Choosing an internet plan for your home can be a difficult decision. But thanks to the introduction of the NBN, customers have more choice, and the ability to select a speed that better reflects their needs. This is good news for consumers, especially if you want a faster internet plan. However, this can be a confusing experience: how do you decide what speed you actually need at home? What actually is a good internet speed?
Let’s take a look at the NBN speeds on offer, and how you can select an NBN plan with an internet speed that best suits your needs.
What are the NBN speeds?
Speeds for uploading and downloading content are measured in Megabits per second (Mbps). Each speed tier is measured in Mbps, which determines the number of megabits your internet can download and upload in a second. When you’re comparing NBN plans and speeds, you may notice reference to evening speeds — this might be in the name of the plan itself, or in the provider’s NBN speed guide.
The use of evening speeds was introduced by the ACCC to ensure that internet service providers (ISPs) are much more transparent about NBN speeds and to make it easier for consumers to compare and select the right speed tier for their needs. This term refers to speeds during evening peak times (between the hours of 7pm-11pm), which is when there is typically more congestion on the network.
Currently, NBN offers four different speed tiers: Basic Evening Speed (12/1Mbps), Standard Evening Speed (25/5Mbps), Standard Plus Evening Speed (50/20Mbps) and Premium Evening Speed (100/40Mbps). The Mbps listed for each of these speeds is reference to the maximum download and upload speeds that may be experienced on these speed tiers.
You might find that when you’re looking at a specific plan from a telco, there might be a ‘typical evening speed’ listed, which could be less than the maximum download speed available on that speed tier. The ACCC offers a guide for the evening speeds that you can usually expect on the four different speed tiers to help you identify if your NBN plan is perhaps not performing as it should be. When choosing a new NBN plan, look for providers that list this ‘typical evening speed’, as this can help you with your NBN plan comparisons.
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How do I know which NBN speed I need?
When you’re choosing an NBN speed tier and plan, you’ll need to assess your household situation to determine which speed will be the best option for you.
There are a number of factors that could determine which speed will best suit your needs. As a guide, consider the following:
- How many people are in the house, and will they be using the internet simultaneously?
- How many devices require connection to a Wi-Fi network and will they all be used at the same time? (Smart TVs, gaming consoles, mobiles, tablets, computers, smart home assistants, security systems, etc — think of any household appliances that you can operate remotely with your mobile.)
- What do you use the internet for? (General web browsing, sending emails, streaming video and music, online gaming, uploading and downloading large files, etc.)
While some activities, such as general web browsing and social media, may only require around 1-2Mbps, load times might be slow. If you’re streaming video, your required internet speed will depend on the quality of the video that you’re streaming. A standard-definition video stream requires around 3Mbps; however 1.5Mbps is considered adequate for streaming on your smartphone, as telcos often use this data speed for the ‘unlimited data’ mobile plans or data-free streaming options.
If you want to stream videos in high definition or 4K, you’ll need much faster speeds, particularly if you’re streaming on your TV. Around 5Mbps is enough for high-definition streaming, while 4K streaming requires much more — 25Mbps. If multiple people will be streaming video at the same time, especially in HD, you’re probably going to need a higher speed tier plan.
For example, if two people were watching Netflix simultaneously in high definition (on separate devices) during the peak evening time, that’s around 10Mbps in total being used at the same time. Most of the Basic Evening Speed plans on the market offer a typical evening speed of around 11Mbps (or even lower), leaving not much bandwidth for anything else. Even the Standard Evening Speed plans are generally better suited to standard-definition video streaming, with a minimum typical evening speed of 15Mbps.
Once you’ve established what your household internet needs are, it’s time to look at which speed tier will best suit you and your family. The following table includes all four NBN speed tiers, and recommendations as to what activities are suitable on these speeds. Keep in mind that these are only a guide — NBN service can differ between providers and due to a range of factors, just as each household’s requirements are different.
|Basic Evening Speed NBN 12||Standard Evening Speed NBN 25||Standard Plus Evening Speed NBN 50||Premium Evening Speed NBN 100|
|Speeds||12/1Mbps: 12Mbps download, 1Mbps upload||25/5Mbps: 25Mbps download, 5Mbps upload||50/20Mbps: 50Mbps download, 20Mbps upload||100/40Mbps: 100Mbps download, 40Mbps upload|
|Typical evening speeds||7Mbps-12Mbps||15Mbps-25Mbps||30Mbps-50Mbps||60Mbps-90Mbps|
|Recommended household size||1-2 people, light users||2-3 people light to moderate users||3-4 people, moderate to heavy users||5+ people, heavy users|
|Recommended use||Light web browsing, home phone||Moderate web browsing, social media browsing, sending emails, SD video streaming, music streaming||HD video streaming, music streaming, online gaming, sharing/uploading photos, video calling||4K video streaming, uploading/downloading large files, online gaming, heavy internet use over multiple devices simultaneously|
So, what is a good internet speed?
The Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50) is proving hugely popular in Australia, so download speeds of around 50Mbps can generally be considered ‘good’. This should be more than enough for a decent amount of evening web browsing, social media and video streaming at a high standard. The NBN 12 and NBN 25 speed tiers should be equally capable of meeting your internet needs, but in an effort to strike the best balance between speed performance and price, NBN 50 can reasonably be considered the way to go.
What is the best internet speed?
The best NBN speed for one household may be totally different to another household. The fastest NBN speed available is the Premium Evening Speed, so if fast internet is the most important factor to you, then it’s likely you’ll be interested in NBN 100 plans.
It’s worth noting that if you want fast internet for online gaming, there are some NBN plans specifically for gamers on offer. Not only are these plans generally on the Premium Evening Speed tier, but there are usually other bonuses and extras that help to provide an optimal gaming performance.
Keep in mind that with the premium speed tier comes the premium price, as you can usually expect to pay anywhere between $70 to over $100 per month. If you’d prefer a cheaper plan than what is generally available with NBN 100, then you might need to compromise with a NBN 50 plan. There are usually some good deals on this speed tier, and you might find the speeds are still fast enough for your internet needs.
Choosing the best NBN plan for you
Now that you’ve got an idea as to which speed tier will most likely suit your household, you’ll need to compare NBN plans from a range of providers to help you choose the best NBN plan to suit your needs.
There is a lot of competition on the market when it comes to NBN providers in Australia. However, many of these providers may not offer plans on all four of the speed tiers, which could help make your NBN plan comparisons a little easier.
To help you choose a NBN plan, we’ll take a look at several options across all four speed tiers to give you an idea of plans and prices available. You can also use our comparison tool to see a wider selection of plans and providers, and you can also check out the NBN Co website for a complete list of NBN providers in your state.
NBN 12 plans
Not all providers offer plans on the lowest speed tier, so if you’ve decided that this option is right for you, you could find there aren’t as many choices of provider available. If you’d like your NBN service to be provided by one of the big three telcos (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone), you won’t be able to pick up a plan on the Basic Evening Speed tier, as Telstra, Optus and Vodafone currently don’t offer plans on NBN 12.
The following table shows a selection of comparable published Basic Evening Speed (NBN 12) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, lowest to highest, then by alphabetical order. Use our comparison tool to see a wider range of plans available on Canstar Blue’s database. These are products with links to referral partners.
NBN 25 plans
Going up to NBN 25, you might find a little more selection for NBN providers and plans. This is also the speed tier where Telstra and Vodafone introduce their NBN plans. You might find that plans on this speed tier can vary in monthly price, from around $50 and up to $80.
The following table shows a selection of comparable published Standard Evening Speed (NBN 25) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, lowest to highest, then by alphabetical order. Use our comparison tool to see a wider range of plans available on Canstar Blue’s database. These are products with links to referral partners.
NBN 50 plans
The NBN 50 speed tier is perhaps the most popular, especially for families. While it isn’t the fastest speed, it’s certainly fast enough for households that enjoy HD video streaming and online gaming. When you’re looking for NBN plans at this price point, you might find prices similar to what you can expect on NBN 25, with around $60 being the minimum you can expect to pay.
The following table shows a selection of comparable published Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, lowest to highest, then by alphabetical order. Use our comparison tool to see a wider range of plans available on Canstar Blue’s database. These are products with links to referral partners.
NBN 100 plans
The top speed tier, NBN 100 is where you’ll see plan prices up higher, even around the $100 mark. If you’re a very heavy internet user, part of a large household, or even if you just want the fastest speed you can get, you’ll need to be willing to pay the premium price for the premium speed.
The following table shows a selection of comparable published Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, lowest to highest, then by alphabetical order. Use our comparison tool to see a wider range of plans available on Canstar Blue’s database. These are products with links to referral partners.
What can I really expect from my internet speed?
There are many factors that come into play with your NBN connection. The speed tiers are really a guide as to the maximum speed available on that plan: however, the actual speeds you experience could be different.
Your internet speed can be affected by a range of factors, including the hardware you’re using to connect to the internet, your NBN connection type (how your home is connected to the NBN network), your distance from the server you’re trying to connect to and of course, network congestion.
That evening peak time can have a big impact on the internet speeds you experience, which is why the ACCC introduced evening speed recommendations. The ACCC also releases a quarterly speed report which can give you an indication as to how some of the bigger NBN providers stack up when it comes to speed. If you’re looking into plans from any of the eight providers that are compared by the ACCC, you might find this guide to be a useful indicator as to the peak evening speeds you might experience.
Of course, it’s difficult to determine the actual speeds you’ll receive on your NBN plan. When you are signing up to a NBN plan, if that provider does not include an indication of speeds you can expect during the evening peak, it’s recommended that you ask for that information. If you feel the speeds you’re experiencing do not match up to what your plan has indicated, you should get in touch with your NBN provider.
When it comes to choosing an NBN plan, the choice is ultimately yours. To help you find the right plan and speed tier to suit your needs, it’s worth doing a comparison of plans and providers to see what options are out there. Be realistic with what your internet needs are: if you’re not sure about which speed will suit your household, it might be worth finding a month-to-month no lock-in contract plan, so you can switch to a different speed tier if you feel your current plan isn’t the right option for your household.