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Save $120 a year with Telstra’s NBN 50 plan: Is it better than the rest?

Posted: 14 October 2020 11:50 am
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Telstra has cut its prices on 50Mbps NBN plans, but how do they compare against your other home broadband choices?

In Australia, if you're on an NBN plan – and in 2020, most of us are – the odds are very good that you're on a 50Mbps connection, with NBN Co reporting that as of August 2020, some 69% of all connections are on the 50Mbps or higher speed tiers.

That makes 50Mbps plans ripe for competition and the nation's biggest telco has come out swinging, recently dropping the monthly price for its own 50Mbps plan down from $90 per month to $80 per month for your first 12 months. That means a saving of $120 during your first year with Telstra.

That still puts it at a slight price premium over much of its competition, but the gap between Telstra's NBN plans and those of its competition is considerably less than it used to be.

Here's how other NBN plans compare between the biggest players in the NBN space, including Vodafone, Optus, TPG, Aussie Broadband and iiNet:

The plans above show the core price differences between Telstra and its competitors, from as little as $1 difference with Aussie Broadband's NBN 50 plan to a chunkier $15 difference with Vodafone's. But an NBN plan is more than just the sum of cash you hand over each month. Here's where Telstra's got an edge – and where it doesn't.

What's good about Telstra NBN?

  • Bundled 4G fallback: Telstra isn't unique in this space, with both Optus and Vodafone providing a standard NBN modem that drops back to their respective 4G mobile networks if there's a problem with your NBN connection at any time. Telstra's wider 4G coverage could give it an edge in your area though.
  • Home phone inclusions: Most NBN providers offer VoIP-based calling, which makes sense given that for most users the NBN replaces their older telephone services entirely. Telstra's $80 plan includes unlimited calls to standard Australian landline and mobile numbers, which beats what its competitors offer, often pay as you go calls. If you're still a heavy landline user, there's some potentially solid value there.
  • Pretty generous loyalty scheme: Telstra was the first and, so far, only Australian telco to announce a frequent-flyer-style scheme where customers get "points" for every dollar they spend. Now, like frequent flyer points you do have to be a customer for a while to rack up any decent value and they're only redeemable for other tech products, but if that means you can score your next phone, headset or smart wearable for less than you'd usually pay, that's a decent value inclusion. Comparatively while other providers have offered deals like discounted movie tickets, we're yet to see one offer a plan quite as generous as Telstra Plus.
  • Fast typical evening speeds: Telstra has recently switched to advising its typical evening speeds as the full 50Mbps that such plans are capable of. Given that the ACCC tends to take a very dim view of providers advertising speeds that customers can't get, Telstra either has a lot of confidence in its ability to deliver or it's going to very quickly cop some rather painful fines. Comparatively, the cheaper plans available through other providers have typical evening speeds that bounce anywhere from 40–46.7Mbps.

So how does this compare overall?

One way to measure that would be to look at the monthly cost and work out a cost-per-Mbps basis for each provider. Here's how they break down:

ProviderMonthly costAdvertised typical evening speedCost per Mbps
Telstra$8050$1.60
Optus$7545$1.67
Vodafone$6540$1.63
TPG$69.9946$1.52
iiNet$74.9946$1.63
Aussie Broadband$7943$1.84

All of those figures do presume that those speed claims are on the level – more on that shortly.

What's not so great about Telstra NBN?

  • 4G fallback isn't full-speed 4G: Technically 4G fallback could run faster than your actual 50Mbps plan, but instead speeds are limited to an NBN 12 connection at best. That's the same for Telstra's competitors Optus and Vodafone, but it's worth knowing that if you do have a shaky NBN connection, you're going to have a more constrained broadband experience while you wait for it to be fixed.
  • Support may be overseas: Telstra copped some flack earlier in the year when its predominantly overseas support model – in place because it's cheaper for Telstra to work that way – was hard for consumers to access, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. While all NBN providers have undergone some reconfiguration to better enable customer support in these more difficult times, some providers such as Aussie Broadband offer purely Australia-based support systems.
  • Your mobile probably already has unlimited calls: It's definitely a plus that Telstra no longer charges a high "line rental" cost for phone services and that it bundles unlimited calls with its NBN plans. However, the reality for most of us is that this is service we've already got on our mobiles anyway. Having a landline for some people seems to just end up as an avenue to get pestered by those not-so-nice scam callers, including the ones pretending to be from Telstra itself.
  • Telstra Plus points only have value if you use them: Like frequent flyer points, the value of a Telstra Plus point is super variable depending on what you "spend" it on. Also in a similar vein you can pay for devices outright with Telstra Plus points if you've got enough of them, or use a mix of points and actual cash, but all of that relies on Telstra having goodies you actually want in the first place. While they have "value", you also can't use them to more simply reduce a Telstra bill of any kind.
  • Typical evening speeds can vary: Telstra's making a pretty bold claim with its 50Mbps typical evening speed advertising, but that doesn't mean you will automatically always have 100% of that speed at your command. To use the ACCC's most recent Measuring Broadband Australia report as a guideline, Telstra's services overall (excluding under-50Mbps services) hit their targets 89.9% of the time, compared to 91.9% for Optus, 90.8% for iiNet, 90.7% for Aussie Broadband and 91.1% for TPG. The only one of the big players where the ACCC measured performance below Telstra was Vodafone, at 89.4% of plan speed delivered during busy hours.

With all this being said, Telstra still compares pretty well against its competitors if you apply those ACCC speed percentages to each provider's claimed typical evening speeds. Here's how that looks in a comparative table, with some rates being much closer, while others blow out markedly:

ProviderMonthly costAdvertised typical evening speed, adjusted for ACCC metricsCost per Mbps
Telstra$8044.95$1.78
Optus$7541.355$1.81
Vodafone$6535.76$1.82
TPG$69.9942.274$1.66
iiNet$74.9941.768$1.80
Aussie Broadband$7939.001$2.03

While Telstra's discounted NBN 50 plan definitely makes it look more attractive against its competition, whether it's the best plan on the market right now really depends on what you're after. It's by no means the cheapest that's currently available, but it is a pretty sweet deal coming from Australia's largest NBN provider.

Looking for a new NBN plan? Check out our monthly write-up of the best NBN plans as picked by an expert.

Image: Getty Images

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