I want to connect broadband/internet, what are my options?

There are two types of services that can provide you with internet access – fixed or wireless.

Fixed internet services are connected to a specific property via a physical line, and you can only use the connection when you are at or around the property. Wireless internet services allow you the flexibility to easily relocate from one property to another or access the internet while you are on the go. The type of internet connection you can choose from depends on the infrastructure available in your area. Here’s a quick summary of current options in Australia:

Fixed

  • National Broadband Network (NBN) – fast, reliable and being rolled out across all of Australia. Foxie can help you check whether your property is ready to connect to the NBN, which is made up of a mixture of technologies. There are more than 170 internet service providers selling NBN products.
  • ADSL/ADSL2+ – the traditional form of broadband used across Australia, which is gradually being replaced by newer and faster technologies. A good option while you’re waiting for NBN access.
  • Cable Broadband – Uses existing hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) cable networks. This option is fast and reliable but only available at limited properties.
  • Fibre Broadband – Very fast and reliable but available at limited properties, mainly in major cities and a few larger regional towns.

Wireless

  • Home Wireless Broadband (HWBB) – uses the same technology as mobile phone networks. This option requires no wires and no installation and is worth considering if you move house regularly or want internet on the go.
  • Satellite Broadband – only available as part of NBN in regional areas.
  • Fixed Wireless Broadband – only available as part of NBN in regional areas.

How do I get WiFi?

An important distinction to remember is the one between internet connection and internet access. WiFi is simply one way the internet can be distributed in your home, passing on the internet connection that is being provided through fixed or wireless broadband. That means regardless of the type of internet connection you have, you’ll be able to set up Wifi at your premises to access the internet wirelessly – as long as you have a Wifi router.

Your internet service provider will usually provide you with a router as part of your plan, but you can also buy them separately. Note that while WiFi is convenient and can connect to multiple devices at once, you will usually achieve a faster and more reliable connection via ethernet cable (plugging an internet connection directly into your computer).

Why are there so many ways to connect to the internet?

Australia’s internet infrastructure is currently in a state of transition – from our old copper ADSL network to NBN, which uses a mix of fibre, copper and other connections. In addition, Australians can also access the internet through our 4G and 5G broadband network, which uses mobile towers to send and receive data wirelessly.

Depending on the area you’re in, or the area you’re moving to, there will be different types of technologies you’ll have available to you. NBN offers a variety of fixed internet connections for residential customers:

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

Each technology provides slightly different speeds because of the physical materials used to connect your house to the internet. FTTP, for example, provides extremely fast internet connections because it uses a fibre optic cable wired directly into the property. Fibre optic cables are made of glass and transmit data through light, which allows them to send high volumes of information at blistering speeds.

The most common types of NBN connection available at residential properties are FTTC, FTTN and HFC, which are still capable of very fast download speeds. These technologies use the NBN’s fibre optic backbone network to connect to the existing copper cables leading to your house.

The reason there are so many types of fixed internet connections is the NBN is still rolling out across Australia. Ideally, we would all be connected directly through a fibre optic network, and be receiving lightning upload and download speeds. However unlike densely populated countries such as Japan, Australia has a very wide and spread-out network, which means laying down kilometres of fibre optic cable is an expensive and impractical endeavour.

NBN says its rollout is more than 90% complete, meaning most metropolitan and suburban areas in Australia should have NBN available or on the way. For rural and regional areas, cable internet (which uses Australia’s pay TV network) and satellite are often the fastest options.

How do I choose the best option for me?

When it comes to choosing a provider and plan there are three key things to consider; speed, data and cost. You’ll want a connection that is fast, provides enough data for your needs and is affordable. Here’s a quick summary:

Data

When choosing a broadband plan you will need to decide whether you want a limited or unlimited data allowance. Data is measured in gigabytes (GB) and most limited plans quote a monthly allowance. If you exceed your monthly allowance your provider will either automatically charge you for extra data or slow down your internet speed. Unlimited plans allow you to use as much data as you like but they usually come at a higher cost. 

