Best Broadband Internet Plans 2013

By Mike Wheeler

Like mobile phone plans, Internet plans are an enigma wrapped inside a riddle with a hint of a conundrum attached – in other words, they are a nightmare to sort out.

By Mike Wheeler

Like mobile phone plans, Internet plans are an enigma wrapped inside a riddle with a hint of a conundrum attached – in other words, they are a nightmare to sort out.

How many Gigabytes do I need? Does the price include the landline? What speeds are on offer? What happens when I run out of data? Can I change my plan if my needs get more, or less? Should I get wireless? Does it cost more if I do? What about the NBN? When will it be coming to my area?

Some, if not all, of these questions should be running through your head when deciding upon what sort of internet plan you want. In the case of someone like Telstra, you can even get a plan that can be bundled with not only a phone, but also with Foxtel. Others like TPG do offer a phone, but you have to read the fine print to see what costs there are up front.

So how did we decide on the parameters of what makes a good broadband plan? We decided to use the nuclear family as the ultimate test subject – mum and dad with two teenage kids. We know there are many household permutations out there – some with more kids, some with less, single parents families etc, but we chose to have the two adults and two kids ratio because it would give an average starting point when looking at getting a new internet plan. As the kids grow, so will the amount of data they chew through – whether it be online gaming, surfing the net or researching that school assignment.

While we realise that some ISPs have several plans that are exceptional, we decided to pick what we consider the best plan from individual providers so that all the main players are given equal time.

Telstra BigPond
Telstra BigPond have this uncanny knack of making simple things hard to digest. Overall we were not impressed with most of its plans for varying reasons. For example, its Elite Liberty plans – on the surface – look pretty good. One such plan costs $49.95 a month for 50GB of data – plenty for most families – until you read the fine print and find that it will cost you $83.90 a month for the phone line, too. There is also a charge of $72 for a modem, and a $48 activation fee.  Then if you look at the T-Bundle prices you can get a 5GB internet a month plan with phone for $80, or 200GB plus an enhanced phone (whatever that is) for $100 a month. Finally, there is the large plan of 500GB a month plus phone for $130. Yet the first question that comes to mind, is ‘what about plans in between those price?” Getting 5GB for $80 or 200GB for $100 is too much of a disparity. The 5GB should be going for about $30 and there should be a few more in the middle, like 50GB or 100GB. I won’t even go into the Ultimate Liberty or NBN plans. When all is said and done, the most cost-effective and affordable plan is the Elite Liberty $49.95 for 50GB (which in real terms is just under $84 a month). A tad expensive, but will meet your needs.

TPG has had an interesting history in that it has been hauled over the coals by the ACCC on occasion due to the way it advertises its deals. In the past they have forgotten to prominently mention in their ads that you have to stump up extra cash for a phone line. TPG is offering both bundled with a phone and standalone plans. They have quite a few, and are cheap. The best value for money is its ADSL2+ $39.99 plan whereby you get 150GB of data a month. To be honest, the $29.99 plan would be just as good, but to pay an extra $10 to get 100GB more, it too good an offer to miss. There is a $49.99 plan for 500GB, but only those who want to illegally download from Bit Torrent sites would be interested. Our chosen plan has a pretty reasonable speed of up to 20Mbps, but be aware that with all of their plans they split the amount of data between peak and off-peak times. In this case it’s 50/50 – 75GB peak and 75GB off peak. They are a little cheeky in that peak time runs from 8.30am until 2.30am the following day.

iiNet is our provider at home and it has several plans that are worth considering. It has Naked DSL, ADSL Broadband and NBN.  Best value for money is the $59.95 Naked DSL. You get 100GB of data, and as a parent of two boys who use the net a lot, this is more than enough.  They do give you a shaped speed of 256/256kbps, which will not affect you as long as you don’t exceed data (shaping is the set speed at which the internet will work once you have exceeded your monthly data allowance). It also has quite a few add-ons including up to 10 email addresses, email protection and no excess usage charges (thus the shaping).

