The Australian dream: A National Broadband Network with cheap unlimited downloads.

‘What's the most you would pay for an ADSL2+ broadband plan with unlimited downloads?’ This was the question put to everyday Australians who visited the broadband comparison website, ‘Compare Broadband’ in the week of April 15-22, 2010, with the optional answers being $40 per month, $50 per month, $75 per month, $100 per month, or $150 per month.

The resounding answer from 441 respondents was that Australians want cheap, super-fast, unlimited broadband internet. 71 percent of voters fell into the two cheapest categories of only being willing to spend $50 or less per month, with half of these people saying the most they would pay is $40 per month. Only 20 percent of voters said they would be willing to pay 75$ per month, which brings us to the inevitable question of how much the NBN intends to charge the Australian community for super-fast broadband with large amounts of data.

TPG, Australia’s 3rd largest ISP, offers unlimited ADSL2+ broadband in certain locations for $75 per month, and the likelihood is other internet providers will follow suit. In the USA, unlimited downloads for broadband internet has been the norm for a long time, with connection speed being the determining price factor on varied plans.

It will be interesting to see how the NBN’s pricing scheme will stack up against current provider options.

Only 7 percent of participants said they would pay $100 per month for unlimited ADSL2+ downloads, while 2 percent said they could afford $150 per month. Managing Director of Compare Broadband, Scott Kennedy, reflects on the poll’s findings, ‘The results re-affirm our view that Australian’s want fast, cheap broadband. It suggests that TPG’s ‘unlimited ADSL2+ plans’ at $75 per month are more than most of us are prepared to pay for unlimited broadband. When the NBN rolls out its superfast network it will be interesting to see their price point and whether “high speed” is sufficient to entice churn. The Compare Broadband poll suggests it is not.’

Recently the Tasmanian NBN released a pricing scheme that offered a 100mbps speed via fibreoptic cable to the home with 180GB (split between 90GB in the peak and 90GB in the off-peak) for $160 per month.  Although this is a faster connection than normal ADSL2+, one would have to wonder if people would change over to the NBN if their current provider can offer a more affordable option.

This all coincides with the recent view placed by the Liberal coalition government who stated if they win the upcoming election later this year, they will scrap the NBN completely. Shadow Communications spokesperson Tony Smith believes private sector investment in Australia’s broadband industry would bring about necessary changes in a more timely and cost-friendly manner for consumers.

From the other side of the debate, telecommunications analyst Paul Budde said, ‘We finally started to make some headway in the direction of an NBN, and I think a lot of companies wouldn’t survive if we (cancel) the NBN and start going for yet another scheme that’s going to take another one to two years to develop.’