Broadband plan reviews

ADSL and ADSL2 plans can be a minefield of fine print and confusing pricing. Our interactive tables help to make sense of it all.
 
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01 .Introduction

Broadband-billing

CHOICE’s most recent ISP satisfaction survey found that the main catalyst for switching was to find a cheaper plan. Of seven million households with internet access, 87% have broadband and the majority use ADSL or ADSL2. Up to 17% of you said in our survey you’re likely to change ISPs in the next 12 months.

We reveal the conditions and costs you should watch out for when switching plans, including the ISP’s excess usage policy. The good news is that most ISP's warn consumers in advance of exceeding a monthly data allowance. Whether the plan is value for money depends on your personal internet usage pattern so set your monthly budget and decide how much data you need before shopping around for plans.

To save you time and money we review 21 ADSL and ADSL2 plans offered by the 11 ISPs most commonly used by CHOICE members:

  • AAPT
  • Exetel
  • iiNet
  • Internode
  • iPrimus
  • Netspace
  • Optusnet
  • Telstra Bigpond
  • TPG
  • Westnet
  • Adam Internet (SA and NT only)
 
 

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Data allowance

Prices and data allowances vary greatly - then there is the issue of off-peak and peak pricing. It can be difficult to predict how much data you really need if you’re unsure how much you use now.

Sites such as Simply Switch and Broadband.org  provide a calculator which estimates your weekly or monthly bandwidth usage from your usage pattern (the number of emails you send/receive, number of movie/music files you download and hours you spend playing games online). A full-length movie takes up about 1GB, a one hour movie or TV program a day for one month guzzle up at least 3GB per month. A broadband calculator will also tell you the time restrictions imposed by each ISP for their various plans. So, a plan that offers 50GB sounds generous, but is not a good deal if only 25GB can be downloaded between 2am and 8am when most of us are asleep.

  • Does your data allowance include uploads?  This makes a big difference if regularly uploading big data files online such as YouTube videos.

  • Check whether the ISP offers unmetered (free) content – information usually not available on comparator sites. iiNet and Internode allow subscribers to watch ABC TV through iView without these programs eating into their allocated data allowance – if you exceed your monthly data quota, you can still access ABC programs at full speed. iiNet subscribers are also able to download XBox games quota-free, while Internode provides access to 80 radio stations. Telstra offers a wide range of unmetered news, sports, travel and lifestyle TV programs, as well as movies, music and games, to buy online and download as unmetered content on its Bigpond site.

Speed variables

ADSL2+ potentially offers much higher download speeds – between 8 mbps and more than 24 mbps – compared with ADSL, but it may not be an option for your area. The speed you can receive depends on where you live, your distance from the phone exchange, line quality and length, interference, network configuration, traffic and equipment. Currently, about 1.8 million Australian homes or about 25% have ADSL2+.

Check your area’s status by keying in your current home phone number at Whirlpool’s Broadband Choice website. To check your current connection speed, use one of the online speed tests found on most ISPs’ websites.

Exceeding your monthly data allowance

Your internet connection speed is slowed, you’ll be charged for the excess or given the option to buy extra data to reverse the slowed speeds. Most ISPs notify you before you exceed your data allowance, but it’s worth keeping tab of your usage through the online meter provided by your ISP, especially if your broadband connection is shared with several household members. Our tables [provide link] lists the ADSL and ADSL2+ plans for the ISPs commonly used by CHOICE members, with data allowances they typically subscribe to.

Standalone or bundle?

While broadband/home phone bundles with unlimited local or national calls with capped charges may seem convenient, you may actually be paying a lot more for your broadband service if you don’t make many local or national calls. Optus’ Yes Fusion plans, for example, do not limit your data usage to peak or off-peak hours and offer unlimited local, national and Optus mobile calls, but charge excess fees when you exceed your monthly data allowance. You may want to consider broadband bundles with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP ) phones – making calls using your internet connection – as these are generally cheaper.

iStock_woman-on-phone

Switching sites such as Broadband Expert are useful, but only provides plans from the ISPs they partner with. Whirlpool’s Broadband Choice  has independent information on all 229 ISPs in Australia and their plans, but does not provide a switching service. Whirlpool also has a very active consumer forum in which broadband plans are peer-reviewed, so you can find practical information from real-life customers about the ISP you’re interested in.

