Is the NBN worth the money?

The National Broadband Network is delivering world-class internet speeds to more and more homes across the country every year, but not all Australians are blown away by their NBN plan.

The NBN has had a difficult roll out, plagued by complaints from customers about slower than expected speeds, or issues with getting their homes connected. Some of this negative publicity has shaken the confidence in how customers feel about signing up to an NBN plan, not to mention that for some, the cost of an NBN plan might not be worth it.

Is the NBN worth it — what do other Aussies think?

A Canstar Blue survey conducted in 2021 has found that for many NBN customers, their new plans may not be worth the extra money.

It found that households connected to the NBN are paying an average of $71 a month for their service. That compares to 31% of survey respondents who claim to be now paying more for their NBN plan than they had for their old connection, so there are potentially millions of customers who are overpaying for their broadband.

Almost half of respondents (46%) stated that when the NBN arrived in their area, they switched over straight away, indicating that many customers are happy to be connected to the NBN.

However, 21% of those surveyed said they would recommend people stick to their old connection for as long as possible before switching to NBN, and 11% are considering ditching NBN for another internet service, such as home wireless broadband.

“While Canstar Blue’s latest research shows that the majority of us are happy with the move to NBN, there’s still a significant percentage of Aussies unsatisfied with their plan, provider or pricing. Unfortunately, not everyone has the option of moving to an NBN alternative, such as fast 5G internet or a competing fibre network, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick with an underperforming or overpriced plan.” said Canstar Blue’s Telco Editor, Tara Donnelly.

When it comes to value for money with NBN, it’s worth considering that other internet types are also not that much cheaper. In another survey conducted by Canstar Blue in 2021 on home wireless and mobile broadband services, the average monthly spend was $73 per month — only a couple of dollars more expensive than NBN. Put into consideration that many NBN plans include unlimited data by default, while mobile broadband and home wireless broadband often have limited data inclusions.

Considering that the majority of households are on either the NBN 25 or NBN 50 speed tier (22% of respondents on NBN 25 and 29% of respondents on NBN 50), this average NBN price does cover plans available on both speed tiers, however you can find cheaper NBN plans. If you’re more concerned about the cost of an NBN plan, there are plenty of cheap plans available and comparing plans from a range of providers can help you to find the right price for your budget.

“$71 may be the current average monthly NBN cost for Australians, but there’s plenty of cheaper options available, particularly if you don’t require ultra-fast speeds or bells and whistles. You can save hundreds each year by switching to a more appropriate plan for your household needs, and this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change NBN providers.” Ms Donnelly added. “Likewise, if you feel your existing plan isn’t fast enough, you may find more reliable speeds elsewhere, and often for a lower monthly cost. Understanding how you use the internet, and what you actually need from your NBN plan, is the first step in finding a better deal – and in getting the speed and performance that makes moving to the NBN worth it.”

Can you save money by switching NBN providers?

Canstar Blue’s 2021 survey found that 18% of NBN customers decided to switch providers when they switched over to the NBN, while 15% would like to switch NBN providers in the near future.

When it comes to NBN costs, there are some advantages to switching providers. Often NBN providers offer deals to new customers for signing up to plans, with these offers commonly in the form of monthly discounts on your plan fees for the first month or even six months of your plan.

In addition to considering switching providers and perhaps taking advantage of discounts and offers available to new customers, it’s also worth assessing whether you are potentially paying for something you don’t need. That could come in the form of paying for a faster speed tier than necessary, or paying for unlimited data when a plan with a data cap might be enough for you.

It’s worth talking to your provider to see if there are any options for downgrading your plan, or removing some costs you might not need (such as entertainment add ons). If your current provider doesn’t offer you options for saving by perhaps downgrading your plan, or you’re unhappy with the response, it might be time to look at switching providers.

When you look to compare NBN plans, you’ll need to have a clear idea of the following:

  • NBN speed tier — which speed you need for your household usage
  • Data inclusions — do you need unlimited data or could you save with capped data
  • Modem fees — do you need a new modem or is your existing modem compatible
  • Add ons and extras — do you need a phone pack, entertainment add on, etc
  • Additional fees — are there upfront fees such as setup fees you’ll have to pay
  • Early exit fees — does your existing plan have any fees for cancelling, including outstanding modem costs

While it might be tempting to stick with the same provider for the convenience, or to only opt for a ‘big name’ internet provider, you could find some better value for money in a plan from a smaller provider.

Once you’ve considered what you need from your new NBN plan, and also if you’ll need to pay any additional fees for cancelling your current service, you’re then set to start comparing NBN plans to find the right option for your household needs.

Compare NBN 50 Plans

Looking for an NBN plan for the whole family? The following table shows a selection of published unlimited NBN 50 plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of monthly cost from lowest to highest (including discounted prices), 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.

Are there alternatives to the NBN?

As the NBN rollout is basically complete, old ADSL and cable connections will soon be obsolete. Fewer providers are also offering these plans, so if you’re not on an NBN plan now, you will be soon. While around a fifth of survey respondents recommended that people hold off switching to the NBN for as long as possible, that time is fast running out.

If speed is a concern, keep in mind that NBN Co is rolling out updates to many household connections in order to give more Aussies access to faster connection types. If your home is earmarked for this NBN upgrade, you might find a whole new world of faster NBN speeds open to you, and perhaps a more reliable home internet connection.

