How the NBN differs from ADSL2+, cable and wireless

07 December 2017

The NBN vs ADSL, cable and wireless internet

You've no doubt heard far too much about the work-in-progress that is the National Broadband Network (NBN) - and not all of it positive. So it's understandable that many Australians are wondering just why billions of dollars has been poured into the project, and how the NBN will differ from their existing broadband connection. 

Yes, it will be faster. But for households happy with their current fixed-line ADSL2+, cable or wireless connection, the benefits of switching to the NBN may not be so clear-cut.

Here's how the NBN differs to long-standing internet technology options, and how your broadband speeds (and your monthly bill) may be affected.

What do I need to know first?

This guide will cover the various technical and performance differences between the NBN, ADSL2+, cable and wireless broadband, but the most important thing to understand is that these are all different, incompatible technologies. Because of this, not all broadband options are available to all houses. 

  • The find out which services you can get at your home (or office), run an address search from our homepage.
  • You will need a different modem to connect to these different services. Compatible modems have a VDSL port on the back.

What is the NBN?

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is a far-reaching government funded scheme set in motion by the Australian Federal Labor Government in 2009. 

The project plans to bring super-fast broadband internet to 93% of all Australian households, with the remaining 7% receiving regular broadband speeds where before there were none.

The Coalition's revised NBN will use a combination of fixed fibre optic and copper cable, fixed wireless broadband, and satellite transmissions to ensure even hard-to-reach and rural areas can be connected.

The roll-out of the NBN is happening now, and will continue until at least 2020. Home owners are being notified as their homes are connected, but if you'd like to know in advance when you'll get NBN access, head over to our rollout map here

If your house has just been connected to the NBN,
click here to find out what to do next.

NBN vs. ADSL2+?

Key differences:

Faster speeds should be the main difference you'll notice when connected to the NBN. While ADSL2+ has a maximum potential download speed of 24Mbps, most users have much slower connections.

This is because ADSL connections rely on close proximity to a DSLAM or interchange. This DSLAM is where the fibre optic cable from an ISP transfers over to the traditional twisted-pair copper used in telephone networks.

This copper cabling is not designed to carry large amounts of data and as such, is quite inefficient at it. The greater the distance from the DSLAM to your home, the slower and less reliable your internet connection.

The design of the NBN means that even if you are still connected by copper lines to your house, the distance to the supplier's connection (known as the node) is much shorter.

NBN plans vary broadly in speed and cost, but Basic Evening Speed (12Mbps) and Standard Evening Speed (25Mbps) plans are comparable to ADSL2+ pricing. 

The speed of an NBN connection should be noticeably faster, though. Most ADSL2+ connections download data at about 6Mbps, but even the slowest NBN plan can deliver speeds up to twice as fast.

NBN vs. Cable Broadband

Key differences:

Optus and Telstra's high speed cable broadband is, in many respects, similar to what you'll get with the NBN. Where they differ is, once again, in the “last mile”.

Cable connections employ fibre optic wiring to a node, after which the signal is transferred to coaxial cabling. Coaxial cabling is a form of copper cabling, but is much better at transferring high speed data than the twisted pair wires of an ADSL network. In fact, the coaxial cable currently used by Telstra and Optus will make up part of the final NBN infrastructure.

It is important to note that the current plan of the Federal Government is to substitute fibre optic cabling in the “last mile” for coaxial cabling. This essentially means that there will be very little difference between traditional cable broadband, and the NBN infrastructure.

Current cable broadband speeds can vary between 30Mbps and 100Mbps, depending on geographical location and provider. Future upgrades to the NBN network should improve its speeds far beyond the capabilities of cable.

In short, if you care about the speed of your network, and you are eligible for a cable connection, we'd suggest you choose cable until the NBN rolls out to your home.

NBN vs. 4G Wireless Broadband

Key differences and similarities:

Wireless broadband, especially the new 4G networks cropping up, are a fantastic way of providing broadband internet to portable devices. Many users even rely on them for their home connection, as there are little-to-no connection fees, and you can take your internet with you when you leave the house.

Despite the handiness of a portable connection and the new incredible speeds of 4G LTE, there are still many reasons why wireless alone would not be a viable solution for a country-wide internet infrastructure.

Wireless is simply not as reliable as fixed-line alternatives, nor are leading-edge wireless technologies as fast as their contemporary fixed-line counterparts. While it is truly amazing that 4G LTE has already proven itself to provide speeds of up to 60Mbps in metro areas, those speeds vary wildly, and can drop to below 6Mbps in just 4km.

Wireless broadband is also affected by surroundings (buildings, electrical wires etc), by weather patterns, and can show varying effectiveness from room to room in a single household. 

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