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NBN speeds explained

Not sure what makes a good NBN speed? Find out how to choose the best speed for you.

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The NBN is split into different speed tiers, each suited to different kinds of online activity and households. Understanding the differences in NBN speed tiers is important in making sure the plan you pick can handle your Internet habits. While some people may think that faster is better, knowing which tier is right for you can help you save on your monthly Internet bill.

In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about NBN speeds, from picking the right plan to making sure your connection's living up to your expectations.

NBN speed tiers

The NBN is split into six different speed tiers. While plan prices vary from one provider to the next, as speed increases, so does price.

Before jumping into the NBN speed tiers, knowing the difference between download and upload speeds is crucial. Whilst most people place emphasis on download speeds, upload speeds could be equally important to you depending on how you plan to use your Internet connection.

All online activity can be split into two categories:

  • Downloads are data that you're pulling from a website or online server. They make up the majority of your online traffic. You're downloading whenever you scroll through social media, install an application from the web or stream videos on Netflix or YouTube.
  • Uploads are any information that you push onto the web. You're uploading when you make a post on Facebook, run a video conference call or send an email.

The table below shows the six NBN speed tiers and the maximum download and upload speeds available.

NBN speed tierMaximum download speedMaximum upload speed
NBN12 Basic I12Mbps1Mbps
NBN25 Basic II25Mbps5Mbps
NBN50 Standard50Mbps20Mbps
NBN100 Fast100Mbps40Mbps
NBN250 Superfast250Mbps25Mbps*
NBN1000 Ultrafast1000Mbps (1Gbps)50Mbps*

*These figures are the default upload speeds for these speed tiers, however, faster speeds are available.

To give you an idea of the differences in speeds on these speed tiers, we've taken some common online downloads and uploads and calculated how long they'd take on each speed tier, assuming they're all running at maximum speed the entire time.

Difference in download speeds

Downloading a...NBN12NBN25NBN50NBN100NBN250NBN250
Music album (100MB)1 min, 7 seconds32 seconds16 seconds8 seconds3 seconds1 second
HD movie from Stan or Netflix (4GB)44 mins, 27 seconds21 mins, 20 seconds10 mins, 40 seconds5 mins, 20 seconds2 mins, 8 seconds32 seconds
Modern video game (70GB)13 hours6 hours, 13 mins3 hours, 6 mins1 hour, 33 mins37 mins, 20 seconds9 mins, 20 seconds

Difference in upload speeds

Uploading a...NBN12NBN25NBN50NBN100NBN250NBN250
Medium YouTube video (400MB)1 min, 20 seconds2 mins, 8 seconds1 min, 4 seconds1 min, 20 seconds2 mins, 8 seconds1 min, 4 seconds
Hundreds of pictures of cats (3GB)10 mins16 mins8 mins10 mins16 mins8 mins

In reality, your plan's actual download and upload speeds will be lower than the maximum speeds above, and will vary depending on the time of day and how busy the network is. This is where typical evening speeds come into play.

What is a good NBN speed?

What's defined as a good NBN speed will depend on what you're using the Internet for and how many people will be online at once. Regardless, a poor NBN speed is still easy to spot when compared to the ACCC benchmarks and speeds from other NBN providers.

The following table gives you an idea of what some acceptable ranges are for each speed tier, as well as speeds that should prompt you to look for a better plan.

NBN speed tierPoor speedsAverage speedsGood speeds
NBN Basic II (NBN 25)0-15 Mbps15-22 Mbps22-25 Mbps
NBN Standard (NBN 50)0-30 Mbps30-40 Mbps40-50 Mbps
NBN Fast (NBN 100)0-60 Mbps60-85 Mbps85-100 Mbps
NBN Superfast (NBN 250)0-110 Mbps110-150 Mbps150-250 Mbps
NBN Ultrafast (NBN 1000)0-250 Mbps250-500 Mbps500-1000 Mbps

To see how your NBN speed is performing on your current plan, consider doing a simple Internet speed test during the evening and compare your results to the table above for your plan's speed tier. Superfast and Ultrafast plans are both extremely new to the market, so their average performance isn't yet well established and will likely change in the future.

Of course, average speeds alone won't tell you what speed tier you need in the first place. Here's a rundown of each tier, including what online habits and household types they suit:

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Money saving tip!

Some of these tiers, especially the higher speed ones, are probably too much for a small or medium-sized household. Just as you should upgrade if your current connection is struggling, consider dropping down a tier if you've got more than what you need.

