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A guide to getting cable broadband in Australia

  • Only available through Optus and Telstra for now
  • TransACT have a very small network
  • Up to 4x faster than ADSL
Alana Faigen Written by
11/04/2011

What is cable broadband?

Cable broadband is a broadband connection that uses the same coaxial cables as a Pay TV service.

It is generally faster than ADSL2+ internet, and it’s available in metro areas with only limited providers offering cable plans.

Click here for the best cable plans.


What speed is cable broadband?


Apart from the new National Broadband Network (NBN), cable broadband is theoretically the fastest broadband connection available in Australia. It runs up to 30Mbps, which you can compare to ADSL2+, which runs up to 24Mbps. However, the speed of cable decreases at a faster rate than that of ADSL2+ the further away you are from the exchange.

Both Optus and Telstra Bigpond are offering superfast cable broadband, with download speeds running up to 100Mbps, and uploads up to 2Mbps. While the NBN also offers download speeds of 100Mbps, the speed is consistent whereas the speed of cable broadband will depend on a number of factors, including:

•    Your hardware
•    Server limitations
•    Wi-Fi reception/capacity
•    The content which is being accessed (for instance, whether the content is hosted in Australia).
•    The volume of internet traffic

Cable broadband usually has a slower upload speed than ADSL2+ broadband. Even on the Telstra Ultimate Cable plans where downloads run up to 100Mbps, the maximum upload speed is only 2Mbps.

Who is it suited to?


If you’ve had cable TV in the past, those coaxial cables running into your property might come in handy once again. If you still have cable TV – even better, because you could look at bundling your broadband and pay TV together to save money on your bills.

You can watch Pay TV and spend time on the internet at the same time. A technician will just need to install a cable splitter to provide multiple connections.

The other great thing about cable broadband is it doesn’t require a phone line or an active phone service (although many cable plans are bundled with a home phone if you need one). This means if you’re in a new property that doesn’t have Telstra or Optus lines, or if you want to avoid getting a home phone service, you can still get cable broadband. If have cable broadband without an active home phone line, then this is called Naked cable broadband.

Customers who are unable to get ADSL2+ due to infrastructure issues on the copper lines should also consider cable broadband as a viable alternative.

Where is it available?

Cable broadband is only available in metropolitan areas where pay TV is available. The premium speed cable broadband is limited to a few capital cities.

What hardware will I need for a cable broadband service?

You will need a special cable modem and coaxial lines to use cable internet. If you don’t already have the cables running into your home from a previous or existing pay TV service, then you may need a professional to do the installation for you, which can be organised via your chosen cable broadband provider. If you’d like to use laptops at your home or business, you may also want to purchase a wireless router.

If you opt for the Optus supersonic broadband or Telstra Bigpond Ultimate cable plans, then you will need a special cable modem which is capable of delivering the superfast speeds.

What types of plans are available, and are they expensive?

Because there is less competition in the cable broadband market, and the service requires special infrastructure, it will usually be more expensive to install cable broadband.

Optus

Optus cable is only available to customers in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The Naked plans start at $59.99 for 120GB. Plans are available on a 24-month contract, and Optus will throw in a cable modem for you. If you exceed your monthly data allowance, your download speed will be limited or “shaped” to 64Kbps or 128Kbps depending on your plan until the end of the billing month.

Popular Optus cable plans:

50GB + 70GB $49.99 (when bundled with a $19 Optus mobile on a 24-month contract)
50GB + 70GB $64.94 (bundled with an Optus home phone)
50GB + 70GB $59.99 (Naked broadband on a 24-month contract)

To sign up or find out more about Optus cable, call Optus on 1300 137 897.

Plans are available on 12 or 24-month contracts.

To find out more about Bigpond’s cable broadband plans, call us on 1300 106 571.

What other services can I bundle a cable broadband plan with?

Cable broadband can be bundled with pay TV and/or a home phone.

What are the cons of hooking up a cable broadband service?

Cable broadband speeds can decrease dramatically based on internet traffic. The speed on a coaxial cable is shared with your neighbours who are using the same connection, so the maximum download speed is shared between you and others nearby.

Cable broadband also requires special equipment, and it is generally more expensive than ADSL2+, and it’s not always significantly faster. If you don’t bundle your cable broadband with a pay TV service, it may not be worth the extra pennies.

What are the alternatives to cable broadband?

If ADSL2+ is available at your address, it is a great alternative to cable broadband because the speeds are similar, and there are plans which include large amounts of data. Alternatively, mobile broadband is available if you’re a long distance from the exchange.


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