For peace of mind, it can be tempting to choose an unlimited plan, however depending on your usage, you could be paying for data you don’t need. The average Australian household now downloads about 85GB of data per month through home internet. The best way to work out how much data you need is to have a look at your current bill or your account with your present internet services provider (ISP). If you are signing up for a new internet service and don’t have this information, take a moment to consider what you actually use the internet for and how often you use it. Here’s a guide that may help:

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

Speed

Speed is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a broadband plan. Megabits per second (Mbps) is used to measure how quickly you can download or upload data.  For example, an internet download speed of 40 Mbps or higher is considered fast because it can handle multiple users streaming movies or games on multiple devices at the same, without a major interruption to the service.

Since the actual speed you achieve in your home or business is dependent on many factors including the amount of internet traffic, providers are required to advertise ‘typical evening speeds’. This allows you to consider the typical speed you are likely to achieve during the busiest time on the network (between 7 and 11pm).

If you’re activating an NBN internet connection, you should be able to choose from several different speed packs, depending on your provider and location. The most common speedpack sold through major providers is NBN 50, which provides typical evening download speeds of around 45 Mbps. If you require a super-speedy internet connection, or your household needs to support a large number of devices connected to the internet at the same time, you can opt for the NBN 100 speed pack, which will give you typical evening download speeds of around 90 Mbps. Faster speed packs will, of course, mean a higher price tag.

Other factors that affect internet speed include distances of wires or cables (i.e. for ADSL, your distance from the telephone exchange), the condition of wires or cables, hardware and software.

You may have noticed it takes much longer to upload a photo to a file storage or sharing service like iCloud, than it does to download one. This is because upload speeds are generally significantly lower than download speeds. Providers are required to advertise typical download as well as upload speeds.

To put internet speed into perspective, consider downloading a high-definition (HD) movie. A typical HD movie downloaded from iTunes would be about 4 GB and take approximately five and a half minutes to download at an internet speed of 100 Mbps.

Working out what speed you need becomes more complicated for live streaming movies and shows or when multiple users are running multiple devices. For live streaming, Netflix recommends an internet speed of at least 5 Mbps for HD movies or TV shows, and 25 Mbps for ultra-HD movies or TV shows.

Here’s a guide that may help:

Typical Internet Activity Recommended Speed (Mbps)
Email, browsing and social media

12

Email, browsing, social media, streaming HD and ultra HD movies and shows and making video calls (e.g. Skype)

25

Streaming HD and ultra HD movies and shows, making video calls online gaming.

50

Multiple users running several devices at once, streaming in HD and ultra HD quality, downloading HD movies and online gaming

100

Mobile wireless broadband speeds are affected by signal strength and network congestion. 3G, 4G and 5G refer to generations of wireless mobile technology, with 3G being the oldest and slowest and 5G being the latest and fastest technology. Currently most mobile broadband plans use the 4G network, though some larger providers are now offering 5G plans – but you will need devices that are 5G compatible.

Cost

Put simply, plans with unlimited data generally increase in cost proportional to the speed you choose. For plans with limited data, costs vary depending on the amount of data you choose. Data over wireless networks is generally more expensive than fixed line connections and you will usually pay less if you choose a plan with a lock-in contract.

There are some good bundles on offer that can provide you with more value for money. These include a home phone line, discounts on mobile phones and entertainment like Foxtel and Fetch TV. However, if you don’t need a home phone, you could potentially save around $20 per month by choosing a ‘naked’ broadband plan. Some providers will even allow you to keep your home phone connected at no cost, and charge you only on a per call basis.

Other things to consider are contract length (typically monthly, 12 or 24 months). Monthly plans are a great option if you are testing out a new provider as you are free to leave at the end of the month if you’re not happy with the service. They are also useful if you know you’ll be moving in less than 12 months. However, these plans often include expensive set-up fees and you usually also have to pay for the modem. Check the set-up costs before signing a contract so there are no surprises when you get your first bill.

With more than 170 internet service providers in Australia, each offering more than one plan, there’s a lot of plans to compare and consider! Call us at Foxie on 1800 952 438 (or have us call you) and in just a few minutes, we can find the most-suitable option for you and arrange your connection.

The internet service providers we work with are:

  • Optus
  • Belong
  • Dodo