Planhacker: Unlimited Broadband Deals 2011

The concept of an “unlimited” deal has been back in the news recently, with the ACCC continuing its crackdown on providers using the term without clarification. If you can negotiate those pitfalls, an unlimited plan makes sense, and means you won’t face shaping or high excess fees. We’ve rounded up all the unlimited broadband deals for Australian Internet users.

We’ve explained in the past why the majority of broadband providers in Australia aren’t interested in providing unlimited plans. Despite that, there are now a fair number of plans on offer. Unlimited should mean what it suggests: you can download and upload as much data as you like within a month, without any speed restrictions or extra charges.

If you spend a lot of time each month tracking your usage (as we’ve learned many Lifehacker readers do this week), this can be helpful, which is why we’ve revisited this earlier guide. There’s also been some market changes; AAPT has dropped its unlimited plan altgoether, while TPG has reduced its prices.

It’s worth noting that despite the use of the word “unlimited”, there are still restrictions. In particular, unlimited plans invariably come with a an acceptable usage policy, which essentially dictates that your access can be restricted if you use a ridiculous amount of data or abuse the service (for instance, by using a residential plan as the basis for a business or to run a massive web server).

They won’t offer the highest speeds either — those invariably come with some kind of download limit. As readers pointed out when we last ran this table, the speed to which some “limited” plans are shaped is faster than those offered in some of these plans, so caution is advised with the slower choices.

Unlimited plans will generally require you to sign up for a long-term contract, and are often only available if you also sign up for other services such as a home phone line (this applies to Dodo and TPG). There can also be other conditions. Dodo, for instance, shapes connections used for BitTorrent on its unlimited plan, which is likely to restrict its usefulness for many people.

In the table below, we’ve listed all the unlimited plans for home users we’re aware of, including their monthly cost and the total minimum cost over the lifetime of a contract. (For 0-month contract, this equates to the setup fee plus one month’s access.) We’ve also noted any other restrictions, such as requiring users to sign up for a home phone line as well, and factored those costs into the calculation when appropriate. (Note that unlimited plans haven’t yet appeared as a naked DSL option, so you will have to pay for a land line one way or the other.)

Unlimited services won’t necessarily be available in your area even if that ISP is active in the local market. Plans have to be generally available to be considered though, so we haven’t included Exetel’s unlimited offer, which is only offered selectively to existing customers, or VividWireless.

Most plans on this list are ADSL2+, except for Netbay which only offers slower ADSL services. We’ve indicated the maximum speed for each plan on the table; in practice, your actual speed may well be lower.

The full table is below, or you can access it in PDF form.

Given the rapidly changing nature of the ADSL market, a short-term contract is probably a sensible choice. Given that, the speeds on offer and Dodo’s BitTorrent restrictions, TPG remains the standout choice in this list (assuming you can get the unlimited option in your area and don’t mind its phone plan, and despite its stoush with the ACCC over the plans). Netbay’s plans have even shorter contracts, but the low speed on offer means that in practice you’d be better off with a high-limit plan that shapes you; the same applies to Comcen and Supernerd. In those three cases, you’ll also be paying line rental fees separately.

For details of the individual plans, hit the provider web sites:

Know of an unlimited plan we’ve missed? Run into the “unlimited” brick wall and found yourself on the wrong end of an acceptable usage policy? Still prefer high speed most of the month and a little shaping at the end? Tell us in the comments.

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