The National Broadband Network (NBN) is supposed to be an upgrade to Australia’s internet infrastructure, replacing the existing copper wire and hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) networks with much faster fibre optic cable technology. While the NBN should be an upgrade to your existing internet service, it has so far been plagued with headaches and criticism, especially relating to download and upload speeds.
In this review, Canstar Blue explains what the NBN speed tiers really mean and what you need to know to make sure you’re picking the right speed option for your needs. If you’re not clued up on the technologies behind the NBN, you can be forgiven for being confused. Read on for our guide to which speeds are on offer, how providers describe them, and what you can actually expect in the ‘real world’ from your NBN plan.
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NBN Speeds Explained
There are four NBN speed tiers available, with maximum download and upload speeds measured in Megabits per second (Mbps). Be aware that some internet providers refer to different speed tiers by different names, with some opting to reflect maximum ‘evening speeds’ in line with new standards recommended by the ACCC.
- NBN 12: 12 Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload. Also known as Basic Evening Speed.
- NBN 25 – 25/5: 25 Mbps download, 5 Mbps upload. Also known as Standard Evening Speed.
- NBN 50 – 50/20: 50 Mbps download, 20 Mbps upload. Also known as Standard Plus Evening Speed.
- NBN 100– 100/40: 100 Mbps download, 40 Mbps upload. Also known as Premium Evening Speed.
While the NBN 12 speed tier delivers pretty much the same speeds as what you’ll get with most copper connections – and is therefore not considered ‘superfast’ broadband – the other three tiers are hopefully an improvement on most residential connections. When you’re choosing an NBN plan, it’s not just about the cost of the plan or how much data you’re going to need: you’ll also need to consider the speed of your connection.
Unlimited NBN 12 Plans
As mentioned, the cheapest plans on this speed tier can be found for around $50 per month, up to and over $60. At these low prices you’ll have to watch out for set-up fees, modem fees, lengthy contracts and other costs designed to help make up for the cheap entry price.
Keep in mind that NBN 12 is likely no better than your old ADSL connection, so you’re unlikely to be blown away by speeds on this tier. But if you’re looking for a basic NBN plan for low to average internet use, this is probably your best option.
The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Basic Evening Speed (NBN 12) 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 above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.
Unlimited NBN 25 Plans
NBN 25 plans are great for typical usage, including streaming in high definition during peak periods. To get the first ‘superfast’ plan as designated by NBN Co, you’ll have to be willing to spend a minimum of about $58-$60 each month. A lot more providers come into play here, but the premium telco plans will generally cost you a little extra ($70 and up).
Keep an eye out for bonus offers that may take a plan’s value even further, but once again watch for set-up fees and modem costs. Below is a selection of providers from our database with a direct link to their respective websites; these are featured products.
The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Standard Evening Speed (NBN 25) 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 above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.
Unlimited NBN 50 Plans
NBN 50 is the ‘just right’ speed tier for families, heavier streamers and anyone wanting to get the most out of their NBN connection, without blowing their monthly budget. Usually at this price there is a lot of competition, and Standard Plus plans can often be found for less per month than NBN 25 plans from rival providers.
If you’re looking at an NBN 50 plan, the minimum you can expect to pay is around $60 per month, with plans often going up to $75 monthly or more. Providers may be more willing to shed contracts and set-up fees here, but it still pays to check all fine print before you commit. Again, below is a list of featured unlimited Standard Plus plans, with a link to respective providers’ websites.
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 monthly cost, 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 a referral partner.
Unlimited NBN 100 Plans
As the fastest fibre-to-the-node speed tier available to Australians, NBN 100 plans are unsurprisingly the most expensive. The cheapest providers here hover around the $80 mark, but may be worth it if you’re a heavy-duty internet user or part of a large household.
Depending on your choice of provider, you may pay up to or over $100 per month for NBN 100, especially if you bundle in extras such as entertainment and home phone. However, basically all Premium NBN plans include unlimited data as standard, and are a great option if you’re looking to beat network congestion during busy periods. Below is a selection of featured plans from our database with a direct link to respective providers’ websites.
The following table 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 above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.
Which plan offers the best value?
This ability to choose speeds does come at a cost. Most NBN providers generally offer plans across all or most speed tiers, but for an additional fee. Expect jumping into the next fastest speed tier to add about $5-10 to your monthly bill, while jumping from NBN 12 up to NBN 100 could double your costs!
- The reality is that if you want a top NBN plan, you’ll need to pay extra for it.
- Note that since NBN Co has slashed wholesale costs of the Standard Plus speed, many providers have done away with even offering the slower speed tiers and instead offer this one as standard, at no extra charge.
The telcos tend to advertise their cheapest NBN products, but these are almost always with NBN 12-25 speeds and a very modest data allowance. If you’re after the ‘true NBN experience’, it may be worth purchasing the fastest plan you can afford.
How fast is my NBN plan… really?
The truth is that, generally, you won’t achieve top speeds all the time (if at all). The ACCC has stipulated that providers do need to be more forthcoming with real world speeds, especially in peak periods such as late afternoon and evenings.
- Peak times between 7pm and 11pm experience a drastic slowdown in NBN speeds, and are usually labelled ‘evening speeds’.
- Peak times could theoretically send your 100/40Mbps plan down to around 40/10Mbps quite easily.
- Many providers list a minimum speed, and only list their ‘evening speeds’, which can be confusing.
