The ultimate guide to NBN, wireless and broadband internet in Australia

February 6th, 2024
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The ultimate guide to NBN, Wireless and broadband internet in Australia

Part 1 – Broadband Internet – The Basics

What is broadband?

Broadband essentially means fast data transfer. In the context of home internet access, broadband internet translates to fast internet.

A more technical definition from Wikipedia is “wide bandwidth data transmission which transports multiple signals and traffic types”.

In the Australian context, broadband basically refers to any type of internet connection that isn’t dial-up.

NBN, ADSL, fibre optic, cable, satellite and wireless 4G & 5G are all forms of broadband. The older style dial-up internet from the 90s and early 2000s isn’t classified as broadband because it is too slow and has much lower data transmission speed.

Interestingly, the American Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines that a connection must deliver at least 25 Mbps download speed and at least 3 Mbps upload speed to qualify as broadband. This definition doesn’t really work in Australia as the lower end of our NBN plans do not meet these speed requirements however we still refer to them as broadband.

What is broadband speed?

Broadband speed is how fast data can be sent and received. It is usually measured in kbps or kb/s (kilobits per second) and Mbps or Mb/s (Megabits per second). The higher the value the faster the speed.

Upload speed is the speed of data transmission from your house to the internet and download speed is the speed of data transmission from the internet to your house.

When viewing broadband plans, upload and download speeds are often displayed as 100/20 Mbps where the download speed is 100 Mbps and the upload speed is 20 Mbps.

What is typical evening speed?

Typical evening speed is the average speed of the connection during the peak usage time of 7pm to 11pm. It’s a good guide to how fast your internet connection will be during busy times. For example, the maximum speed of your connection may be 100Mbps but during busy times you will only experience a speed of 80Mbps due to everyone in your area wanting to use the connection at the same time.

What is the difference between bandwidth and speed?

Bandwidth and internet speed are confusing and are often used interchangeably when advertising broadband plans. Bandwidth is the maximum capacity of your internet connection whilst speed is how fast information is actually transferred at a given time.

For example, the bandwidth of your internet connection maybe be 100Mbs but your internet speed at a given time may be 80Mbs due to network congestion or other factors. Speed and bandwidth will only be the same if your connection is operating at full capacity.

When internet service providers advertise a speed they are actually advertising the bandwidth or the maximum speed that the connection is capable of transmitting. You may not ever actually receive this speed at your house. This is why typical evening speed is a much more realistic guide of how fast you may expect your internet connection to be.

What is broadband quota or data allowance?

Broadband quota or sometimes referred to as data allowance is the how much data your broadband company allows you to download each month. If you exceed your data allowance, your broadband provider may charge you extra for downloads or they may slow down your connection speed until the end of the month.

Most broadband plans in Australia are now unlimited which means there are no limits on how much data you can download or upload.

What is ping, jitter and latency?

The terms ping, latency and jitter often get grouped together but there are subtle differences between each of them.

Latency is the time it takes to send data and receive a response and is usually measured in milliseconds (ms).

Ping is the unit used to measure latency as an average time in milliseconds (ms). Latency and ping are often used interchangeably but technically ping refers to the signal sent from the device to the server and latency is the time it takes for the ping to return to the device.

Network jitter is the variation between ping times. Good connections have a reliable and consistent response (ping) time  which equates to a lower jitter score. The higher the jitter score, the more inconsistent the response times are the higher the chance that you may experience buffering when streaming video content.

Ping and jitter are most important when streaming media eg. video streaming, online gaming, or voice over internet (VoIP). Web browsing is not really as affected by response times but if you need real time data, ping and jitter are important measures of your connection quality.

Further Reading

This article is the part of our ultimate guide to NBN, wireless and broadband internet in Australia. Other articles in this series are: