Canstar Blue’s annual review of ADSL & cable internet providers compares Internode, Westnet, TPG, Belong, iiNet, Optus, Dodo, Telstra and iPrimus for network performance, value for money, customer service, bill clarity, as well as clarity and flexibility of contract.
See our Ratings Methodology.
Until the NBN arrives at your door – and who knows how long that will take – you’re pretty much stuck with a good old copper ADSL connection or a cable internet connection if you’re lucky enough to live in an area that has it. There are well over 40 internet service providers out there, which include all the big names you’ve no doubt heard of, or seen the ads on TV for. However, there are loads of other providers you may not be aware of, and the trick is to dig a little deeper to find the best provider that meets your needs, along with a price you’re happy to pay. Our goal is to make that digging process a little easier and help you find that perfect internet provider match.
Our customer satisfaction ratings table (above) reports the real-world experience of thousands of Aussie households who have either an ADSL or cable internet connection with one of the nine service providers listed, giving you an idea of what to expect should you decide to sign up with one of them. So, how do they stack up? In 2017, Internode has been rated highest overall, scoring five stars from its customers in all research categories, including network performance, customer service and value for money.
Internode replaces Westnet at the top of the satisfaction table after two years of success. Westnet and Internode are both subsidiaries of iiNet, which in turn is owned by TPG. All four providers performed fairly well in this year’s review, scoring at least four stars for overall satisfaction, along with Belong and Optus. It was three stars overall for Dodo, iPrimus (both owned by Vocus Communications) and Telstra.
Before we go into detail about these nine broadband providers and tell you about several other smaller ISPs that may be worth considering, let’s first cover off a few basics about the types of internet services we are comparing in this review. Alternatively you can get ahead of the game and learn about how NBN providers are rated by customers. Or take a look at these current deals with unlimited data:
ADSL stands for ‘Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line’ and remains the most common form of fixed-line home broadband in Australia, with ADSL2+ the new and improved version. ADSL uses telephone lines to provide internet access, making it the cheapest type of connection.
What ADSL may lack in download speeds, it more than makes up for with sheer choice of providers and plans, with more than 40 internet providers in Australia each with their own selling points.
Cable internet is delivered through a hybrid network of extremely fast fibre optic cables and slower coaxial cables, resulting in increased bandwidth limits and higher speeds for end-users.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a cable-connected home, you will likely only have the choice of one provider with less plan choice than what is offered to ADSL customers. You’ll also generally have to pay more, with prices starting at around $60 a month. However, you will also generally benefit from faster speeds.
With an average reported spend of just over $70 a month, and with only 45% of those surveyed having an unlimited data internet plan, customers may find they are paying too much for the amount of data or other features they are currently receiving from their provider. The cheapest unlimited data deals come in at less than $40 a month. Tellingly, 62% of ADSL or cable customers surveyed are looking forward to the NBN coming to their area, while 42% said they will look at getting the fastest speed option possible.
The rollout of the NBN in your area could still be a long way off, so there are a few things you can do to get the most out of your existing ADSL or cable provider – and that includes shopping around for a new deal. Whether you’re choosing an ADSL option, or you’re looking at a good cable plan for your home, it pays to shop around. Here are some useful resources to help you decide what internet plan to go with:
Taking a look at the big service providers in our ratings will also be a good starting point, so let’s see what these telcos have on offer.
Internode was one of the early adopters of ADSL2+ speeds when they were first introduced, and in 2011 was acquired by iiNet to make the iiNet family one of the largest providers in Australia. However, Internode still continues to operate as an independent entity, but its plans are pretty much the same as what iiNet has to offer. Prices start at about $60 a month, but for unlimited data you’ll need to be willing to spend about $70 a month. Like many other providers in the iiNet family, you can also bundle in a Fetch set top box package from about $5-$10 extra a month, in which you’ll get data-free streaming as part of the deal. The Adelaide-based telco was the only provider in this year’s ratings to achieve five stars for overall satisfaction, and indeed for any and every other category – no other provider came close.
Belong – a company under Telstra – offers “hassle free broadband” and internet that won’t “cramp your style”. Indeed, Belong has pretty simple ADSL offerings, with either 100GB or unlimited data to choose between. 100GB costs under $40 a month, while unlimited data comes in at about $45 a month. These costs are for 12 month plans, but for a monthly contract you’ll need to pay an extra $5 a month. A modem is also included on the former contract, while you will pay an extra $60 on the latter option. These base prices do not include line rental – to get a plan with line rental added you can look at paying at least $60 a month for unlimited data. Belong is described as an initiative to get ‘Telstra internet’ at slightly cheaper prices, which it obviously delivers. In this year’s ratings, Belong scored four stars for overall satisfaction and for every other category, making it a solid performer.
iiNet has been a stalwart in these ratings for many years now, known for offering a great alternative to the biggest providers. Like with most other providers in the iiNet/TPG family, plans start at around $60 a month, but for unlimited data you’ll need to be willing to pay about $10-$20 extra. As for cable, iiNet’s plans are only available in Geelong, Mildura and Ballarat, with unlimited data costing about $80 a month. iiNet is another provider with Fetch entertainment available from about $10 a month extra. iiNet achieved four stars for overall satisfaction and in most other categories, except for customer service and network performance where it rated three stars apiece. However, iiNet was the standout performer in our 2017 NBN ratings.
