Broadband in Australia: Compare Providers and Find Great Deals

Whether at home or out and about with our mobile devices, we almost take broadband internet for granted these days. And despite the occasional problems that can crop up for some – not to mention the rise of Netflix putting a strain on internet providers nationwide – we’ve never had it so good when it comes to affordable, fast internet connectivity. Technology’s come forward in massive leaps over recent years. Not all that long ago, the idea of watching high definition TV via the internet was pure fantasy. Now, broadband has enabled a new era for entertainment, it’s also let us work from home, play games online with our friends, share photos and videos instantly with family, and more.

What is broadband, anyway?

The name comes from the idea of sending many different signals over the same cable at once. “Broadband” refers to any form of internet connection that’s both “always on” (you don’t have to connect to it whenever you want to use it) and faster than the old standard, dial-up internet.

It’s a catch-all term that’s really come to just mean fast, always-on internet. Broadband can be delivered by a whole bunch of different methods – everything from your pay TV cable to high-tech fibre optics, from fast 4G mobile networks to your humble home phone line.

The key factor that sets broadband apart is speed. Even so, the slowest broadband connection is many times faster than what people were using before the speedy option came along.

What is broadband, anyway?

Australia and broadband – a quick history

For many years, the only way to connect to the internet was via dial-up internet. You plugged a modem into your phone line and, using software on your computer, had to actually dial a phone number to connect to the internet. Anyone who’s ever used it will remember the familiar electronic noises a dial-up modem made when connecting!

It worked, though it had its problems. Firstly, it tied up your phone line so that nobody could make or receive calls while you were online. Next, its speed capped out at 56 kilobits per second – that’s 0.05 megabits per second, hundreds of times slower than even the slowest broadband connection today! Luckily, most web sites back then were very bare-bones and simple, so they’d load fast. Yet, there was still a lot of waiting around for a page to display.

Towards the end of the 1990s, both Telstra and Optus started offering something revolutionary – Australia’s first consumer broadband connections, using their pay TV cables as the connection. The only problem? It wasn’t widely available. If you didn’t have a pay TV cable running past your home, you were out of luck. This move was, however, the start of something big.

In 2000, the game-changer arrived. Telstra launched their ADSL service, allowing customers to access broadband via their normal home phone line for the first time. We’re talking about a connection that was always on and let you make phone calls on the same line while staying connected to the internet. At the time it was an incredible innovation, even though top speeds were artificially limited to 1.5 Mbit/sec.

A few years later, other ISPs started getting in on the action, installing their own ADSL hardware at Telstra’s phone exchanges and un-capping the speed. For the first time, you could get a home connection (if your phone line was close enough to the exchange) at 8 Mbit/sec. Speed was bumped up to a hefty 24 Mbit/sec when the improved ADSL2 arrived a few years later.

And that’s where we sat for years. Until the NBN started rolling out, first with fibre optic cable and then with a range of different connection methods.

Australian broadband today

With the NBN rollout still very much a work in progress, much of Australia still gets their broadband via ADSL. Now an ancient technology, but so reliable it can still hold its own nearly two decades after it was introduced.

The NBN, meanwhile, continues to make its way into homes and businesses, using a rollout strategy that’s very different from what was first planned. Whether you eventually get your NBN connection via fibre, the pay TV cables, your home phone line, or even wireless will entirely depend on where you’re located. Everyone is being moved onto the same network, but in many different ways.

Many people – especially those without access to a good enough phone line even for fast ADSL – have opted to go with the mobile phone networks for their broadband instead, using 4G-capable modems or adapters. It’s a good (though potentially expensive) stopgap solution, but ultimately, nothing beats a wired connection for reliability and consistent speed.

Australian broadband

Top broadband providers

There’s no shortage of broadband providers available to choose from in Australia these days. Moreover, that number keeps growing as the NBN rolls out, making access to an entire nation of customers easier than ever before. Quite a few companies have established a solid reputation for broadband service, so you’ve got no shortage of quality choices when you’re shopping around for a broadband internet connection. Here are some on the best providers currently on the market.

Australia’s biggest and longest-serving broadband provider, Telstra’s acclaimed network is second to none when it comes to speed and quality. Plus, there are bundles on offer that include home phone and streaming entertainment, too.

One of the first providers to do ADSL using their own hardware, iPrimus has decades of experience delivering fast broadband.

Well known for their creative bundles and cheap prices, Dodo is now part of the Vocus group and delivers speedy broadband for budget-conscious consumers, with the option of adding a comprehensive streaming TV package to your service.

With “customers first” as their motto, Mungi earned an excellent reputation for both customer service and value for money when it comes to the NBN.

Australia’s veteran pay TV provider Foxtel also does broadband. Bundling internet with your TV service can save you a ton of money, while enjoying the speed of the Telstra broadband network.

Low cost, unlimited data and no contracts are the order of the day at Belong Broadband, where they make connecting to broadband quick, simple and stress-free.

An NBN-only provider with a support team entirely based in Australia, no contracts and great prices, Barefoot is making waves and winning an ever-increasing amount of customers.

Giving you all you need to get onto broadband without hassle – and at a surprisingly low price – MATE Broadband can take care of all your ADSL and NBN needs, including bundles with unlimited home phone calls.

Wherever you are across Australia, Southern Phone has got you covered with a range of plans that suit all types of budget. They offer a rather brilliant pricing structure that lets you fine-tune your monthly spend based on the amount of data you’re likely to use.

What about the NBN?

The rollout of the National Broadband Network has picked up speed in recent years, and the huge task of connecting everyone in Australia to it has gotten well under way. Exactly what type of connection you get will depend on where you are, with several options available. Fibre optic cable is the fastest, and anyone who got their NBN connection early on will have access to it. Most, though, will connect via “Fibre to the node” (which plugs your home phone line into a fibre-connected street box) or HFC (the pay TV cable that Foxtel still uses as well). Consumers in remote areas will probably connect via Fixed Wireless, which can potentially be very fast as well.

Coming up in the future is “fibre to the curb”, where the fibre optic cable will run right up to the front of your property, making the connection into your home nice and short – which means faster speeds.

With the NBN being a bit of a political football, what happens with the network in the future is still unknown. Eventually, not that many years down the track, everyone will be connecting directly to fibre – which enables speeds faster than anything you can imagine today, bringing with it a huge range of possibilities, including education and medicine. Broadband is not just for checking Facebook and binge-watching Netflix, after all!