NBN buying guide: Finding the best value connection

The process of rolling out the National Broadband Network (NBN) is now well and truly underway right across Australia. The Federal Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, claims that one in three Australians live or work in areas where the NBN will be accessible or under construction by June 2016.

Construction of this new high-speed network is progressing well, with Mr Turnbull saying in February 2015 that 659,000 premises have now been passed with fibre and 281,000 premises actually connected.

This new technology has prompted internet providers to begin offering broadband plans unique to the NBN, but there are still several things you’ll need to consider before buying yourself a ticket to high-speed internet heaven. So, what does an NBN internet plan entail?

How is NBN different to normal internet access?

The NBN involves bringing high-speed internet access to the vast majority of Australians. The original proposal was for the entire network to be made of fibre-optic cable and extended directly to buildings, a plan known as fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP).

Though this proposal has now been modified to use a mixture of new and existing technology, areas in which the NBN has already been rolled out have FTTP connections. The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that fibre connections are capable of typical download speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps), which is many times faster than the current average speed in Australia of 5.8Mbps, as well as the average peak speed of 35.2Mbps. To put it in simple terms, you could easily download an episode of your favorite TV show from iTunes in about a minute flat.

This increase in speed allows not just for faster web browsing on your laptop, but a whole host of activities that are otherwise impossible, including things such as fast sharing of very large files (such as CAD models); lag-free video streaming at the highest resolutions, and much more. The NBN is poised to offer a whole new range of opportunities to Australia, so how do you take advantage of it?

See also: Our Broadband Buying Guide

First and foremost: Does your area have NBN access?

If the NBN rollout hasn’t yet come to your suburb, there’s no point looking for an NBN broadband plan – you won’t be able to access it! To see whether or not you have access yet (or will in the near future), check your address on the NBN Co website. If you find that work hasn’t yet begun on wiring your area with the NBN, don’t despair – it will happen.

What different service tiers are on offer?

There are five speed tiers to choose from with the NBN:

  • 12Mbps download (roughly 90 megabytes a minute) / 1Mbps upload (usually expressed as 12/1Mbps)
  • 25Mbps download (roughly 187 megabytes a minute) / 5Mbps upload
  • 25Mbps download / 10Mbps upload
  • 50Mbps download (roughly 375 megabytes a minute) / 20Mbps upload
  • 100Mbps download (roughly 750 megabytes a minute) / 40Mbps upload

These tiers are enforced by NBN Co, meaning they are the same no matter which provider you choose (though not all providers offer every possible speed).

The plan you choose should be based on your internet usage habits – if you only tend to browse the internet and check your emails, a cheaper, low-speed plan is probably right for you. On the other hand, if you’re someone who loves streaming entertainment, playing online games or who needs to share a lot of large files, opting for a high-speed plan is definitely the way to go.

What plans are currently on offer?

Whilst the speed tiers of the NBN are fixed regardless of your provider, the data allowances and bundled extras in each plan can vary widely. We’ve compiled a few current examples on the market to give you an idea of current NBN deal…

Telstra

Telstra’s straight broadband offerings consist of Small, Medium and Large plans. These come with data allowances of 100GB, 500GB and 1000GB, which are currently priced at $75, $95 and $115 per month respectively. Telstra’s standard speeds are 25Mbps download and 5Mbps upload, and you have the option to buy what they call a ‘Super Fast Speed Boost’ which ups you to 100Mbps download – perfect for media junkies. Telstra also offers a variety of home phone and entertainment bundles at different price points. Check out Telstra’s current NBN pricing.

Optus

Optus offers several choices if you’re aftern an NBN connection, with five different bundles and two naked broadband plans on offer. The latter two plans offer customers 200GB for $80 per month, or unlimited data for $100 per month, with both available on 24-month contracts only.

Optus’s bundled plans all come with unlimited standard calls from your home phone, and with the exception of their entry level Basics Bundle (which offers 200GB of data for $70 per month), all plans include unlimited data over the NBN. The first unlimited plan, dubbed the Entertainment Starter, costs $90 per month with included Fetch TV and 6 months of Netflix; the Entertainment bundle adds a large number of premium TV channels for an extra $5 each month, or for the same price you can have the Big Bundle which forgoes the entertainment inclusions for unlimited standard calls to both mobile phones AND selected overseas countries. Topping it all off is the Ultimate Bundle, which packs in all of the aforementioned features for $115 per month.

All Optus plans come with basic NBN speeds of 12/1Mbps, but this can be upgraded to one of the three higher speeds for an extra $5-$20 per month depending on which tier you choose; they also offer a $125 online discount on most plans at the time of writing. Check out Optus’ current NBN pricing.

TPG

TPG also offers five different plans, all of which are available on a month-to-month basis or an 18-month contract which waives your installation fee. TPG’s two smaller plans consist of a basic 10GB offering for $40 a month as well as a 50GB plan for $50 per month, with unlimited local calls and PAYG rates for the remainder. Their three larger plans use a different model to other providers – all of its plans offer unlimited NBN data, with the differences in price being justified by home phone line inclusions.

The SL plan offers PAYG rates for all calls for $60 per month; the Extra Bundle adds unlimited local, national and 1300 calls for $70 per month, as well as 100 international minutes; finally, the top XXL plan adds unlimited mobile calls and international calls to selected countries, with 1300 calls reverting to PAYG rates. All of TPG’s NBN plans come with the standard 12/1Mbps data speeds, and can be upgraded to higher speeds for an extra $10-$30 per month depending on your needs. Check out TPG’s current NBN pricing.

For most Australians, it’s now a matter of waiting until the NBN is available in your neighbourhood. To quote Minister Turnbull:

“One in three Australian live or work in areas where the NBN will be accessible or the rollout underway by June 2016.”

As of November (2014) over 1.2 million homes and businesses can either access the NBN or are in areas where construction is currently underway. The new rollout plan reveals that by June 2016:

  • An additional 1.79 million premises in the fixed line footprint will have access or work underway.
  • An additional 128,000 premises in the fixed wireless footprint will have access or work underway.

This is in addition to the Long Term Satellite Service, which will see two satellites launched in 2016 that will serve the most remote and inaccessible premises in the country.

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