Internet giant Optus streamlined its plan offerings recently, now offering unlimited data from just $60 a month. Beyond that, Optus has the rights to the English Premier League soccer, which is available on an entertainment plan with which you’ll also get Fetch for about $80 a month. The base plans come on a 24 month contract, but you can opt for a no lock-in contract that attracts a $199 set-up fee. The entertainment bundle includes the Fetch ‘Mighty’ PVR, along with one channel pack and Optus Sport. As for cable, its plans are exactly the same and start at $60 a month. Optus has historically been rated the best ISP for Netflix, making it a viable contender if you’re into streaming. As for customer satisfaction, it was rated four stars across the board, including network performance.
TPG offers a wide range of competitive internet plans, with data allowances starting at 100GB and costing around $50 a month, while for unlimited you’ll probably get better value at just under $60 a month. As with most providers, you can opt for a contract or no contract for an extra fee. You’ll also get – with any ADSL plan – what’s called IPTV. This is basically an internet-based streaming service that uses TPG’s own media player to watch channels like Aljazeera, Bloomberg News and FTA TV through your computer. It’s like TV but streamed over the internet and at no extra monthly cost – all you have to do is register. TPG was a solid performer overall in this year’s review, with four stars for overall satisfaction and for every category except for bill clarity in which it was rated three stars.
Founded as a company servicing solely Western Australians, Westnet is now also available in most areas on the east coast and around the country. Telcos have generally focused most of their attention on the eastern states, which helped Westnet to make its mark out west with a solid range of internet offerings and reputable customer service. On the back of its success, Westnet was eventually acquired by iiNet, but it continues to operate as its own brand. Prices start at around $60 as expected, with Fetch available from an extra $5-$10 a month. After topping the internet table for the previous two years, Westnet was rated four stars for overall satisfaction in 2017 and achieved the same score in every other category except for network performance where it achieved three stars.
A brand owned by the Vocus Communications group, Dodo is one of a select few companies to deliver multiple household services, including electricity and gas. When it comes to internet, Dodo is one of the cheapest providers around, including deals with unlimited data at under $30 a month! However, these prices do not include line rental – for a plan with line rental included, you’re looking at spending around $60 for unlimited data. Dodo also offers Fetch packages from about $45 a month. Dodo achieved a mixed bag of results overall, rated three stars for overall satisfaction and in every other category, except for value for money where it was rated four stars. Evidently, even though Dodo is one of the cheapest providers, it comes down to more than cheap prices to get a five star rating for value.
Another brand under the Vocus umbrella, iPrimus offers markedly different plans to Dodo. Prices start at around $60 a month, but for unlimited data you’ll have to pay about $80 a month. All plans include home phone line rental, and while this is a rating for internet only, many other service providers charge extra for the mandatory copper phone line. Fetch entertainment bundles are also available with iPrimus, but you’ll have to be willing to spend over $85 a month for these packages. It seems customers were only reasonably satisfied with iPrimus, as it was rated three stars for overall satisfaction and across the board as well.
As the biggest telco in Australia, it is perhaps a little disappointing to see the old ‘big blue’ rounding off the list. However, this is likely for good reason as Telstra only offers unlimited data if you’re willing to spend close to $100 a month. Its cheapest plans are $70 a month, however, you only receive 100GB of data. On the flip side, Telstra is king for its entertainment bundles, with many of its dearest plans coming with Foxtel, as well as Telstra TV and NRL and/or AFL game passes, where you can watch every game live on your mobile phone or tablet. Despite the tempting entertainment proposition, however, Telstra was rated just three stars for overall satisfaction and in every other category.
In addition to the big providers featured above, there are several smaller telcos that are either new on the scene or just standing out from the crowd. These providers may be worth a look into and could offer you the plan of your dreams:
While the big providers are probably going to be your first port of call, looking into a smaller provider may prove to be better value in terms of straight up data versus price. However, generally the biggest providers offer more than just cheap deals. Often, they provide comprehensive support with call centres operating around the clock, as well as easy online service and support options. They also remove much of the ‘mystery factor’ and often come with free and prompt installation, which these smaller providers may not be able to provide. All in all, it’s a good idea to keep an open mind and consider a wide range of plans and providers before signing up.
We hope these ratings have been helpful and you are well-prepared the next time you need to purchase a new ADSL or cable internet plan.
Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 6,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have an ADSL or cable internet account in their name and they pay the bills – in this case, 2,693 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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