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Broadband internet access in Australia  30/6/2013

My NBN journey at Aspley

Australia is embarking on a national broadband network which will improve internet access for many Australians.  That system is predicated on about 70% of the population taking up access at a cost of $50-$70 per month.  They might be dreaming and should be reminded of the traffic predictions for the Brisbane Clem 7 tunnel.  Never let optimists do your business case planning.


I am presently paying $49 per month for a heap of TPG ADSL2 broadband. That is probably more than I need and I share that access with a bunch of kids.


Most of the people I know prefer not to pay $50-$70 per month for internet access. I became more interested in this topic when trying to find an internet access provider for my mother who lives in a country town.   Her friends were paying exorbitant sums with Telstra and other providers. After some basic research and a little trial and error the solution for her was a 3G Virgin mobile modem - currently available for $49 and $150 per year thereafter for 1GB a month average internet access.


The trial and error arose from the fact that I could not get good information on the location of wireless towers and initially purchased a Vodafone USB modem.  Because of the geography this did not work for her so I kept that device and bought a Virgin modem instead.  As far as I know Virgin uses the Optus network and it worked like a charm.  After the original modem purchase which included one month's access and 1GB data and some texts an additional 12 months access cost $150 ($12.50 per month).  This seems like a reasonable sum for a light user and I am sure many Australians would take this option if they knew about it.  I come across many people who are paying way too much for access.  In some cases it is because they are not shopping around or feel trapped because of the Australian telecommunications regulator's failure regarding portability of email addresses.


Of course for people looking to take up the internet for the first time - if you don't have it you cannot use it to research your options - Catch 22.


Here is an example of the confusion that awaits a prospective internet service provider.


Telstra's cheapest home internet access plan seems a steal at $9.95 per month for 2GB of data.  But when you look at the mandatory fineprint it says "Min. cost $1701.60 + $9.95 delivery fee"  You need to sign up for 2 years plus you need to be on a full service Telstra home phone plan.  Now I am pretty sure that the only people on the planet who have a full service Telstra home phone plan are pensioners and diehard Telstra shareholders.  If you change home phone providers the money you save will pay for your internet access.


Here are a few thoughts which might make it simpler for those seeking a low cost solution to access the internet.


Free access

Many Australian towns have public libraries with free internet access. There may also be other community and church related groups that provide access - usually the computer itself is supplied. 

Some areas are also putting free wireless internet access in public spaces including public transport trains, buses and stations or in shops and cafes. Look for signs and ask people what your options are. For this type of access you will need you own portable device such as iPhone, iPad, smart phone, tablet PC or notebook computer.  Common examples of stores that offer free wireless access are McDonalds and Starbucks. Some hotels also offer free internet but Australia is a long way behind the US in this respect.


Casual paid access

Many shopping centres, airports, transport hubs, hotel lobbies have internet kiosks or internet cafes where you can pay for timed use of a computer connected to the internet. eg. $2 might buy 20 minutes.


If this sort of access is not available to you then you will have to pay for a home account - here are the:

Broadband technical options



This technology uses the copper telephone network, is not available to all users as you need to be relatively close to a DSL equipped exchange.  The house needs an ADSL modem which is connected to the telephone outlet.  Many people choose to buy a combination modem which also includes a wireless point to establish a home network point for printers, multiple computers, XBox, etc.  Think carefully about the choice of DSL modem and consider the devices that you may wish to attach to your home network.  This is one purchase you might make at Harvey Norman - make sure you write down a list of all your devices.  Whether you have access to this type of internet access is based on your telephone number. 



This is the type of cable that brings you paid TV service.  Cable was laid by Telstra/Foxtel and Optus with plans starting at around $49 per month.


Community Wireless

In some locations around Australia entrepreneurs have established wireless points to make internet available through the air.  Each participating dwelling must erect a small antenna.


3G/Next G

This network technology uses the mobile phone network and provides reasonable speeds for web browsing and also portability within the network coverage area. The best network of this type is provided by Telstra, but it is also the most expensive.  If maximum coverage is important then go with a Telstra plan.  If your coverage requirements are less, however, stick with another network.  I have a Vodafone USB key which satisfies most of my Australian travel requirements ie. major capitals and regional centres.  See below for the best deal.  This is the cheapest broadband option for most people who only want to access email and occasional web browsing.



In early 2012 Telstra starting making noises about deploying a new generation of wireless internet access which is considerably faster than 3G. I am tipping that 4G will be devastating for the take up of offerings under the National Broadband Network. 4G will probably move many homes away from PCs altogether with moves to tablets and the convenience if being online anywhere and no need for complicated equipment like modems and cables.



This is an expensive option - but the only option for some. A dish is required on your roof.  Eligible people can have subsidized access from $9.95 per month with HarbourSat. Activ8me from $19.95 per month.


Optical fibre

This is the primary technology of the National Broadband Network. Telstra have been rolling it out for a while.


Best internet access deals in Australia.

Light user < 1 GB for month - satisfy email users and light internet use.  Not the plan for Youtube freaks.


Vodafone mobile broadband Prepaid  

Buy a modem for $49 inc 3 G data valid for 30 days  (or $99 for modem inc 6 G data valid for 94 days) Note this modem is restricted to metropolitan areas.

Follow this up with a $150 recharge for 365 days.   Total cost for 12 months starts at $199


For those wanting a bit more functionality for $79 you can buy a pocket WiFi modem which will allow up to three computers to connect to the internet at once sharing  the one connection.

  Vodafone network coverage

 Three and Vodafone have joined forces


Virgin mobile broadband prepaid

As at January 2012 Virgin have a special deal for ipad microsim - $99 buys 10 GB with one year expiry - an awesome deal.

Buy a USB modem (photo left) for $29 (400Mb data for one month included).  At the end of the 30 day introductory period pay $149 for 12 GB over 365 days. Total cost for 13 months = $198 [Checked 19/6/2011] For more money you can get a better quality modem and 3 month data pack.


For those wanting a bit more functionality for $99 you can buy a pocket WiFi modem which will allow up to three computers to access the internet sharing the one connection.

Virgin network coverage


Telstra mobile broadband prepaid

when I first started this page my opinion of Telstra was not high - but they have improved their value significantly with better pricing and the introduction of a 365 day recharge option.  Buy a USB modem from $79 including 3GB of data for the first month then $150 buys you 10GB of data over 365 days.  This is not the cheapest option but if you are looking for the best national coverage then this is the plan to get. Total cost for 13 months = $229

An Elite pocket wifi modem costs $99 (5 GB data for 60 days) 


Telstra is the best mobile network from a coverage perspective  Telstra network coverage


Optus is lagging here.  In fact I could not even find out how much their charges were when I went onto their website 28 January 2012.


Which of the above deals you choose is mainly an issue of coverage.  Most important consideration is the quality of access from home or your normal use location - with mobile reach next.


Amaysim offer a pay as you go plan on the Optus network.  Bring your own modem and start with $5 and 1G data for $9.90


TPG have a casual plan that is ideal for iPad owners.  For exiting TPG customers buy a micro SIM card for $20 and pay $1 per month which includes 150MB of data and 2.56 cents per MB thereafter.


Best value Internet to the home:

TPG is the winner hands down. $29.99 for 5GB peak + 10 GB off peak and shaping at 128k.  If you bundle your TPG internet with line rental then $29.99 buys you unlimited internet - beat that.


Check to see whether you can get TPG ADSL.


I'll look at other providers as they come up.


Let me know about better deals and I'll post 'em