Are VPNs Good for 4G and 5G Connections?

Daniel Attoe
Daniel Attoe

Updated · Nov 21, 2022

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Using a VPN on public Wi-Fi networks is one of the best ways to protect your privacy and security online.

But, are VPNs good for 4G and 5G connections too

The short answer is yes. A VPN works the same on cellular data as on any other network, but there are some downsides, such as data consumption, that you need to be aware of. 

Here is everything you need to know.

Using a VPN on 4G or 5G: Is It a Good Idea?

If you’re looking to keep your online activities to yourself, connecting to a VPN on a 4G or 5G network is the way to go.

A VPN encrypts your traffic regardless of whether you’re on mobile data or connected to a wireless network.

This prevents bad actors from snooping on your activities and your carrier from seeing what you’re doing online.

A VPN tool also masks your IP address by routing your connection to one of its servers, which lets you bypass geo-restrictions and any form of online censorship.

Does a VPN Use a Lot of Data?

Any data you use while connected to a VPN will still count toward your monthly data allowance. Your ISP may not be able to see what you’re doing online when you have your VPN on, but they can see how much bandwidth you’re using. 

Depending on your online activities, a VPN can add up anywhere between 5% and 15% of data usage.

But, why is that?

To protect your online privacy, your VPN encrypts all of your traffic. Encryption scrambles the data to make it unreadable, but it also ends up taking up more space than an unencrypted file would, also known as encryption overhead.

If the encryption puts the data usage over your allotted limit, you will get charged for it.

How to Minimize VPN Data Usage

Using a VPN will add up data usage, but there are some things you can do to keep that to a minimum.

Use the Right VPN Protocol

VPN protocols are a set of rules that determine how your data is routed between your device and the VPN server. Most VPN providers allow you to choose from a number of protocols, and some are more efficient at preserving data than others. 

Generally speaking, the faster a VPN protocol is, the more data-efficient it will be

To minimize data consumption while using a VPN on mobile data, you should opt for one of these two VPN protocols:

  • WireGuard: WireGuard is the fastest VPN protocol on the market and as such, it has the least encryption overhead.
  • IKEv2: IKEv2 is widely regarded as the best VPN protocol for mobile data usage. It’s light, fast, and supports strong encryption standards, like 256-bit encryption.

If your goal is to minimize cellular data usage, you should also avoid the OpenVPN TCP protocol. The OpenVPN protocol offers the highest level of security, but it also consumes the most data.

Turn off the VPN When You Don’t Need It

Keeping your VPN at all times will not only drain your smartphone battery faster, but it will also increase your mobile data usage. 

If you only use it to access geo-restricted content or protect your connection with some minor work-related tasks that you can’t delay until you get home, you will be able to save much more data than having it on at all times.

Enable Split Tunneling

The best VPNs offer a feature called split tunneling, which lets you manually choose which apps and services you want to route through the VPN tunnel, instead of encrypting everything you do online. 

This will allow you to enjoy bandwidth-heavy activities, like gaming or torrenting, outside the VPN tunnel, which will reduce the encryption overhead.

For example, you can set it up in a way that it encrypts BitTorrent traffic, but ignores Chrome traffic so that it doesn’t use up extra data when you’re watching YouTube.

Connect to the Nearest Server Available

To reduce data consumption, also take into consideration which VPN server you connect to.

The closer the VPN server is to your location, the less data it will consume. This is because your data won’t have to travel as far as it would to a server that’s five countries away, which essentially means less encryption and less encryption overhead.

When in doubt, most premium VPN providers offer a list of recommended servers based on your current location. 

Enable Data Compression

If your VPN has a data compression feature, you can put it to good use when you’re using cellular data to access the Internet. This feature reduces the original size of texts, pictures, videos, and other content by removing bits that are considered unnecessary.

Most VPNs have data compression enabled by default, but you should consider diving into your VPN’s settings to see whether it has this feature and enable it if necessary.

Avoid Free VPNs

Although using a free VPN may be tempting, they’re rife with pop-up ads (because they have to profit somehow), which further increases mobile data consumption. 

Risks of Not Using a VPN on Mobile Data

Using a VPN for cellular data may put you over your allotted data usage limit, but not having on comes with risks too.

Data Monitoring by Cellular Provider

When you access the internet through a cellular network, your cellular provider acts as your ISP

This means they can access everything you’re doing online, including what websites you visit, how much time you spent on them, the content you watch, and your location, among other things.

