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Australia Broadband Buying Guide: ADSL, ADSL 2+, Naked DSL, Mobile Wireless, Cable, Satellite, and Mobile Phone Broadband

When shopping for Broadband Internet there are many variables and options to take into consideration before you make your purchase. Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) aren’t always upfront with the finer details or small print in relation to their broadband plans, and as contracts can be up to two years in length, making a mistake can cost you a lot of money. After extensive research and experience in the field, Compare Broadband has collated all the vital information to help make your decision-making process an easier one.
Broadband Type:

ADSL: Pros – Fast, stable connection, economical, contract lengths often shorter, can be online and on the phone simultaneously, internet can always be on, way faster than dial-up internet, widespread availability around Australia.
    : Cons – Can be slow if you are a long distance from the phone exchange, or if you’re on a slow speed plan, slow speeds do not support VoIP (Voice-over IP).

ADSL2+: Pros – Very fast connection (up to 100 times faster than the slowest ADSL connection), most competitive price-wise (cheapest for the speeds and data you receive), very stable line, multiple users can download large files or watch online video at the same time.
: Cons – Most companies currently have limited availability outside metropolitan areas, not all Telstra infrastructure can support it, needs an ADSL2+ enabled modem, usually longer contract lengths, slows down the further you are from the telephone exchange.

Naked DSL: Pros – No telephone line rental, very fast connection, stable, competitive prices.
: Cons – Only available with an ADSL2+ connection, some providers need an active phone line before they can connect you to the service.

Mobile Wireless: Pros – You can use your laptop outside your house, wherever there is mobile phone coverage, often very cheap prices, pre-paid plans available, no phone line required.
: Cons – Can have more ‘drop-outs’ as mobile phone reception is less stable, delays when processing data, not much data allowance for downloads, speed can be slow when compared to ADSL, black spots where it doesn’t work, not good for multiple network use.

Cable: Pros – Fastest speed in Australia at the moment (up to 30,000kbps), very stable connection, no need for a phone line (it doesn’t use the copper phone line at all), your infrastructure will be easily updated to the new fibre-optic National Broadband Network.
: Cons – Expensive; there are only two providers so the price isn’t competitive, connections can be slow if a lot of people are online in your area, initial installation is expensive, not ideal for renters, not available in all areas, cable modems are very expensive.

Satellite: Pros – With the Federal Government's Australian Broadband Guarantee scheme installation may be free, works in regional areas where ADSL and Mobile Wireless can’t reach.
: Cons – If you do have to pay for a professional to install the satellite dish it’s extremely expensive, speed may not be as good as ADSL or Mobile Wireless.

Mobile Phone Broadband: Pros: No need for a computer, no need for a phone line, no need for a modem.
Cons: Mobile phone interface is very small when compared with computers, works using Mobile Wireless towers so not as stable (can have drop-outs).

Top 10 Broadband Buying Tips:

Here are the ‘10 Broadband Buying Tips’ you need to consider before signing up to a Broadband Internet plan:
1.       Price: Broadband Internet comes in many shapes and sizes and there’s no set price scheme set amongst providers. Price will have an impact on the speed you get, how much data you can use and contract length. Some ISPs include a modem on longer contracts, but most charge extra for the hardware. Be aware set-up costs may also apply and there will be fees if you cancel early, transfer to a new address, or go up or down in pricing plans.

2.       Speed: How many kbps (kilobytes per second) will you be getting? ADSL1 generally comes in four different speeds: 256kbps, 512kbps, 1500kbps and upto 8000kbps. 1500kbps is generally what most people prefer. ADSL 2+ runs on speeds of up to 2.4 mbps or 24,000 kbps. This is super-fast Broadband Internet. With ADSL or ADSL2+ one point to take into consideration is your distance from your local telephone exchange. The further you are from the exchange, the less potential speed you’ll be able to receive.

3.       Downloads: Some ISP’s charge for both downloading and uploading, while others only charge for downloads, whilst utilising a upload fair use policy. How much data you need is determined by what you use the internet for. Light users who do basic web-surfing, email and web shopping will need less data, whereas heavy users who download movies and songs, play online computer games, or who watch online TV shows or YouTube videos will need more data.

Peak/Off-peak times: Different companies offer different peak and off-peak times and these can vary greatly. Make sure you’re aware whether or not your 10GB plan only has 3GB in the peak time, or if the off-peak time only includes time during the middle of the night.

4.     Bundles or Stand-alone plans: When looking at internet plan options, there are two main choices. The first is to have a stand-alone internet connection, meaning you only receive internet from the provider. Your other option is to bundle the internet with your landline telephone and potentially mobile phones, VoIP and internet TV deals. Not every company gives bundles, and you’ll need to do your maths to figure out if the ‘special bundle deals’ offered are actually going to save you money when compared with using separate providers for internet and telephone.

5.       Infrastructure: Currently, phone exchanges won’t be enabled for ADSL2+ if you live in a low density populated or regional area. In cities, a minimum number of ports may be available, as some companies only enable areas they feel will make a profit.

