WiFi vs 3G / 4G, and how to get the best data speeds
3G / 4G signals allow you to access Phone Services, SMS and Data / Internet.
As an example your iPhone or Android phone will give you access to all 3 of these services.
Other devices such as 3G / 4G cellular routers / modems will use the 3G / 4G signal to provide data / internet, but not phone or SMS services.
When we use a Mobile Phone Booster (the correct term is actually - repeater, not booster) such as the Cel-Fi GO we improve the 3G / 4G signal in the premises or vehicle.
Any device that is connecting to 3G / 4G on the relevant provider (eg.Telstra, Optus or Vodafone and others) will benefit from the improved signal.
Improved but maybe not the best data speeds? - A booster however, may not necessarily provide the best possible theoretical data speeds.
The reason for this is that data can be delivered using multiple streams from the tower using technology called MIMO and Carrier Aggregation which boosters (repeaters) cannot do but some 3G / 4G modems can.
MIMO - stands for Multiple In Multiple Out (data streams). This is achieved by using more than one antenna. As a Booster, uses only one antenna it operates as a SISO device - Single In Single Out so connects to only one data stream.
Carrier Aggregation - or CA - uses more bandwidth or multiple frequencies on the same tower to get even more data streams. This will only happen where the device operates in CA mode and the tower supports this access. Cellular 3G / 4G routers / modems can often have this ability. A Booster does not.
In summary, a Booster will help you get a better signal and help improve data speeds, but only within a single data stream.
A 3G / 4G router / modem may have MIMO and CA capabilities providing access to more data streams, but will not improve cellular signals for devices like phones.
If I'm primarily interested in the best data speeds from my 3g / 4G signal, what other considerations may affect data / Internet speeds?
Tower Congestion - all mobile phone towers have a finite capacity to deliver data. In other words, if a lot of people are using the tower, the capacity, and consequently speeds, will be shared amongst all users.
If the number of users exceeds what the tower can deliver everyone will get a smaller and smaller share of the pie. They will still have signal, but the speeds delivered will be reduced as more users connect.
Ideally you want to be near a tower with great capacity and a low number of users in the signal footprint / area. The only way you can change this is by asking your Telco to provide more tower capacity - (good luck!), changing provider or moving house!!!
Tower Congestion Testing
Run some speed tests at peak times (usually mid evening) and then some tests when the tower is probably serving the least number of people - think 1 am?
If you see a huge difference in speeds the slow down is probably due to congestion. Improving signal will not improve congestion issues.
Different 3G / 4G Providers - Boosters are fixed to one provider (Telstra / Optus / Vodafone) and unless "locked" to a specific provider 3G / 4G router / modems allow you to use a SIM card from your provider of choice.
WiFi connects your home and close by devices together
WiFi - is not the same as 3G/ 4G data! A common misconception.
WiFi is used to connect devices together in the home, office, vehicle etc. It is generally used for short range communication between devices that previously would have been connected by cables - Computes, modems, cameras even Fridges! etc. A WiFi device will need a data source such as 3G / 4G, NBN or Satellite to provide Internet Access
A Cellular 3G / 4G router / modem may have WiFi built in allowing other devices such as phone, laptops etc. to connect via the WiFi signal. If the Cellular 3G / 4G router / modem does not have Wifi built in it is as simple as plugging a Wifi Access point in to the unit, these are readily available from many sources and can cost as little as $40 - $50.
So What is Best for me? If you simply want better 3G / 4G signals for a host of different devices using voice, SMS and some data, a Booster will make the most of the faint or weak 3G / 4G signal.
If data is your primary concern, then a router / modem with external antenna is definitely the right choice, or a device such as the Cellferno which has the antenna and router all built in to one device!
If you need the best in data speeds, AND improved voice calling SMS then a system of Booster AND 3G / 4G Router will be the optimal solution.