The NBN gets a lot of flak for underwhelming speeds and poor service. So, what are some other options? ‘Downgrading’ to your old ADSL connection is pretty much out, because it no longer exists, and if you’re fed up it’s tempting to look at other avenues entirely. This has opened the door to many telco providers building their own internet networks – ones entirely separate from the NBN.
Usually, these providers service niche areas or particular suburbs in capital cities, but if you look hard enough you might find one that services your area. Compare plans from some key providers below, and rest assured knowing that networks are likely to grow over time with new providers cropping up. Hit the links below to see what’s available in your state.
- Home Wireless Plans
- Australia-Wide Options
- Alternatives in Queensland
- Alternatives in NSW
- Alternatives in Victoria
- Alternatives in South Australia
- Alternatives in Western Australia
Currently, it’s slim pickings in Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT, but keep your eyes peeled as more providers set up shop.
Should I stick it out with NBN or go elsewhere?
If you’ve experienced a lame NBN connection, it can be all too easy to simply pack it in and give up on the national network entirely. Despite all the flak NBN cops, however, there are some things you can do to improve your speeds, such as:
- Buying the right router
- Buy the fastest plan you can afford
- Checking your hardware and checking for faults
Beyond that, simply changing providers might yield the results you’re after. Some providers purchase enough bandwidth for everyone, while some scrape by with only the bare minimum. This is explained further here. As such, paying a little extra for a provider that prides itself on low contention may be a good option. And simply changing providers may also yield the results you’re after, especially if you’ve automatically stuck to the big providers for years.
Below are some of the best providers you may not have heard of, keeping in mind that many are small telcos. They still only service select areas or have a limited amount of plans, but what you usually receive in return is lots of data for comparatively little money.
Alternatives to the NBN: What’s out there?
There are quite a few telcos building their own networks, mainly across the major capital cities, but several regional areas may also be covered. The common delivery method is through a fixed wireless connection using a provider’s own infrastructure, which is relatively straightforward to set-up and totally separate from the National Broadband Network.
- Internet providers often promise low contention, fast maximum download speeds and localised customer service.
- Many only service a particular area in a state or city, so it pays to double check if you’re covered.
Find out what alternatives are in your state below, but first consider if a home wireless plan is up to scratch. Home wireless plans can be set up virtually anywhere with 4G reception.
NBN Alternatives: Home Wireless Broadband
‘Home wireless’ is a burgeoning trend in the internet space which basically delivers 4G mobile broadband in big data packages. This is set up using a ‘plug and play’ modem like most other internet connections, but the modem specifically picks up mobile 4G reception, like with your mobile phone.
Vividwireless is one with arguably more competitive plans, and has teamed up with Optus to power its own home wireless plans. 200GB can be found for about $70 a month, while for unlimited data it will likely cost about $90. This is probably a bit pricier than regular broadband plans, but the convenience factor may be worth it. It can also be run concurrently with other connections as there is no fixed-line element to this service.
NBN Alternatives across Australia
It’s more common to see state-specific telcos offering their own infrastructure and broadband plans, but a number of them do offer services in many areas of Australia. However, you’ll mostly find that coverage is not widespread, and while they have a presence in multiple states, only certain regions will actually be covered.
- Spirit is a provider specialising in high speed internet for apartments. It’s heavily Melbourne-centric, but some apartments in Sydney and on the Gold Coast are covered. All plans come with unlimited data, and 25/25 speeds start at $67 a month, while 200/200 is available in some areas and costs $169.
- Lightning Broadband is another provider with various networks set up across Australia – you’ll just have to find out if they are available in your neighbourhood. Speeds range from 25Mbps up to 100Mbps, with unlimited data as standard. Prices start at $75 a month.
- OptiComm is a network provider which mainstream providers including iiNet and Exetel Some housing estates use this network instead of the NBN and plan prices vary. Note there is often not a choice if you live in these estates – OptiComm is your only network option.
With most NBN alternatives delivering broadband through a fixed wireless connection, rollout is made simpler and easier. This means that a provider could easily establish itself in a suburb overnight without heavy infrastructure to build. There are no copper lines to install and no dealing with the NBN. This map gives an overview of networks available in each state. Read on for further details.
NBN Alternatives in Queensland
Queenslanders kick-off the NBN alternatives race with a provider that’s not even based in Brisbane. It’s based in Bundaberg and services that area:
- Open Cloud Broadband uses its own network, capable of delivering up to 200/100Mbps speeds, which is simply outstanding. Unlimited data comes on some of the lower-end plans, while higher-end plans are capped at 500GB. Prices start at $69 a month, up to $179 a month.
When asked about why its faster plans are data-capped, Open Cloud General Manager Luke Baker said it’s to ”Keep our network saturation to our target levels and also to discourage people torrenting as this creates issues for us both with our network but also in a legal capacity.” There you have it; data-capped internet plans aren’t the devil!
Open Cloud Broadband is currently one of the only NBN alternatives in Queensland, and it’s refreshing to see it’s not based in a capital city.
NBN Alternatives in NSW
Despite being Australia’s most populous state and home to Australia’s largest city of Sydney with more than five million residents, NSW is relatively sparse when it comes to alternative internet networks.
- W3 Networks is a Western Sydney based provider offering ‘AirFiber’ plans. All of its plans come with unlimited data and symmetrical speeds. Prices start at $69.95 for 12.5/12.5Mbps download and upload speeds, while 50/50Mbps can be had for just under $100 a month.
