The best internet providers for Netflix

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There’s no denying the popularity of Netflix, with Australians signing up in their millions since the TV content streaming service was officially launched Down Under in March 2015. We obviously love to watch content on demand, with shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black dominating our TV screens in place of traditional, free to air television. But in order to watch your favourite shows and movies properly, you’ll need to have a fast and reliable internet connection.

Australia is not well-known for its state-of-the-art internet speeds, well outside the top ten countries in pretty much any report, and even outside the top 50 in many other reports. While the NBN is meant to be providing better speeds – and research suggests speeds are improving – our demand for high speeds are increasing with our insatiable appetite for streaming.

Best Internet Providers for Netflix

Netflix has ranked the top six internet providers for streaming in Australia, with figures correct as at April 2018, with Telstra taking out top spot by the slimmest of margins:

The Netflix ISP speed index lists the average primetime bitrate for content streamed to Netflix subscribers each month. They measure for all available end-user devices in Megabits per second (Mbps). You can then choose the country (in this case Australia) that you want to compare service providers for, and the website brings up the necessary information, with a few disclosures:

  • Netflix download speeds are likely to be slower during primetime hours (i.e. early evenings). So the speeds you can see on its website may actually be higher at certain points like early morning and mid-afternoon, as fewer people are likely to be tuned in.
  • The absolute minimum internet speed required watching Netflix is 0.5Mbps, but this will give a poor image quality. The higher your speed, the more consistently high-quality stream you’ll get.

On the whole, speeds have improved dramatically in less than a year. All six/seven major providers in Australia have improved speeds – Telstra most dramatically. Australia’s largest telco rose from the mid-2Mbps mark in mid-2017 to well over 3Mbps. Optus previously held the top spot for about 18 months in a row, but recently has had to deal with Exetel and Telstra usurping it. Below are some plans from all the mentioned providers:

How does Netflix speed indexing work?

Netflix periodically publishes its own speed index to measure and rank the performance of each of the biggest Australian internet service provider in terms of how well they stream its content. Netflix notes that this is a measure of ‘prime time’ Netflix streaming performance of the top six ISPs in Australia. This is not a measure of overall performance of a network, rather just how fast each service can download Netflix.

  • Your ISP may prioritise traffic differently
  • Your particular exchange may have different contention ratios to those of the neighborhood over and so on
  • Peak times are generally between 7pm and 11pm. Note that streaming outside of these hours may yield different results

Let’s find out which providers could potentially give the best Netflix-watching experience.

Netflix Streaming with Telstra

Telstra now sits at number one in regards to speed, and this is probably no surprise. The telco now features the NBN 50 speed tier on many of its plans as standard and was among the first to be more realistic about the speeds customers can expect in peak times. In mid-2016, it was only rating in the mid-twos for Mbps, meaning that Telstra has probably put a lot of time and effort into improving its infrastructure.

One of Telstra’s main selling points is that it has huge contracts with various entertainment companies to provide users with entertainment bundles. Expect to see deals like free Netflix and Stan for a set period, cheaper Foxtel plans or the inclusion of Telstra TV. Telstra has also recently launched unlimited data internet plans which takes some of the concern out of consistent Netflix streaming. However, for this you’ll be paying close to $100. If you want a cheaper deal, you can get 1000GBs for about $80 a month.

Netflix Streaming with Exetel

Exetel currently sits at number two in Netflix’s rankings with an average performance in the mid-high threes during primetime hours. It fell to Telstra by just 0.01Mbps. This 0.01 difference isn’t saying much, but the improvement from Exetel is a good sign. Exetel not only provides cheap mobile phone plans and some of the cheapest NBN plans out there, it also provides cheap unlimited DSL data too.

Netflix Streaming with Optus

After a long reign at the top, Optus has slipped a bit. However, don’t be alarmed as it’s only 0.08Mbps off the mark of Exetel, and could very well take top spot again next time. If that’s enough to sway you, then check out some of the cheapest unlimited plans courtesy of Optus. The $80 plan also includes a Fetch TV set top box with Optus Sport included; it’s a boon for all the English Premier League fans out there, as Optus retains the rights now. $80 also gets you NBN 50 speeds, while top tier speeds can be had from about $100.

Netflix Streaming with iiNet

iiNet provides Netflix speeds near identical to that of TPG’s – probably because it is owned by TPG – during primetime hours. It should be noted that in June 2015, iiNet was the number one ranked ISP on this list, but this does not mean iiNet has slipped – rather, the others have just caught up. Here, iiNet’s cheapest unlimited plan is around $70 a month, with voice packs a little bit extra. This price on the NBN includes NBN 12 speeds, while speed boosts start at about $10 a month extra.

Netflix Streaming with TPG

TPG tends to be pretty steady in this middle position, but still generally performs quite well. The telco currently provides speeds of around the mid-three Mbps. It’s refreshing to see that so far, Australian ISPs are gradually improving as Netflix becomes more popular. As mentioned earlier, TPG is one of the more popular ISPs despite it still being seen as an underdog compared to Telstra and Optus. TPG offers unlimited internet from about $60 a month, with voice bundles starting at about $10 extra.

