ADSL vs NBN. Woman in blue sweater using laptop

ADSL vs NBN: What is the difference?

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Just a decade ago, ADSL technology was the speediest way to access the internet at home, but since then it has been superseded by the ultra-fast fibre of the National Broadband Network (NBN). But what was ADSL and is it still available in Australia today? Canstar Blue explores ADSL vs the NBN.

What is ADSL?

Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, or ADSL, was a form of broadband connection that used the copper wires of the old telecommunications network to deliver internet into homes at speeds faster than original dial-up internet.

The technology was first introduced into Australia in the early 2000s, and offered download speeds around 256Kbps (kilobits per second), compared to dial-up’s approx 50Kbps. Over the next decade, the technology developed through ADSL2 to ADSL2+, which offered speeds of around 24Mbps (megabits per second).

What is NBN?

The NBN is a nationwide infrastructure network that provides households with access to the internet. It uses a mix of technologies, including fibre-optic cables, fixed wireless and satellites, that can deliver internet at far faster speeds than were available via ADSL.

NBN plans are available at the majority of Australian addresses, with dozens of providers now selling NBN to customers. You can see a selection of plans in the table below.

The following table shows a selection of sponsored unlimited data Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50), and Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100) plans on Canstar Blue’s database with links to referral partners.

Unlimited Home Standard (NBN 50) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited NBN 50 plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost (excluding discounts), from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Unlimited Home Fast (NBN 100) Plans

The table below shows a selection of published unlimited NBN 100 plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Is NBN faster than ADSL?

As we mentioned above, the quickest ADSL plan, ADSL2+, offered speeds of around 24Mbps. In comparison, all but the NBN’s two Home Basic plans offer far higher data speeds. 

Depending on your location, NBN connection type, and choice of provider, you’ll be able to pick from the following speed tiers:

Speed tier Also known as Maximum download speed
NBN 12 Home Basic I 12Mbps
NBN 25 Home Basic II 25Mbps
NBN 50 Home Standard 50Mbps
NBN 100 Home Fast 100Mbps
NBN 250 Home Superfast 250Mbps
NBN 1000 Home Ultrafast 1000Mbps

Is ADSL still available in Australia?

As the NBN was rolled out across the country, the old copper telecommunications networks it replaced were disestablished, making ADSL a redundant technology. As a result, telcos no longer retail new ADSL plans to consumers, although a handful of customers without NBN access may still be on older ADSL plans where the network is still available.

What are my options if I can’t get NBN?

Most Aussies will now have access to an NBN connection, but the type of technology available will depend on your location. The majority of households and businesses can connect via fibre, but addresses in regional areas may be limited to either fixed wireless NBN or SkyMuster (NBN Co’s satellite service).

If you don’t have a reliable or available NBN connection, or want an NBN alternative, you may have access to other home internet solutions, including:

  • Home wireless broadband: A fixed wireless internet connection that uses the same 4G or 5G mobile network as your phone.
  • Mobile broadband: Similar to home wireless broadband, but is designed for portable use.
  • Private fibre networks: Fibre internet networks owned and operated by private companies that are available in selected areas. These networks offer similar speeds and performance to NBN Co. Notable brands include Gigacomm, Opticomm and Uniti.
  • Starlink: SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet is now available Australia-wide and is a fast alternative to NBN SkyMuster or fixed wireless in rural areas.
Bruce Pitchers
Content Manager - New Zealand
Bruce Pitchers the Content Manager at Canstar New Zealand. Bruce has three decades’ experience as a journalist and has worked for major media companies in Australia, the UK and New Zealand, including ACP, Are Media, Bauer Media Group, Fairfax, Pacific Magazines, News Corp and TVNZ. Bruce started his career as an entertainment journalist before turning his pen to sport and fitness content, working for some of Australia’s leading sports magazines. Bruce then moved his focus to the world of finance and worked as a freelance writer and editor for The Australian Financial Review, the NZ Financial Markets Authority and major banks and investment companies on both sides of the Tasman. Away from his desk at Canstar, when not standing on the sidelines at his two daughters’ sports games, Bruce spends many hours creating and editing puzzles for magazine and newspaper titles in the USA and Australasia. To that end, he is the co-writer of the murder-mystery puzzle book 5 Minute Murder.

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