How to pick a good NBN plan

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So your home has been finally connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN). Congratulations, you now have access to superfast broadband. But will it actually live up to the hype? This partly depends on whether or not you’re ready for the NBN and know what to look out for when choosing a new provider or plan. Your decisions could make or break your new internet experience, so read on for some helpful tips to ensure you get the most out of the NBN.

A new NBN plan: What do I need to consider?

Chances are your internet needs have changed since you signed up to your old internet deal, so this is your chance to start afresh and find the provider and plan that works best for you. When you receive notice of your new NBN connection, you have 18 months to make the switch before your existing ADSL or Cable service is switched off. Here are the things you need to consider when the time comes:

  • Your budget
  • The speed you’re willing to pay for
  • How much data you need
  • Whether you need a home phone or not
  • The contract length you’re happy with
  • If your existing modem is up to the job, or whether you’ll need to buy a new one

Picking the best NBN plan for your needs, at the right price, will be a trade-off between all of the above factors. So let’s go into detail and help you find that plan.

How much does the NBN cost?

The cheapest NBN plans can be found for around the $30-$40 mark, while the most expensive can easily cost over $100 a month. Is your budget pretty big, or are you just trying to get away with the cheapest possible deal? Maybe you’re a heavy internet user and need an unlimited data plan, or maybe you’re a light user who only occasionally checks emails and browses social media. It can be tempting to just hop into the cheapest NBN plan on offer, but doing so comes with some potential issues.

  • The cheapest NBN plans will mean sacrificing either data allowance or speed
  • It can also mean you have to BYO modem
  • You can also expect upfront fees, sometimes up to $100 or more
  • Installation support will likely be minimal, and could cost extra

In this case, it could be worth looking at something a little more expensive per month that might come with no setup fees, an included modem and free installation. Consider what represents ‘value’ rather than just being the cheapest. The cheapest plans are the cheapest for a reason!

Often, looking away from the big boys can be the way to go when you’re really searching for the best value, so looking at a provider you might not have heard of could be a good option. However, be aware that smaller internet service providers struggle to match the customer service of the big telcos. If customer support is a big priority for you, keep this in mind.

Check out some of the cheapest NBN plans below, noting the lacklustre data allowances with most of them, as well as the first month’s total cost:

What NBN speed do I need?

For households with a fixed line NBN connection, there are four speed tiers available, bringing the potential for faster downloads and uploads (measured in Megabits per second), with increasing prices as you move up. For customers with another type of NBN connection, your speed tier options may be more limited.

What are the NBN speed tiers good for?

NBN Speed Tier: Upload/Download Good For
12/1 Basic use – web browsing, email, social media. Similar speeds to ADSL2+
25/5 Moderate use in a smaller household – some video streaming, conferencing, video chat
50/20 Medium households – HD streaming, movie/music uploads and downloads
100/40 Heavy users – online gaming, large file downloads and uploads, 4K video streaming

What do the speed boosts cost?

As you can see, there is a wide range of speeds on offer, and even going from 12/1 to 25/5 is likely to result in a noticeable increase in performance and ease of ‘getting things done’. However, keep in mind that these are theoretical maximum speeds.

What this means is that you are not likely to get these speeds all the time, and speeds are subject to things like network congestion, how many people are using your connection, and the quality of your modem. Even the weather can play a part in internet speeds! To maximise your chances of a ‘good speed’ it could be wise to choose a faster speed tier, but be wary of the monthly costs involved.

  • 12/1 costs a minimum of $30
  • 25/5 starts from around $45
  • 50/20 sees prices rise to at least $55
  • 100/40 will cost a minimum of $70

Big speeds likely equal big money, so assess your own needs, and purchase accordingly. There’s no point paying for a level of service you don’t need.

How much data do I need on the NBN?

The other factor that will have a major impact on your costs is the data allowance you require. While tempting to go for the ‘safety net’ or unlimited data, it could again mean you are paying for something you don’t need. To make sure you find the right deal, try to determine what your data needs are. You can do this by considering how data (measured in megabytes and gigabytes) basic web tasks require:

  • General web browsing and social media should use no more than 2.5MB of data per minute
  • Streaming Netflix will use a minimum of 700MB an hour, while HD Netflix increases this to 3GB an hour
  • Downloading movies will chew through between 1.5GB and 4GB depending on length and definition quality
  • Watching YouTube for five minutes will use about 20MB of data, but this again varies depending on quality

Given the average Australian spends about 48 hours online each month, it’s easy to see how data can quickly be chewed up. There are two main things you’ll have to consider with how much data you’ll need:

  • What you’ll be doing (e.g. browsing, streaming, downloading, as mentioned above)
  • The number of people in your households and whether anyone stays home all day

You’ll also have to keep in mind that, via the NBN, you’re probably going to experience faster speeds than what you had on your old connection, and thus the temptation to use more data is there as streaming and browsing just got a whole lot easier.

