Best value home broadband: The more data the better?

Australians looking to set up a fixed line broadband internet account or change their existing plan or internet service provider (ISP) have an array of options from which to choose, ranging from unlimited data plans to plans designed with the less data-demanding user in mind.

iStock_000061330024_MediumFrom data-light to data-heavy, there can be a wide variation in price and value for money, and consumers considering the various plans on offer would be well served to explore their options and consider their potential usage requirements before committing to a contract.

As a trend, plans are becoming more data-heavy, in line with Australians’ increasing internet usage, and at the higher usage end of the spectrum is where greater value can generally be found. Plans as a rule are weighted towards providing greater value for heavy users, with consumers who spend more in turn rewarded with proportionately greater data allowances per dollar than those offered on lighter plans.

For instance, taking a look at iiNet’s range of ADSL2+ Home plans (iiNet provides the per GB costings via its website), its ADSL2+ Home-1 100 GB plan works out to a cost of $0.30 per GB (excluding other costs such as home phone line rental), while at the other end of the spectrum its ADSL2+ Home-4 1000 GB plan works out to a cost of $0.09 per GB, a difference of $0.21 per GB.

Of course, if consumers do not use their full monthly data entitlement, the savings made on cost difference will be negated by the greater monthly contract cost.

With this and other considerations in mind, the following is a selection and comparative analysis of some of Australia’s cheapest and most expensive ADSL broadband plans from five ISPs offering nationwide broadband services – Telstra, Optus, TPG, iiNet and Internode. For the purpose of comparison, the plans are all bundles, which include an ADSL broadband and a home telephone service, with the prices and allowances as advertised at the time of posting, sourced via the ISPs’ respective websites. 

Going data-light

Taking a look at the data-light plans on offer from each of the ISPs, 100 GB is a popular monthly data allowance starting point, with Telstra, iiNet and Internode’s offerings all beginning at this level. TPG’s plans begin at 20 GB per month, while, at the other end of the spectrum, Optus’ plans begin at 200 GB per month.

Each of the plans involve a 24-month contract (in some cases consumers can opt into a plan on a month-by-month basis, however this generally comes at a much higher cost), with TPG the only ISP offering an alternative in the data-light range, in the form of a six-month contract.

The plans are as follows:

–        Telstra: Just the Basics Small Broadband Bundle, 100 GB – $75 per month (24-month contract)

–        Optus: Basics Bundle, 200 GB – $70 per month (24-month contract)

–        TPG: 20 GB (10 GB peak/10 GB off-peak) – $39.99 per month (six-month or 24-month contract)

–        iiNet: ADSL2+ Home-1, 100 GB – $59.90 per month (24-month contract)

–        Internode: Easy Broadband, 100 GB  – $59.90 per month (24-month contract)

At face value, the respective prices and data allowances speak for themselves, however there are a number of other factors consumers should keep in mind when choosing a plan, which will be covered in the following sections, but firstly, by way of contrast, the following is a list of data-heavy plans. 

Going data-heavy

The data-heavy plans on offer from each of the ISPs are all either 1000 GB or over, with both Optus and TPG offering unlimited data plans. Both iiNet and Telstra’s plans for heavy users provide 1000 GB per month, while Internode’s most data-heavy plan provides users 1200 GB per month.

The Telstra, Optus and TPG plans all require a 24-month contract. Users who choose not to include a Wi-Fi modem from iiNet have no lock-in contract, otherwise a 24-month contract applies, while a minimum of three months applies for the Internode contract.

The plans are as follows:

–        Telstra: For Heavy Users Large Broadband Bundle, 1000 GB – $115 per month (24-month contract)

–        Optus: Ultimate Bundle, unlimited  – $115 per month (24-month contract)

–        TPG: Eighty Eight Bundle, unlimited – $88 per month (24-month contract)

–        iiNet: ADSL2+ Home-4, 1000 GB – $119.90 per month (24-month contract)

–        Internode: Easy Broadband, 1200 GB – $119.90 per month (24-month contract)

Again, by way of a pure comparison of price and data, consumers can make their own decisions at the respective plans’ face value, however, as discussed, across both the data-heavy and data-light plans there are a number of other factors that should be taken into account. 

So, what else to consider?

Contract length should be something consumers consider before signing up for a plan, especially those who are looking for flexibility. While 24 months is the standard contract term across both the data-heavy and data-light plans, many consumers may well be after shorter contract terms for a variety of reasons.

For this reason, TPG stands out by offering the choice of a six-month term for its 20 GB plan, with both iiNet and Internode offering greater contract flexibility with their respective 1000 GB and 1200 GB plans.

Other factors that consumers should consider include:

  • The initial set-up and activation fees for new accounts (along with included technology such as a modem).
  • Whether ISPs offer the flexibility to change plans once users have signed up (and whether there is a charge for doing so).
  • Charges for moving the service from one house to another.
  • What sort of fees will be charged in the event of an early cancellation.

Consumers may also want to consider whether they can add extra data to a plan mid-month in the event that they are running low and the cost involved in doing so, and at what speed their account will be limited to should they exceed their monthly limit.

It’s also worthwhile taking into account any complementary services accompanying the plans on offer by ISPs. For instance, iiNet offers quota-free Netflix usage with its 24-month ADSL plans, as does Internode, while Optus offers its Optus TV with Fetch connect pack with its $115 Ultimate Bundle.

Which way to go: Data-light or data-heavy?

As discussed, on pure value per GB terms data-heavy is without a doubt the way to go. Users who fit the data-light profile, however, shouldn’t worry too much about the comparative lack of value per GB, as there is little point in paying extra for GB that won’t be used. For users who fall into this category, it’s simply a matter of shopping around and finding the best possible fit for usage requirements.

Meanwhile, ISPs are looking to lock consumers into more expensive data-heavy plans, offering better value per GB, and potentially a greater range of services, than their data-light equivalents, and for a number of reasons this makes perfect sense.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released in October show a massive 40 per cent increase in fixed line broadband data downloaded year-on-year in the three months ending June 30, with fixed line broadband accounting for 97 per cent of all internet downloads, indicating the average Australian internet users’ data usage is increasing at pace, and for this reason, consumers as a general rule would likely do well to err on the side of data-heavy.

With new internet services and technologies becoming available (such as the introduction of Netflix into the Australian market earlier this year), users should be mindful that their internet usage will likely increase over the stretch of a 24-month contract and should allow for a little extra data space.

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