For example, a two-person household with moderate Internet habits really shouldn't need anything above NBN25, allowing them to save considerable money. The average gap between an NBN25 plan and an NBN50 plan is about $10, meaning you could save more than $100 a year by switching to a plan more suited to your household and Internet habits.

If you sign up to a month-to-month contract, you can always return to a faster speed if the lower tier doesn't work out.

What are typical evening speeds?

Typical evening speeds are what you get during a "typical evening" period when, usually, the most people are online at the same time. This period is defined as 7pm to 11pm. The typical evening speed for a plan is simply how fast your connection will be on average during this period. Most providers will highlight both the speed tier and the typical evening speed of their plans.

Typical evening speeds are separate from the speed tier of your NBN plan and give a more accurate representation of the speeds you'll actually get. Even within the same speed tier, plans from different providers will perform very differently during these peak times.

  • Don't zero in on just the price and the tier when you're comparing plans, or you may find that your connection isn't as great as you thought. Make sure that you're also aware of the typical evening speed.

    The reason that typical evening speeds are slower than the maximums offered by the speed tiers is that the more people that are online at once, the more traffic there is within the NBN's cables, causing network congestion similar to car traffic on a road. Your NBN speed during this period of peak congestion is the best measure of the plan's performance.

    Minimum typical evening speeds

    The image below illustrates the minimum evening speeds as defined by the ACCC, which is the industry authority. The average speed you experience during busy times should be higher (usually significantly higher) than these minimums, otherwise your service may not be the best.

    Minimum typical evening speeds as described by the ACCC - 15Mbps for Basic II plans, 30Mbps for Standard plans and 60Mbps for Fast plans
    You'll notice that the ACCC has only specified the minimum speeds for a couple of the NBN tiers. If your connection is close to or below these minimums – or significantly below your plan's advertised typical evening speed – you can contact your provider and lodge a complaint or check to see if there's a technical issue that can be fixed.

    Otherwise, you're better off switching to a plan with a decent speed, instead of continuing to pay for a plan that's underperforming.

    A final thing to note is that some providers do not advertise their typical evening speeds. Signing on with one of these providers is risky and not advised, since you can't easily complain if you end up with a very low speed, no matter how low it may be.

    Find a better NBN deal today

    Whether you want something that suits your lifestyle better or you're after improved performance on your broadband, you can compare NBN plans using the table below to get the right speed for your needs.

    How to compare NBN speeds

    The easiest way to find a fast NBN plan is to compare typical evening speeds. Picking the right NBN plan requires a balance between speed and monthly cost, but some providers just offer better performance than others, even for the same price. This is mostly due to how well that provider handles congestion on its network.

    To compare NBN providers based on their typical evening speeds, check out our table below. We've rounded up the typical evening speeds for all NBN providers on Finder. We've left out the Basic I speed tier as we're assuming you'll be looking at the Basic II and above tiers for more speed.

    You can sort the below list of providers by their typical evening speeds by clicking on the relevant heading to sort by speed.

    ProvidersBasic IIStandardFast
    Activ8me43.02 Mbps73.21 Mbps
    10mates24.00 Mbps47.00 Mbps94.00 Mbps
    Southern Phone19.00 Mbps38.00 Mbps76.00 Mbps
    Aussie Broadband22.00 Mbps43.00 Mbps89.00 Mbps
    Start Broadband23.00 Mbps45.00 Mbps80.00 Mbps
    Kogan20.00 Mbps40.00 Mbps80.00 Mbps
    Vodafone20.00 Mbps40.00 Mbps80.00 Mbps
    Goodtel21.00 Mbps42.00 Mbps83.00 Mbps
    Internode16.40 Mbps45.00 Mbps85.00 Mbps
    Superloop22.20 Mbps44.40 Mbps90.00 Mbps
    Inspired Broadband20.40 Mbps40.90 Mbps81.80 Mbps
    Tomi Broadband20.91 Mbps43.60 Mbps80.00 Mbps
    Flip21.00 Mbps43.00 Mbps82.00 Mbps
    Exetel20.00 Mbps40.00 Mbps77.00 Mbps
    TPG46.00 Mbps80.10 Mbps
    iiNet21.30 Mbps46.70 Mbps83.60 Mbps
    Harbour ISP42.20 Mbps83.70 Mbps
    Tangerine21.00 Mbps42.00 Mbps83.00 Mbps
    Dodo20.00 Mbps41.00 Mbps82.00 Mbps
    Optus45.00 Mbps90.00 Mbps
    Telstra25.00 Mbps50.00 Mbps100.00 Mbps
    SpinTel21.00 Mbps45.00 Mbps Mbps
    Australia Broadband20.00 Mbps40.00 Mbps80.00 Mbps
    Bendigo Telco40.00 Mbps
    Belong30.00 Mbps40.00 Mbps80.00 Mbps
    iPrimus41.00 Mbps
    Barefoot Telecom42.00 Mbps83.00 Mbps
    Mate Communicate42.00 Mbps83.00 Mbps
    Clear Broadband17.00 Mbps35.00 Mbps70.00 Mbps
    MyRepublic43.00 Mbps83.00 Mbps

    What affects NBN speed?