Note: Internet speeds may be affected by the copper telephone wire, which runs from the exchange to your home or business, as well as issues around how many broadband users are in your area. There can also be instances of infrastructure problems. In these situations no matter which company you connect with, you’ll have the same technical issues. Your options would then be to go for a Cable or Mobile Wireless internet connection.

6.    Connection stability:  A continuous Broadband Internet connection is important because when you download a file you have to do it from start to finish. ADSL, ADSL2+ and Naked DSL are more stable than Mobile Wireless.

7.       Modem/Router: If you buy your modem through your ISP you will avoid technical support ‘not supporting’ your hardware. If you use a third-party modem, most (if not all) ISP technical support services won’t be willing to help you with any technical issues you have. Some modems don’t have routers so make sure you get the right modem for your necessary purpose. Providers offer various modems for different set-ups with variations like wireless capability and the number of Ethernet ports available. Note: You can use your old modem for a new connection if it's the right type of ADSL or ADSL2+ enabled machine.

8.       Contract length: Plans can range anywhere from to month-to-month, to six months, twelve months, 18 months or 24 month contracts. Be careful when signing up to a ‘month-to-month’ plan; with many of these plans if you cancel before six months are up you can be paying a $100 cancellation fee. Different plans incur varied start-up fees. Think about how long you will be at your current address and try to set-up a contract that best suits your needs.

9.       VoIP: Voice-Over-IP. With VoIP you can plug your telephone into a VoIP enabled modem and make cheap calls using your internet connection. There are several reasons why this can be beneficial. The first is you no longer need to rent a telephone landline. The second is phone calls via VoIP are often very cheap, plus providers often have deals. For example TPG offer 500 free minutes of VoIP talk.

10.     Other Extras available to you: Different internet providers will offer various added extras including: a specified number of email addresses, a designated amount of web content, or free minutes of VoIP calls etc. Will you use these? If so, compare the different offers around.

Firewall and Child protection: Each provider is unique in what security protection they offer. You can set up some modems like the Netcomm to work only at specific times, which can be very useful if you don’t want children or teenagers to use up excessive data or access controversial sites.

Gaming: Go for at least a 1500kbps speed ADSL connection and get more data allowance than a normal user, but ADSL2+ is best. Check which providers offer free gaming times that don’t use up your data. Don’t use a Wireless Broadband connection as the mobile phone tower’s reception can drop out right at the most inopportune time.

Email addresses – Most providers will offer you multiple email addresses, but be aware you will lose your old email address and emails if it is through your previous Internet Service Provider. Use a free generic email like Gmail and you will always have your email account no matter how many times you change your provider.

Buyer Beware - Top 8 Broadband Warnings for Careful Consumers:

1.    Excess Usage Charges: Be careful when signing up to a plan with low download limits. If possible get your plan ‘shaped’ (slowed down) at first, so it slows down instead of you having to pay excess charges. If you never want to go without a fast speed, after you get an idea of your usage change back to the best plan for your needs.

2.    Unlimited Broadband: Be wary of this terminology in Australia. The idea is you have no limit on your downloads. However, often a ‘fair use policy’ accompanies such plans, which says your speed will be reduced if a specific high amount of data has been consumed. There’s no such thing as ‘all-you-can-eat’ internet.

3.     Download/Usage Limit: Many ISP’s no longer use the term ‘Download Limit’ as they now charge for uploading as well. Uploads are necessary to all actions on the internet and can contribute to around 25% of your total data usage; it’s worth asking if uploads count towards your limit. Some companies still offer uploads at no extra cost.

4.    Early Termination Fees: If you are looking for a ‘month-to-month’ broadband plan, be wary of the small print. When you decide to transfer providers after a few months, there could be an early termination fee for leaving before six months has passed. All contracts have cancellation fees and most will charge you for all the remaining time in your contract. Make sure you know the exact length of your contract. Note: When connecting a Naked DSL line, if you’re under contract with a phone company they will charge you for cancellation fees, and if you don’t already have a phone line you will have to pay connection fees as well.

5.    Wireless Broadband Security: Keep your wireless network secured. Just because you have a user name and password doesn’t mean it’s locked. Use encryption to protect your network, or your neighbours will be able to access it. One type of security lock is WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access).

6.     Peak/Off-peak times: Different companies have varied times so make sure you know what they are. Some plans’ off-peak times are only in the middle of the night, whereas others include the morning.

7.     Which ADSL speed do you have? There are four speeds all of which are classified as ADSL. Some companies are not very forward in what they are offering you. Make sure you know if the plan is 256kbps, 512kbps, 1500kbps or 8,000kbps.

8.     Is a modem included with the contract? Sometimes you will get a modem for free with your contract, but often you will have to pay for the machine outright. Make sure you are aware of this extra cost.

To get more depth of knowledge, check out these Broadband internet articles from Compare Broadband’s own article directory:

‘Broadband Internet in Australia’
‘ADSL, ADSL2+ and Naked DSL installations’
‘How Does Broadband Internet Work?’
‘What is the National Broadband Network?’
‘Setting Up a Broadband Modem’