NBN’s New Speed Names Explained

NBN’s New Speed Names Explained

We’ve known the National Broadband Network (NBN) plans to be structured around five “tiers” of connectivity based on download and upload speeds offered by NBNco. It appears the company has renamed the plans and taken one of the tiers out. Here’s what you need to know.

Here at Lifehacker Australia we’ve done a quite a few articles about plans that are available over the NBN and how to pick the right one for you if the network is available in your area. Up until late last year, here’s how NBNco classified the plans available over its fibre network:

  • Tier 1: This speed tier provides your service provider with wholesale access speeds of 12Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload over NBN fibre.
  • Tier 2: This speed tier provides your service provider with wholesale access speeds of 25 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload over NBN fibre.
  • Tier 3: This speed tier provides your service provider with wholesale access speeds of 25 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload over NBN fibre.
  • Tier 4: This speed tier provides your service provider with wholesale access speeds of 50 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload over NBN fibre.
  • Tier 5: This speed tier provides your service provider with wholesale access speeds of 100 Mbps download and 40 Mbps upload over NBN fibre.

On a side note, it’s important to remember that Tier 5 services aren’t available across the network. NBNco operates as a wholesaler of NBN services and there are around 70 registered internet service providers (ISPs) offering plans to consumers.

Now when you visit the NBNco website for an explanation of the plans, you no longer see references to tiered plans. Instead, you’re greeted with nbn 12, nbn 25, nbn 50 and nbn 100:

NBN’s New Speed Names Explained

There’s no longer references to specific download and upload speeds available for each plan either and it appears one of the old speed tiers is missing.

We approached NBNco about the changes to the speed tiers and this was the company’s response:

“Changes to [NBNco’s] website reflect the company’s move to better inform Australians that there are speed options available from retail providers on the nbn network. Website changes include more detailed information on nbn wholesale speed tiers available to [retail service providers] to sell to homes and businesses. This is with the aim of allowing them to better discuss their requirements with their preferred retail provider.”

So it’s just a different marketing tactic for NBNco.

The changes to the naming convention do align with NBNco’s multi-technology mix (MTM) approach to the NBN which uses a handful of different technologies to deliver broadband services depending on the location. Depending on the technology that is being used to provide the service, including FTTP, FTTN and fixed wireless, download and upload speeds can vary greatly.

As the NBNco website states: “Remember, your actual speeds are determined by your provider and the plan you choose, and may also vary depending on things like their network capacity, your equipment, time of day and your location.”

In short, those who are already using NBN services through their respective ISPs are unlikely to be affected by the speed tier naming changes; the consumer-facing plans are defined by individual ISPs anyway. For those who are looking at taking up NBN services, be sure to clarify with your prospective ISP about what type of technology and download/upload speeds are available in your area.

How do you feel about the changes to the names of the speed tiers? Do you think this makes sense or does it add unnecessary confusion? Let us know in the comments.


  • Sick of the marketing bullshit, these companies need to be forced to commit to a service they can provide. If they’re selling a 100Mbs service, they need to provide that. If they can’t provide 100Mbs, they shouldn’t be allowed to sell it. This new idea of hiding that information by simply changing the plan names to something else is utter crap. It should be a requirement to list, specifically, what you’re buying and what they’re delivering.

    • Bottle of Coke
      1.25l $2.00
      May contain less at peak times or if you are more than 2km from the supermarket.

  • I think you will find Cameron that with the swith to FTTN by the Liberals, No ISP can guarantee anything due to the copper used. (distance and quality of copper)

    With fibre, Would not matter how far you are, You get what you pay for. (cvc skimping aside)

    • Will have to disagree on that one.
      I have FTTP @ 100Mbps, and because of congestion in iinets backhaul (thanks Netflicks users), I have drop to 1.5Mbps at various times.
      1.5% of the speed promised.
      I agree that with fiber they should be able to guarantee speed, but unfortunately the NBN has been designed like an ADSL network with massive oversubscription.
      They had one shot to get it right, and all they have done is provide a capability through newer technology options, but kept the same characterisitics of a bottlenecked asynchronous ADSL service.

    • Little correction – fibre does have a drop off point. With ADSL (and ADSL2), the speed slows the further you are from the exchange. Its a gradual thing, easily understood.

      With fibre, you dont get that gradual dropoff, but around the 15 km mark (old UK research, number I remember is 10 miles, so it might be a bit more than 15 km) data falls off a cliff. Think of it like a TV signal. An analog signal gets a gradual increase in snow and static until its not watchable (that be the ADSL equiv) while a digital signal is either there and totally fine, or totally unwatchable.

