National Broadband Network (NBN)

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The National Broadband Network (NBN) is an Australia-wide internet network being rolled out across the country to replace our old ADSL technology and give Australians a faster, more reliable fixed-line broadband service. It sees old copper networks replaced with super-fast fibre-optic cables to deliver faster download and upload speeds to homes and businesses.

The vast majority of Australians will see their internet connections upgraded to one of several types of NBN based on three key technologies – fibre, fixed wireless and satellite. This article explains the different types of NBN connections and what they mean for you, as well as all the NBN basics to help you understand how the network works – and how to get the most out of it.

What is the NBN?

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is Australia’s new fixed-line internet network, delivering super-fast broadband to 93% of Australian homes by 2021. It’s delivering faster internet than ADSL and 4G connections, offering download speeds of up to 1000Mbps and making things like online gaming and video streaming load easily. Rather than using copper wiring like ADSL connections, the NBN has fibre-optic lines to deliver faster internet and limit bandwidth tension, meaning an overall better experience.

As well as the several different types of NBN connection, customers can subscribe to an NBN plan based on one of four standard speed tiers offered by their NBN provider, delivering faster upload and download speeds depending on what their internet needs are. Some providers also offer even faster plans outside of the normal four speed tiers.

What is NBN Co?

NBN Co is the company responsible for the rollout of the National Broadband Network across Australia. In addition, it acts as the wholesaler for NBN providers who then deliver products to end users in the form of NBN plans, customer service, and any other features they offer, such as streaming subscriptions.

Think of the process like this:

  • NBN Co is the company responsible for managing the NBN network
  • NBN providers pay NBN Co (the wholesaler) to deliver their plans to customers
  • You (the customer) get to choose your NBN provider and get super-fast home internet

NBN connection types and how they work

Here are the seven different NBN connection types and how they work.

Fibre to the node NBN

Fibre to the Curb NBN

Fibre to the building NBN

Fibre to the premises NBN

HFC NBN

Fixed wireless NBN

Satellite NBN

How fast is the NBN?

Most residential NBN providers offer a maximum theoretical download speed of 100Mbps (megabits per second) and maximum theoretical upload speed of 40Mbps. In reality though, download speeds of about 80Mbps are the norm, depending on the NBN speed tier you choose for your plan. The more you’re willing to pay, the faster your NBN speeds should be.

There are four widely available speed tiers on the NBN: Basic NBN 12/1, Standard NBN 25/5, Standard Plus NBN 50/20 and Premium NBN 100/40. The numbers represent their maximum theoretical download and upload speed in megabits per second. Several providers also now offer a Premium plan with 100/20 speeds, meaning upload speeds are limited to 20Mbps – these plans are usually cheaper than standard NBN 100/40 options.

NBN Speeds

Speed Tier Max Download Speed ACCC Average Evening Speed*

Basic Evening Speed (NBN 12)

12Mbps

N/A

Standard Evening Speed (NBN 25)

25Mbps

22.4Mbps

Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50)

50Mbps

42.6Mbps

Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100)

100Mbps

84.5Mbps

*Speeds correct as of May 2020, ACCC

NBN providers can choose which speed tiers to offer, with some also providing access to speeds of up to 1000Mbps, 10 times faster than the standard maximum theoretical speed. However, these plans are still relatively few and far between.

Basic and Standard plans would be great for general internet use, like web browsing and social media, but if you’re heavy on your downloads you should look into Standard Plus or Premium plans. Need to know more? We’ve got a great explainer on NBN speeds here.

Is my house connected to the NBN?

It’s easy to check if your house has been connected to the NBN:

  • For FTTP connections, you should have a box installed on the inside and outside of your property.
  • For FTTC, FTTP and HFC connections, there’ll be a connection box somewhere near your property that’s allowing you to access the network.
  • For wireless connections, you’ll either have a satellite dish or an antenna fixed to your property.

If you’re still not sure, you can contact your NBN provider and ask.

Does it cost to install the NBN?

The NBN itself will be installed in your home or local area depending on the connection type you receive, by NBN Co free of any charges. However, you will need to pay an ongoing charge to your NBN provider of choice for supplying your service.

The exception to this is if your home is in a new development area, in which case you may be required to pay a ‘new development charge’of $300. If this applies to you, you’ll be informed by your provider at sign-up.

Do I have to switch to the NBN?

Once the NBN has been installed in your area, you’ll have up to 18 months to switch over to the network before your old ADSL internet connection is turned off. You can opt out of the NBN, but it means that you’ll be left without a fixed-line internet connection to your home. In this case, you should look for an appropriate wireless internet service.

How much does an NBN plan cost?

NBN plans start from just $29.99 per month, but for this you will only receive the basic speeds and capped data usage. Most unlimited data NBN plans cost around $60 per month, with prices rising to about $90 per month for the fastest speeds.

Do all NBN providers use the same network?

Yes. Unlike Australian phone networks, all NBN providers are powered by the same network, which is operated by NBN Co. However, the bandwidth these providers purchase – plus the speeds they offer to customers – will still have an impact on your user experience at home.

Do I need a phone line for the NBN?

No, a home phone isn’t a requirement for the NBN like it was for ADSL. Unlike ADSL, you don’t need to pay a line rental fee with the NBN, so needing a home phone isn’t necessary. However, if you’re one for cordless phones in your home, you can still use your home phone through NBN’s VoIP service, which allows you to call people through the network. Need to know more? We’ve done a great explainer on this here.

How to upgrade your NBN connection

If you’re dissatisfied with the speed of your NBN connection, you can get a quote from NBN Co for changing your connection type to Fibre-to-the Premises, which is generally considered as being the best connection type. NBN Co’s Technology Choice Program gives you the option of upgrading your connection at a cost.

Will 5G replace NBN?

5G offers faster maximum speeds than standard NBN, but it’s tough to say that it’s an NBN killer yet. Its coverage is still incredibly limited across Australia, available only in spots in major cities, with the network continuing to roll out over 2020. It could be an alternative to the NBN, but it’s unlikely to replace the NBN entirely. Also, NBN Co is now making ultra-fast download speeds of up to 1000Mbps available for providers to deliver to households with certain connection types, so we’re seeing some healthy internet competition.

Can you contact NBN Co directly?

If there’s a problem with your NBN connection, such as line damage causing constant dropouts, or if you’d like to make an enquiry about contractor conduct or technology locations, you can call NBN Co on 1800 687 626.

If you have issues about speed, network outages, connection dropouts or missing equipment like modems, you should contact your NBN provider.

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