The National Broadband Network has the potential to supercharge the average Australian internet connection, but how fast is fast enough? Are you making the most of the megabits you're paying for, or are you missing on the best the web has to offer?
In this guide, we'll look at how NBN speeds are measured; outline the difference between Basic Evening Speed, Standard Evening Speed, and Premium Evening Speed; and help users work out just which NBN speed tier is best for their home and family's internet needs.
What is Mbps?
As you read on you'll see us refer to Megabits per second, or Mbps. This is a measurement of speed used by all internet providers and indicates how fast data travels along the network. The higher the Mbps, the faster the connection.
Importantly, this also refers to the capacity of your internet connection. The higher the Mbps, the more tasks you can do with your internet connection at the same time, meaning more people can use the internet without it slowing down.
As a rule of thumb, the larger you family is, the faster your internet connection should be.
NBN 12 (Basic): basic internet only
NBN 12 (Basic Evening Speed) is ostensibly your basic internet connection, roughly equivalent to the average speeds you'd get on ADSL2+. A NBN 12 connection is more than enough for day-to-day internet usage. It won't wow you, but it's still enough to stream high definition video from the likes of Netflix, Stan, YouTube, or Presto.
However, a NBN 12 connection may get stretched thin in a multi-person household, especially if everyone is trying to stream video at the same time.
NBN 25 (Standard): great for 2-4 people
NBN 25 (or Standard Evening Speed) is the next step up, and the minimum you'd want for streaming 4K video through Netflix, Stan, or Amazon Prime Video. 25Mbps is what's typically recommend for a high quality 4K stream, but advances in compression mean 4K streams can kick in at as little as 15Mbps now.
That being said, if you're hoping to stream 4K video on a 25Mbps connection, there won't be much bandwidth left for anyone else on your network.
NBN 50 (Standard Plus): best for large families
NBN 50 (or Standard Plus Evening Speed) is ideal for a family of constantly connected internet lovers. 50Mbps ensures that everyone in the family is able to partake in their favourite online activities, whether it's streaming movies and music, online gaming, sharing memes and photos, or video calling with overseas friends and family.
When multiple family members are connected to your WiFi at the same time, they are using the available capacity of your NBN service, known as its bandwidth. NBN 50 plans generally have enough bandwidth to support a family of four or more.
NBN 100 (Premium): a must for internet lovers
NBN 100 (or Premium Evening Speed) is currently the fastest (widely available) internet connection speed tier that money can buy. The upload and download speeds make it perfect for anyone who shares large files regularly, making it a good option for small businesses which may need to share work with clients, or for backing up business documents to the cloud.
Gamers are another example of people who can make good use of the fast connection. If you predominantly buy your games through digital storefronts like Steam, the Xbox Store, or PSN, you'll love how much sooner you'll be playing new games with an NBN Premium connection.
What's the difference in download times?
So how much a difference does a faster connection make to your download times? Below we've got a list of common files you might download paired with how long it would take to download them on each tier of NBN connection.
|Download||NBN 12||NBN 25||NBN 50||NBN 100|
|An album (approx. 100MB)||1 min||33 sec||16 sec||8 sec|
|Photoshop (approx. 1GB)||12 min||6 min||3 min||1.5 min|
|A HD movie on iTunes (approx. 5GB)||59 min||29 min||14 min||7 min|
|A new release game (approx. 50GB)||10 hours||4 hours, 45 min||2 hours, 20 min||1 hour 10 min|
What NBN speeds are available?
With fixed line NBN connections, there are now four different speed tiers available to subscribers. Not all internet service providers will offer all four speed levels, but these are the options NBN offers wholesale to telcos:
|Tier||Max Download||Max Upload|
More often than not, you'll sign up for a NBN 12 or NBN 25 plan, and get faster speeds by paying an extra monthly fee for a "speed pack" or "speed boost".
It's worth noting that speeds aren't guaranteed; they're just indicative of the maximum speed it's possible to get on your plan. Luckily for consumers, new guidelines from the ACCC mean it's easier to predict the actual speeds you can expect from an NBN plan, before you sign up.
