How to find the best internet service provider for you

woman video chatting on laptop at home internet broadband provider

Did you know that there are more than 170 internet service providers in Australia? Here’s Foxie’s breakdown of how to choose a deal that works for you.

With the amount of variety and sophistication in the market, you’ll need to know what to look for before choosing the best internet plan for you.

In Australia, most internet users are able to choose from four broadband options – NBN, ADSL2+, cable or wireless.

The Australian Government’s plan is to have as many people as possible transition from our old copper ADSL network to the new NBN network, which is now available at more than 10.8 million Australian homes and businesses.

To help you identify the kind of internet you’ll need, and the service provider that’ll give you the best deal, Foxie’s compiled this detailed guide to get you started.

Types of internet connections

National Broadband Network (NBN)

The NBN is an initiative started by the Australian Government, which first launched in 2011. Today, NBN says its network roll out has surpassed 90% completion, meaning most metropolitan and suburban areas should have some form of access to the NBN.

What sets the NBN apart from our previous internet delivery mode is the use of fibre optic cables – these are made of glass and transmit information through light, providing extremely fast data speeds.

Unfortunately, the Australian network is too vast and sparse to wire fibre optic cables to every property in the country (for now). For this reason, NBN has several different kinds of technology available depending on where you live:

  • Fibre to the premises (FTTP)
  • Fibre to the node (FTTN)
  • Fibre to the curb (FTTC)
  • Hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC)

FTTP is the fastest form of NBN, as it wires a fibre connection directly into the property. HFC is also a very fast option, as it uses a blend of fibre and copper connections. 

FTTN and FTTC are the most widely available forms of NBN, providing quick and reliable internet speeds – these technologies rely on the NBN’s fibre optic backbone network, and link to properties using Australia’s existing copper lines.

The NBN also runs a satellite internet service called SkyMuster for rural properties where wired connections are not available.

ADSL2+

ADSL2+ is Australia’s legacy copper network. Many homes and businesses around the country are still connected via ADSL2+, as they await NBN to roll out to their areas.

This form of wired broadband connection still provides decent download speeds of around 24 megabytes per second (Mbps), with a consistent connection in most areas.

Many properties are being phased out of ADSL2+, as the Government forces users to transition to NBN. If you’ve received a letter in the mail about swapping to NBN, you’ll probably have about 18 months to make a decision before ADSL2+ access is removed from your area. You can either find an NBN plan that suits your needs and budget (more on this below), or you could try out a wireless broadband service (more about this below too).

Cable

Australia’s cable network is sort of like NBN, before NBN was a thing. Cable internet is almost exclusively provided by the two main internet service providers – Telstra and Optus – and provides relatively comparable speeds to the NBN.

While cable internet is a great option for those who would prefer to stay off the NBN, its availability is relatively limited. Cable internet can provide download speeds of up to 100 Mbps – which is incredibly fast – but where it falters is upload speeds, which can be as slow as 2 Mbps.

Wireless home broadband

Wireless internet can be a fantastic solution for those who don’t have access to great fixed broadband speeds, or those who are regularly on the move. Using Australia’s mobile tower network, wireless broadband works off of the same 4G and 5G mobile broadband connection your phone uses.

Speeds vary greatly with this kind of home broadband, depending largely on the mobile connection speeds you have available in your area. Most internet service providers will have a coverage map on their website which will indicate the type of upload and download speeds you can expect if you choose the wireless route.

What you’re looking for in an internet service provider

There are three main factors that will affect your decision when choosing an internet provider: cost, speeds and add-ons.

Here, we’ll break down how these elements factor into the most popular internet plans on the market, to see which one suits you the best.

The providers we’ll be taking a look at are:

  • Optus
  • Telstra
  • Belong
  • Dodo
  • My Republic, and
  • TPG.

Cost and speeds

Your internet speed needs will depend on a few things – how many people are likely to use your internet at the same time? How many internet-connected devices do you normally have running simultaneously? Are you downloading large files regularly?

For NBN customers, providers normally offer a selection of speed tiers – or ‘speed packs’ – for you to choose from. The availability of higher speed packs, of course, depends on the kind of NBN technology at your property. Even the slowest forms of NBN – FTTC and FTTN – are still theoretically capable of download speeds up to 200 Mbps (which is lightning quick). Choosing a faster speed pack ,of course, will mean you’ll pay slightly more on your monthly bill.

