The National Broadband Network (NBN) was designed to reach every home and business in Australia, giving all Aussies fast, reliable and hassle-free broadband. Years later and despite a few hiccups, the NBN now connects almost ten million Australian homes and businesses across the country. For those who are not yet connected, the expansion has sped up in recent years so your day is likely to come soon. Here we get stuck into the history of the NBN, where we stand right now and how to choose the right NBN plan for your household.
History and overview of the National Broadband Network (NBN)
Starting as a pledge from the opposition Labor party in 2006, the NBN had a simple yet ambitious set of goals. The four main pillars of the NBN were to provide top-quality broadband internet access to Australians all over the country, in a timely fashion – i.e. as soon as possible – at affordable prices and at the least cost to the government. Years later and after winning the support of all major political parties, the NBN is the largest and most complex infrastructure project in Australian history.
The design and construction phase begun in 2010, with a multi-technology approach being adopted in 2013. The next milestone year was 2015, when the Fibre To The Basement (FTTB) and Fibre To The Node (FTTN) services were launched. 2016 saw the launch of the Fibre To The Kerb (FTTK) service, while FTTN broke the one million premises mark. The numbers of homes connected to the NBN continues to grow, with the network adding 2.1 million capable premises from 2018 to 2019. In total, 8.3 million Australian homes and businesses are now able to be connected to the NBN, with the number growing all the time.
The improvements to the network aren’t simply in the number of people connected, but also in the overall quality. On all available metrics, the NBN is experiencing significant improvement. Successful installation rates have improved out of sight after being a problem early on, while installation times have also improved. Congestion on fixed lines has also decreased, meaning the overall speed of your connection is improving. For Fixed Wireless users, performance is also increasing.
Where are we now?
The NBN was a massive project and it has encountered difficulties along the way. From getting appropriate funding to ensuring that all areas are looked after, there were always going to be challenges. While it did have a slow start, the project has been at full speed for a number of years now and continues to connect more and more Aussie homes.
If you’re not already connected to the NBN or if you just want to see how the process is going, our NBN Rollout Tracker lets you see the status of different addresses, i.e. whether they are NBN ready or when they can expect to be. Powered by data directly from NBN Co themselves, it’s a handy and useful tool to bookmark and check from time to time – even if you just want to keep up to date with the status of the project.
Compare NBN plans
Alright, so you’ve checked with our helpful tool and you’re ready to connect to the NBN. Which one of the many excellent NBN providers do you go for? While some providers have fully switched to the NBN, others have kept offering both ADSL and NBN coverage. This means you may not need to switch from your existing provider, although it certainly cannot hurt to see what else is out there on the market. There are a number of things to consider in choosing an NBN plan, including the speed of your connection, the data (download) limit and the other perks which can be thrown in. Then there’s bundling, which basically means the other services – from mobile and home phone to gas and electricity – which may be included as part of the deal.
We don’t like to use clichés, but at the end of the day, the right NBN plan really depends on you. We say ‘at the end of the day’, because this is the most important time to think about when thinking about an NBN plan. Like electricity usage or car travel, when more people use something it can put a strain on existing resources. Because of this, NBN is measured in ‘Evening Speed’ – which is the speed your connection will operate at during the time when everyone else is connected. This is roughly between 5pm and 10pm each night, when most Aussies have come home from work or school and are connecting to the web. This is by far the most important metric when it comes to the speed of your connection; a connection that works excellently at midday or at 3am might be perfect for shift workers, but it’s not going to feel too good when the nightly news is buffering.
Last audited 30 November 2020
NBN Speeds and Data
There are four NBN speeds, all of which are judged on ‘Evening Speed’. Basic Evening Speed (NBN12) runs with a 12MBPS. Standard Evening Speed (NBN25) will get you an average of 25MBPS. Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN50) will come at an average of 50MBPS. Finally, the supercharged NBN option is Premium Evening Speed (NBN100), securing you 100MBPS. It’s important to remember that not all providers will offer a plan in each of these categories, so be sure to check which ones they do offer. Another thing to remember is that there are of course no guarantees. There are a range of other factors which will influence the speed at which your connection runs, such as your technology, the demand in your area and also the weather. Those with a need for speed however would obviously do better to get one of the faster plans, although these will cost more.