Netflix Streaming with Dodo/iPrimus

Dodo and iPrimus – as part of the Vocus Communications group – have slipped to sixth. On the plus side though, both Dodo and Primus both tend to offer some of the cheaper and simpler unlimited plans out there, with Dodo offering unlimited data from just $30. If cost is more of a concern than flat-out speed for Netflix, Dodo and Primus may be more suited to you.

How does Australian internet compare globally?

To put it frankly, Australian internet in terms of Netflix speeds is lacklustre. Even compared to internet providers in New Zealand, where the top ranking ones get around 3.8Mbps in peak times, Australia is falling behind. New Zealand also benefits from having pretty much the same speeds across all of the top providers, thanks to its fibre infrastructure that spans most of the nation, while ISPs don’t have to pay CVC costs like Aussie providers do for our own NBN. Top providers in other countries fetch speeds of:

  • New Zealand: 3.91Mbps
  • USA: 4.15Mbps
  • Canada: 3.78Mbps
  • UK: 4.09Mbps
  • Germany:  3.87Mbps
  • Netherlands: 4.09Mbps
  • Romania: 4.09Mbps
  • France: 3.78Mbps
  • Japan: 4.03Mbps
  • Singapore: 4.14Mbps

Most of us probably know that Asian and European countries also do quite well in speed rankings, with Australia performing hilariously badly compared to some of the top nations on these continents. Let’s not even mention South Korea. Romania is even ahead of us a lot of the time. Australia is also behind the US, where providers often rating in the fours for peak time Netflix speeds. In any case, Australia on a global scale has a bit of work to do, but luckily a few providers here do offer unmetered Netflix so let’s see who offers what.

What internet providers have unmetered Netflix?

Optus, iiNet and Dodo all offer unmetered Netflix streaming. There are a few caveats, however. These caveats include usually spending extra on your broadband plan, or buying into some sort of entertainment package.

Optus Unmetered Netflix from $80

Generally, unmetered Netflix is reserved for this with a more high-end plan, both on mobile and fixed line connections. For fixed line broadband, you are pretty much limited to purchasing costly plans again, this time bundled with Fetch TV as mentioned earlier. Fetch TV is basically a home entertainment hub you can access Netflix and other streaming through.

  • By playing Netflix through Fetch TV you’ll trigger unmetered streaming.
  • The cheapest plan here is $80, with which you’ll get a Fetch box and one entertainment pack.

You can then log into your Netflix account through the box and trigger the unmetered streaming. All of Optus’ plans come with unlimited data anyway so go figure. Selected Optus mobile phone plans can also access unmetered Netflix, so if you’re out and about this may pay off.

iiNet Unmetered Netflix from $59.99

iiNet’s unmetered Netflix feature is reserved solely for fixed-line broadband customers, meaning no mobile plans of theirs have unmetered Netflix. Fixed-line broadband customers get access to ‘Freezone’, which is an unmetered content library of which Netflix Australia is a partner. iiNet TV by Fetch is also a partner.

  • Fetch bundles start from about $10 a month extra.
  • The cheapest plan starts at about $60 a month for 500GB data; unlimited data will cost you about $70 a month.

iiNet is an ideal ISP that offers customers unmetered Netflix,  but otherwise has no-frills meaning you’re not paying for stuff you don’t want or need.

It’s also important to note that Internode (an iiNet subsidiary) offers unmetered Netflix streaming on a few select plans with a Fetch TV box able to be added. Internode offers plans from about the same price as its big brother iiNet, but some users may find benefit for going with Internode still.

Dodo Unmetered Netflix from $44.90

Dodo is one of the cheapest providers with unlimited data coming in at around $30 a month. Fetch TV bundles start at around $45 a month, which includes a Fetch Mini box and may also include one channel pack (worth $6 on its own). These come with a 24 month contract only, and you have to lease a modem. Considering these come with unlimited data anyway, there probably isn’t much use to ‘unmetered’ Netflix but for those that are inclined, Dodo offers some of the cheapest Fetch packages out there.

Unfortunately, Netflix has expressed regret over teaming up with telcos to offer unmetered streaming. It claimed that charging for data against streaming companies “condone[s] discrimination… data caps inhibit internet innovation and are bad for consumers”. So, Netflix definitely isn’t mincing its words about plans with data caps. Nevertheless, if you are choosing a plan with a data cap it can be helpful to find one with unmetered Netflix to take your data further.

Is it worth upgrading my internet for Netflix?

Spending money to save money is almost never an instant process. Say you’ve found a great, cheap plan with adequate data that suits your budget it likely makes little sense to upgrade to a more expensive plan just for the sake of getting unmetered Netflix. However, if you’re reaching the end of the month pulling your hair out trying to conserve data, you might find it worth your money to upgrade to a plan with unmetered content. That way you’re preventing a lot of heartache about something that can chew through lots of data.

We suspect the best option is to find an unmetered plan that is similar in price to your current one. In this instance, Optus is one of the more expensive providers to offer Fetch TV and unmetered Netflix, but its entertainment bundles may entice you over. iiNet, Dodo and Internode are cheaper – much cheaper in fact – but offer far less in terms of entertainment bundles. By the time you pay for all of these streaming services separately, you might find it more economical to just opt for another provider. Either way, these four providers seem to be the best options for Netflix viewing as their speeds lead the charge and their streaming is unmetered, thus providing you with a superior all-round Netflix experience. However, the lure of Telstra with Foxtel packs, Telstra TV and the best Netflix speeds is undeniable.

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