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How to choose an NBN provider

How to choose an NBN provider

What is NBN?

NBN, short for National Broadband Network, is an Australia-wide internet infrastructure. Introduced in 2011 by the Federal Government to provide a faster, more reliable internet connection to residents, by January 2022 12.1 million Australian homes and businesses were able to connect to the NBN with a plan that suits them.

The lowdown on choosing an NBN provider 

How do I get an NBN plan?

The NBN is designed, built and operated by NBN Co. NBN Co operates as a wholesaler—  selling NBN access to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who then sell NBN plans to customers. This means if you want access to the NBN, you’ll need to purchase a plan through an ISP that meets your household’s needs and budget.

How to choose an NBN provider that’s right for you

All NBN providers are essentially selling access to the same service, so regardless of the NBN provider you choose you’ll be hooked up with the same infrastructure. This means you can compare NBN providers on a level playing field and focus solely on features to ensure you get the best bang for your buck.

Almost everyone uses the internet, but everyone uses the internet differently. For example, some people like to binge watch their favourite shows and play games, while others might send a few emails and read news articles. How you use the internet (and how long for) can be a good indicator of the type of NBN plan you’ll need.

The key factors to consider when comparing NBN plans include:

  • speed
  • data
  • inclusions
  • contract or no contract
  • cost

We’ve covered these factors in more depth below, so read on to learn more.

What speed do I need?

NBN plans offer six speed options, so you can choose the one that best suits your household’s internet habits. It’s important to note that the faster the speed, the more money you’ll have to fork out each month.

Here’s an overview of the NBN speed options to help you decide which one might work for your household. The figure on each represents the maximum downloadable speed in Megabits per second.

  • NBN 12: The lowest on the speed ladder, this option may be ideal for a light internet user who lives alone. It should do the trick for browsing the web, sending emails and scrolling on social media.
  • NBN 25: Perfect for streaming music and videos across multiple devices, this option is solid for smaller households who use the internet a moderate amount.
  • NBN 50: Ideal for medium households, this plan lets you stream in HD, upload and download movies and music, and work from home in comfort; so you’ll be able to attend Zoom meetings and download files with ease.
  • NBN 100: This triple-digit data should satisfy large households of heavy internet users who like to game, stream in 4K, and download and upload large files.
  • NBN 250: More than double the data of the previous plan, this option packs some serious speed. With this option, your housemates should be able to stream their favourite series simultaneously on different devices and game all night long.
  • NBN 1000: If you don’t have specific budget limitations and you want to secure the fastest domestic speed on the market, the NBN 1000 might be for you. Offering lightning fast internet, you can expect an unparalleled broadband experience. Although not yet available to all premises, it is expected to cover 75 per cent of Australian households by 2023.

Still not sure what speed to opt for? According to NBN Co, nearly 76 per cent of households are signed up to an NBN 50 or faster plan. An NBN 50 plan strikes a balance between speed and value, so this may be a pretty safe bet if you want speedy internet without breaking the bank.
It’s also important to take into account that no matter which NBN provider you choose, in the evening, between 7pm and 11pm, speeds tend to be slower because this is when most users are active on the networks.

How much data should I get?

Most NBN plans offer unlimited data, but capped plans do still exist if you don’t want to pay for more data than you need.

A good way to determine how much data you need is by checking how much you use. You can do this by reviewing your previous internet bills, checking with your current provider, or estimating your usage based on the average data different online activities use.
When figuring out how much data would suit your household, keep in mind that NBN providers are usually happy to upgrade your plan if you need to, but it’s often harder to downgrade if you’re locked into a contract.

Can I get any inclusions with my NBN plan?

Yes, plenty of NBN plans offer home phone and entertainment inclusions, but be mindful that these plans are often more costly than those without any add ons. In saying this, you could save yourself money in the long run by bundling your services together, so it’s worth considering what each NBN provider offers.

When it comes to bundles, what’s on offer can differ greatly between ISPs. For example, some may offer unlimited phone calls to local numbers while others may be pay as you go with international digits included. Entertainment extras such as pay TV can also vary from Foxtel, Fetch TV, Disney+, and Amazon Prime, which all offer a unique set of viewing material. It’s therefore important to do your research before you sign up, to ensure you get a bundle that suits your needs.

Should I opt for an NBN plan with or without a contract?

The answer to this question depends on how much you value your freedom and if you want to pay to get your NBN set up or not.

We’ve broken down each option below, to help you get a gauge of their pros and cons.

  • With contract: NBN contracts are typically on a 12 or 24 month basis with no, or at least reduced, setup costs. They also tend to offer discounts and extras in exchange for locking you in for a year or two. If you’re not loving your plan and want to opt out early, you’ll likely have to pay an exit fee; this amount often differs depending on how long you have left on your contract.
  • Without contract: No lock-in NBN contracts are usually on a month-to-month basis, offering you more flexibility to switch providers whenever you want without incurring any exit fees; however, more often than not, you’ll need to pay upfront for the setup to get things up and running.

How much will an NBN plan cost me?

As we mentioned earlier, the price of your NBN plan will be determined by how much speed and data you opt for, and if you choose to get some sort of bundle.

The cheapest NBN plans start at around $30 to $50 a month, while the most expensive can cost around the $100 mark. With quite a difference in price, make sure to shop around before you buy to ensure you get the most value for your money.

Consider your NBN connection

The final thing to consider when it comes to how to choose an NBN provider, is what NBN connection you’ve got; depending on where you live, you’ll have a certain type of NBN connection; and the type you have can impact the plans you can access. 

To ensure you don’t waste your time when searching for a suitable NBN plan, remember to type in your address on each ISP’s website to see what’s available and on offer in your area.

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Mark Bristow before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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