The next thing to consider is data limit. Fortunately for Aussie internet users – and thanks largely to the NBN – the days of worrying about every megabyte as the end of the month draws close are over. Most providers now offer unlimited download plans on the NBN at affordable competitive rates. In a time when gaming and streaming is becoming more and more popular, going unlimited is a sure-fire way to reduce the stress – and the potential extra cost – of exceeding your regular limit. As with anything however, it all depends on your usage. If you and your household don’t stream or game, there are great plans for light internet users which will save you the cost of an unlimited plan. In making any NBN decision, think about your broadband needs and wants before finding the plan that suits you best.
The final point we want to make about the NBN is the existence of bundling. Bundling has grown in popularity in recent years as it represents a sort of Broadband 2.0 for Aussie internet users. If you’ve used the internet for a while, you might remember the days of ‘one-size-fits-all’ plans, which basically required you to sign up to the only plan on offer and pay for a lot of stuff you didn’t use. Fortunately, those days are over. Bundling has emerged as a way to save money on stuff you do actually use, while not requiring you to pay for stuff you don’t want. From your mobile phone costs to your electricity bill, the options are extensive in bundling.
What is the Future of the NBN in Australia?
While the NBN has been in the process of expansion for some time, the network is by no means finished. The 10-million threshold has been reached, but with a goal of connecting more than 90 percent of the fixed line network in Australia, the expansion will continue. In fact, it’s only speeding up. With more than 30,000 people working on the transition, if you’re not connected to the NBN now, there’s a great chance you will be soon.
While almost everyone will have heard to the National Broadband Network – the NBN – through the many news reports on its progress over the past few years, there’s still a lot of confusion about what it is, what it’s for, and how it’s going to affect the way you connect to the internet in the future. A project that’s been many years in the making, it’s seen delays and alterations, but is back in full swing and rolling out to homes and businesses once more.
To help guide you we’ve put together a comprehensive overview of what the NBN is, how it will change the way you access the net, and what the different ways of connecting to the NBN mean for you.
See the 2016 NBN Review for the latest details and progress.
Frequently Asked Questions about NBN
For many years, Australia depended on a network of phone lines owned by Telstra, and broadband equipment owned by a handful of companies, for both home phone and internet services. Not only was it slow, it limited consumers’ choice of providers. The NBN – National Broadband Network – replaces that with a high-speed national network for all communications, which all providers can offer services on. That keeps prices down – and thanks to newer technology, speeds are faster than ever possible before.
The rollout of the NBN, started in 2010, is almost complete – so by now, most areas and households have either been switched over to it, or have access to it. There are a handful of properties around Australia that still can’t get the NBN, but even those will gain access eventually. You can check your NBN access and the type of connection you have using our interactive NBN rollout map.
Once the NBN is available in your area, you should get a letter in the mail letting you know you can switch over. At that point you can either contact your current provider to make the switch, or choose a new one – it’s good to compare NBN providers and plans before making a decision, as there are many great-value deals available.
Yes, usually they do. With the old copper phone network shutting down, your home phone will now work on the same connection as your NBN broadband and will need to be provided by the company that delivers your broadband. That’s not a bad thing – usually, you’ll find the home phone line is included at no extra charge. If you’re on Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) or Fixed Wireless NBN, you can have home phone and broadband with different providers, but the cost of doing so makes it better to stick with the one provider.
As a vast national network, the NBN itself is designed to never be “down” completely (though occasional technical problems can crop up). However, if you’re unable to access your NBN internet service it’s entirely possible that the NBN connection point you’re on may be having an outage, or your internet provider may be having technical issues. Your first port of call is your internet provider’s support line – they have access to all the info about the NBN and can tell you if there’s an outage and how long it may last, or get things fixed if there’s a fault in your service.
