Why you need a good router
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 could 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. To get around the problem easily, shop around for a modem with an ‘NBN ready’ sticker or badge on the box. Though it has been met with controversy with providers offering compensation over slow speeds, the NBN offers 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 iiNet, MyRepublic, Vodafone, Internode and many more.
Find a new NBN plan
If you’re ready to jump to the NBN, or simply want to change your current plan or provider, we’ve compiled some of our top picks in the below tables.
The following table shows a selection of sponsored unlimited data Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50) and Premium Event Speed (NBN100) plans on Canstar Blue’s database with links to referral partners.
Standard Plus Evening Speed
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Standard Plus Evening Speed
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Unlimited Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50) Plans
The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Standard Plus Evening Speed (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 Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100) Plans
The table below shows a selection of published unlimited Premium Evening Speed (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.
What is the difference between a modem and a router?
You’ll find that most providers offer a modem-router that brings the two devices together, but refers to the device as either a router or a modem. Typically you’ll only find modem-routers for sale, with specialty stores selling them separately, with it being best to play it safe by finding a modem-router that’s “NBN ready”. In short though, here are the differences:
- Modems are the devices that allow you to connect to the internet, and are the initial bridge
- Routers route your devices in your home through to your modem, where data is deciphered. The router emits the WiFi signal your phone would use
- Modem-Routers bring these devices together
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, and two higher speeds exclusive to select HFC and FTTP connections. Keep in mind that to get the most out of these two Superfast and Ultrafast NBN speeds, you’ll need a heavy duty modem-router capable of gigabit NBN speeds, otherwise you may as well have a cheaper plan. Note that as of July 2020, NBN speed tier naming conventions from NBNco have changed. Below you’ll find the available speed tiers, and what they’re commonly refereed to as:
- NBN 12: 12 Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload
NBN 12 is also known as Basic NBN, or Basic 1.
- NBN 25: 25 Mbps download, 5 Mbps upload
NBN 25 is also known as Standard NBN, or Basic 2.
- NBN 50: 50 Mbps download, 20 Mbps upload
NBN 50 is also known as Standard Plus Evening Speed, or Home Standard.
- NBN 100: 100 Mbps download, 40 Mbps upload
NBN 100 is also known as Premium Speed, or Home Fast.
- NBN 250: 250Mbps download speed, 25Mbps upload
NBN 250 is also known as Home Superfast.
- NBN 1000: 1000Mbps download speed, 50Mbps upload
NBN 1000 is also known as Home Ultrafast.
What speed do I need for popular apps?
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 few 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 modem-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”. If you’d like a detailed guide on setting up your modem-router, you can find one here.
- 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 NBN speeds.
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/should 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.
Modems with 4G backups
If you’re not confident in your ISP’s ability to provide a consistent NBN connection to your home, consider getting a modem with a 4G backup. These are offered by a few providers such as Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, although Tangerine also offers this.
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: Optus has stated in its Critical Information Summary that it will provide a Wi-Fi modem for $252, although Optus will cover the cost of the modem if you stay connected for 36 months
- Telstra: Telstra includes a Gateway modem on 24 month plans. The Gateway modem comes with 4G connectivity, which can be used as a backup in case your NBN connection falters. The total cost is $216, though you cannot buy it outright online, and equates to $9 per month over 24 months. If you cancel your Telstra plan you’ll have to pay the rest of the modem cost outright
- iiNet: On a no contract plan the modem is $99.95, plus a $10 modem delivery fee, plus a month of plan rental. On a six month plan, the modem is $59.95, plus a $10 modem delivery fee, plus a month of plan rental
- Aussie Broadband: You’ll need to pay $149 for a modem from Aussie Broadband, plus postage
This is not an extensive list of providers, and are just examples, 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
- Linksys Velop Dual Band
- Netcomm NF4V
- Netcomm NF17ACV
- Netcomm NF10W
- Netgear Nighthawk AX12
- 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?
If you’re worried about being able to make your modem work with your internet, it might be worth playing it safe and just getting a modem through your ISP. However, consider that it might be cheaper to bring your own modem. Earlier in this article we mentioned a guide on how to setup your BYO modem, and it’s definitely worth a read if you’re considering doing the hard yards yourself.
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 some great NBN speeds.