The only way to prevent your mobile carrier from monitoring your online activity is to use a VPN. With a VPN on, your carrier will be able to see that you are using a VPN, but they cannot see anything specific about your online activities.

Cyberattacks

4G and 5G networks are just as vulnerable to cyber attacks as Wi-Fi networks. 

Using a VPN on mobile data will protect you from most cyberattacks that require access to your IP address, including MITM (Man-in-the-Middle attacks), remote hacking, and DDoS attacks. 

Malware

By default, VPNs don’t protect you from malware, but there are many VPN providers that offer antivirus software as an add-on.

Unsecure Mobile Banking

With more and more people using their bank’s online banking services to access and manage their accounts and pay bills, it’s no wonder that identity theft is on the rise.

Cellular data connections may be slightly more secure than public Wi-Fi networks, but hackers are much more unlikely to learn anything from encrypted traffic. 

What Are the Best VPNs for Mobile?

Here are some of the best VPNs you can use over a cellular network:

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN has its own proprietary VPN protocol, called Lightway, which delivers reliable and high-speed connection. Being one of the fastest VPNs on the market, it is an excellent option for those who like streaming, torrenting, and gaming.

The VPN offers over 3,000 servers in 94 countries worldwide, and it automatically connects you to the fastest and closest VPN based on your location. It allows up to five simultaneous connections and is available across desktop and mobile, with dedicated apps for Android and iOS devices.

The best part about ExpressVPN is that it prioritizes privacy. It has a zero-logs policy, which means it collects no personally identifiable information and encrypts your data using AES 256-bit military-grade encryption. 

Surfshark

Surfashrk is the best budget-friendly VPN for mobile. 

The VPN is one of the few VPN providers that support unlimited simultaneous connections and despite being a relatively new VPN provider, it has a large network of 3,200 servers in 100+ countries.

This VPN also has dedicated apps for nearly all devices, including Android and iOS. Its mobile app includes features like a kill switch, split tunneling, and an ad-blocker. Plus, you have a selection of protocols to choose from, including WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2.

CyberGhost

What makes CyberGhost stand out the most from other VPN providers is its expansive network of 9,200+ servers in over 91 countries

It’s one of the best VPNs for mobile thanks to its ad, tracker, and malware blocker, which reduces data consumption and prevents you from downloading any malicious files on your mobile device.

This VPN provider also offers optimized servers for streaming and P2P file sharing and allows up to seven simultaneous connections. 

Finally, CyberGhost has a built-in data compression tool that reduces bandwidth usage.  

VyprVPN

VyprVPN may not be as popular as ExpressVPN or NordVPN, but it has been around for quite some time, which has allowed it to optimize its performance and features.

The VPN provider offers dedicated apps for Android and iOS and a smaller but well-distributed server network of 700+ servers in 50+ countries worldwide. 

It also uses its own Chameleon protocol, which can bypass VPN blocking in countries such as China. 

Other features include WireGuard support across all platforms, a no-logs DNS service, and P2P file sharing across all servers. VyprVPN also has a no-logs policy and protects your data with strong 256-bit encryption.

NordVPN

NordVPN is one of the best-known VPNs in the world.

This VPN offers above-average speed thanks to its proprietary NordLynx protocol, built around the WireGuard protocol, and combined with its network of more than 5,300 servers in 59 countries, it is the best VPN for streaming that can unblock Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other popular streaming services. 

On top of that, NordVPN offers advanced security features like double data encryption and has its own CyberSec technology, which automatically blocks all ads, trackers, and spyware on your mobile device.

NordVPN has dedicated apps for all desktop and mobile platforms and is available as a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. 

Bottom Line

So, are VPNs good for 4G and 5G connections? Yes, if you want to protect yourself from data monitoring and cyber attacks.The downside is using a VPN consumes more mobile data than usual, but there are some ways you can minize its impact, such as choosing the right VPN protocol and enabling features like split tunneling and data compression.

FAQs.


Does VPN work over 4G?

AVPN works over 4G and 5G networks and any similar network, just as well as it does over a Wi-Fi connection.

Are VPNs good for 4G and 5G connections?

Using a VPN for 4G and 5G connections will prevent your carrier from monitoring your online activities, protect you from bad actors online, and allow you to access geo-restricted content.

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Daniel Attoe

Daniel Attoe

Daniel is an Economics grad who fell in love with tech. His love for books and reading pushed him into picking up the pen - and keyboard. Also a data analyst, he's taking that leap into data science and machine learning. When not writing or studying, chances are that you'll catch him watching football or face-deep in an epic fantasy novel.

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