      Simple reality is that there arent going to be any 15 km fibre loops, so its a moot point, but it IS a restriction. Its also why its not straightforward to just run fibre in rural areas – people can be more than 15 kms from the nearest exchange.

      Before someone comments, intercontinental pipes use better technology (in both thicker fibre strands and stronger repeaters) which isnt appropriate for urban use, which is why they can push the data thousands of kms without a problem.

      • Grunt, that depends entirely on which technology you are using.

        The fibre to the premises local-networks that make up some of the NBN use GPON, which has a loss budget that allows up to about 20km maximum between the exchange and a premises. NBN’s design rules limit this a bit more for safety.

        Over 20km, you can’t expect GPON to work at all, but up to 20km you can expect 100% line speed to any one subscriber in the tree (bandwidth is shared, but fairly low (good) contention ratios so it shouldn’t be a problem – CVC on the other hand…).

        For other fibre technologies it depends entirely on the transceiver modules (lasers) used, the number of joints and splits in the cable, etc… You can buy a gigabit transceiver that goes 10km for about $10, whereas one that goes 150km is more like $360. There are much more expensive ones that can go for up to about 800km before dispersion in the glass becomes too much of a problem, and then you need a repeater.

        • Thanks for the extra info Stephen, much better explained than me. I understand it well enough, just dont know the terminology, thats a siblings department. They lecture and research this stuff as a career, and have been doing so since the late 80’s.

          All I was really trying to get across though is that the fibre line does have limitations. The expectation that theres no dropoff is false (as in TheOzCynic’s comment “With fibre, Would not matter how far you are”), when we’re really only using that 20km tier of GPON tech.

          Its a totally moot point though, pretty much everyone on FttP will be well within a 5km radius of an exchange so will never get remotely close to that range limit.

    • No ISP can guarantee anything due to the copper used. (distance and quality of copper)

      That’s not true. All ISPs can guarantee a minimum service level, even over copper. It’s been done for many, many years already with voice services. They just chose to not provide any guarantees for internet services because they can get away with their vague promises they don’t need to deliver on.

    • No ISP can guarantee anything due to the copper used.

      Yes, they can. The guaranteed minimum capability for all FTTN is 25/5. If your modem is incapable of syncing at that speed or greater NBNco have to fix it. (obviously if you’re on 12/1 you have to be able to sync at 12/1)

      • No, they can’t, because copper degrades over time, and the signal noise drops considerably over distance. So you may be paying for 25/5, but if you are 400m from the exchange, you’ll probably only get peak of 15/3. And that doesn’t even start to look at things like congestion where their limit is based on the bandwidth they’ve purchased to your general area, and which is shared between all the users in that area, so if they’ve skimped out there (like all ISPs do), then during peak usage times your net will slow to a crawl

        • No, they can’tYou clearly didn’t read my post @allanon10101 try again:

          If your modem is incapable of syncing at that speed or greater NBNco have to fix it. While some may find themselves with 15/3 as you mention, NBNco still have to fix it because their speed guarantee is 25/5.

          • Again, there is no such thing as an NBNco speed guarantee to the end-user. The speed you receive is dependent on factors such as network congestion, etc. And congestion is the result of bandwidth choices by the ISP, and has nothing to do with NBNco, so they will have nothing to do with that. NBNco have also repeatedly stated they take no responsibility for the individual line speeds. The only guarantee they make is that the technology servicing your premises will be capable of providing a minimum service speed of 25mbps. That has zero relevance to the actual speed you receive from your ISP (the guys you are actually a customer of).

    • Negative. The whole NBN is a shambles. Entire backhauls for most of the country are currently over capacity. We’re at what, 20% rollout?

      Entire ISP’s, Telstra included, share a 100Mbps bandwidth with hundreds and thousands of people. If you get your top tier speeds, that’s pure luck and you should go buy lotto.

  • I think the streaming use cases for each are misleading customers to buy a more expensive option, possibly even 2 tiers higher than they need.

    Netflix, for example, recommends 5Mbps and 25Mbps for HD (720p) and 4K streaming, respectively. Yet NBNco recommends 50Mbps and 100Mbps plans, respectively.

    Personally, my ADSL2+ got me just under 20Mbps, and I never had issues even with 4K streaming from Netflix.

    • The listed NBN speeds are no guarantee. FTTN fraudband speeds will vary greatly due to last mile copper fall-off coupled with a bottlenecked asynchronous ADSL service.

      Also, just because you’re streaming 4K Netflix on ADSL, it doesn’t mean you’re streaming at the highest 4K bitrate they have available.
      At my previous residence where I received 18-20 Mbps on my ASDL line, my 4k streaming bitrate was only around 10 Mbps, being only 2/3rds of full netflix 4k quality (which I believe is around 15 Mbps). It still looked great, and like you, I never had issues with it slowing down/buffering, losing quality or anything – but the reality is there was still room for the video quality to improve if only I had a better connection.

