How to test and benchmark your NBN speeds

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The NBN is fast rolling out across the country, and if you haven’t been connected yet then you’ll probably be online before you know it. Since the National Broadband Network has become such a hot topic lately, extra scrutiny has been placed on the speeds offered, and whether customers can actually reach those advertised speeds.

In late 2017, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) began to crack down and even fine the major telcos for their allegedly misleading NBN speed claims. Since then, however, telcos have begun advertising what’s called ‘evening speeds’. With so much jargon and a lot of terminology flying around, what means what, and what internet speeds can you expect? Read on to find out.

NBN Internet Speeds

You’ll probably know that there are four NBN speed ‘tiers’ available. However, what you may not know is that the way speeds are advertised has changed recently. Below is a short brief on what the company responsible for rolling out the NBN – creatively named NBN Co – calls the speeds.

  • Tier 1 – Basic – Maximum download speed of 12Mbps
  • Tier 2 – Standard – Maximum download speed of 25Mbps
  • Tier 3 – Standard Plus – Maximum download speed of 50Mbps
  • Tier 4 – Premium – Maximum download speed of 100Mbps

Away from the NBN is good old ADSL. If you’re still connected to ADSL, the fastest speed you can hope you achieve is 24Mbps, and that’s for ADSL2+. For simple ADSL, the fastest you can expect to achieve is 8Mbps.

It’s all well and good knowing what the NBN speed tiers are called at a wholesale level, but what do the NBN providers actually call their speed tiers? And how are you supposed to know which is best for you?

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NBN Speed Tier Names & Plans

The way telcos describe their NBN speed tiers is sometimes different to how they are described at the wholesale level. Expect ‘clever’ marketing language like ‘Turbo’ or ‘Supercharged’, for example. Below are a few providers and what terms they use to describe their NBN speeds.

iiNet NBN Speeds

iiNet is a telco that keeps it dead simple, describing its NBN speed tiers as NBN 12 (Basic), NBN 25 (Standard), NBN 50 (Standard Plus) and NBN 100 (Premium). Unlimited data starts at just under $70 a month, and those willing to sign up for six months on NBN 50 or NBN 100 get a Fetch bundle included at no extra cost. Top tier unlimited NBN costs just less than $100 a month.

The below table features a selection of iiNet NBN plans across different speed tiers from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a wider range of providers. These are products with links to a referral partner.

Optus NBN Speeds

Optus, for such a large telco, has a fairly concise range of NBN plans. Rather than indicate speed, its plans come on the Standard Plus speed tier by default, with an optional NBN 100/20 upgrade available for $20 more per month. It has two base plans: the Everyday features unlimited data and Optus Sport, while the Entertainer includes the above, plus Fetch TV and a premium channel pack.

The below table features a selection of Optus NBN plans across different speed tiers from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a wider range of providers. These are products with links to a referral partner.

TPG NBN Speeds

TPG has quite a large array of NBN plans across three speed tiers – Basic, Standard Plus and Premium. TPG simplifies the description, labelling the plans by speed tiers, NBN 12, NBN 50 and NBN 100, respectively. Unlimited data starts at about $60 a month, while the top speed tier with unlimited data starts at just under $90 a month. You can choose your plan length (18 months or month-to-month) and on NBN 12, you can choose between 10GB data, 100GB data or unlimited data.

The below table features a selection of TPG NBN plans across different speed tiers from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a wider range of providers. These are products with links to a referral partner.

Aussie Broadband

Aussie Broadband lists their speeds according to what type of usage or household would suit the speed tier — Casual (NBN 25), Everyday (NBN 50) and Family (NBN 100/20). There’s also a Family Entertainment plan with Fetch TV included on NBN 100 speeds. Plans start at $69 and go up to $89 for NBN 100 without entertainment and all with unlimited data, but if you really want to customise your plan, you can build your own by selecting your NBN speed tier (with a wider selection of speeds when you build your own), along with your choice of data inclusion and any other extras you want added on.

The below table features a selection of Aussie Broadband NBN plans across different speed tiers from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a wider range of providers. These are products with links to a referral partner.

Belong

Belong really keeps things simple by naming plans for the relevant speed tiers — Standard Plus for NBN 50 and Premium for NBN 100. There is a third option, the ‘Starter’ plan which uses NBN 50, however Belong throttles the speeds so you’re more likely to experience speeds somewhere between NBN 25 and NBN 50. You can choose between 12 month plans and month-to-month for Standard Plus, however Premium is only available as a month-to-month plan.