Thinking of switching broadband plans but still have a contract with your current ISP?

See if you can renegotiate your plan  to get a better deal. If your contract has expired you’re in an even better bargaining position. Sometimes there is no charge upfront but you’ll get locked into another fixed contract term (AAPT requires subscribers to start on another 24-month contract). If you’ve already decided to switch, find out the cancellation costs as well as the installation and connection fees for your new ISP. Remember to ask whether you use your current modem or require your new ISP’s modem.

A process known as fast or rapid transfer allows you to switch from one ISP to another with a reduced set-up fee and with minimal service disruption during the transfer – though both your current and new ISPs must be rapid transfer participants. If you sign up to a non-rapid transfer ISP, you may have to pay full installation fees and possibly be without internet access for at least a week. You can find out if an ISP supports fast transfer at its website or at Whirlpool's Broadband Choice website.

Instructions

Comparison table list

You can select up to five items to view in a side by side comparison. Additional columns can be viewed by using the Next/Previous buttons.

Using the filters

Use the filters to show only products that meet your specific requirements or which have the specific features you're interested in. Selecting filters automatically updates the Comparison table list.
The number shown in brackets represents the number of products that will be shown if you select that filter.
You can view additional filters by selecting the Show more filters button.

Please note! Plans and pricing from the ISPs listed were accurate as of 4 February 2010.

Compare products

 
Table Allowing the user to select a number of products dependant on their filter options.
Items to compare

Select up to 5 items below.
Then click the compare button

Compare
 
Price ($)Bundled withMinimum contract term (months)Monthly total data (GB)Monthly Peak (duration)Monthly Off-peak (duration)Data countUnmetered contentAble to purchase more data after excess costExcess usage policyExcess usage chargeNotice before excess is reachedNotice when excess is reachedBrand
               
no image available99.95 monthlyHome phone with unlimited local and national landline calls2410 (A)10GB (8am - 8pm)Unlimited downloads from 8pm-8amAAPT
no image available45 monthlyVoIP30 days12 (A)12GB (12pm - 12am)No charge and up to 60GB (B)Exetel
no image available79.90 monthlyHome phone244020 GB (12pm-2am)20GB (2am -12 pm)iiNet
no image available39.95 monthlyHome phoneOne5nanaInternode
no image available69.90 monthlyHome phone (national landline calls capped at 2 for up to 2 hours)05nanaiprimus
no image available69.90 monthlyHome phone0168GB (7am -12am)8GB (12am - 7am)Netspace
no image available69.95 monthlyHome phone (includes up to 50 dollars worth of calls and free 20 min calls to Optus mobiles between 8pm and 12mn)24124GB (12pm -12am)8GB (12am - 12pm, reduces to 4GB after first 12 months of contract)Optusnet
no image available79 monthlyHome phone (unlimited local, national and Optus mobile calls)244nanaOptusnet
no image available49.95 monthlyHome phone122nanaTelstra Bigpond
no image available49.95 monthlyVoIP (free 500 VoIP minutes for local and national calls per month)62510GB (9am - 4am)15GB (4am - 9am)TPG
no image available79.90 monthlyHome phone64020GB (10am - 2am)20GB (2am - 10am)Westnet
Compare

Table notes

ISPs comprise 10 ADSL providers most commonly used by CHOICE members, as well as Whirlpool’s 15 most commonly used ISPs by its 331,000 members. The ADSL plans from each ISP were selected based on the broadband profile of our members, which was gathered from our recent ISP satisfaction survey: ADSL About 39% of CHOICE members have ADSL access, with 31% on monthly data allowances between 2GB and 10GB, while 24% are on plans that provide between 11GB and 20GB. The plans do not include installation, disconnection or switching charges. Plans and pricing from the ISPs listed were accurate as of 4 February 2010. 

na Not applicable.
(A) Does not include off-peak downloads.
(B) No charge does not mean unlimited – an individual customer who downloads more than three times the average of all other customers is deemed an “unfair user” and Exetel may withdraw the service.
(C) Telstra Bigpond’s monthly plans start from 2GB, then from 12GB-200GB. Plans of 12GB or greater do not attract excess usage fees.

