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Planhacker: Complete NBN Plan Guide May 2012

The range of National Broadband Network (NBN) plans continues to expand, and there are many more to come. Planhacker covers all the plans on offer in Australia right now in a custom spreadsheet you can use to find the best option for you.

There has been a lot of movement in the NBN world since we last published this listing, including the entry of Club Telco, Engin and MyNetFone. Many more ISPs have signed up for the NBN but not yet released plans, so further activity is likely.

You can’t get an NBN plan unless the NBN has been activated in your area. You can find out when that’s due to happen in your area using NBN Co’s own interactive maps. If you can access NBN services, it’s important to make sure you’re comparing like with like. Some plans include nothing but basic broadband connectivity; others also include landline-like phone services. Check our guide to five common mistakes people make when assessing NBN plans to avoid these kinds of traps.

ISPs offering NBN services have to choose from a set of standard speed combinations, but beyond that they are free to set whatever policies they like in terms of download limits, shaping policy, peak and off-peak availability, contract length and other terms.

In the table below, we’ve listed the options available from every ISP we know of that has released general market pricing for consumers. We’ve included monthly fees; speeds; downloads limits (peak, off-peak and total); setup fees; contract lengths; minimum cost over the length of the contract; what speed your connection gets shaped to if you exceed those monthly limits, and whether those limits include uploads as well as downloads. Note that the setup fee generally doesn’t include an NBN-ready modem (you’ll have a range of these to choose from, depending on the provider, and some will make them free depending on the length of the contract).

While there are a large number of plans, you can sort and filter the table by clicking on the column headers, so that you can (for instance) only see plans running at 100/40, or sort in order of total download limits or prices.

Some background notes: iiNet’s plans include matching peak (8am-2am) and off-peak (2am-8am) components. Optus also have variable amounts of peak (12pm-12am) and off-peak (12am-12pm)options, as do iPrimus (peak 10am-2am, off-peak 2am-10am). We’ve listed each separately, but recommend careful consideration before taking up a plan which applies the peak/off-peak distinction. (Yes, you can schedule downloads to take advantage of off-peak, but it’s better to have connectivity you can use when it suits you.)

Optus customers adjust speeds by adding speed packs to their basic plans ($10 a month for 50/20, $20 a month for 100/40), which we’ve reflected in the table. Note that the $39.99 plan is only available if you have an Optus mobile; other plans may have discounts if you’re already an Optus customer. Optus’ $64.94, $109 and $129 plans (at 25/1 speed) also include phone service, so be cautious in directly comparing them to other options.

Telstra also includes varying amounts phone credit with its bundled plans (those which end in even dollar amounts), but doesn’t offer the full range of speed choices. The phone offers vary with each plan, so check carefully (only the $150 deal includes unlimited calls to Australian landline and mobile numbers). Non-bundled plans have a high installation fee.

Exetel is one of two providers which doesn’t count uploads and has the most generous shaping speed, but it also has the smallest overall download limits and has cut back significantly on the range of plans it offers. That makes most of its plans cheaper, but doesn’t give you as much scope for large downloads.

Unusually, iPrimus offers a 12 month contract (the only advantage of the longer 24-month contract is a marginally cheaper router). It has cheaper rates if you bundle its broadband with other services, but we’ve listed the standalone prices here.

Internode is one of a handful no-contract options currently available. Its shaping speed is low, but you can pay extra for higher shaping speeds or additional data bundles, and it has the highest download limits overall.

Optus’ offer of free installation is handy and we like that it doesn’t have contracts, though there’s no guarantee that will remain the case in the future. Club Telco also has a no-contract option, but doesn’t have particularly generous data options. Engin distinguishes itself by not counting uploads but doesn’t have many plans, while MyNetFone lets you buy extra ‘data packs’ if you exceed the limits in a given month, but that means you don’t get a shaping option. It has a well-priced 2TB a month option (its plans won’t be available until late June but we’ve included them here for comparisons).

Skymesh also has a data packs approach.

For full details of each plan direct from the provider, hit the links below:

One final point: every time we write about the NBN, some commenters will point out that they can get a bigger download limit from their existing provider for less money right now and argue they don’t want to change. Speed considerations aside, It’s worth remembering that not everyone is blessed with the same choices you are, and that no-one is being forced yet to switch to the NBN in areas where there are a large range of providers. By the time it hits your area, the pricing will certainly be different.

Lifehacker’s weekly Planhacker column rounds up the best communication deals.

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