NBN’s lowest speed pack is called ‘NBN12/1’, which means it offers a maximum download speed of 12 Mbps and an upload speed of 1 Mbps. The most commonly-used speed packs are the NBN50/20 and NBN100/20, which are suitable for households containing three to 10 people, depending on individual usage.

Here’s what’s currently on offer from our six internet service providers:

Providers by plan cost and speed

Optus
Telstra
BELONG
My Republic
TPG
Dodo
NBN25/5 $75 $60 $65 $64.99 $65
NBN50/20 $75 $80 $70 $69 $69.99 $70
NBN100/20 $95 $100 $95 $79 $79.99 $85

These prices are charged monthly, and are all listed as month-to-month, which means you won’t be locked into a long-term contract. Beware that certain providers charge set-up fees – usually $99 – and may charge you for a modem also. Some providers offer 12- or 24-month contracts with lower monthly prices, and sometimes include waivers for set-up and modem charges.

Internet service providers also run promotions on these prices fairly regularly, so keep your eyes peeled for a good deal (or you can call Foxie on 1800 952 438, and we’ll find it for you).

Who’s the fastest?

According to the ACCC, which keeps a quarterly report of how providers are tracking with their internet delivery speeds, Optus is the fastest NBN provider in the market right now – delivering 98.5% of maximum plan speeds.

  1. Optus (98.5%)
  2. TPG (98.4%)
  3. My Republic (96.8%)
  4. Telstra (96.5%)
  5. Dodo (84.8%)

Bear in mind that these percentages track the entire Australian network as an average, so your individual mileage may vary.

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Wireless home broadband and data limits

We should also briefly talk about data limits – or data caps. These are quickly becoming a thing of the past, as most fixed internet plans now transition to unlimited data allowances, particularly NBN plans.

If you’re thinking about trying out wireless broadband as your home internet solution, you’ll need to consider how much data your household is likely to use in a month. Most wireless data plans offer either a 200 GB or 500 GB data allowance. If you have access to an old internet bill, it should tell you how much data you’ve used in previous months. Otherwise, here’s a rough estimate of household usage:

Typical Internet Activity Estimated Monthly Data Usage (GB)
Individual – email, browsing, social media, streaming music and YouTube videos

<25

Couple – email, browsing, social media, streaming music and YouTube videos

100

Family of 4 people – email, browsing, social media, streaming music and YouTube videos, downloading some HD movies and games

500

Large family or shared household – multiple users streaming videos, music, HD movies and gaming

>500

If you’ve decided that wireless home broadband is for you, you’ll have the option between 4G and 5G. The former is widely available in most metropolitan, suburban and even rural areas, while 5G is very much still an emerging technology in Australia. If you are lucky enough to have access to a 5G connection, you can expect blistering download and upload speeds – Australia’s burgeoning 5G network is theoretically capable of speeds beyond 2Gbps, but current home 5G modems deliver around 85-240 Mbps, which is still plenty fast.

Entertainment inclusions and add-ons

One more thing to consider is the accompanying inclusions of your broadband plan. Some providers will include subscriptions to popular video and music streaming services like Netflix and Apple Music with your plan; but these are normally run on a promotional basis, so you’ll have to scan the market for what each provider has on offer at the time.

Many providers will also have bundle options for their fixed broadband services, allowing you to pay a slightly higher monthly fee to gain access to an entertainment streaming service like Foxtel or Fetch TV. These entertainment bundles also normally come with a set top box, which allows you to pause, rewind and record live television – both free-to-air and cable (additional costs may apply).

If you also want to maintain a landline connection with you broadband plan, you may be able to do so for free. Large providers like Telstra and Optus allow you to keep a landline connection for no cost, but charge you on a per-call basis. Alternatively, you can pay around $10 a month for unlimited usage of your landline phone (with some exclusions like 1300 numbers).

Sounds like a lot of work? Foxie can help

Our team at Foxie have spent more than seven years helping Australians find the right internet plans for them, and we continue to provide outstanding service to our customers. We do the research, so you don’t have to.

Our utilities connection service is independently operated in Australia. Using Foxie is 100% free and unbiased so if you are getting ready to move house, let us help.

Save yourself some time and give Foxie a ring on 1800 952 438. We’re the experts in comparison, so we’ll find a broadband plan that works for you, and sort out the connection.

Further Reading:

Image credit: Surface on Unsplash

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