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Wednesday 18 Mar 2020 | 4 min read

Are cheap NBN plans really worth it?

Stock photo of a person sitting on a couch while using a laptop

When it comes to the NBN, Aussies are spoiled for choice. There are over 100 Internet Service Providers (ISPs), each offering many different options that vary between speed and data.

Some of the plans at the lower end of the price spectrum can seem really inexpensive comparatively, and it’s worth understanding why they are so cheap. They may not be great value for money depending on what your needs are. If you’re not able to use the internet the way you want to, or if you regularly experience disruptions to your service, then the cheapest internet plan seems less like a great deal and more like it’s just… cheap.

The basics – speed and data

One of the easiest metrics to judge whether an NBN plan is right for you is to look at the speeds being offered, and the amount of data you’ll get each month.


Internet speed refers to the rate in which data is delivered to you via the NBN, with a faster speed supplying more data. In practice, what this means is that faster internet speeds can handle more data-intensive activities.

For the typical household, streaming services such as Netflix have a happy place in regards to speeds. Netflix needs a 3Mbps internet speed at a minimum to produce a seamless video experience. If you want to watch in HD, you’ll need 5Mbps. If your NBN connection is less than this, then you’ll regularly experience “loading” delays, where the screen will freeze while Netflix buffers.

You might say “even the cheapest NBN plans offer 12Mbps download speed!”, but you also need to consider how many people will be using the internet at the same time. If you’ve got one person trying to use Netflix, another surfing the internet, and a third playing games online, then that 12Mbps connection is going to be split between all three users. During peak hours (where a drop in maximum speeds is common) you may not be able to stream your favourite Netflix show.

For this reason, if there are multiple devices in the house that use the internet or the NBN connection is for a family, those ultra-cheap 12Mbps NBN plans might not deliver the consistent level of service that you want. Generally speaking, the 12Mbps plans are often recommended to seniors or those who don’t use the internet for much more than the occasional email checking or basic web browsing.


Cheaper NBN plans may also limit the amount of data that you’re able to use in a month. For example, a cheaper plan may have a data limit in place (such as a maximum of 100GB), and if you chew through this limit before the end of the month you’ll be “shaped”, meaning that your speeds will be slowed down dramatically.

For many people, 100GB of data will not be enough. Netflix, and other video streaming services, use between 1 and 3GB of data per hour, so you’d only be able to safely watch up to around an hour of Netflix per day without concern – and remember, that’s if only one person in the house is using the internet.

If you’re a heavy consumer of YouTube, Netflix, Spotify and other media streaming services, you’re probably going to end up shaped if your data limit is 100GB, and your internet won’t be good for much more than checking emails for the remainder of the month. Also, if you’ve got a gamer in the house, consider this – downloading a new game to play can be over 50GB, which is half your monthly limit in one go.

What they don’t tell you

All the above is easy to find information with a simple web search when researching NBN plans, but there’s more to it – you also need to consider the ISP that you’re buying internet services from. Cheaper, “budget” ISPs often end up being a bad deal, because you won’t always get everything that you’re paying for. You may receive poor customer service, or more disruptions during peak times that leave you feeling frustrated beyond belief.

ISPs purchase bandwidth (data) from NBNCo at a wholesale rate, and then provide that bandwidth to their users. If an ISP decides to cut corners, it can save itself some money by buying less bandwidth, which in turn means that the ISP’s customers need to share. If a lot of those customers are trying to use the internet at the same time, then the speed of everyone’s internet is slowed.

This generally happens at peak times – when more people are logging on for their evening’s entertainment.

It’s for this reason that you’ll want to look into the reputation of the ISP that you’re buying from. Aussie Broadband, for example, delivers a better experience for Australians than most other telcos, as proven by our three-year winning streak as one of Australia’s best broadband providers, awarded by ProductReview. If you want to be able to rely on your internet at any time of day, then spending a little more for a high quality service is going to deliver you much greater value over the long term.

Aussie Broadband is one of Australia’s leading NBN providers because of our fantastic customer service and our quality internet product.

Tags:NBNInternet SpeedStreaming

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