The below table features a selection of Aussie Broadband NBN plans across different speed tiers from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a wider range of providers. These are products with links to a referral partner.

Internode NBN Speeds

Internode does describe plans as ‘Bronze’, ‘Silver’, ‘Gold’ and ‘Platinum’, however it also includes reference to the corresponding speed tier — NBN 12 (Bronze), NBN 25 (Silver), NBN 50 (Gold) and NBN 100 (Platinum). Plans start at about $70 for unlimited data, with no lock-in contract and six-month options available, along with Fetch TV included for no extra cost on NBN 25, NBN 50 and NBN 100 six-month plans.

The below table features a selection of Internode NBN plans across different speed tiers from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a wider range of providers. These are products with links to a referral partner.

MyRepublic NBN Speeds

MyRepublic operates across three of the speed tiers – NBN 25, NBN 50 and NBN 100 with different plan options available across these three speed tiers, labelling the NBN 50 plans as ‘Essential’ but keeping the speed tier as naming for NBN 25 and NBN 100. Prices start from $59 a month on a NBN 25 plan and all plans come with unlimited data. There are also gamer-specific plans on offer on the NBN 100 speed tier, which are designed for a more premium online gaming experience — but these plans cost more than the standard NBN 100 plans. If you’re after a standard NBN plan, you’ll have a few options to choose from on both speed tiers. The BYO modem plan will is only available as a month-to-month plan and gives you flexibility, while 12-month contracts are the same monthly price but the difference is that on a 12-month plan you can pick up the basic modem for a $1 upfront rental fee (plus delivery fees). MyRepublic also offers premium plans on both the NBN 100/20 and 100/40 speed tiers.

The below table features a selection of MyRepublic NBN plans across different speed tiers from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a wider range of providers. These are products with links to a referral partner.

Telstra NBN Speeds

Telstra has a fairly simple approach to NBN plans, with three plans on offer on a month-to-month basis. On NBN 25 is the ‘Core’ plan, ‘Unlimited’ is on NBN 50 and Premium is the NBN 100 offering. Telstra does limit access to the NBN 100 plan to customers with a FTTP or HFC connection to ensure delivery of NBN 100 speeds. You’ll also find on NBN 25 you’ll only get 500GB of data (with no unlimited data option available) and prices start at $75. You can also choose phone and entertainment add ons for additional monthly charges.

The below table features a selection of Telstra NBN plans across different speed tiers from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a wider range of providers.

Vodafone NBN Speeds

Vodafone NBN operates across three speed tiers – Standard, Standard Plus and Premium. Vodafone calls these speeds Essential, Essential+ and Premium. Prices start from under $70 a month and all plans are notably month-to-month. However, the Vodafone Wi-Fi Hub is technically on a 36-month contract; you pay $180 upfront and every month you receive a $5 credit on your bill.

The below table features a selection of Vodafone NBN plans across different speed tiers from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a wider range of providers.

Exetel NBN Speeds

Exetel is one of the relatively few telcos that keeps it simple – Standard, Standard Plus and Premium are the three labels used to describe the speed tiers on offer. Plans with unlimited data start at under $70 a month for NBN 25, while the top tier plan with unlimited data on the Premium NBN 100 speed is just under $100.

The below table features a selection of Exetel NBN plans across different speed tiers from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a wider range of providers.

NBN Evening Speeds Compared

You’ve probably heard the term – but what does ‘evening speed’ actually refer to? ‘Evening speed’ is a relatively new designation that is supposed to give a more realistic representation about the maximum NBN speeds you can expect to achieve in peak periods.

  • Peak periods are from 7pm to 11pm and frequently experience maximum speed slowdown of around 20% or more.
  • Top-flight NBN 100 plans can be reduced to 80Mbps or worse in peak periods.

