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How fast will your NBN connection be?


It's not just a function of how much you're willing to pay.

Broadband geeks (and sure, I'm one) can debate deployment details for decades. For the average punter, there are three simple questions they want to know about the National Broadband Network (NBN): (1) when will it get to my place? (2) how fast will it be? (3) how much will I have to pay each month?

The basic answer to question (1) is "some time before 2020, assuming there isn't another major stuff-up". Right now the NBN project is in fact slightly ahead of schedule, so let's imagine it will go OK. For more detail, you can check on finder's NBN Tracker, which will tell you more precisely when you're due, based on the announced rollout schedule.

Note that if your location isn't due for construction in the next 12 months, you won't get a lot of detail. When I look up my own address, I learn that while I'm due for the NBN to arrive at some point in the next three years, no specific date has been set for my street yet. Them's the breaks.

Question (2), how fast the connection will be, is a little more complex. The official goal for the NBN is that all Australians on a fixed line connection will have access to a minimum download speed of 25Mbps (with a "proportionate upload speed"), and that 90% will have access to 50Mbps or more. Those figures were higher back when the NBN was going to be an all-fibre deal for fixed line connections, but we operate in a multi-technology mix world these days, and we have to live with that.

The latest numbers show we're not quite at the desired levels, but we're close. Figures from nbn (confusingly, the official name of the company building the NBN) suggest that 86% of premises will get maximum speeds of 50Mbps or more, 68% will get maximum speeds of 100Mbps or more, 45% will get speeds of 500Mbps or more, and 40% will get 1Gbps or more. It's a given that if you want the higher speeds, you'll pay more each month, but at least you have a choice. It's also a given that you won't have much effective control over which of those categories your house or business falls into. On that point, the only way you can exercise a choice is by moving.

Who will get potential connections at 1Gbps or more? The 20%-odd of households lucky enough to have fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), plus some undetermined percentage of fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) and HFC customers who have decent new copper in their neighbourhoods. If you're on fixed wireless, you'll max out at 50Mbps, and if you're on the satellite Sky Muster service, your top potential speed is 25Mbps (and you're still probably grateful for it, compared to previous options).

Until last week, you could fairly safely assume that if your neighbourhood had existing pay TV cabling, that would be the source of your connection, and you'd end up with an HFC (hybrid fibre-coaxial) connection. That's less clear now, as it turns out that deploying HFC actually isn't any cheaper than building an FTTP link. As a result, somewhere around a million households which previously were going to be connected by HFC will now be connected by FTTP instead. (My own house falls into this twilight zone of undetermined deployment.)

About the only clear indicator of whether you'll be HFC or FTTP might be who built the cable originally. Reportedly, the former Optus HFC network is in poorer condition than Telstra's, so you might cynically assume that if that's all that is available in your neighbourhood, you'll be on FTTP instead. (Both Telstra's and Optus' HFC networks are now owned by nbn.)

And so to question (3). Assuming you want that faster connection, you'll always have to pay a premium for it. On FTTP, FTTN and HFC connections, you currently have a choice of five speed tiers. To date, the vast majority of customers opt for 25/5, which is the second-slowest, but still much faster than most ADSL connections. That said, you can choose to pay more and get more speed if you need it. On fixed wireless, you only have three tiers, and on satellite, you effectively have only one.

The main element of choice which the NBN introduces is in who connects you. In the ADSL world, your options can often be determined by whether a port is available in a nearby exchange. With the NBN, it's a level playing field when it comes to who sells you a service, so it makes sense to compare your internet options carefully. You can choose who connects you up, but you can't choose what's available to you. That, alas, remains an accident of geography.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on

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5 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    TeeSeptember 7, 2018

    The truth to the speeds tiers is that upgrading to a higher tier is no guarantee that you’ll get faster speeds, especially with FTTN. FTTN connections are highly reliant on the bottleneck of copper between the modem and the node. This includes copper connections that are prone to faults, varying gauges of copper wire, varing types of shielding,etc.
    I’m on a 100/40Mbps plan and have at times tested the speed as low as 8/1Mbps and yet NBN Co refuse to fix the problem. My RSP has escalated this to NBN Co yet, they refuse to fix the problem with the line speed because most of the time my speed is around 50/25Mbps. Even then, that’s still nowhere near close to the 100/40Mbps that I’m paying for.
    Unless you are on FTTP, Speed Tiers aren’t worth relying on. And even on FTTP, the amount of bandwidth purchased by the RSP will also influence your maximum attainable speed.

      JeniSeptember 9, 2018Finder

      Hi Tee,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      NBN offers a choice of wholesale speed tiers to your phone and internet provider so it is best to talk to your phone and internet provider about the speed tiers available in your area. You should also talk to them about the actual speeds you can expect to experience when you switch to an nbn powered plan – particularly during peak times like the evening.

      Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any other enquiries.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!


    Default Gravatar
    BarryMay 27, 2018

    My provider advises me that the maximum speed I can get is 18Mbps (fibre to the node connection). Is the NBN going to upgrade the network so that I can get the minimum 25Mbps which is the official goal of the NBN

      Default Gravatar
      TeeSeptember 9, 2018

      Hi Barry,

      Somehow, the minimum acceptable speed for NBN during the crossover period (which is whilst users in your area can also access ADSL and POTS services), is only 12Mbps.

      Continue to escalate the case with your service provider. Ensure you are using an NBN registered modem. Make sure you’ve tested the speeds with all other devices disconnected from your phone ports. If you are running speed tests on one of the speed test sites, make sure you keep a log of the speeds, times etc, AND the URL for each test result. You can give this information in a text file to your service provider as evidence.

      If you don’t get anywhere, escalate to the TIO (

      JeniMay 27, 2018Finder

      Hi Barry,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      Is your area available for nbn?

      Yet nbn’s purpose states that the government expects nbn to give access to peak wholesale download speeds of at least 25Mbps* (megabits per second) to all premises, and at least 50Mbps* peak wholesale download speeds to 90 per cent of the Fixed Line network, in Australia there are five tiers of nbn connections, varying between Tier 1 (12Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds) to Tier 5 (100Mbps of download and 40Mbps upload).

      Your experience including the speeds actually achieved over the nbn broadband access network depends on the technology over which services are delivered to your premises. Some factors outside our control like your equipment quality, software, broadband plans and how your provider designs its network will affect your speed. Be sure to ask your provider what speeds you can expect based on the plan you choose.

      As a friendly reminder, while we do not represent any company we feature on our pages, we can offer you general advice.

      I hope this helps.

      Have a great day!


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