Whilst a lot of attention has understandably focused on the technology being used in the rollout of the NBN, you might not be aware that the quality of your internet router at home cuold also play a significant role in determining final internet speeds.
A router is a device which essentially directs data around a local network, as well as to and from the Internet at large. Most home routers these days come with an inbuilt Wi-Fi antenna which allows you to create your own local wireless network around the house. Whilst your current router may work just fine with an ADSL connection, you need to ensure you’ve got yourself an NBN-capable router before upgrading.
Why might I need a new router for the NBN?
The whole purpose of the rollout of the NBN is to provide Australia with much faster, more reliable internet. Though it has been met with controversy with providers offering compensation over slow speeds, the NBN is poised to offer some pretty fast maximum speeds. As such, a new router for the NBN may be a justifiable purchase, because:
- Your router is more than a few years old
- It is not capable of gigabit speeds or does not have an ‘AC’ classification
- It isn’t dual-band, supporting 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequencies
While the latter two aren’t ‘compulsory’ they certainly may help attain the fastest speeds possible, and may ‘future=proof’ your internet connection when speeds improve over time. Providers that may include an AC gigabit modem on their internet plans are Optus, MyRepublic, TPG and Belong Broadband.
What speeds will my modem or router need to support?
Broadband download and upload speeds are commonly measured in Mbps (megabits per second), referring to the rate of data transfer.The fastest NBN Co, the company rolling out the network, provides four different speed tiers at a wholesale level:
- NBN 12: 12 Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload
- NBN 25: 25 Mbps download, 5 Mbps upload
- NBN 50: 50 Mbps download, 20 Mbps upload
- NBN 100: 100 Mbps download, 40 Mbps upload
The higher the speed tier, the quicker your internet will likely be, and the more you will generally pay. To put the sort of download speeds being offered by the NBN into real-life perspective:
- YouTube recommends that its users employ an internet connection with at least 500 plus Kbps (1 Mbps equals 1,000 Kbps).
- Skype that states the minimum data speed required for calling is 30 Kbps.
- Netflix, meanwhile, is a more data-intensive service, recommending speeds of 3 Mbps for standard definition-quality videos, 5 Mbps for high definition and 25 Mbps for ultra-high definition.
The ideal result of a much faster national network will be the fact your router will have to process much more data, at a much greater rate than it does at the moment. For many routers more than a couple years old this will be a task they simply can’t handle. So to ensure your router is able to handle ‘Superfast’ speeds, there are a few technical tidbits you should know.
How to set up your router
NBN Co states that your router can be one of the most important factors that can make or break your NBN plan, saying a decent router can “transform your experience into something spectacular”.
- iiNet advises that routers should be equipped with at least 802.11n or 802.11ac Wi-Fi for an NBN service.
- Devices manufactured before 2009 – potentially only featuring the older 802.11g or b signals – are incapable of supporting the NBN speed capability.
Many devices bundled with NBN plans are sold as a combination of modem and router, and setting up your router correctly can yield faster speeds and a more pleasant experience.
Set up your router correctly
Once an NBN-capable router has been purchased, there are a number of additional actions that can be undertaken in its setup to create an optimal environment for making the most of high-speed internet. Via its blog, NBN Co advises that:
- Routers should be at least two metres off the ground for a good signal distribution.
- They should be placed at the centre of the house for even distribution, while windows should be avoided.
- NBN Co additionally notes that the further away routers are from other electronics equipment the better, as they will be avoiding interference. This includes devices with radio signals such as microwaves and TVs.
- Routers should also be regularly updated with the latest firmware. NBN Co says that users will need to switch their device off for the updates to take effect. For this reason it is worthwhile re-booting routers on a regular basis.
Extending your Wi-Fi range
Range extenders (also known as wireless repeaters) are another means of expanding Wi-Fi access, working in conjunction with routers to broaden coverage. The range extender sits between the router and the area in need of a signal boost, effectively extending the reach of the Wi-Fi signal, bridging the gap between the Wi-Fi’s point of origin and end point.
- Range extenders could potentially be very useful in larger houses or in houses with more than one floor.
- However they are not without their weaknesses; often adding another ‘link in the chain’ can worsen latency speeds, and good latency is especially useful to online gaming, and can affect overall speed.
For more on how to boost your Wi-Fi signal, this article dives in with more detail.
Should I buy a new router?
This depends on what NBN speed tier you desire. Chances are there are better routers out there than the one you’ve been using for a few years if you’re on a top speed tier. A simple way would be to go with NBN plans that include a router:
Optus rejigged and streamlined its plan offerings recently, with all four speed tiers available. The minimum you can expect to pay is $60 a month for unlimited data, though for $80 a month you can get an unlimited broadband package that includes Yes TV by Fetch, as well as Optus Sports that has access to English Premier League soccer all on Tier 2 speeds at a minimum. This seriously ramps up value.
Telstra currently offers NBN plans at a minimum of NBN 25, with 100GB starting at about $70. Telstra also has unlimited plans starting at about $99 a month, while also including Foxtel Now packs on some plans, plus a host of other perks. NBN speed jumps start at about $15 extra per month and Telstra includes its own ‘Gateway’ modem on most plans.
iiNet has a range of both NBN 12, 50 and NBN 100 plans, with the jump from NBN 12 to 50 costing around $10 a month extra. On the highest speed tier, unlimited data comes as standard and you’ll pay around $100 a month at a minimum. An iiNet-branded WiFi modem is included on 24 month contracts, while you will need to pay extra for one if opting for a month-to-month contract.
TPG dabbles in NBN 12, 50 and 00 speeds, offering pretty cost-effective plans on ‘Superfast’ speeds. Many plans come with unlimited data, and you can expect NBN 100 to cost around $90 a month at a minimum, while NBN 50 costs about $70 a month. A WiFi modem is included on most NBN plans, and is included if you sign up for 18 months; month-to-month plans attract a $100-odd set-up fee.
This is not an extensive list of providers, so it pays to check with your desired provider. However, if you’re already on an NBN plan and your current router is not cutting the mustard, then NBN Co has released some specifications (read: very technical PDF) and a number of router manufacturers are also NBN registered. In fact, there are very few current routers that flat-out do not work with the NBN. Not all routers are made equal, though.
Good routers for the NBN
- ASUS DSL-AC56U
- ASUS DSL-AC68U
- D Link DSL-2877AL
- D Link DSL-2885A
- Draytek 2860n/n+/Vn/ac/Vac
- Draytek 2760
- Netcomm NF4V
- Netcomm NF17ACV
- Netcomm NF10W
- Netgear Nighthawk X4S D7800
- Netgear D6400
- TP Link TD-VG5612
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, however generally speaking the more you pay the better performance capacity you’ll get, as well as more bells and whistles. The cheapest models can cost as little as $60, however the dearest models can cost over $1000! How serious are you about fast NBN?
There are a lot of factors outside of your control when it comes to the delivery of high-speed internet via the NBN. But by ensuring that the equipment being used is optimised for high-speed broadband, you will be doing all you can to make the most of your new NBN service. Through a mixture of optimizing your router location and set-up, as well as choosing a capable router to begin with, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying ‘Superfast’ NBN speeds.