhaps a good value mobile phone plan, too!)

So if you’re considering switching plans for better mobile speeds, let’s unpack what you can expect.

How do you compare mobile speeds?

A collage of the same man enjoying different phones with different speeds.

When comparing mobile speeds and connection strength, telcos usually use the term ‘Mbps’ (Megabits per second). This abbreviation measures bandwidth, or the volume of information transferred over time, as opposed to the speed. 

If you think about it, this is ideal. A fast mobile connection lets you access a large stream of mobile data in a short amount of time, so the more Mbps per second, the better. (For more definitions, check out our mobile jargon buster).

Mbps applies whether your internet connection is over data, WiFi, or broadband. Generally speaking, providers should at least offer 12 Mbps for reasonable coverage, while anything 25 Mbps or higher is best for heavy internet users. 

But since numbers can still be nonsense, let's break down Mbps like video game power levels. 

Level 1: n00b (0.1 - 5 Mbps)

  • Barely enough to send an email.
  • Potato quality videos.
  • Either a network tower is out or your phone is on 2G/3G by mistake. (Is 2G even a thing anymore?)

Level 2: Just downloaded the game (5 - 12 Mbps)

  • Okay, not bad!
  • Usually bare minimum speeds for 3G/4G network access.
  • Your videos might lag a little, but you can usually get uninterrupted 720p standard quality no worries.

Level 3: You’ve exhausted all the side-quests (12 - 25 Mbps)

  • Ooh yeah! Now we can text videos, download the 10 best apps, and Zoom workmates (and play games while the camera’s off). 
  • Common speed for most 4G networks at peak periods.
  • If no one else is clogging up the network with traffic, this range well and truly gets the job done!

Level 4: Final boss, here we come! (25 - 100 Mbps)

  • Now we’re cookin’! We’re talking crystal clear 4K UHD streaming, live gaming at its best, and lightning fast downloads.
  • Usually reserved for amazing 4G or decent 5G network access.
  • Great for flexin’ on n00bs.

Level 5: Could take Chuck Norris in a fight (100+ Mbps)

  • Galaxy-brain mode.
  • Either you have 5G, or you’re piggy-backing off multiple towers at once because you’re in the middle of the city (called “carrier aggregation”).
  • If you’re over 450 Mbps, congrats: you’re officially faster than NBN.

4G vs. 5G speed: what’s the difference between the mobile networks?

Collage of a smartphone with a speech bubble saying

It’s important to keep in mind that Mbps speeds are different from your actual network connection, which is usually tiered as either 2G, 3G, 4G, or 5G.

‘G’ stands for generation, so 5G networks are just the latest upgrade to mobile internet connectivity. (2G has been phased out in Australia since 2018 and 3G is currently getting decommissioned. But don’t worry, 4G is here to stay...for now). 

The vast majority of modern mobile phones these days have at least 4G access. However, if you bought your handset in the last two years, there’s a good chance you might be on 5G already. Welcome to the future!

There are three big differences between 4G and 5G networks:

  • Faster speeds. 4G comes in strong with typical speeds between 20-50 Mbps, but eats dust in comparison to 5G, which can get up to 20 Gbps – nearly 100x faster! 
  • Lower latency periods. Latency is how long it takes for information to get from your phone to the network and back to your phone again. Think of it as the loading time or lag. Whereas 4G typically could load something in 0.05 seconds, 5G can go as low as 0.001 seconds!
  • More devices on a single network. Usually when the number of users on a network goes up, your mobile speeds go down. 5G expands network capacity more than ever, which not only accommodates the sheer volume of smartphones out in the world, but also all the other smart devices connected to a single network, too. (Experts reckon 5G could be the future of smart homes and home internet – even agriculture!)

Unfortunately because 5G is still so new in Australia, not everyone has coverage yet. But all three major telcos (Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone) have some degree of 5G coverage, and the infrastructure scales up every day.

Needless to say: the times, they are a-changin’!

Other factors affecting mobile speed

Collage of a man within a smartphone with a spinning wheel of death attached to his head.

There are a few other things to consider when it comes to your mobile speeds.

  • Latency. How long does it take things to load?
  • Network coverage. Are there towers in your area? This especially affects rural customers. 
  • Network traffic. How many other devices are on your network? 
  • Streaming. How often are you streaming things? This can eat into your data, and multiple streams on the same network at the same time can drag things down significantly. 

Optimising both your device, the above, and your provider plan has the potential to accelerate your mobile speeds. All you have to do is compare what’s on offer to what suits your budget and needs!

Looking for a mobile phone plan with big data? Check out some of the deals below.

Mobile phone deals with at least 50GB of data

Evlin DuBose
Evlin DuBose
Senior Money Writer

Evlin, RG146 Generic Knowledge certified and a UTS Communications graduate, is a leading voice in finance news. As Mozo's go-to writer for RBA and interest rates, her work regularly features in Google's Top Stories and major publications like