Telstra vs Optus Broadband: Which plans are best for you?

The biggest names in broadband each have a lot to offer, but which gets you more for your money?

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While there's no shortage of broadband providers to choose from these days, Optus and Telstra are still far and away the biggest names in the business. Not only are they the only companies to operate nation-wide cable broadband networks, together they control a large part of the country's ADSL infrastructure, a fact that kept smaller providers from competing in the ADSL space for a long time.

Even with the neutrally-owned NBN rolling out across Australia, Telstra and Optus remain the go-to choices for reliable broadband. But that still leaves the question: Optus or Telstra? To answer that, let's break down what each has to offer.

Speed

If you've got the need for speed, both Telstra and Optus are equally capable of delivering the goods. On their ADSL plans, each serves up a maximum download speed of 20Mbps, though you'll likely see speeds much slower than that due to the way ADSL speeds degrade the further you live from your local telephone exchange. Nevertheless, you won't see much of a difference between Telstra and Optus' ADSL speeds.

Cable Internet is much the same. Both providers offer two speed tiers for their cable broadband plans: a 30Mbps tier and a 100Mbps tier. While cable speeds don't suffer the same degradation over distance that ADSL speeds do, network congestion can cause your speed to drop during peak Internet hours. Again, this is consistent across Telstra and Optus.

With the NBN, Telstra and Optus differ slightly. Telstra only offers three of the four NBN speed tiers: nbn 25 (dubbed "Fast"), nbn 50 ("Very Fast") and nbn 100 ("Super Fast"). Optus, on the other hand, offers the same three tiers plus nbn 12 which, while slower than some existing ADSL connections, can be suitable for light Internet users looking for a cheap broadband option.

Data caps

Optus has a marked advantage over Telstra on the data front. All Optus' broadband plans come with unlimited data, saving you the hassle of monitoring your data usage every month. Telstra's plans, meanwhile, range from a slight 50GB of data a month up to 2000GB which, though ample for the majority of Internet users, is still not as carefree as Optus' unlimited option.

This lack of unlimited data, along with the need to predict how much data you're going to use per month in order to choose the right plan, makes Telstra's broadband plans considerably more confusing than they need to be. Optus is the clear winner here.

Contract duration

Competition in the broadband space has driven both Telstra and Optus to offer month-to-month broadband contracts in addition to their long-standing 24-month contracts. This is good news for broadband customers, though Optus' approach beats out Telstra's by a significant margin. Telstra tacks an extra $15 a month onto your bill if you opt for a month-to-month contract instead of the full two years, while Optus charges the same monthly price regardless of contract duration.

Monthly costs

Once again, Optus has the edge over Telstra in the pricing comparison. Its two main plans clock in at $60 a month for unlimited data and pay-as-you-go calls, and $80 a month for unlimited data, pay-as-you-go calls, a Yes TV by Fetch subscription and a subscription to Optus Sport. These prices remain the same whether you sign up for ADSL or the basic 30Mbps cable connection.

Telstra's plans are notably less impressive. $80 a month will get you 500GB of data and pay-as-you-go calls with an ADSL or 30Mbps cable connection, while $90 a month will up your data cap to 1,000GB a month.

Optus retains its advantage with its NBN plans. For $80 a month, you'll get an nbn 25 connection along with unlimited data, pay-as-you-go calls, Yes TV by Fetch and an Optus Sport subscription. That same price over at Telstra will only get you 500GB of data and pay-as-you-go calls on nbn 25.

At the high-end of the NBN spectrum, Telstra again loses out, charging an additional $30 a month to upgrade to its Super Fast (nbn 100) speed tier. In contrast, Optus charges just $20 extra a month for its equivalent Boost Max speed tier.

Additional fees

If you want to avoid a wealth of fees on top of your monthly bill, you'll probably want to steer clear of Telstra's broadband plans. New Telstra customers will face an $89 activation fee on all the provider's broadband plans, and if you sign up on a month-to-month contract, you'll be slogged an additional $120 casual fee plus a $168 equipment charge for the mandatory Telstra Home Network Gateway device.

Optus isn't free of fees either, but its charges are far easier to swallow. There are no activation fees on Optus' broadband plans, and all new customers get a free Wi-Fi modem bundled in with their service. Opting for a month-to-month contract will incur a $200 start-up fee, but this still works out cheaper than Telstra's $15-a-month premium if you stick with your plan for more than a year.

You'll want to be wary of Telstra's cancellation fees if you sign up for 24 months, too. While Optus charges a maximum Early Termination Fee (ETF) of $500 if you cancel your service before the two years is up, Telstra's ETFs start at $528 and go all the way up to $937, depending on which plan you go with.

Bundles

Bundles play a large role in both Optus and Telstra's broadband business. For basic home phone bundles, Optus' price advantage makes it the clear winner, but Telstra turns things around on the entertainment front. Since Telstra owns 50% of Foxtel, it's able to bundle Foxtel's Entertainment pack into its L and XL broadband plans, getting you 45 channels from across a variety of genres including drama, lifestyle and documentaries.

At a minimum of $120 a month, though, you're paying a steep premium for the convenience of bundling broadband and Foxtel together. If you instead sign up for Optus broadband and purchase the Foxtel Entertainment pack separately, you'd be looking at a far more palatable $106 a month for the same entertainment, plus you'd enjoy unlimited data and a subscription to Optus Sport. Unless you're particularly averse to managing separate contracts, Optus remains the superior option.


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