The Best And Fastest Alternatives To The NBN

Image: speedtest.net

While NBNCo would like us to all wait patiently for their trucks to roll along our streets and connect us to the national network, the reality is that a combination of impatience and mixed reports of network performance have many people considering the alternatives. While the NBN garners lots of attention and a connection to your home is mandatory, you don't actually have to use that connection. There are alternative services that mean you can sidestep signing up with the NBN/RSP combination. Here are some of the alternatives.

The fastest residential NBN plans available offer 100Mbps downloads. There are some faster connection options for the fortunate folks who were able to get fibre-to-the-premises connections during the early days of the project. But for most of us 100Mbps is the best we can get.

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However, a bunch of smaller providers are popping up and providing fast services either in specific suburbs or in new developments. For example, earlier this week we looked at Fiber Corp, which is bringing high speed fibre to new developments in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. It's offering up to 2Gbps - that's 20 times faster than the NBN. And there are so-called "fibre through the air" services like Uniti Wireless, which is providing 100Mbps connections to customers in Adelaide and Melbourne.

So, what are your non-NBN, fast internet options?

HFC Cable If You Can

I moved into my place last year and I had the option of HFC cable with a 100Mbps connection so I took that. If you live in an area where that's an option, it should offer better performance and, at least in my experience, reliability over ADSL if you can get it.

Here's a selection of HFC Cable plans that offer good value for money:

Cellular Data

If you don't have a need for lots of data then it may be plausible to use a cellular connection. All three major carriers as well as many MVNOs offer cellular data options with enough bandwidth for email, web browsing and a reasonable amount of streaming with up to 250GB of available data. And, until the NBN came along, those connections often delivered faster uploads than most of the fixed carriers. Many of my colleagues would turn to cellular data connection to upload large files rather than wait with their ADSL or HFC connections.

Here are some hand-picked options that are worth considering:

And let's not forget the impending arrival of 5G services which will lift the performance bar substantially.

The Challenge

When you start searching for NBN alternatives, there's a lot of rhetoric and many promises. There are companies offering plans with up to 500Mbps for both uploads and downloads but when you scratch the surface, their coverage is limited to small pockets of major metropolitan centres or simply lead to inquiry forms where there's a promise of someone getting back to you when they can service your area.

In other words, there's some vapourware around.

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NBN Alternatives

Open Cloud Communications is based in Bundaberg - the home of the Mon Repos sea turtle nesting grounds and a rum distillery. Their website doesn't offer a lot of information but they tout themselves as a "a high speed Internet service independent of the NBN". At the moment it looks like they're limiting their footprint to the Bundaberg region.

Uniti Wireless offers wireless broadband services in Melbourne and Adelaide with plans to expand its network into metropolitan Perth, Sydney and Brisbane before the end of the year. The company has been around since 2014 and offers 25Mbps, 50Mbos and 100Mbps plans starting at $29.95 per month although monthly charges increase if you go month-to-month rather than locking into a longer-term contract.

Also, there's Spirit. It goes up to 200Mbps and prices start at $67 per month. It's currently available in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Northern NSW.

Rather than sitting back and hoping it will all work, South Australia made broadband an election issue earlier this year and there are now three fibre network projects on the go. But while that's brewing, NuSkope is offering some fixed wireless plans although they seem to be capped at 40Mbps.

Kern WiFi is also offering better than ADSL performance with up to 1TB of monthly data in Perth. And Pentanet offers 50Mbps plans but they get pretty expensive if you're a heavy user. It doesn't look like there are a lot of alternatives once you get out of the city in the west. Red Broadband offers some fixed wireless options but they're limited to 12Mbps in rural areas.

You can find Pentanet's chief plan offerings below:

Tracking down local NBN alternatives in New South Wales is tricky as there are a number of local providers servicing small areas. It seems that Sydney's hilly terrain makes large-scale fixed wireless deployments a challenge so providers are focussing on where they can get the required links to work where the local geography isn't a major issue.

OpalNet is an option offering 1Gbps up and down of your budget can stretch to almost $340 per month. But a 50Mbps connection is just $79.90 per month. W3 Networks offers 100Mbps "AirFibre" connections for under $100 per month. Both those services only operate in limited areas.

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The reality is that while the NBN will eventually reach into almost every home and business there are alternatives. My advice is to closely monitor local Facebook groups and other community noticeboards. Chances are that if a new provider decides to offer services in your area that they'll either advertise there or you'll be able to seek recommendations from other locals.


Comments

    Fibre Estates, such as those run and maintained by Opticomm, are also an alternative. These are also very fast fibre-to-the-premises connections, though will typically be a little more expensive than your usual NBN plans. You also need to live in an area where fibre estates is available though, which are usually the new housing developments. It won't be an option for most people but if you really care about fast, fibre internet, moving into one of these areas might be worth considering.

    Node1 in WA, a Geraldton company who do NBN, however if you have a line of site to QV1 in Perth they can put a microwave link in and get you up to 100 Mps down load and 20 Mps upload. The other day however I did get 69 Mps upload....yes, up load.

      Yep, Node1 user since this time last year. The tower I am linked to via Fixed Wireless is getting me anywhere from up to 229 Download and up to 121 Upload.
      The "lower" numbers I as getting on to their 100/20 plan was 98 down and 19.5 Up which was what I was on till a few months ago when I changed to their Flexi unlimited plan. Now I barely ever get below 150 down or below 75 Upload. It all depends on the load at whatever tower you get connected to so results will vary but I've not heard one person knock them since joining up.

      No interest in ever leaving them. They're a local WA company, look after their customers and are constantly improving things.

    Ex-redbroadband customer here. Would not recommend.

    - They said they would do a signal test before signing me up to ensure that I could receive a decent connection.
    -They then did the install.
    - 4pm to 11pm everyday I would have a mass amount of dropped packets
    - Tech support was woeful. They kept "monitoring" the situation, and tried moving me to different AP's. I would have thought perhaps trying something like a radome to reduce interference.
    - Asked RBB to cancel the contract due to unusable connection. They asked for one more chance to send someone out and resolve the issue
    - Took a day off work to have the technicians come and have a look. They didn't rock up and asked to reschedule to the next day.
    - 2 technicians rocked up @1pm... when interference was mild. I had previously told them that the issue was worse at 4pm. The ran ping test and speed test for an hour, and the "solution" was to downgrade my connection from 30/5 to 12/1.
    - Not only was this not acceptable to me (i needed the higher upload speed), it also didnt work.
    - I again asked RBB to cancel my contract. They said there would be a cancellation fee which ofcourse I told them there was no way I would be paying.
    - They weren't in a rush to get there equipment back. It took them 2 months, I had assumed they had forgot about it.

    A quick look at the whirlpool forums does not paint a pretty picture either

      If they did charge you extra fees, an email to the ombudsman should sort things outs. Just lay out very clearly with all the dates what happened and state what you want (your money back). I had to do this with MyRepublic (scumbags kept charging after I cancelled and lied about refunds). They sent them an email the next day saying "Fix this shit" and someone called me and fixed it all. I got back even more money than I asked for.

    Also, if your area has HFC it is quite likely to either be NBN now, or in a freeze where you cant order a new cable service while it is readied for NBN.

    Last edited 19/09/18 10:54 am

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