Optus is spruiking both bundled (with landline phone) and standalone, and after trolling through the various offerings, we’d give its $75 a month Naked DSL plan a go. You get 120GB of data, which is okay, but does not include the landline. Unlike most of its competitors, this plan does include a modem and there is no connection or delivery fee. You are locked into a contract, which will cost you if you break it. It also has a shaped speed of 256/256kbps after your allowance is exceeded.

Adelaide-based Internode offers both Naked DSL and ADSL 2+ plans. Along with Telstra, they do offer up a comprehensive number of plans that can meet most budgets. Its $59.95 150GB-per-month Naked DSL plan is tempting, because you don’t have to have an activated phone number to use it (which is the main difference between ADSL and Naked DSL lines). However, we like its $49.95 200GB ADSL2+ plan, not only because it’s $10 cheaper with 50GB more data, but we realise the majority of Australians haven’t caught up with the VoIP internet phone calling technology so this is what most would go after. If you want any of the ADSL bundles (ie including home phone) add $30 a month to their plans.

Headquartered in Melbourne, iPrimus was recently bought out by M2 Telecommunications. It offers up some interesting plans – both ADSL2+ and Naked DSL. We say interesting because they seem a bit hit and miss on the pricing front. For example, its Naked DSL 50GB a month plan will cost you $59.95 a month, while the ADSL2+ equivalent is $39.95 (although you’ll have to add $30 a month for phone connection, too). The pricing isn’t really the problem – we get that – but we still feel that 50GB on either plan – compared to rival ISPs – is not that great. However, on the other hand for $89.95, you get an unlimited data plan on ADSL2+. So which is the best?  Hidden amongst all the flotsam and jetsam is the ADSL2+ Kahuna plan for $49.95 (plus $30 for phone line) that gives you a decent 150GB of data.

Southern Cross Telco
Based out of Hobart, Southern Cross Telco is similar to Primus, in that its plans are a tad more expensive and not as streamlined as some of the competition. And if you don’t have ADSL2+ or Naked DSL, then expect to pay through the nose for an ADSL plan. For a whopping $89.90 the company will give you a measly 5GB of data on such a plan. However, when shopping through its standalone ADSL2+ plan you can pay $69.95 a month for 150GB. For $109.90 you get the same amount of data plus phone. We’d go for the former. Also, unlike most of the major players, SCT contracts are for six months instead of 24.

Exetel is a reseller of Telstra, Optus and NBNCo, just to name a few, and offers up some very interesting – and cost-effective – deals. Its plans include a phone and while some of the cheaper plans have no activation charge, the one we’ve chosen does. For $60 a month – including telephone line rental – you get 1TB of data. It is a month-by-month contract, there is no termination charge. The aforementioned activation charge is $100. Shaping comes in at 1024/384kbps (upload/download), but we’re betting you will not exceed your monthly limit.

Dodo has Broadband + home phone, Broadband unbundled and Naked ADSL plans for sale, but are limited to the main metropolitan areas of Australia. And while we are very tempted by both its Unlimited $59.90 plan we think we’ll go with the $39.85 3TB unbundled plan on its ADSL2+ lines. One thing that caught our eye is that on some plans, that while they don’t offer shaping, there is a limit on what they will charge you if you go over your monthly allowance. For example, you can get a $34.90 ADSL2+ plan that will give you 100MB of data. If you exceed that by any great length, the most they will charge you is $49.90. Not a bad idea.

Long gone are the days of paying $80 a month for 10GB (unless you have ADSL only) of data, and most of the ISPs do get a tick for not only offering a variety of options, but being pretty up front about what you will be getting for your buck.

A game changer over the next 2-5 years will be the NBN. Initially, expect reasonably high prices comparative to what you get now, and then to slowly reduce at uptake increases.

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