NBN speeds explained

Understanding the different NBN speed tiers will help you choose the best value plan for your needs.

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45 Mbps

Typical peak evening speed

When comparing the various NBN plans on offer from your Internet service provider, it’s important to consider the different speed levels. After all, just because an Internet plan has the word NBN, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be sufficient for your particular household.

In some cases, choosing the wrong speed tier could result in worse speeds than what you’re already getting with ADSL or cable. On the flip side, higher speed plans come at a premium and you don’t want to be paying more per month for additional speeds that you’re not using. To avoid these issues, it’s important to select the correct tier right from the outset.

What are the NBN speed tiers?

In response to recent pressure from the ACCC, nbnco (as well as NBN ISPs) are changing the way they advertise speeds you'll get on your plan. Previously, providers displayed maximum theoretical speeds of the four speed tiers: NBN 12, NBN 25, NBN 50, and NBN 100.

Going forward, providers should advertise their plans with "typical evening speeds" to indicate the speeds you can expect to experience during the busiest hours of 7:00PM to 11:00PM. These speeds can vary dramatically from provider to provider since they are contingent on how much bandwidth that provider has purchased from nbnco as well as the number of customers that provider has.

The NBN speed tiers are also undergoing a rebranding, with the four tiers now categorised as Basic, Standard, Standard Plus and Premium.

See the table below for the typical evening speeds currently offered by most providers. Just bear in mind that this may vary based on a specific provider's offers, as well as the NBN technology installed at your premises and other factors that can influence your maximum attainable speeds.

Tier Typical evening download speed Typical evening upload speed
Basic 9Mbps 0.8Mbps
Standard 20Mbps 4Mbps
Standard Plus 40Mbps 15Mbps
Premium 80Mbps 30Mbps
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Which NBN speed tier do I need?

The NBN currently supports four different speed tiers for connecting to the Internet, starting from Basic (nbn12) and ranging all the way up to Premium (nbn100). Here’s what you need to know about each of them.

Basic: The bare minimum for everyday residential use

The base-level speed tier offers theoretical maximum speeds of 12Mbps down and 1Mbps up, which is largely comparable to the real-world performance of a solid ADSL2+ connection. If your Internet usage mainly consists of light web browsing, email and the occasional upload of photos to social media sites such as Facebook, then you might be perfectly fine with these speeds. Skip to the Basic section below to compare plans. Everyone else, including those who live in a household with two or more people, should probably look at something faster.

Standard: For the moderate and budget conscious user

Standard NBN speed is a mid-tier package that isn't quite as common as the other NBN speed tiers. It comes with theoretical maximum speeds of 25Mbps down and 5Mbps in upload speeds. Some ISPs also offer an additional boost up to 10Mbps for upload speeds, which could be handy for small business users. If the tier sounds like a good fit, skip to the Standard section below to compare plans.

Standard speeds also open the door to streaming HD video from services like Netflix. However, sharing the bandwidth with multiple users will quickly bottleneck the connection.

Standard Plus: Heavy Internet user

Jumping to theoretical maximums of 50Mbps down and 20Mbps in upload speeds, the Standard Plus tier is well suited to heavy Internet users. If you live in a household where 4K video streaming, online gaming and downloading large files is common, then this speed tier could very well be for you (see below for plan comparison).

One of the potential issues with Standard Plus is that its pricing is often comparable to the top-tier Premium plans that offer much faster speeds. For most providers, the price differential could be as little as $5 per month, making this particular tier tough to recommend over the top-drawer Premium plans.

Premium: For the busy household or small business

Premium plans offer theoretical maximum download speeds of 100Mbps, which should be ample bandwidth for a household filled with heavy Internet users or a small business that has several employees using the connection simultaneously. Large data backups to the cloud will be faster, multiple 4K video streams will load quickly, online gaming should be responsive and sharing video to social media will be painless.

The significant boost to upload speeds (a theoretical maximum of 40Mbps) makes this tier compelling for small businesses as well. Sharing files between clients and employees should be lightning quick and the quality of video conferencing should be crystal clear (so long as the connection on the other end can keep up). If you think you'll need the fastest NBN connection, check out our plan comparison below.

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Why is my NBN connection slow?

Even with the NBN rolling out across the country, your connection might still be slower than advertised or expected. It might not be the wrong plan – there are a number of factors that can impact the speed that you receive at any given point in time.

Internal factors such as your modem or router quality, the level of Wi-Fi interference and the number of users online simultaneously are all things that can make Internet speeds plummet.

How a service provider handles network congestion, particularly during peak usage times, also has a significant bearing on performance. The more capacity a particular ISP has on the network, the less likely congestion from other users in your area will affect you. Unfortunately, ISPs aren’t required to list this information with their plans, so you might have to jump from provider to provider until you find the best possible performance.

It’s also worth noting that not all connections higher than Standard will be available at all premises. The NBN uses a mix of technologies to connect premises to the network that varies depending on the location. Some areas will use a fibre-optic cable all the way to the premises (also known as FTTP) and can technically achieve access speeds far greater than 100/40 Mbps.

Fibre-To-The-Node (FTTN) uses the existing underground copper network for the last mile connection between the NBN node in your street to your premises. The distance from the node to your house and the quality of the copper can affect your Internet speed.

Then there are parts of the country that will be connected by a satellite or fixed wireless signal, which max out at Standard and Standard Plus connections respectively. Factors such as signal strength or obstruction of line of sight can severely impact Internet speed with these technologies.

If you're having trouble with your NBN speeds, check out our comprehensive guide to speeding up your NBN connection.

Looking to the future

Ever since the rollout of the NBN began in 2013, data quotas have become much larger and the faster speed tiers have come down in price quite sharply. This trend will only continue and will cause more people to spring for the faster speed tiers as they become more affordable.

Advancement in speed tiers that go well beyond 100/40 Mbps will also start to take shape. In fact, some ISPs have already started to offer 200/200 Mbps plans to those who are connected to the network with FTTP.

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    steveJuly 16, 2017

    Hi, I have just been comparing plans on here, none of them mention HFC connection, hybrid fibre which is what is installed. Going by the NBN website, what’s the go with that?

    • finder Customer Care
      RenchJuly 17, 2017Staff

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      The HFC cable connection goes through to a connection point in your home, similar to the one used for Pay TV delivery and then to a modem historically provided by Telstra or Optus. As the NBN continues to be rolled out, ultimately the HFC cables will be integrated into the NBN as part of the long term Multi-Technology Mix strategy.

      You can go to this page to see more info and compare HFC cable broadband plans.


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