You should realistically enjoy most of the advertised speeds outside of peak times, but there are factors that come into play which can potentially slow things down for you, regardless of your speed tier. These include:
- The distance from your home to the telco exchange.
- The quality of your hardware (i.e. modern/router).
- How congested your exchange, is and how much bandwidth your provider purchases from the NBN.
There are a lot of things to consider, and until you take a gamble on a plan it can be impossible to know just how your NBN service will shape up. Your location, and the time of day you use the internet, are the biggest factors outside of how fast of a plan you purchase.
‘Evening Speeds’ explained
You may have noticed Australia’s largest telcos have moved away from explicitly advertising speed tiers, and instead advertise ‘evening speeds’. While these evening speeds are noticeably slower than the maximum speeds available, they may offer a better insight about the product you’re actually purchasing. A general indication is given below, noting that each provider may rate their speed tier differently.
- Basic Evening Speed (NBN 12): approx. 7Mbps
- Standard Evening Speed (NBN 25): approx. 15Mbps
- Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50): approx. 40Mbps
- Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100): approx. 80Mbps
You may notice a 20 per cent reduction (roughly) from the maximum speed during peak evening hours. So the move to advertise realistic speeds, rather than just maximum potential speed, has been a refreshing hit of honesty in an industry frequently slammed by the ACCC for misleading customers.
What different providers call their NBN plans
With the ACCC crackdown on NBN speed advertising, many providers have been reluctant to blatantly advertise the speed tiers of their plans. Instead, they opt for labels like ‘Basic’, ‘Boost’ and ‘Performance’, or use terms such as ‘typical evening speed’ to describe how fast your connection may be.
Despite the inconsistencies and jargon, there’s still only four speeds of NBN offered by providers – all that changes between telcos is the wording used. Below is a brief overview of how some top providers label their plans, keeping in mind that their actual ‘evening speeds’ may differ:
|Provider||Speed Tier (Maximum Speeds in Mbps)||Plan Speed Label|
|Optus||12/1||Basic Evening Speed|
|25/5||Standard Evening Speed|
|50/20||Standard Plus Evening Speed|
|100/40||Premium Evening Speed|
|25/5||Standard Evening Speed|
|50/20||Standard Plus Evening Speed|
|100/40||Premium Evening Speed|
(Source: Respective Company Websites)
Note that your provider may offer a different variety of speed tiers, and use different terminology to describe each plan. However, the general theme is that slower speeds are labelled things like ‘Basic’, middle speed tiers ‘Standard’, and the top speed tier labelled ‘Max’, ‘Supercharged’, or similar.
Which NBN speed tier do I need?
Choosing the right speed for your needs can be tricky – you don’t want to overpay for a level of service you don’t need, but you don’t want to buy a plan that is slower than what you require. Here is a rough guide to what each speed tier is generally suitable for.
- NBN 12: Suitable for social media, web browsing, occasional videos – good for light users.
- NBN 25: Suitable for more intensive streaming and browsing – good for small households.
- NBN 50: Suitable for HD streaming, responsive online gaming, uploading and downloading large files – good for families.
- NBN 100: Suitable for 4K video streaming, streaming across multiple devices, uploading and downloading large files, ‘super’ responsive online gaming – good for larger households with extremely high multimedia demands.
So, if your needs are not intensive, then it makes little sense to pay extra for tip-top speeds. Keep in mind that you likely cannot achieve these maximum speeds in peak time anyway, and the more members of your household you have connected to the internet, the slower your experience will be.
How much does the NBN cost?
This depends on what NBN speed tier you’re after. Using unlimited data as a yardstick, the typical minimum prices are as follows:
- NBN 12: minimum of about $50 per month.
- NBN 25: minimum of about $60 per month.
- NBN 50: minimum of about $65-$70 per month.
- NBN 100: minimum of about $80-$90 per month.
Generally, it’s quite surprising that providers offer no discernible discounts for opting for a slower speed tier. If you’re looking at NBN 12, you may prefer to jump straight to NBN 25, as the price difference is usually $10 or less. Similarly, if you’re interested in NBN 50, then it’s worth looking into NBN 100; although costs may be slightly higher, you could end up with a better value plan if your home can support 100Mbps.
Is superfast NBN worth it?
As stipulated by NBN Co and the ACCC, ‘superfast’ NBN only means download speeds of above 25Mbps. While NBN 12 is still theoretically pretty good compared to ADSL – and generally the cheapest tier – the fact is it’s likely no faster than your old internet (and may be even slower depending on connection, congestion, and myriad other factors).
Taking into account telcos’ various evening speed ratings, in peak times an NBN 12 connection speed could easily slow down to 7Mbps or worse, which is barely enough to maintain a stream of HD Netflix. This could prove particularly problematic if more than one person is using your home connection during peak hours. Therefore, you could easily ‘upgrade’ to the NBN and be left disappointed by your new connection.
To avoid that flat feeling, you will likely need to upgrade to a faster tier and pay more for it. However, superfast broadband and unlimited data could end up costing you over $100 each month, depending on where you live and your choice of provider. You’ll have to weigh up your options and your need for speed, especially if you’re hoping to avoid bumping up your broadband bill when switching to the NBN.
The good news? Providers are cropping up all the time, and the next ‘best’ NBN plan will be just around the corner (a great reason to avoid lock-in contracts!). Overall, be sure to check out a range of offers from the big, established providers, plus some of the standout smaller guys; be opened-minded, and you should find a great deal.