When the NBN is installed at your home or business, the NBN technicians will install all the things needed to get the connection into your home. Depending on your connection type, they will also possibly install a device known as a NTD where the connection enters the building, which is what you connect your modem or router to. With Fibre to the Curb connections, the NTD will usually be supplied by your internet provider, but sometimes may be installed when you have the NBN connected. In either case, it’s provided free of charge.
A vast broadband network that stretch across the entire country, the NBN works as a central hub that all internet providers can connect to via any of 121 connection points around the continent. It provides the pipelines and computing power needed to move data to and from each of those connection points, sending it to and receiving it from your chosen broadband provider. It’s an incredibly complex network that’s designed to be, for the end user, as simple as plugging a modem or router into a socket on the wall.
The NBN replaces the old copper phone network, and with it, your traditional phone line is also replaced. However, with some NBN technologies – Fibre to the Node, Fibre to the Curb and Fibre to the Building – existing phone lines are used to carry the NBN data from the street into your home. Because this is a far shorter length of traditional phone line, much faster speeds can be reached. When the NBN is installed at your place, the NBN technicians will make the needed changes to your phone line so it’ll work with the NBN.
While so far, most NBN connections have been limited to the NBN 100 tier as the top speed – that’s 100 Mbps downloads and 40 Mbps uploads – in 2020, new speed tiers were released, offering download speeds of 250 Mbps and 1000 Mbps (also known as “gigabit”). However, these speeds aren’t available for everyone just yet – in most cases, upgrades need to be made to the network to enable them for customers, and internet providers need to choose to offer them (at the moment, only a few do).
While you’re not required to have a NBN broadband connection or home phone if you don’t want one, the old copper phone network is being decommissioned and you will lose access to it once that happens in your area, making the NBN the only choice for wired broadband and phone. That’s not a bad thing, since it gives all consumers much more choice and cheaper prices, and the ability to switch providers easily without a lengthy waiting period.
There are several types of NBN in use around Australia, and which one you get depends on your location – you can’t choose which type you get. All connect to the same NBN in different ways and have different advantages and capabilities. To find out which type you have, search for your address on any NBN internet provider’s web site – it will instantly show you which connection type you have.
The NBN was a project started by the Rudd government a decade ago, and then modified and finished by the current government, as a publicly owned asset. At the moment, the NBN is still 100% government owned and run, but the longer-term plan has always been to sell it to recoup the huge cost of building it. While that will eventually happen, for the immediate future the NBN remains in public hands.
If you’re experiencing slow or unreliable broadband on the NBN, the actual NBN network is unlikely to be the problem. It’s possible your internet provider may be having technical issues or suffering from congestion, so call them first. It’s also possible that you’re suffering from a local fault, either with the cable out in your street or the cabling in your home; you ISP can help you diagnose that. If you’re using wi-fi, make sure you test your connection using a computer plugged into your modem/router via Ethernet first – wi-fi is notoriously prone to interference causing slowdowns.
TV and the internet are closely connected these days, and there are plenty of options if you’re looking to get some entertainment with your internet connection. Fetch TV can be added to unlimited plans from several providers (like iPrimus, mentioned above) or if you’re more of a streaming user, Telstra’s bundle pulling together a Telstra TV box, free months of Binge and Foxtel Now, a home phone and unlimited broadband is TV value that’s hard to beat for $99/month. Telstra also offers well-priced bundles with Foxtel included. You can check out all the latest TV and internet bundles on our comparison page.
If money’s tight and you’re looking to get connected to the internet without breaking the bank, don’t worry – there are affordable plans available, and while they won’t break speed records, they’ll keep you connected just as well. Belong Broadband – which uses the Telstra network – has its Starter plan available for only $55/month, which gives you slightly more than NBN25 speed. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that – and they include a wi-fi modem too.
What’s best overall is going to depend on your specific needs, but the plan which gives the most bang for your buck is Telstra’s NBN50 Unlimited Data plan. It bundles a fast, reliable connection, a modem with 4G backup, a home phone with unlimited calls, free connection and three months of free Binge (more if you join Telstra Plus!)