How to choose the right Internet plan

Australia has just completed its largest infrastructure upgrade in history, the National Broadband Network. It is the biggest change we have seen to how we connect to the internet and the speeds available. Assessing your needs and the providers available can be a daunting step but we’re fortunate to have multiple options so there’s definitely an internet plan out there for you.

What is my current internet speed?

Before considering which internet plan to upgrade to, take a look at what you currently experience. The best way to know your connection speed is to connect your computer directly into the modem via a cable, not using Wi-Fi, and run a Speed Test. Do this when no other devices are using the internet to ensure you have an accurate measurement of upload and download speeds.

What is a “good” internet speed?

The average speed of internet connections in Australia is around 40 Mbps. To view the highest quality, Ultra High-definition video content from Netflix it is recommended to have a 25 Mbps connection or better. For those working from home, Zoom meetings with video and screen sharing enabled requires around 6 Mbps. So for the average Australian internet user, there isn’t much that you cannot do with 40 Mbps as your internet speed.

The internet plan triangle

Whenever you are considering new internet plans you’re faced with three variables; speed, download limits and cost. The speed and download limits will greatly impact the cost per month so finding the correct balance is important. The best way to approach this is to consider your current downloads per month and whether your usage habits will change if you also had more speed available. Some people didn’t use video streaming services until they had the bandwidth so they naturally now consume more data per month. Speed tiers are generally at 12, 25, 50, 100 and up to 1000 Mbps but most people will hover between 25 and 100 Mbps.
From a download data limit perspective it is very simple to select the Unlimited plans for peace of mind. However, with most people in Australia not consuming more than 200GB of data per month, there is money to be saved in this option. When it comes to data allowances, telecommunication companies will gladly upgrade your plan but may charge you penalties to downgrade. So start on a lower allowance and upgrade should you be regularly consuming more than your monthly allowance.
The number of people in your home will greatly impact your requirements and the 100 Mbps plans are perfect for a typical two adults and two school children family. Whether it is online gaming, video streaming, social media and working from home capacity, the 100 plans should give you the speeds to handle it all without any lag or dreaded buffering.

Picking an internet service provider

Before the NBN existed all internet service providers (ISP) had to use the Telstra owned network, which meant the default answer for the best ISP was Telstra. Today with an independent network you are free to shop around and ISP’s are forced to be very competitive. New vendors have grown in Australia as a result and can provide impressive value for the same speed and data allowances.

Reading online reviews (Finder is a good example) of each provider, consulting neighbourhood groups about the best provider in your area and investigating whether they provide good technical support are all ways in helping you understand the right ISP for you. Most providers have options to sign up to their service without a contract which means you are free to switch at the end of the month with no extra charge. As the NBN is independent, your new provider can bring you across in a matter of minutes without changing any hardware.

What are my options outside of the NBN?

While the NBN upgrade is complete, not all homes received the best variants of the technology due to their location. Mobile broadband can be a good alternative to a wired internet service but can be more costly per month. Mobile broadband offers the convenience of being portable for use away from the home, allows you to use prepaid data bundles and can still be shared in the home. A casual internet user could find mobile broadband very beneficial. If you are however planning on using video streaming services, working from home or online gaming, a wired home internet solution will serve you best.

Is 5G the NBN killer?

In short, no. 5G is the new generation of wireless connectivity. It has the potential to provide you with internet speeds that are greater than the NBN today. However with wireless technologies it is heavily impacted by environmental factors and congestion. Your smartphone has no problems posting a picture to Facebook, but when you’re at the football and 30,000 people are sharing the same network, it is almost impossible.

The same applies for 5G, if all households used the 5G network, it would no longer be a reliable option in the evenings when all homes are heavily using the network. The 5G network however is complementary to the NBN and will provide an excellent backup and our best option when we are not near our home NBN connections.