Household size

This obviously has an effect on how much data is being used. If little Suzie is streaming Peppa Pig while you and your partner catch up on the Biggest Loser streamed every night, you’re going to be using a significant amount of data. If you’re a large family or have a few housemates, getting an unlimited data plan for peace of mind may be worthwhile. After all, Geoff – the one who hoards plates and cups and never leaves his room – isn’t just staring at the ceiling. No; in all likelihood he’s downloading or streaming something. Multiply that by three, four or five and you’re using a huge amount of data.

However, if you live by yourself, or with just one other person, you may be able to get away with using very little data. This is also true if you’re out and about during the day and only use the internet after dinner. A plan with just 100GB of data might work for you, and would save you plenty of cash. It pays to be honest about how much streaming and browsing you’ll likely be doing throughout the month.

NBN Phone and VoIP services

Given the rise of cheap unlimited mobile phone plans, you may no longer need or want a home phone service with your new NBN plan. But it can still be useful to get either an NBN phone or VoIP connection. A lot of internet providers include a VoIP service in their plans, while a few include the NBN phone, which is generally a costlier option.

As for call rates, they tend to vary from provider to provider, but you can usually buy ‘packs’ that for an extra nominal fee per month are added to your NBN plan and you’ll get various inclusions.

  • An extra $10 a month usually gets you included local and national calls, while mobiles are extra
  • $20 extra usually includes mobiles as well, plus calls to 13/1300 numbers
  • $30 extra should include everything, plus some providers include calls to certain countries as part of the deal

This is a guide only, but many NBN providers have VoIP plans, so hunt around. Below are some cheaper providers to include some form of home phone plan with unlimited data to boot.

Contract length

When it comes to contract length, NBN providers frequently give customers the choice of signing up for 12 or 24 months, or to go monthly with no fixed term agreement. Some provides only offer a service on a contract, while an increasing number take the flexible, no contract approach. There are pros and cons to both:

  • No contract: Going with a no contract, monthly plan means you’re free to switch providers whenever you feel like it, without any exit fees. However, the downside to this is that monthly plans usually require a significant upfront payment, while those who go with the contract get away with no setup fees. No all providers charge setup fees on no contract plans, but most do.
  • Contract: Deciding on a 12 or 24 month contract will likely mean no – or at least reduced – setup fees. But if you want to quit your plan early, you’ll be subject to a fee. The amount often varies based on how long you have left on your contract.

The bottom line is that it’s worth considering both options to start with. As well as reducing upfront costs, some providers sweeten the deal with their contract plans by offering slightly reduced monthly prices. If the no contract option is $70 a month, the contract alternative will be $60, for example. But if you value your freedom, this might be a price worth paying.

If you already know your provider fairly well and consider their customer service to be reasonable, then a contract option could be a good deal. But if you’re signing up with a provider for the first time, it may be wise to remain flexible just in case their service turns out to be a disaster. With so many NBN providers out there, this is a real possibility. While you can judge their plans in advance, you will only really know how good their service is when you need it!

Is your router NBN-ready?

With the NBN, you’ll have to consider that you could be reaching speeds of up to 100Mbps, and having a router that can tackle this is essential to avoiding disappointment when you switch over. Luckily most routers made in the last few years come with maximum link speeds of at least 300Mbps. However, if you’re using an older router, it may be worth upgrading. There are two main router classifications in circulation today:

  • 11N: Most common and cheapest, with speeds of up to 300Mbps
  • 11AC: The latest developments, more expensive, with speeds of up to 1300Mbps and these usually boast dual bands – 2.4GHz and 5GHz for prioritising traffic

It may be worth seeing if your provider includes a router and whether it’s free or not. Furthermore, if you like the freedom and shopping around, choosing one that has a ‘BYO modem’ option may be more up your alley. Our guide to wireless routers covers this in more detail, and compares the big brands on offer.

Your location and type of NBN connection

While the majority of Australians are being connected to fixed line NBN (though the quality of this depends on how close the fibre wiring gets to your home – be it FTTP or FTTN, for example) many households in regional areas have to make do with a fixed wireless or satellite connection. Once you’ve nailed down a potential provider, it’s useful typing your address into their website to see what’s on offer in your area.

The good news is that fixed wireless connections are often exactly the same as their fibre counterparts, so you’re afforded the same value in most cases. However, with NBN’s SkyMuster satellite plans, data is at a premium and you’ll be struggling to find providers with over 200GB. You’ll also find that SkyMuster plans are not available on all speed tiers, instead only being on the two slowest – 12/1 and 25/5. See below for a comparison of what you can expect to get on SkyMuster, noting the higher prices for the data received.

Buying a new NBN plan: The final connection

Getting switched to the NBN can be both an exciting and annoying time – exciting because you’ll get access to a range of great-value plans with fast speeds, but annoying because you now have to shop around for something that can cost a fair bit per month. There are a few things to consider, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Often, your budget determines what you can get first and foremost. However, how much data you use and whether you need a home phone connection are also pretty big factors as to what plan and provider you’ll need to go with.

Overall, buying a new NBN plan doesn’t have to be a pain in the bum, but you will need to do your research. We hope this buying guide has helped, and that comparing NBN providers leads you one step closer to nabbing the plan that works best for you.

Compare NBN Providers

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