  • Also, are the gaming responsiveness options legit? I had never heard or read that the ping time is less for higher tiers.

    Or is their justification that higher bandwidth means less impact on gaming from other devices sharing the same NBN connection? I hope not, because that’s definitely misleading.

    • Sadly it’s the 2nd of the two options there: More bandwidth = less interference with ping. There are some ISPs that optomise the network path to minimise ping, but that is a specific plan, and is unrelated to the NBN provided by the wholesaler the ISP purchases bandwidth from. NBNCo are purely wholesale providers, so things like ping time aren’t dealt with on their level

  • They keep removing information from the public. If this keeps up the NBN website will be just a white screen of death by year’s end.

  • Just more marketing bullshit by those incompetent morons at the LNP. Thanks Australian voting public. We now have 3rd world internet in a 1st world country, Heck even some 3rd world countries have better internet than us.

  • The New FTTN plans:

    1. Worse than your old ADSL
    2. Seemingly faster when you are the only one online.
    3. Something you pay three times as much for but only get twice as much speed.
    4. A quarter the speed of your neighbours FTTP.

    • 1. Worse than your old ADSLOnly if you pick a 12/1 plan. Everyone is guaranteed 25/5 or better.

      2. Seemingly faster when you are the only one online.That would be due to your ISP skimping on bandwidth, find a better ISP.

      3. Something you pay three times as much for but only get twice as much speed.Hang on, I thought you said it is worse than ADSL in point 1.

      4. A quarter the speed of your neighbours FTTP.Potentially, yes. If you get the short end of the stick and are in the small percentage to be capable of just over 25/5 then you could be 1/4 the speed of your neighbours on FTTP if they pick a 100/40 plan.

      • A few things you need to consider with your responses there:

        1 & 3. Whilst the connection itself is not worse, the amount you are getting bent over by the ISP on average definitely is. Guaranteed speeds are not guaranteed, and on FTTN are subject to the condition and length of the copper connection between the node and your house. Additionally, regional congestion (see point 2 below) during peak times will severely impact the vast majority of connections, further reducing your average connection speed. So whilst you are paying more, you are getting proportionately less for what you pay compared to the cost/value of ADSL. Hence, one could argue, a worse plan.

        2. All ISPs skimp on the regional bandwidth (bandwidth to a given region, not regional australia). That’s how they make a profit. They figure what the average usage for that area will be, factoring in peak and off-peak times, and get that. As a result, during off-peak times, you will get the full speed (allowing for copper fall-off), whereas during peak times, you will experience throttling as the limited bandwidth from the exchange has to be shared by all the ISPs subscribed users connected to it. Some regions just get worse congestion than others due to average usage in that area being higher in peak times and/or lower during off-peak.

        4. Again, you base your assumption on the “guaranteed speed” that is not guaranteed and doesn’t factor in things like copper drop-off and line deterioration. A fibre line that is less than (roughly) 15km long will experience no noticable dropoff or line degredation due to the nature of the line and its signal. With FTTP, there is effectively no last mile conditions, resulting in what you pay for being what you get (not counting congestion). The maximum estimated distance from a FTTN node to a household is roughly 800m. As you can see from the UK regulatory body study on line dropoff on the last mile, that last 800 meters can make the difference between getting 100mbps and 25mbps from a 100mbps plan: http://linebroker.co.uk/images/diagram-fttc-speed.gif (FTTC = FTTN, FTTN uses VDSL2 tech on the last mile). So yes, potentially 1/4 of the speed if your neighbour gets FTTP and you only get FTTN, even if you both purchase the same package.

      • These are tiers. Tier three is when you pay $90 for a 50 mbps plan and get 25 mbps when a $30 plan will get you 12 mbps. Because hey its copper we are talking about. Every second article I read with comments from the NBN say something like, “nobody is choosing the higher bandwidth plans”. It must be written in their corporate PR bible somewhere – obfuscate the fact we can’t offer any decent speeds please at any opportunity please! What I think really is happening, based on my personal anecdotes, people choose lower speeds not because they don’t want higher speed, its that they don’t want to pay $90 for 25 mbps when they think they are getting 50 mbps!

        • “nobody is choosing the higher bandwidth plans” For one of two good reasons:
          1) they are older residential customers who only check email and browse some websites occasionally (like most of my family) and so do not need more than 12/1 Mbps.
          2) they are more savvy users, but have realised that they cannot get even 25 Mbps (down) over FTTN – at best – and so are not prepared to pay for something they cannot get!