Instructions

Comparison table list

You can select up to five items to view in a side by side comparison. Additional columns can be viewed by using the Next/Previous buttons.

Using the filters

Use the filters to show only products that meet your specific requirements or which have the specific features you're interested in. Selecting filters automatically updates the Comparison table list.
The number shown in brackets represents the number of products that will be shown if you select that filter.
You can view additional filters by selecting the Show more filters button.

Please note! Plans and pricing from the ISPs listed were accurate as of 4 February 2010.

Compare products

 
Table Allowing the user to select a number of products dependant on their filter options.
Items to compare

Select up to 5 items below.
Then click the compare button

Compare
 
Price ($)Bundled withMinimum contract term (months)Monthly total data (GB)Monthly Peak (duration)Monthly Off-peak (duration)Data countUnmetered contentAble to purchase more data after excess costExcess usage policyExcess usage chargeNotice when excess is reachedBrand
              
no image available79.95 monthlyHome phone with 50 dollars worth of calls monthly245nanaAAPT
no image available69.95 monthlyVoIP (4)02010GB (12.01am-7.59am)10GB (8am-12am)Adam Internet (SA and NT only) (A)
no image available65 monthlyHome phone125 (B)No charge and up to 60 GB (C)5GB (12pm-12am)Exetel
no image available59.90 monthlyHome phone24105GB (2am to 8am)5GB (8am-2am)iiNet
no image available49.95 monthlyHome phone12nanaInternode
no image available99.90 monthlyHome phone1264 GB (12am to 12pm)2GB (12pm-12am)iprimus
no image available59.90 monthlyHome phone020nanaNetspace
no image available69.95 monthlyHome phone (includes up to 50 dollars worth of calls free 20 min calls to Optus mobiles between 8pm and 12pm)24128GB (12am to 12pm - reduces to 4 GB after first 12 months of contract)4GB (12pm-12am)Optusnet
no image available79 monthlyHome phone (unlimited local, national and Optus mobile calls)244nanaOptusnet
no image available78 monthlyHome phone (Unlimited local calls)242nanaTelstra
no image available49.99 monthlyVoIP (free 500 VoIP minutes for local and national calls per month)68040GB (2.30am to 8am)40GB (8am-2.30am)TPG
no image available59.90 monthlyHome Phone6105GB (2am to 8am)5GB (8am-2am)Westnet
Compare

Table notes

ISPs comprise 11 ADSL2 providers most commonly used by CHOICE members, as well as Whirlpool’s 15 most commonly used ISPs by its 331,000 members. The ADSL2 plans from each ISP were selected based on the broadband profile of our members, which was gathered from our recent ISP satisfaction survey: ADSL2 About 28% of our members are on ADSL2, with 31% with monthly data allowances between 2GB and 10GB, while 21% have data allowances between 11GB and 20GB. The plans do not include installation, disconnection or switching charges. Plans and pricing from the ISPs listed were accurate as of 4 February 2010.

na Not applicable.
(A) Adam Internet does not provide home phone line rentals, so its prices do not include additional home phone rental costs you need to pay a telco.
(B) Does not include off-peak usage.
(C) No charge does not mean unlimited – an individual customer who downloads more than three times the average of all other customers is deemed an “unfair user” and Exetel may withdraw the service.
(D) Telstra Bigpond’s monthly plans start from 2GB, then from 12GB-200GB. Plans of 12GB or greater do not attract excess usage fees.

CHOICE member Cameron Tree and his family are on Telstra Bigpond’s Elite Liberty ADSL2+ plan ($69.95/month), with a 12GB monthly data allowance and no excess usage charges. He pays a total of $99.90 per month, inclusive of home phone. When the Trees busted their 12GB allowance, he upgraded to 25GB and paid $119.90 per month. He used about 14GB, leaving 11GB unused.