W3 Networks promises 24-48 hour set-up and $0 installation on 12 month contracts with an included Wi-Fi modem. It also claims users can expect a minimum 50% of the advertised speeds about half the time. This means that peak times can affect internet speed, which is normal. W3 services areas such as Liverpool, Parramatta and other areas in the great west.
- OpalNet also operates with plans from about $80, and this comes on a 50/50Mbps speed tier, with up to 1000/1000 available. All plans come with unlimited data and connection fees are $0 for 12 month contracts, whereas month-to-month plans attract a $200+ setup fee. A lower monthly payment is available for those who persist past the initial 12 month contract.
OpalNet is a relative newcomer, with a subscriber base in the double figures, rather than triple or quadruple. The NBN-alternatives market is growing in Sydney, and with over five million residents, it’s about time.
NBN Alternatives in Victoria
Currently it seems that Victorians – and particularly Melbournites – get the lion’s share of alternative providers with some of the best speeds on offer. There are a few networks out there worth looking at, and you’ll have to see if your house is covered. Some telcos currently only serve a particular end of town, or even a particular suburb. The best you can do is look at the coverage maps of the telcos in question to see if you’re covered and type in your address.
- Life Wireless currently serves the Glenn Waverley area of Melbourne, with prices starting at $49 for unlimited data and 5/5Mbps speeds. Speed boosts can be extra, up to 25/25Mbps.
- Uniti is a provider operating in Melbourne, with various suburbs covered. Inner suburbs are mostly covered, while some areas out near Moonee Ponds, Ivanhoe, Kew, Laverton, Altona and Highett are also covered – quite the spread of suburbs! Prices start at under $50 for 150GB data with 25/10 speeds.
- Rocket Wireless is a mainly small business-centric provider, but offers apartment internet to various locations across Melbourne with speeds up to 200Mbps. Plans start at $59 a month, which comes with unlimited data and 25/5 speeds.
- RocTel is another telco with plans starting at around the $85 mark. All come with unlimited data, with speeds starting at 100/100. Gigabit speeds are also available from around $135 a month.
- OpalNet also operates in Victoria with plans from $79.90 for unlimited data.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. You may find a tiny telco in your neighbourhood providing the perfect plan for you. If it’s an NBN alternative you’re after, Melbourne is spoilt for choice.
NBN Alternatives in South Australia
South Australia is another state with a promising future for internet, but those living rurally may miss out. Most of the action seems to be in Adelaide:
- NuSkope entirely owns its own wireless network and is not at all dependent on local exchange carrier networks. NuSkope services much of Adelaide and surrounds. Prices start at under $40 for 40GB data, while 1000GB will set you back just under $140. Speeds are up to 30/5Mbps.
- Uniti strikes once again with much of Adelaide and surrounds covered. Prices start at under $50 for 150GB, while 1500GB will cost just under $140. Speeds are up to 25/10Mbps.
- Kern Wi-Fi is another Adelaide-centric provider, servicing various inner and outer suburbs of the city. Prices start from $30 a month for 10GB on 12/2 speeds, up to $120 a month for 1000GB on 25/5 speeds.
Adelaide certainly has its pick of providers, but regional areas may miss out. There are a few providers to choose from, but note prices might be higher than what you’ll find with the NBN – especially if you want lots of data.
NBN Alternatives in Western Australia
Providers often forget about WA, but there is certainly a presence of NBN alternatives in the great state. However, most plans are Perth-centric and regional areas may miss out.
- Pentanet may sound like a provider for Satan, but this Perth-based provider operates on a fixed-wireless network with plans starting at $89.95 with 300GB peak/unlimited off-peak data. Speeds achieved are up to 50/20Mbps.
- Red Broadband is another fixed wireless provider servicing much of Perth and surrounds. Plans start at under $40 for 20GB, while 1000GB will set you back $109.95. Base speeds are 12/1Mbps with 30/5Mbps available. Regional plans are about $10 extra, but 30/5Mbps speeds largely are largely unavailable outside of Perth.
Just because you live out west doesn’t mean you miss out. Those living in Perth get most of the fruit, but those living rurally don’t necessarily miss out with Red Broadband flying the flag for those living outside the capital.
Is it worth switching to an alternative internet network?
A lot of complaints about the NBN are warranted – it’s slow, it’s taking forever to rollout, it’s expensive to get anything decent and so on. As such, switching to a provider using its very own network is mightily tempting. They aren’t bound by CVC costs, dealing with the NBN or other infrastructure. They are often future-proofing and using 4G connections or a fixed wireless connection. However, there are some considerations you’ll have to make:
- Consider whether a network in your area is even available. They tend to spring up overnight, but many networks are run by small telcos with a small footprint.
- You may have to budget extra money for the same amount of data. It’s rare to find an unlimited, top-speed plan for under $100, and cheap plans often have paltry amounts of data.
- Consider the fact that these networks likely face the same setbacks as any other network – peak time performance issues being the biggest one. However, the extra costs per gigabyte means that more bandwidth can be dished out to each customer.
- Many are focused in capital cities, with little choice for rural customers.
If there’s a network in your area, it can’t hurt to enquire with the company running it. Though don’t give up on the old NBN just yet! If you undertake some of the measures we’ve outlined above, there could be some surprising results. If you’ve really had enough, however, it can’t hurt to look at an alternative network to the NBN.