    • Maybe I should start a cargo cult and build a cardboard NBN cabinet (painted silver) on the nature strip and run a fibre optic cable to it. It might still be faster than ADSL.
      Telstra will still charge me $89 per month for a cardboard box.

    • We can only hope that more sensible heads have prevailed before then, and we get FTTP, or at *least* FTTdp, instead of the ludicrous FTTN compromise which has been foisted upon us in the meantime at NO significant saving in the short term; let alone the hideous long-term cost of replacing all the rotting FTTN connection with fibre, as should have happened in the first place.

  • There seems a progression, or recession, in the level of info available to customers.
    First we were told nearly everybody would get “super-fast” broadband by end of 2016, then it was to be real-soon-now (the usual tech cop-out), and now they’re clamming up and unhelpfully refusing to supply anything but the most generic details.
    What’s going on? Anything?

    • Not *quite*! At FIRST we were told we would all get a fibre connection allowing up to 100 Mbps, or even 1 Gbps. After the change of government in 2013, this was downgraded to FTTN with a max speed (if you have good copper) of 25 Mbps (for downloads), which would be finished by the end of 2016 – somewhat earlier than the FTTP rollout.
      Please note that the current definition of “broadband” *starts* at 25 Mbps download; so this could hardly be described as “super-fast”! As the FTTN rollout has blown out by four years (so far) and is now expected to cost almost as much as the FTTP rollout, I think it is rather obvious we have been sold an excrement sandwich, instead of a fresh bagel with lox for the same price.

      • You described the whole FTTN debacle exactly – including your sandwich comment. 🙂
        The “super-fast broadband” reference was quoting Turnbull during the 2013 election campaign, and as with all his other beautifully worded statements, none of it has happened.
        FTTN is not “super-fast”, and it’ll take longer overall and finish up costing more than completing FTTP would have.

  • I’m at a complete loss for words here ! I’m going to go with My Republic when my node becomes RFS on Jan 20th. I assume everyone knows that My Republic completely ignore this bullshit about Tiers and data limits ? It’s $60 for whatever max download speed your NBN connection is capable of, and no limit on data. So, why do the dickheads at NBNCo persist in peddling this archaic crap about speed Tiers ?

    • Think about that for a moment. $60 for up to 100/40, when cvc costs more than $10 per mbps.
      Then its also unlimited so it will attract the kind of people who download for the sake of downloading. Go with My Republic if you want to have a bad time in the evenings

    • Don’t do it mate I’m with them they buy their wholesale through Optus and I’m lucky to get 0.9mbps at peak times. I have made multiple complaints and when they finally got back to me it was yes Optus is aware of the problem and are going to fix it but we don’t know when that will be. Hence I found this forum looking for what company’s are buying the most bandwidth so I can change my isp. My republic was good in theory but it’s been such a joke the speeds I’ve been getting good though if you only want to use the internet at 5am I get 85mbps to 100mbps but once everyone gets up back to the crap.

    • I signed up with MyRepublic at start-up on ‘$59 mth for 100/40 unlimited’.
      Just got notification today MyRepublic have changed plans and pricing now offering two-tier plans (50+100 only). Now “Super-fast nbn 50 @ $69.99 mth” and “Super-fast nbn 100 @ $79.99 mth”.
      Very disappointed given their original sales pitch.
      Can’t complain about connection/function to date, but don’t count on customer service (appalling!)
      Back to square 1 again ????. Sigh

  • I have FTTP but it’s on Telstra Velocity in a “smart community”. I am with Telstra and pay the $20 extra for 100/5 speeds. I want to know why NBN can’t utilise these lines and why I can only choose between Telstra, Internode and iinet for internet provider considering Telstra were supposed to open the network up for all providers.
    The fibre is there and connected and I still can’t get an NBN provider other than the above 3 to give me internet. NBNCo could knock off the whole suburb in one hit but nope, they are doing all the new estates with no infrastructure first.

    • “NBNCo could knock off the whole suburb in one hit but nope, they are doing all the new estates with no infrastructure first.”
      This is due to Malcolm Turnbull’s edict that ONLY greenfield sites get fibre NBN. Everybody else in existing premises gets FTTN, or maybe cable if they are lucky.
      We *were* due for FTTP installation to commence in November 2013. Now we are slated for FTTN by late 2019. So much for innovation!

  • Skymesh offers 200/200 on FTTP (which i have) if you can afford it, I can’t 🙁
    So that must be at least Tier 7.

    GOD TIER must be 1Gbps?

    If you want a real laugh try looking for the speed you will sign up for when looking at NBN plans on Telstra’s website!

    On a side note with iiNET during peak my 100/40 connection becomes a ADSL1 reach connection…

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