    There are quite a few things that determine your actual NBN speed. If you want practical tips on speeding up your connection, see our guide on how to fix slow NBN speeds.

    Network congestion
    The more people or devices in your house actively using the network, the slower it will be. On top of that, the more people in your area that are online at the same time, the slower your connection. This is usually heavily dependent on the time of day. 7pm-11pm is the most congested time of the day in Australia.

    Network tech
    Different connection technologies can offer better or worse connections. Depending on how much copper wire is a part of your connection type, the reliability of the speeds you receive could vary. Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) is generally more reliable than Fibre to the Node (FTTN). Satellite and Fixed Wireless can't exceed NBN25 speeds in the first place.

    What your provider or plan is
    Not all providers promise the same performance, and some are better than others. The speed tier you purchase will also determine your connection's maximum capabilities, which is why typical evening speeds are often used as a measure of how reliable the plan you sign up to will be.

    Tech set-up
    Wired connections using an ethernet cable are more reliable than those using Wi-Fi. A poor Wi-Fi signal can lead to severely reduced speeds, as can an outdated modem or incorrectly configured network.

    The average speed of your Internet connection can also depend on where you live, according to a Finder analysis of 14,800 speed tests from Australia's different capital cities. As of 2018-2019, Hobart was home to the fastest Internet, while Perth lagged behind the rest of the country.

    Each city was ranked based on the average download speed that was clocked by our Finder Internet speed test and how long it would theoretically take a user from that city to download a movie. These values are only an average and do not represent the actual speed you can expect from your connection.

    CityAvgerage download speed (Mbps)Time to download a movie (minutes)
    Hobart44.915
    Darwin42.416
    Melbourne29.223
    Canberra28.424
    Sydney27.725
    Brisbane27.125
    Adelaide24.328
    Perth23.929

    FAQs about NBN speeds

    How do I check my NBN speed?

    You can conduct a simple Internet speed test here.

    Why is my NBN slow?

    Your NBN connection can underperform for any number of reasons. Here's our list of the four most common causes of a slow connection and how to fix them.

    Is NBN50 fast enough?

    To decide whether you need to bump up to a higher tier, consider two things:
    • How many people are online. If you regularly have five or more people online simultaneously, a faster connection may be warranted.
    • Type of online activity. If you have several people wanting to stream super high quality video (e.g. 4K) or download huge files, an NBN100 plan can lower buffering and the time it takes for downloads to complete.Never opt for a faster connection just for the sake of it. The price gap between an NBN50 and NBN100 plan averages around $20, meaning you'll be spending an extra $240 a year on speeds you potentially don't need.

    If in doubt, purchase a month-to-month NBN50 plan and upgrade if it isn't getting the job done.


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    2 Responses

    1. Default Gravatar
      BillDecember 31, 2019

      We want to be able to use two PCs for word processing and watch movies on SBS and iView and maybe Netflix between 7pm and 11pm. How much data would we need?

      • Default Gravatar
        NikkiJanuary 4, 2020

        Hi Bill,

        Thanks for your comment and I hope you are doing well.

        If you’re watching a live stream, SBS On Demand may use as much as 1.2MB per hour. Serious streamers should opt for a plan with at least 500GB per month, but if you’re exclusively watching SBS On Demand, you could easily get away with a smaller allowance.ABC recommends a minimum Internet speed of 1.5Mbps for best results and provides the following guide for how much data iView typically uses: A 60-minute program will consume up to 300MB of data on-demand and 360MB when live streamed.

        For watching Netflix, you would need about 1 GB of data per hour for each stream of standard definition video, and up to 3 GB per hour for each stream of HD video. This means you would need around 17-20 MB per day. You can multiply that amount for how much you are watching TV for 30 days and you would know how much data you would need all in all.

        Hope this helps and feel free to reach out to us again for further assistance.

        Best,
        Nikki

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