Planhacker: NBN Price Roundup March 2012

Telstra launching its plans means that there are now five companies vying for your custom if you’re in an area where the NBN is available. Planhacker covers off all the plans on offer.

We’re updating this Planhacker listing fairly regularly to reflect the rapidly evolving market; Telstra’s appearance is a major development that has driven this current update. Its emphasis is on bundles which also include other services such as calls, which is the same approach taken by Optus.

Right now, that you can still only get the NBN in pilot locations. We’ve rounded up the expected rollout schedule for this year, and as the service expands, there should be even more providers (I know of at least one planning to announce its pricing before the end of March).

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 Exetel, iiNet, Internode and Optus, the four ISPs that have 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.

A few important notes: iiNet’s plans include matching peak (8am-2am) and off-peak (2am-8am) components, while Optus’ also have variable amounts of peak (12pm-12am) and off-peak (12am-12pm)options. We’ve listed each separately, but recommend careful consideration before taking up a plan . (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.) iiNet is the only provider with a public satellite plan right now, for those areas where satellite NBN will be the only option.

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 the only provider 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 a lot of scope for large downloads (50GB and 100GB being the main choices on virtually all plans).

Internode is the only no-contract option 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.

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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