A beginner's guide to home broadband internet in Australia

  • Learn to choose between ADSL1, ADSL2+, Naked, Cable, and Mobile
  • Find the right connection for your home
  • Compare the best prices
  • ADSL2+ is fast and cheap
  • Mobile broadband is better for frequent travellers
  • Call us on 1300 106 571 for advice from an expert – we're in Australia

When first deciding to get a fast broadband internet connection for your home you will probably feel a little confused about the process, not to mention the extensive use of jargon by the industry. Here is a guide to help keep things simple, so unnecessary details don’t bog you down.

Choosing the right broadband plan for your needs:

There are numerous advantages when comparing an ADSL, ADSL2+, or Naked DSL broadband connection with your old dial-up or Mobile Wireless internet service. You can make phone calls when you are online, internet access is fast and stable, and it can be kept turned on for as long as you like. Never wait for a website to load up again, and if you were on dial-up, forget having to pay for a local phone call every time you connect to the internet.

As you can see, there are over 1,300 broadband plans from Australia’s main Internet Service Providers (ISPs) on the Compare Broadband website. As there are so many options to choose from, first-time broadband buyers may feel at a loss.

There are a lot of variables that differ between plans and providers, such as your broadband speed, data quota, contract length, set-up cost, monthly fee, modem type and cost, on and off-peak time periods, shaping speed or excess charges, whether or not uploads as well as downloads are counted towards your data limit, whether or not the broadband is bundled with other services like your landline telephone rental, and if so, what kind of included phone calls come with the plan. Scared yet? Don’t be. This is simple stuff.

ADSL broadband speeds:

ADSL broadband comes into your home on a copper telephone line. ADSL2+ is currently the fastest and cheapest way of getting broadband into your property. However, it is not available in all areas (usually only densely populated metropolitan locations), so if it’s not in your area you should go for ADSL.

ADSL is priced by speed with 256kbps, 512kbps, 1,500kbps and 8,000kbps being the four speed measurements. The larger the number, the faster the speed your broadband will be – just like speedometer in your car. ADSL 2+ runs at speeds of up to 24,000kbps, but it’s cheaper than ADSL because its market is very competitive.

If you already have an ADSL connection you can use the “Speed Test” on the Compare Broadband website to determine how much of your plan’s speed actually makes it into your home. ADSL speeds slow down gradually the further away you are from the phone exchange, and the quality of the copper phone line also impacts your connection’s overall pace.

Data limit:

This is the next most important variable to decide on, as it determines how much you can actually use the internet. Data is measured in Gigabytes (GB). Call one of our consultants on 1300 106 571 and tell us what you intend to do online. We can then give you advice on how much data you’ll need on your broadband plan. You can also read our associated article, “How much data will I need on my ADSL broadband plan?” to get a better idea.

Generally speaking, you could call yourself a light, medium, or heavy internet user. As you are probably only starting out, it may be in your best interest to go on a relatively small plan (5GB to 10GB) and see if you ever run out of data. If you do, your ISP will allow you to move up to the next level plan any time you like, as it means they will reciprocally get more money from you.

Signing up to a broadband plan:

On the Compare Broadband website you have two main options for signing up to a broadband provider’s contract. You can call the phone number next to the plan and do it over the phone, or you can click the “Sign up online” button and fill in your information on an online form. Or, as a contingency plan you could call one of our customer service representatives here and we can talk you through the process.

Browsing through the broadband plans on our website is made simple and easy by letting people make comparisons between providers and plan options. Put in the “Broadband Type”, desired “Contract Length”, “Bundle details”, “Speed” and “Data” quota you require, and our website will automatically bring up the most suitable plans for you.

Payment options:

When you sign up you’ll need to provide personal identification like a driver’s license or passport number. Different broadband providers take varied forms of payment, with some only accepting direct debit from a credit card, debit card, or bank account, whereas others may accept BPAY or paper bills in the post.

You’ll need to have money in your account or on your credit card when you register, as ISPs need to take out money in advance for your first month of service, as well as potential modem and set-up costs.

Excess charges or shaping speeds:

Your monthly subscription fee is usually a fixed price, with providers slowing your speed down when you reach your quota, but some companies (like Dodo) have excess charges if you go over your limit. This can prove to be very expensive, so it’s in your best interest to ensure you do not sign up to a plan that will result in penalty fees.

It’s good to find out your “shaping speed” (the speed your connection will drop down to when you reach your monthly quota), as this can vary a lot between companies. It’s not fun being slowed down to a 64kbps dial-up speed when you’ve gotten used to a racy ADSL2+ connection!

If you are signing up to a bundled deal with more than one service from the single provider, you’ll need to do your math and make sure you are aware of all the additional costs that will be charged each month.

Note: Contract lengths will usually have a direct impact on the cost of a modem and set-up fees, as ISPs are often willing to charge you less if you sign up for a longer period of time.
How long does it take for ADSL broadband to be connected?

Line activation of your new ADSL, ADSL2+, or Naked DSL connection can vary a lot depending on which service you are signing up to, whether or not you have an active phone line when you begin the process, whether you pay via credit card or bank account direct debit, and which specific provider you choose to connect with.

The general rule is that if you are setting up an ADSL home phone bundle or Naked DSL service it should take approximately 10 working days from when you pass the line test. Line tests are usually performed in the first 1 or 2 days after you register. If you already have an active phone line and just want to get a stand-alone ADSL connection, this will usually take around 5 working days.

Preparing your home for line activation:

When you are getting ready for the ISP to put broadband codes on your phone line you need to ensure the connection will be as good as it can be. This means you need to have a central line filter between the modem and the phone jack. These usually come with the modem in the box. Some people put in individual filters on each separate phone jack in the property.

Individual filters are also necessary if you use complex products on the phone line, such as a FAX machine, EFTPOS machine, back-to-base alarm system, or Foxtel Program Purchase. Broadband codes interfere with these other products and vice versa. You can buy line filters through your ISP, or at an electronics shop.

ADSL modems:

To access your broadband internet connection you must have a modem. When signing up to a long contract some providers may include a modem for free, but this is usually a base model with 1 Ethernet port and no Wi-Fi router. More elaborate 4-port Wi-Fi enabled modems are also occasionally discounted on longer contracts.

When first starting out it is usually the best idea to purchase your modem through the ISP. They often pre-program the device with your user name and password, which means all you’ll have to do is plug the modem in and it will work. The ISP will also be obligated to offer you technical support if any issues arise.

Alternatively, you can buy a modem from an electronics store, but you’ll need to configure it yourself, and your ISP may not offer technical support for a type of modem it isn’t used to programming.

Note: When signing up to an ADSL2+ or Naked DSL connection you need a modem that is ADSL2+ compatible. If your modem is only able to handle ADSL1, you may only receive one third of your potential speed.

So there you have it. Broadband internet made simple. What’s stopping you from getting online right now?