02.Finding the right plan
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.
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.