Why your NBN connection is slow, and what you can do to fix it


If the NBN isn't delivering the speeds you were promised, here's how to fix it.

Aussies have long been stuck with the short end of the stick when it comes to Internet speeds. Countries both bigger and smaller than ours enjoy broadband access many times faster than we do and often at a fraction of the price.

The NBN was pitched as the solution to this. It would completely revamp the Australian Internet landscape, bringing us up to snuff with the rest of the world. For some people, it's doing just that, but others have found the NBN far from what it was cracked up to be. If that's you and your new NBN connection is plodding along like a Galapagos turtle, here are the steps you should take to get back in the Internet fast lane.

Step 1: Check your equipment

Cheap or faulty hardware is a common source of slow Internet speeds, but thankfully it's also the easiest problem to solve. First, you'll want to confirm that your Internet woes aren't limited to a single device by testing your connection on your phone, your computer, your tablet and any other devices you have lying around.

Once you've determined that it's not just your PC suffering from slow Internet speeds, you'll want to make sure that your modem/router is fast enough to handle your NBN connection. If you received your modem/router as part of your NBN plan, you should be fine, but if you bought it separately it's worth double-checking that it supports your particular NBN connection type.

If you're on a Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) or Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB) connection, your modem/router will need to support VDSL2 in order to deliver its full speed. If you're on a Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) connection, you'll need a modem/router with Gigabit Ethernet capabilities.

After confirming that your modem/router supports your connection, you'll want to rule out Wi-Fi issues by connecting a computer or laptop directly to your modem/router with an Ethernet cable. If this improves your Internet speeds, you've narrowed the problem down to your wireless setup. Wi-Fi can be a fickle thing, with performance degrading steeply if you've got a microwave, a portable phone or any other wireless device in the vicinity of your modem/router. Try repositioning your modem/router further away from these devices and see if your speed improves.

If wireless interference isn't the issue, the antennae on your modem/router might not be powerful enough to deliver your desired speeds, or the antennae might be faulty. In either case, it might be time to look at buying a new NBN router.

Step 2: Check your plan

Not all NBN plans are created equal. While some do offer the blazing-fast speeds Aussies were promised, others can be slower than even traditional ADSL services. In fact, nbn doesn't consider the Basic NBN tier (NBN12) a super-fast broadband connection, recommending it only for households that need the most basic Internet access.

Check out our comprehensive guide to NBN speed tiers here.

If you've opted for a cheaper NBN plan, you might have inadvertently signed up for Basic NBN (NBN12), which would explain your slow Internet speeds. Even if you're on a faster Standard plan (NBN25), it's possible your previous non-NBN Internet connection was faster. If this is the case, you might want to consider upgrading to a higher speed tier.

Step 3: Other causes

Unfortunately, some causes of slow NBN speeds are simply out of your control. If you're on an FTTN connection, for instance, the distance from your house to the nearest fibre node can have a significant impact on Internet speeds. This is because FTTN relies on the old copper cable network to bridge the gap between your house and the nearest fibre node, and copper speeds drop steeply as distance increases. The further you are from the node, the more copper needs to be used, and hence the slower your Internet speeds.

If you are on FTTN, there are a few particular tips to try and speed up FTTN connections though.

It's a similar case for Fixed Wireless and Sky Muster NBN connections. Both transmit data wirelessly through the air, and suffer even greater signal loss over long distances. This is why speeds on Fixed Wireless and Sky Muster plans are typically slower than other NBN connections.

Network congestion is another frustrating foible of the NBN. Depending on the provider you're with, you may be competing for Internet access with a large number of other users. If your provider has only purchased limited bandwidth from wholesaler nbn, it might not be able to handle a large number of users accessing the Internet at the same time. This results in slower speeds for everyone on the provider's network.

Your only real option to combat network congestion is to speak to your provider and see if it offers other plans with guaranteed Internet speeds even during peak hours. If not, you may need to move onto the next step.

Step 4: Find a new provider

Okay, so it's no fun switching Internet providers, especially if you just switched to get on the NBN in the first place. But if you're fed up with your snail-paced connection and you've tried every other step in this guide, it might be your only option. To make the process less painful, why not check out our guide to the best NBN plans?

Once you've settled on a new provider, be sure to inquire as to the speeds you can expect based on your address and possible network congestion. You might also want to opt for a no-lock-in contract, just in case your new connection proves no faster than your last one.

Compare Standard Plus NBN plans

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