“It’s really frustrating getting the data usage right,” says Cameron. We set out to find Cameron a cheaper bundle with ADSL2+ speed and peak data allowance of between 15GB and 20GB. We found three possible plans that offer good savings compared with his current broadband and home phone plan:

  • iiNet Broadband 2+ Home4 with VoIP bundle $69.90/month (15GB of peak data between 8am-2am, 10GB between 2am-8am). Savings: $30/month. Set-up fee: $79.95. Connection fee: $39. ($100 rebate on new modem for a 24-month contract).
  • Internode Home Fast 15 with home phone bundle $69.95/month (15GB – no time restrictions). Savings: $29.95/month. Connection fee: $0 for 24-month contract, $39 for one month contract). 
  • TPG ADSL2+ with VoIP bundle $50/month for 80GB (40GB of peak data between 8am-2.30am; 40GB off-peak data between 2.30am-8am). Savings: $49.90/month. Connection fee: $20 phone deposit. $59.95 for a 12-month contract; $0 for an 18-month term. The VoIP bundles include 500 free minutes for local and national calls to fixed phone lines. (Note: TPG offers VoIP only.)

Complaints

Double trouble

Brad, NSW: I'm signed on to an ADSL2+ broadband plan with Dodo. My Broadband deal stated that I had 20GB per month. If I exceeded that, my plan stated that I would be (a) charged extra for this additional usage up to a maximum additional cost of $40 and (b) after exceeding this additional maximum my service would be slowed from ADSL2+ speed to 64kbps.

Sure enough, one month I exceeded my download limit, however my speed was immediately slowed to 64kbps and I was still charged the maximum additional $40 cost once my additional usage took me up to the $40 limit. As a result I called my ISP and queried why I was imposed with both (a) the additional charge, and (b) the speed slow from the instant I exceeded my allocated 20GB. The ISP claimed it SHOULD HAVE only done one of the other, but in this case it did both! 

Dodo refunded me the $40 in good faith (luckily I knew better and queried the mix-up!) My suggestion to other Choice readers would be to (a) use an app like Quota or check usage on an online meter regularly, (b) have a data limit that is well over and above what you THINK you would use each month, and (c) choose a data plan that only SLOWS your usage after exceeding your data allowance (rather than charging obscene amounts for data usage in excess of your included usage). 

Telco bargain

John Borg: We were regularly going over our broadband limit on a monthly basis ($39.95 for 400MB) with BigPond. After comparing other ISP’s plans I called BigPond in October 2009 to advise that I would close our account. The customer service officer was very courteous and said he could arrange this and asked why I wanted to do so. I told him that BigPond’s charges were too expensive. He told me that a new plan has just been announced and he could change our plan over at no extra cost and pay the same rate each month for a higher limit ($39.95 for 2GB). I accepted this however made sure that if I found that I was not happy with the new plan that I would be able to close the account with no penalties.

So far this increased limit has worked well however it makes me wonder: if I did not call BigPond would we have continued to pay the same price for a much lower limit without being advised of this new plan?

No choice = Shonky service

Peter Campbell, QLD: We're with Activ8 satellite broadband, as we live only 5km from the centre of Gympie (Qld), it is the only way we are able to access broadband internet. We're on a shaped plan, so the minute we exceed our download limit it slows to dial'-up speed unless you choose to "top-up" at exorbitant rates. The difference between the 1 GB plan ($49) and the next plan( 2GB $69) is very expensive and so it really doesn't give you reasonable choices.

What upsets me most though is the contemptible way in which some service providers, including Activ8, treat their customers. Their customer support is atrocious and I just do not understand the ethics of Australian companies who treat their customers so badly. This week I have spent over two hours trying to contact them on three separate occasions about connection problems. I only managed to get through to them on one occasion after a 50-minute wait. The next time, after being on hold for over 30 minutes, I found myself back at the main menu and had to start the whole process again. After another 10 minutes, my cordless phones battery went flat and so I lost the connection. On the third occasion I phoned at 5.30pm Queensland time. After being on hold for over 30 minutes listening to the same message over and over, I received a message that the office was now closed and I would have to phone back during business hours. It beggers belief that companies can treat their customers with such contempt. You can email "support", which I have done on a number of occasions, however I have yet to receive a reply to an email I have sent requesting assistance. Unfortunately we have no other options and so we are forced to accept such nonsense.
 

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