What is true unlimited broadband?

When you turn on Australian TV these days there are numerous commercials from Internet Service Providers purporting to offer ‘unlimited broadband’, or ‘unlimited downloads’. Don’t be fooled by the word ‘unlimited’, as in many cases once you reach a specific data limit, your speed is slowed down greatly, therefore limiting how much you can download.

True unlimited broadband is a rare option in Australia, and it involves having both unlimited download data limits and unaltered access to your full broadband speed.
When you apply for a broadband plan, make sure you ask about its on and off-peak times, as well as at what data limit your speed will be slowed down at, plus what speed it’s slowed down to. It’s all good and well offering ‘unlimited’ broadband, but if you can only use half your data limit during waking hours, and when you reach your limit you’re slowed down to a dial-up speed, then yes you technically haven’t had your service turned off (or been charged anything for excess usage), but by definition it could hardly be called ‘unlimited’.

There are a couple instances of true unlimited broadband in Australia at this time, coming from both TPG and AAPT. TPG’s ADSL2+ Unlimited 24x7 for $75 per month is only available in certain locations, but it has no on-or off-peak times, and is never shaped (slowed-down) to a lower speed. It still should be noted there is a fair use policy, and if you use an inordinate amount of data you could be asked to terminate your account.

The reason other companies can get away with calling a service ‘unlimited’ is because they don’t charge for excess data usage after you reach your monthly quota. You don’t have to pay extra if you go over your limit (as is the case with many other plans around the industry), but your speed will be slowed down.
Ask the provider what speed you’ll be slowed down to, as there is a vast range of possibilities ranging from a dial-up speed of 64kbps all the way up to 4mbps (4,000kbps). If the internet company slows your connection, but not to a super-slow speed, this can feel like you have ‘unlimited’ broadband. At least you’ll never have to worry about getting a massive bill for excess data usage charges.

If your plan is split between on and off-peak time periods, this adds another dubious element to your ‘unlimited’ broadband plan. Let’s say you get 80GB of data with 40GB of data during the day and 40GB during the night. If you go over your 40GB during the day, whenever you go online during the daylight hours your speed will be slowed down, even if you haven’t used any of your nightly download quota. Essentially, you are only getting 40GB while you are awake, so if you’re slowed down a lot, this too can hardly be called unlimited.

When offered an ‘unlimited’ broadband plan, ensure you find out about its data limit, the shaping speed you’ll be slowed down to, and whether or not there are on and off-peak time periods. There are a number of plans around with good data limits, round-the-clock availability, and fast shaping speeds. It may not be an unlimited broadband plan in the true sense of the word, but it’ll probably be just as good.