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NBN vs ADSL: Which is better?

Here’s how the NBN compares to legacy ADSL connections.

What is ADSL?

ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. It delivers the internet over copper telephone lines, while at the same time allowing use of telephone services.

ADSL used to be the main internet connection type but has since been replaced by the NBN.

That being said, there are still a handful of ADSL homes in Australia due to fibre limitations.

What is NBN?

NBN is the National Broadband Network, which utilises various broadband technologies such as fibre optic cables, pre-existing copper lines, fixed wireless and satellite connections to provide internet access.

The NBN is the main type of internet connection in Australia.

Which is cheaper: NBN or ADSL?

It depends on what speed tier you get for the NBN as to whether it is cheaper than ADSL.

According to Finder's database, the average cost of an ADSL plan is $72.40 a month. The cheapest plan that featured unlimited data is $59.90 a month.

Looking at a comparable NBN speed tier to ADSL, NBN 25, the average price of these plans is about $68 a month. The cheapest is $44 a month. So for a similar level of speed, NBN works out to be cheaper than ADSL.

You can get even cheaper plans with NBN 12, but they could potentially have slower speeds than ADSL.

The average cost of NBN 50 plans and faster speed tiers are likely to be more expensive than ADSL, but you will also get faster and more reliable internet.

NBN vs ADSL speeds

ADSL can reach download speeds of up to 24Mbps. Keep in mind this is a theoretical maximum, as a user's speed is greatly impacted by the use of only copper wire in ADSL. The further you are away from a telephone exchange, the less stable your ADSL internet connection will be, especially if the distance is more than 1km.

Even though there are some connections that use copper for part of their length, such as Fibre to the Node and Fibre to the Curb, the use of fibre optic cables in the NBN means it can achieve higher speeds.

The NBN has plans with a maximum download speed of up to 1000Mbps. The most popular speed tier in Australia though is NBN 50, which has a maximum download speed of 50Mbps. About 43% of residential NBN services have this connection.

Can you still get ADSL in Australia?

You can still get ADSL in Australia, but most providers have stopped offering this service. Only a handful of providers now actively offer an ADSL service according to Finder's database.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) Wholesale Market Indicators report, there are only 111,256 DSL services in Australia. In comparison, there are over 8 million NBN connections.

That's because ADSL services are switched off when the NBN has been rolled out to an area. The last time there were more DSL connections compared to NBN connections in Australia was in December 2017 according to the ACCC, while the initial build of the NBN was declared complete in September 2020.

If your address is able to connect to the NBN, then getting an ADSL connection will not be an option for you. You can input your address below to see if the NBN is available in at your location.

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Keep in mind that premises that are connected to the NBN via fixed wireless or satellite won't have their copper network phone or internet services disconnected.

NBN vs ADSL: Which is better?

No matter which way you look at it, NBN is better than ADSL. NBN is faster, more reliable and generally cheaper than ADSL.

Transmission over copper cables leads to a weakening of the signal, and the connection speed diminishes as the distance increases. So because ADSL is a wholly copper connection, the NBN is better, especially in the current data hungry internet world.

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