The good news, however, is that telcos do seem to be doing better to curb peak period slowdown, and over time speeds do seem to be improving. Nevertheless, here is what you can expect with some of the above mentioned telcos’ evening speeds:

Provider NBN Speed Tier Evening Download Speed
iiNet Basic (NBN 12) 11.1Mbps
Standard (NBN 25) 21.3Mbps
Standard Plus (NBN 50) 46.7Mbps
Premium (NBN 100) 83.6Mbps
Internode Basic (NBN 12) 10.7Mbps
Standard (NBN 25) 19.3Mbps
Standard Plus (NBN 50) 43.5Mbps
Premium (NBN 100) 79.3Mbps
Aussie Broadband Standard (NBN 25) 22Mbps
Standard Plus (NBN 50) 43Mbps
Premium (NBN 100/20) 86Mbps
TPG Basic (NBN 12) 11.2Mbps
Standard Plus (NBN 50) 46.0Mbps
Premium (NBN 100) 80.1Mbps
Optus Standard Plus (NBN 50) 44Mbps
Premium (NBN 100/20) 80Mbps
Telstra Standard (NBN 25) 20Mbps
Standard Plus (NBN 50) 44Mbps
Premium (NBN 100) 88Mbps
Exetel Standard (NBN 25) 20Mbps
Standard Plus (NBN 50) 40Mbps
Premium (NBN 100) 77Mbps

Source: Respective providers websites, correct as of June 2020

Marketing is one thing – but which provider actually delivers the fastest NBN speeds?

It’s all well and good placing trust in the provider to accurately represent their max evening speeds, but what are you actually going to get in the real world?

In May 2020, the ACCC released its ninth report on the state of telco services and the speeds of their NBN plans. The ACCC found that in peak periods (7pm to 11pm):

  • Optus: 89.6%
  • Exetel: 87.0%
  • TPG: 86.7%
  • Aussie Broadband: 86.1%
  • iiNet: 83.9%
  • Telstra: 83.9%
  • Vodafone: 83.0%
  • MyRepublic: 82.9%
  • Dodo & iPrimus: 82.5%

This in effect means that out of the ‘big four’ providers, Optus was technically rated the best performer, as its plans were more likely to achieve their maximum download speeds, with Exetel close behind, followed by TPG. That is to say, on a 100Mbps max speed NBN plan, Optus’s plans were, on average, performing at 89Mbps – or roughly 89%.

While this is a general guide only, it’s worth keeping in mind if you really value a fast internet plan, and also to give you a rough idea of which providers seem more likely to deliver the speeds you’ll expect.

How to do an NBN Speed Test

speedometer-internet-speed-300-mb

If you’re starting to question the quality of your internet service, running a speed test can be a good way to get an indicator about how good – or bad – your internet is. However, there are a few caveats:

  • Running your speed test over Wi-Fi will almost never produce as good a result as if you have your computer hooked up to an ethernet cable, plugged into the wall.
  • Other people using the internet at the same time as when you run your speed test can heavily skew results.
  • VPNs can affect overall speed due to routing traffic through a foreign country or location far away from your home.

Other factors such as your choice of server can also impact test results. Also note that some providers may even be able to detect you’re running a speed test and prioritise bandwidth to you, which may not give an accurate representation of what speeds you actually experience!

  • speedtest.net, ozspeedtest.com, fast.com and many other sites provide free, safe speed tests that also provide other data such as how your speeds rank against others.

All in all, running a speed test is a very simple process and can give an insightful look into how your internet is performing.

My internet is terrible – what can I do?

The first port of call if your internet speeds are not performing as expected is to contact the provider. If you go through an official complaints process, your telco rightfully can ask you to do a few things to verify your claims:

  • You may have to provide speed tests at many times throughout the day, such as in the morning, at midday, in peak periods and even later at night.
  • You may have to do this over several days to satisfy your telco.

If after you’ve jumped through several hoops, and you’re still unhappy, you can refer your complaint to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). Note, that this is usually the last resort. Successful complaints can result in breaking of contract with no penalty, speed downgrades at no penalty, refunding of monthly fees and so on.

Is Your Internet up to Speed?

NBN and internet speeds have been under the microscope lately, and it’s tempting to panic and do something drastic. However, the good news is that NBN speeds are generally improving among the big telcos over time. Complaints of telcos not meeting speed expectations has created a rise in complaints over the past few years.

With that said, getting optimal internet speeds can also be belied to the customer. Choosing the right plan for you comes down to more than just choosing the cheapest one. Additionally, if you suspect your internet speed isn’t up to scratch, you can raise it with your telco and run a series of speed tests just to confirm. With internet being a hot topic lately, you can wade in by making sure your own internet is up to the task first.

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