Most Australians only use 6GB of data a month, but if you're in the group who consume 100GB or more, then an "unlimited" broadband plan can be appealing. Here's what's available in the unlimited space on an ADSL2+ connection.Picture by Robert Fornal
We ran a guide to unlimited broadband plans back in April, but I'm updating it now for three reasons. Firstly, the comments on our story earlier this week about Australian broadband habits made it clear that many readers do routinely consume enormous amounts of data every month. Secondly, Dodo started offering unlimited broadband without requiring an attached phone service, which changes the competitive landscape slightly.
Thirdly, I decided that there wasn't much sense in including ADSL1 plans on the "unlimited" list, since the maximum speeds they offer are often the same or slower than what you get shaped to on many existing plans. (If you do want an ADSL1 plan, the April listing will still be useful to you.) If you want unlimited downloads, chances are you also want them as fast as possible.
The relatively limited range of plans on offer reinforces once more that most providers have no interest in offering unlimited plans. As always, we should point out that while the plans we've listed here do meet the basic definition of an unlimited service -- no download limits and no shaping -- nearly all of them have some kind of restrictions attached.
As well as invariably having an acceptable usage policy to allow blocking ridiculously excessive usage, most providers also have other catches, which we discuss below. For starters, these plans are rarely available nationwide; you'll need to check if your area is covered.
The most prominent issue for most people is that some providers actually block torrent traffic. I can't imagine that most people who want an unlimited plan wouldn't want P2P as an option. Remember also that unlimited services won't necessarily be available in your area.
In the table below, we've listed all the unlimited plans for home users we're aware of, including their monthly cost, the standard setup fee (which could be lower if you are moving from an ISP that supports rapid transfer) and the total minimum cost over the lifetime of a contract. (For a 0-month contract, this equates to the setup fee plus one month's access, though many providers charge an additional fee if you quit before 6 or 12 months.) We haven't included equipment charges.
Where plans require you to sign up for a home phone line from the same provider, we've included that cost in the minimum monthly cost; we haven't included discounts offered if you bundle with other services. (Other than iPrimus and TPG, unlimited plans haven't widely appeared as a naked DSL option, so you will likely end up paying for a land line in some form or other.)
All these plans claim a maximum download speed of 20Mbps and uploads of 1Mbps; in practice, you'll often get rather less, depending on line condition, your distance from the exchange and other factor.
Here's the full table; you can click on the column headers to filter down results to specific prices, providers, speeds or other features.
Here's our quick summary of each provider:
AUNIX, ISAGE, LOCALL: The annoying limitation with these providers is that they bar torrent traffic altogether. Our verdict? Don't bother.
ONESENIORS: Unremarkable and overpriced.
DODO: While Dodo no longer requires bundling, it still blocks BitTorrent and has a mixed reputation for customer services.
IPRIMUS, CLUBTELCO: These are the best no-contract options if you don't want a long-term commitment, with ClubTelco the cheapest in that space. The iPrimus offering is one of only two naked DSL plans on offer.
TPG: TPG has a broad and sometimes confusing range of options: you can pay $59.99 for an unlimited plan that includes line rental, $59.99 for an unlimited plan which doesn't include line rental, or $69.99 for a naked unlimited plan. Choosing anything other than the first option doesn't seem like a particularly sensible way to spend your money -- why pay the same amount to get less features? Nonetheless, this seems the best of the bunch in overall value terms. That said, the biggest issue is whether you'll be able to access it; TPG only offers it in selected exchanges.
For details of the individual plans, hit the provider web sites:
Know of an unlimited plan we've missed? Got experience with one of these plans? Tell us in the comments.
Lifehacker's weekly Planhacker column rounds up the best communication deals.