However, if you’re one of those Aussies who has been burnt by a bad NBN experience, you might want to consider looking into other home internet alternatives.

Perhaps one of the most widely-available NBN alternatives, and indeed a good alternative to a fixed internet connection, is home wireless broadband. There are both 4G and 5G versions of home wireless broadband available from a range of providers.

Unlike other wireless options, such as mobile broadband, home wireless operates with a modem, which will most likely need to be plugged into a powerpoint (much like modems used for fixed line connections). The only other requirement is that your home has adequate 4G (or 5G) mobile network coverage, as this is how home wireless connects your home to the internet. If you’re in an area with unreliable mobile coverage, home wireless is probably not the best option for you.

Keep in mind that NBN alternatives are not without their faults. Plans might be more expensive than an NBN plan, and some connections could be unreliable compared to fixed line connections. Also, plans such as home wireless often come with data limits, meaning that you might pay a similar price compared to an NBN plan, but often you will not have unlimited data. In comparison, most NBN plans include unlimited data by default.

It’s worth comparing which internet options are available to your home and what will give you the best value for money.

Other NBN costs explained

The price you pay for your NBN plan can be determined by a few factors. Providers will likely build plan pricing around the following:

  • NBN speed tier (the faster the speed, the more expensive the plan)
  • Data inclusion (capped-data plans will likely be cheaper)
  • Add ons (modems, entertainment, phone packs, etc)
  • Plan length (contract plans could be cheaper or have no setup fees compared to month-to-month plans)

Retailers will also take into consideration the wholesale prices that they pay to NBN Co for access to the NBN, as part of building out plan costs.

One of those costs is CVC, which stands for ‘connectivity virtual circuit’, alongside another cost, AVC which stands for ‘access virtual circuit’. These are two terms that stand to dictate how much the NBN charges retailers, and consequently how much the end user pays for their NBN plan. These costs may also be an insight as to why your NBN connection is slow, or achieving nowhere near its advertised speed tier. To this day, a blame game exists between NBN Co and retailers as to why NBN plans can be slow, but the fact is, it’s a little bit of everyone’s fault – including the consumer.

CVC is arguably one of the biggest factors affecting both how much your internet costs, and how fast it can go. CVC prices deliver decent insight as to what the NBN charges retailers for bandwidth — the key thing that can affect your internet speed.

CVC is a measure of bandwidth purchased, and NBN Co currently prices CVC at a maximum price of $17.50 per Mbps, excluding discounts for bundles. The more bandwidth a provider buys, the cheaper the price per Mbps, meaning retailers get more value the more they buy.

In the past couple of years, NBN Co has changed wholesale pricing, making it more affordable for providers to purchase bandwidth and therefore improve speeds available to customers. NBN Co was prompted to boost capacity to providers due to high internet needs at the start of the COVID 19 pandemic in 2020. In the past, NBN Co has also reduced pricing for faster speed tiers to encourage more providers to offer high-speed plans such as NBN 100.

However, the cheaper cost to purchase bandwidth hasn’t always translated into cheaper prices for customers. While cheap NBN plans are readily available, the biggest improvement we’ve seen is that the speeds customers experience are now improving.

Many providers now list the maximum attainable speed as the ‘typical evening speed’ on plans. This indicates the average speed you can expect on a plan in peak times between 7pm to 11pm, and traditionally has fallen short of the maximum speed attainable to customers.

In good news, many providers now cite the maximum download speed as a plan’s typical evening speed, particularly across NBN 12, NBN 25 and NBN 50 tiers. For example, instead of offering average speeds on 40Mbps on an NBN 50 plan, providers such as Telstra and Optus are now able to offer typical evening speeds of 50Mbps, even during busy periods.

Is signing up to the NBN worth it?

NBN has been a part of the Australian internet landscape for many years now, however it still suffers a fairly negative reputation. Despite generally better speeds, offering faster speed tiers and promising to improve home connections by 2023, the NBN still has somewhat of a reputation for unreliable or slow speeds.

If your home has a Fibre to the Node (FTTN) connection and you’re currently not on an NBN plan (or perhaps were with NBN, and then switched to an alternative due to disappointing speeds), you might want to check to see if your home is part of the upgrade rollout. Having your home connected with a faster Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) connection could improve your home’s NBN performance.

Another thing to consider is the NBN provider. While many people are quick to blame the NBN for poor internet performance, at times it might be an issue with your provider rather than the NBN itself.

If you’re looking for a new NBN provider and are curious about what other Aussies think of their current NBN provider and plan, each year Canstar Blue releases its annual NBN Provider Customer Satisfaction ratings. Aussies are asked to rate their current provider on criteria such as value for money, customer service, speed and reliability, and overall satisfaction. The top 5 best rated providers from the 2021 Most Satisfied Customers for NBN Providers are:

  1. MATE
  2. Spintel
  3. Aussie Broadband
  4. Internode
  5. Tangerine

While many other providers were also rated in this survey, this can give you a good indication as to what other Aussies think of their current NBN provider. Although everyone will have a different experience with their NBN plan and provider, you might wish to use these ratings as a guide to which providers you might want to look into, and indeed how the smaller telcos compare to the bigger internet companies.

Overall, if you’re looking for an NBN plan, it helps to compare a range of plans and different providers. While price might be a big driving factor for you, and there are indeed some cheap NBN plans available, comparing plans can help you to find a good deal that suits your needs and your budget.

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