Cable broadband plans deliver fast and reliable speeds. If the NBN hasn't arrived in your area yet, cable plans could help improve your business.
Compare Business Cable Broadband Plans
Why should you choose a Cable plan for business?
If your business premises have cable access then this type of broadband plan might be the way to go, delivering relatively fast download speeds and other benefits. This guide explains the important features of cable broadband plans for business, what to look for and some of the pros and cons to consider.
What is cable broadband?
Cable broadband services provide data through a hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) cable. This HFC cable runs to a connection point in your premises, and is then “translated” into a usable internet connection by a modem. HFC cable broadband is generally faster and more advanced than the old copper networks which deliver internet through ADSL connections, but still aren’t as typically fast as the new NBN fibre optic network. This means cable plans are generally the middle ground option for internet speeds. The practical reality in Australia is that if your business can currently access a cable internet connection over HFC, that connection will eventually become part of the NBN network nationally, with your services delivered over what’s generally called HFC NBN.
Features you need to consider when comparing cable plans for business
Download/ upload speeds
Cable download speeds on currently available plans are always sold with much faster download provisions than upload speeds. To consider which speed tier your business needs, it can help to think about what kind of data you access over the internet. As a general rule, images and videos are more data intensive than simple text files or other other more basic information, unless you’re transferring vast quantities of such small files. Think about what kind of information you send and access through the internet when deciding on a cable plan speed tier.
- When are fast upload speeds important for businesses? If your business involves uploading a lot of media, or sending a lot of files then upload speeds will be important to you. Likewise, if you do a lot of videoconferencing, and especially if high definition video conferencing is a key part of your business, then having a robust upload capability is a must.
Monthly data allowance
A plan’s monthly data allowance represents how much data you can use in a monthly period. If you hit your limit your provider will either drastically slow your access (usually referred to as “shaping” your connection) or request additional funds for data top-ups. Typically both uploads and downloads count towards your data allowance on cable plans. Plan data inclusions can vary by the monthly access price, with many plans eschewing data limits and instead offering unlimited data usage plans rather than tying you to a restrictive quota. Unless your business has very consistent and predictable data usage, it might be preferable to opt for unlimited data plans, or a data limit that you’re confident is high enough. The last thing you want is to hit your cap when you need internet access to help your business along.
This is how long you’re “locked in” to a plan for. You should be generally able to change plans at any time, but if you swap out a fixed term plan before the end of the period you will usually incur significant cancellation fees. Fixed term plans are generally 12 or 24 months in duration. It is also possible opt for plans with no specific contract length, where the contract fees are paid one month at a time. The significant catch here is that providers will typically charge a setup fee for month-to-month plans which is usually waived if you’re signing up for a full 24 month term. If you’re unsure whether a specific plan, or cable broadband as a whole, is right for your business, or are planning upgrades in the future then it may be preferable to avoid fixed term plans. However, if you know a plan is right for you, then going for a longer fixed-term contract can be cheaper overall.
Minimum total cost
This is the very minimum amount a plan will cost you in the first month after signup. It includes all the installation fees and any other charges that can’t be opted out of. If you’re signing up for a fixed term plan then it will include the cost of the full duration, while a no fixed-term plan will only include the cost of 1 month of data. This can be a useful way of seeing the real costs. Compare the advertised monthly charges with the minimum total cost for an idea of how many hidden, or not-so-hidden, fees there might be.
Call allowance for fixed line phones
It’s often more cost-effective to bundle a phone plan with your internet, and some business cable plans will have more call allowances than residential plans. When looking at the call allowance, check where you can get free calls, and what the costs of various call types are. For a business that makes a lot of calls, this can make a significant difference to costs. For example, if you have a lot of overseas clients then unlimited local and national calls might not help much if international calls are more expensive. Or, if you never make any international calls then you might want to prioritise a plan with cheap mobile calls, or free national calls.
Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calls are often available with business broadband plans. Essentially this lets you use the internet to make phone calls, delivering exceptional call rates. As such, it may be well worth considering as an alternative to a traditional fixed phone line if your business makes a lot of calls. The business advantages of VOIP plans include unlimited calls, such to all Australian mobile numbers, or specified international calls, for a flat amount extra per month. Depending on what kind of calls your business makes, you can pick out the right VOIP features for your needs. If you need a business phone plan it can be well worth looking for business broadband that offers VOIP calls, and comparing the costs of these plans to how much you’ll spend with a more typical phone plan. Note that VOIP may require some additional hardware, and conditions may apply to plans from certain providers. Consider any installation costs as well when you compare the savings from VOIP, how long it might take to pay for itself and how many calls your business has to make for it to be worthwhile.