What are NBN evening speeds?
Much in the same way as the traffic on the road slows down during peak hours, the internet can too. This is especially true on the NBN, so internet service providers are changing the way in which they advertise the speeds you'll get on your plan.
Currently, most ISPs will tell you the maximum potential speed of the NBN plan you're signing up for. Moving forward, they'll tell you the speeds you can expect during peak hours, when everyone else is online. These are being referred to as 'evening speeds'.
Some providers, such as Telstra and Optus, are now advertising plans as 'basic evening speed', 'standard evening speed', 'standard plus evening speed', and 'premium evening speed' rather than NBN 12, NBN 25, NBN 50, and NBN 100.
Evening download speeds for each tier are as follows:
|Tier||Maximum speed||Evening speed|
|Basic (NBN 12)||12Mbps||7Mbps|
|Standard (NBN 25)||25Mbps||15Mbps|
|Standard Plus (NBN 50)||50Mbps||30Mbps|
|Premium (NBN 100)||100Mbps||60Mbps|
Peak internet usage hours are defined as the time between 7pm and 11pm. Your upload speeds may also be reduced during peak hours.
Frequently asked NBN Speed questions
Do I need different equipment if I want faster speeds?
In most cases, you won't need to change your modem or router if you take up a faster speed pack for your NBN. However, better hardware can help if you've got Wi-Fi connectivity issues for example, which may make it easier to take advantage of your improved speeds.
Can I change speeds month-to-month?
Generally, yes. If you're on a NBN plan that has the option for speed packs, you can typically change your speed pack once per month.
What's the difference between download speeds and upload speeds?
Your download speed refers to how quickly you're able to get files from the internet, while upload speeds relate to how fast you're able to send files to other places online. For example, your upload speeds will determine how long it takes send an email with a large attachment, back your photos up to Google Drive, or plonk a big document on Dropbox.
Upload speeds can also affect video calls, Voice over IP, and gaming, as these use cases all require both sending and receiving data.
Do I need fast upload speeds?
The average Australian internet user is a lot more reliant on download speeds for the majority of their broadband usage. However, if you regularly use video chat or Voice over IP applications, rely on cloud-based backup services such as Dropbox or Google Drive, or tend to send clients large files, you'll see big benefits from getting a connection with faster upload.
Why am I not getting the advertised speeds?
While NBN plans are advertised with a theoretical maximum speed, your connection could be slower than what you're paying for.
If you've got a fibre-to-the-node NBN connection, the most common reason for slower-than-advertised speeds is distance from the node. Customers within 400m of a node should be able to get speeds of up to 100Mbps, while customers further than 700m will start to see more significant speed degradation.
Congestion is another possible cause of slow down. If you're only noticing slower speeds at certain times, it's probably because everyone else in your neighbourhood is trying to pirate Game of Thrones simultaneously.
CVC - the Connectivity Virtual Circuit charge - is typically blamed as the leading cause of congestion on National Broadband Network, given that it is impossible for ISPs to buy enough to guarantee every single customer the speeds they're paying for at peak times.
NBN charges ISPs a base of around $15.25 per Mbps per month, which can go as low as $8 per Mbps per month under volume discounts.
If you look at Telstra, which will often charge over $100 for a 100Mbps NBN connection, the company would need to spend a minimum of $800 per month to facilitate those speeds under NBN's new pricing structure, not counting other costs associated with providing access to the National Broadband Network.
Obviously, Telstra isn't spending $800 per customer, and as such, if too many Telstra subscribers are online simultaneously, none of them get the speeds they are paying for.
NBN CEO Bill Morrow has accused ISPs of drastically under purchasing CVC in order to deliver the cheapest prices on NBN connection, and said the average CVC purchased across the industry works out to be 1Mbps per user.
A failing modem can also impact your internet speeds. If you're not sure what speeds you're actually getting, you can run a quick and easy speed test here.