The NBN’s New Speed Tiers – What Do They Mean for You?

New NBN Speed Tiers

If you’ve been keeping an eye on tech news in the papers or on TV, you might have seen a mention of some big changes to the NBN speeds being proposed for the future. While at the moment nothing has been set in stone, it’s looking likely that soon, we’ll be seeing a wider range of options for NBN plans at the faster end of the speed scale – including a top speed tier with the fastest broadband speed most of Australia has ever seen.

The changes were brought up as part of the NBN’s 2019 Pricing Review, an ongoing process where the NBN consults with internet providers to work out the best pricing to set for access to the network. The wholesale cost of the NBN – the price your provider pays to give you access to the network – has long been controversial, with some providers complaining that the high wholesale cost doesn’t give them any room to make a profit. The NBN, then, is trying to come up with pricing that works better for everyone.

The Capacity Problem – And the Solution

As part of the review, the NBN has decided to further tweak the pricing of the four existing speed tiers to better suit internet providers, and they’re going about it in two ways. The NBN charges internet providers in two ways – an access fee for the connection itself, and an amount of capacity (speed) for each connection. The speed allocated to each user is actually quite low – only a few megabits per second (Mbps). The thinking is that not all users will be maxing out the speed of their connection at the same time. 

So, if an internet provider connects 1000 users at, say, 3 Mbps each, the total available speed will be 3000 Mbps. Where this can cause congestion is at the busiest time of day – evenings. If a provider signs up too many customers to the one connection and too many of them start using significant speed – like, for example, streaming Netflix in HD or 4K – that capacity can run out, and everyone starts experiencing annoyances like video pausing and buffering.

The NBN plans to fix this by regularly increasing capacity on every speed tier to help meet increasing demand for data.

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Cheaper Broadband Plans for All!

At the same time as they tackle the capacity problem, the NBN will be discounting the existing speed tiers to make them better value for internet providers, who should have a bit more room to decide how they want to make the plans work for them. For some providers, the changes will mean they can put more users onto existing connections without adversely affecting performance. For others, the base discount on the price of a connection will be enough. Ultimately, though, it should result in consumers seeing lower prices for most NBN plans, hopefully bringing the entry-level 12/1 and 25/5 plans down closer to the pricing of the ADSL plans they’re replacing.

Up at the top end of the scale, the NBN is proposing a new 100 Mbps speed tier with a slower upload speed at a substantially reduced wholesale price – which could bring that faster speed far more within reach of price-conscious consumers.

In fact, across almost all plans, there will be a lot more room for providers to get creative with pricing while delivering a better, less congested service – and that’s good news for all customers.

The Need for Speed – New Faster Speed Tiers on the Way!

That proposed new 100 Mbps tier mentioned above is part of the first big additions to the NBN speed tiers since the network launched. Up at the higher speed end of the scale there could soon be far greater choice and much faster speeds if you want them. At the moment, there are only four speed tiers – 12/1, 25/5, 50/20 and 100/40. They’re not as complicated as the numbers might make it sound; the first number is the maximum download speed and the second is the upload speed. Uploads are usually set slower than downloads on consumer plans simply because for most people, almost all their usage is downloading (including video streaming).

The three new speed tiers being proposed are:

100/20: A variation on the existing 100/40 top speed tier, with its upload speed halved. In return for that slower upload speed, the wholesale price would be lower, potentially meaning that customers could find plans at the 100 Mbps speed tier for a lot less than the $90-100 that the 100/40 tier is commonly sold at.

250/25: This is a potential game-changer. The proposed pricing for this tier would place a 250 Mbps in the “actually affordable” range; at the moment, when such a speed is available at all (Aussie Broadband offers 250/100 in selected areas, for example) it’s really expensive, in the range of $200 a month. The 250/25 plan will deliver substantially faster downloads and a functional upload speed at a much lower price.

1000/50: The holy grail for broadband speed demons, this “gigabit” speed tier would let you download a 30GB video game in about 4 minutes instead of the 45 minutes it takes now on a 100/40 plan. Downloading a HD movie from iTunes would take 40 seconds instead of 7 minutes. Once you get speed like that, the internet really opens up to you as a utility.

The Catch

The fine print on these proposals, though, is that only the 100/20 tier will be available through all NBN service types, including Fibre to the Node, which simply isn’t capable of going any faster (and in many cases won’t be able to hit anywhere close to that speed unless the customer is lucky enough to live almost next door to the node!) The 250/25 and 1000/20 tiers will be available to the lucky people with Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) and the many now connected via the old Foxtel cable (HFC). The NBN is also investigating whether the higher speeds can be offered to people connected via Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) but makes no promises.

What Does It Mean for You?

Ultimately, once all the proposals are sorted, tweaked and implemented, we should see a more flexible range of NBN plans and probably some cheaper options for those who don’t need or want raw broadband speed. But for those who would like to experience truly fast broadband, the new high-speed plans could finally bring that dream within affordable reach – if you’re lucky enough to have won the NBN connection lottery.

If you’re wondering what all the different speeds mean for you, check out our article all about what a faster NBN can do for you – and look forward to faster downloads and less Netflix buffering in the near future!


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