Buying an internet connection used to be easier, but with the introduction of the National Broadband Network (NBN) the speed of your connection now plays an important role in what you choose.
In this guide, we’ll consider the different speed options available, and more importantly, which speeds are better for the different types of homes we live in.
The essential info
Before diving into the specifics of each technology, it is important to understand Megabits-Per-Second (Mbps). The speeds of all internet plans are measured in Mbps, and it relates to the speed that you can both upload and download data to and from the internet.
This is referred to as bandwidth, and while we think about this in terms of how fast a connection is, it is also the way we describe the capacity of a connection. Multiple users on the same network share the bandwidth. So, for example, if you have a 100Mbps connection then several people can all be using it at the same time up to a the maximum capacity. You can have multiple Netflix movies streaming at the same time and not notice the difference.
It’s also important to note that while we’ll be referring to the advertised maximum speeds of the different connection, real-world obstacles will often mean that the actual speed in the home will be slower.
When signing up for an NBN you have the choice of plans capable of achieving speeds of up to 12Mbp, up to 25Mbps, up to 50Mbps, or up to 100Mbps. While your plan will be capable of achieving these speeds, there are a number of factors that can affect your NBN speeds. These can include the technology type your NBN connection is delivered over, congestion in the evening, and your provider.
100Mbps / Premium Evening Speed: the fastest speed and the surest way to future proof your connection. Large families and share houses will make use of the capacity of this connection speed to get lots of people online at the same time.
It’s also a good option for businesses, as these connections offer 40Mbps upload speeds, which is great for backing up business systems and sharing large files with colleagues.
50Mbps / Standard Plus Evening Speed: one of the more uncommon connections available. 50Mbps speeds are similar to the faster speeds and are suitable for large families.
25Mbps / Standard Evening Speed: currently the most popular NBN speed tier, 25Mbps is good for smaller households with standard internet usage. Fast enough for watching a movie or streaming music, and more than enough for everyday web browsing.
12Mbps / Basic Evening Speed: designed as match for older ADSL2+ speeds, the 12Mbps plans are cheapest and should be about as fast as most people have come to expect from their home broadband connection.
While ADSL2+ was once the way most Australians connected to the internet, it is slowly being phased out and replaced by the newer NBN connections.
24Mbps: technically, the maximum speed of an ADSL2+ connection is 24Mbps, but no one will ever see this speed in their home. Limitations of the technology and the degrading quality of copper phone lines mean that most people would get about 10Mbps. Still a solid option for homes waiting for the NBN to roll into their neighbourhood.
Mobile Broadband speeds
Seen by many as an alternative to the NBN, mobile internet uses the same wireless frequencies as smartphones. But rather than using a phone, you buy small, battery-powered modems.
Up to 1000Mbps (or 1Gbps): the maximum speed of a mobile broadband connection varies significantly depending on which provider you choose to buy your service from. Telstra has service for up to 1Gbps, which is 10-times faster than a 100Mbps NBN connection. However, is is unlikely many people will see speeds like this. As you probably know from using a smartphone, the speeds vary greatly depending on the coverage in your area.
In most case, you should expect speeds of about 40- to 50-Mbps from a mobile broadband connection, which is a great substitute for anyone who doesn’t want, or can’t get, a fixed-line broadband connection at their home.
Fixed Home Wireless speeds
Fixed Home Wireless broadband is another NBN alternative, delivered using the same 4G networks our smartphones connect to. Fixed Home Wireless internet tends to offer larger download allowances than Mobile Broadband - in some cases, unlimited - but at at slower speeds.
Up to 12Mbps: The most widely available Fixed Home Wireless broadband products around are limited to a maximum connection of speed of 12Mbps in metro areas, which is similar to a decent ADSL2+ connection or a basic NBN plan.
Outside of metro areas, you might be limited to speeds of 5Mbps, depending on your cellular coverage.