What is the fastest NBN plan available right now in Australia?

August 14th, 2023
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What high-speed plans are available?

The fastest NBN plans available are split into three categories (fast, superfast, and ultrafast).

  • Fast NBN plans can reach speeds up to 100Mbps and typically don’t drop below 60Mbps in busy hours. They are intended for shared home internet connections (5 or more people connected at the same time) and are suitable for 4k video streaming or downloading large files.
  • Superfast NBN plans are limited to FTTP and some HFC (Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial) connections. They can reach speeds up to 250Mbps and typically don’t drop below 150Mbps in busy hours. They can handle concurrent 4k and 8k video streaming and extremely fast file downloads.
  • Ultrafast NBN plans are the fastest available right now in Australia and offer speeds up to 1000Mbps. However, they are only available for FTTP connections.

How do we measure internet speeds?

Broadband internet speeds are typically measured in megabits per second, often shortened to Mbps (not to be confused with MBps or megabytes per second). A bit is the smallest unit of digital information, and the ‘mega’ prefix indicates that 1 Mbps represents one million bits transferred per second.

The speed of a network connection is often conflated with its bandwidth, but the two are not entirely the same. While speed refers to how fast data travels over the network, bandwidth refers to the quantity which can be transferred in any particular time interval (also typically measured in Mbps).

The bandwidth of a network connection determines its maximum throughput, meaning an internet connection with a bandwidth of 100Mbps will only actually operate at that speed under ideal conditions. This is analogous to the way the speed of cars travelling over a highway is related to the number of lanes (bandwidth) of a highway (read more about the ways networks are analogous to highways here). As more data is being sent concurrently over the same internet connection, more bandwidth is being used and the internet connection becomes slower. Similarly, the internet connections of other houses in your area have an impact on the wider network you are connected to. That is why describing internet speed in terms of ‘typical evening speed’ is often more helpful than bandwidth alone. To find your internet speed at any given time you can use the free internet speed test here.

What is FTTP?

FTTP connection diagram

The NBN is complex and consists of a mix of technologies which connect homes and businesses around Australia to a fibre-optic backbone for generally fast and reliable internet. In simple terms, most homes and businesses have a copper cable connection to a central NBN Node which connects several buildings. This is fine for most uses, and is available at speeds of up to 100Mbps but is much significantly slower than Fibre to the Premises (FTTP). This is because traditional copper cables have a significantly lower bandwidth than modern fibre optics. FTTP connects the user with a fibre-optic cable directly to the NBN Node. This is the fastest residential NBN connection available and can provide speeds up to 1000Mbps (also known as 1Gbps, or 1 Gigabit per second). However, NBN also provides fibre connections at nearly 10Gbps for businesses with high-performance needs.

While the number of residences connected to FTTP is growing, the majority of residential NBN connections use FTTN (Fibre To The Node), FTTC (Fibre To The Curb), or HFC (Hybrid-Fibre Coaxial). In many cases, it is possible to upgrade from an existing FTTC or FTTN connection to FTTP. However, doing so can be expensive and not all locations are eligible. You can check whether or not your home is eligible for an NBN FTTP connection here.

Do you need NBN Ultrafast?

Originally the NBN was planned to connect the majority of homes with FTTP. Unfortunately, Australia’s low population density and large land area make this far less cost-effective than similar systems in more population-dense countries.

Thankfully, most users don’t often need to transfer large amounts of data and wouldn’t benefit much from the increased throughput provided by an FTTP connection. In fact, even the 100Mbps provided by a fast NBN plan over an FTTC or FTTN connection is more than enough for typical use. However, if you often stream high-definition video content, play online games, download large files, or work from home the additional bandwidth provided by a superfast or ultrafast connection could be worth the extra cost. It could also work well for large families or sharehouses with several concurrent users.

Choosing the right internet plan can be complicated, and there is no one size fits all approach. You can read more about how to choose the right internet plan for you here.