Excess usage and shaping speeds
This is what happens when you reach the monthly data limits allowed by your plan. If you opt for an unlimited plan this shouldn’t be a concern, but for any plan with a set quota it’s worth knowing what happens if you exceed your specified data usage allowance. Some providers will drastically reduce, or “shape” your data usage after you reach the monthly cap. This will leave you with access, but at speeds that are really only useful for very slow web browsing and email access, especially if your business needs incorporate multiple internet users at once. Some plans may instead offer the ability to pay an additional fee to unlock additional quota at your regular cable internet speeds. There’s flexibility there if you have an unusually high usage month, but obviously you could also run into significant additional costs rapidly if you keep needing to top up your quota. If your provider charges excess fees after reaching the data cap, it’s exceptionally important to be aware of this and cut back on your usage, as the fees can be potentially exorbitant.
Set up fees: Activation fees and installation charges.
The activation and installation fees are one-off charges that apply when you sign up for a plan. If you switch to a different provider later you’ll need to pay new fees, while switching plans with the same provider will generally not incur these again. In many cases as an enticement installation and activation fees may be waived by providers if you opt for a 24 month contract term. It’s always a good idea to look at the full range of options offered by an internet provider, especially if you think you might be switching later.
Early termination charges
These are the fees incurred for cancelling a plan before the end of the term you signed on for. If you pick a 24 month plan, for example, then you’ll be charged an early cancellation fees if you cancel it, or switch to a lower plan tier, at any time within the next 2 years. Plans that operate on a month to month basis may be more ideal for small to medium sized businesses, since they provide flexibility to change to other plans and avoid early termination charges.
What’s the customer service like? If the internet is essential to your business then being able access prompt and helpful support can make all the difference if something is wrong with your connection. Rather than trusting the claims of each provider you can compare customer service in a more objective way by looking at the Net Promoter Score (NPS). This is an indication of how likely customers are to recommend a provider to their family or friends, and is largely affected by the level of support providers offer. You can also look for at whether you can get 24/7 customer support, and whether there are any quick go-tos available, such as web-chat or phone services. These can be a lot more helpful than sending off an email and hoping you’ll get an answer before it’s too late.
How fast are cable speeds and which speed tier does my business require?
Cable speeds depend on which plan you choose, and are generally broken down into two tiers.
|Speeds||Slower cable plan||High speed cable plan|
Ideal for small businesses requiring an upgrade in speed from standard ADSL.
Suitable for small-to-medium businesses with several employees accessing the internet simultaneously.
However, after the NBN rolls out this may be the other way around, as Optus cable locations are largely set to be replaced with FTTdp type cable connections. As with all matters NBN, you don’t get a choice as to the connection that rolls past your premises, but it’s feasible that if you’re looking at Optus HFC now, within a couple of years that may change over to an FTTdp connection instead.
Steps to apply for cable
- Check availability: You’ll naturally need to have HFC cables running past your business premises in order get a cable plan. Providers will offer a tool where you can simply plug in your business address to confirm availability.
- Pick your bundle options: It helps to narrow the search down to plans that have what you need. With cable you’ll often be able to mix and match internet, phone and TV bundles as needed.
- Compare the plans and providers: Assess the suitability of different plans and different providers in line with your business needs. If you already know what you’re looking for, such as only no-lock-in plans, or only unlimited data plans, then these can be used to further narrow the search. By knowing what you want, you can compare equivalent plans by different providers side by side to find the one that could deliver more value for money.
- Sign up: Once you’ve found the right plan for your needs, simply pick the options and sign up by following the prompts online, or giving them a call.
- Wait: The provider will process the sign up, send you the relevant paperwork and start the provisioning process for your new cable connection. The actual installation time may vary depending on technician availability and how complex it ends up being running cable into your premises. In most cases physical installation should only take a couple of hours.
The most popular questions asked about Cable broadband for business
What additional benefits come with business cable plans?
A lot of providers will offer additional benefits with internet plans to appear more competitive. Some of these, such as entertainment options or pay-TV are generally of little use to business customers, while others such as complimentary business software or highly competitive phone plans might be particularly useful, and worth factoring in.
What happens if the NBN arrives after I install cable?
Plan ahead! You can use our NBN tracker to find out when the NBN is due to arrive in your area. Depending on the quality of your cable connection and the ongoing NBN schedule you may find that you’re being switched to a different connection technology, or possibly just phased onto what will become NBN’s HFC cable infrastructure. One factor to consider here is that while there are only a handful of current HFC cable internet providers, once NBN HFC rolls out, access will be open to any provider who wants to sell plans, which should mean increased competition and new plan options. If you know that HFC NBN is due to arrive at your premises directly it could make a lot of sense to opt for a short-term cable plan so you have full flexibility to switch to another provider once full HFC NBN is available to you. If you do opt for a 24 month plan with an existing HFC provider, they will typically switch you to an NBN plan under your existing contract provisions and duration.