Much like a chimera, the NBN is a complex beast. It may not breathe fire, but it will certainly give you nightmares. When you sign-up for an NBN plan – whether it's the first time or if you're switching – there are countless decisions to be made. The most important of these is speed.
There are four primary speed tiers to pick from, but that choice can be harder than it seems. Thanks to NBN Co's deeply flawed pricing model, buying a faster plan can sometimes end up being cheaper than a slower one. It's messy. To set help things straight, we're taking a look at what's the go with each NBN speed tier, what you can expect to pay, and the cheapest unlimited data plans across all four.
NBN 100 (Premium Evening Speed)
NBN 100 plans are best for larger households or anyone who regularly downloads or uploads huge files. You'll get download speeds of up to 100Mbps, and uploads of up to 40Mbps. In peak hours, providers tend to promise downloads of anywhere between 60 and 90Mbps.
These speeds are unsurprisingly excellent for downloads like new release AAA games, but also great if you need fast upload speeds for backups et al. Few individual online activities actually require NBN 100 speeds, but it's worth remembering your NBN connection is a shared resource. If you're using 25Mbps to stream a 4K video on Netflix, there's only 75Mbps left for everyone else.
However, this speed tier is referred to as "Premium" for good reason. You tend to pay between $20 to $30 more per month for an NBN 100 connection when compared to an NBN 50 plan. Your maximum speeds may be twice as fast, but it's worth asking yourself if you'll make the most of them.
At present, the standout NBN 100 deal comes from Tangerine Telecom. $69.90 per month gets you an NBN 100 plan with unlimited data for your first six months. You'll pay $79.90 per month thereafter, which is still very competitive as far as top-tier NBN plans go.
NBN 50 (Standard Plus Evening Speed)
NBN 50 plans are the sweet spot when it comes to speed and value. They're a big improvement over ADSL in terms of speed, and monthly prices tend to be more reasonable than NBN 100 plans. You're typically looking at between $60 and $70 per month.
These plans get you download speeds of up to 50Mbps and upload speeds up to 20Mbps. In peak hours, providers tend to promise download speeds between 30Mbps and 45Mbps.
Exetel is the most affordable place to start if you're looking for an NBN 50 plan. $59.99 per month gets you an unlimited data plan on a 12-month contract, which works out cheaper than many slower NBN 25 plans.
NBN 25 (Standard Evening Speed)
NBN 25 plans are dying a slow death; many providers dropped them from their line-up amid wholesale pricing changes at the start of last year. If you sign up for one of these plans, you can expect download speeds of up to 25Mbps, and uploads of up to 5Mbps. In peak hours, providers tend to promise downloads between 15 and 20Mbps.
While there are still some NBN 25 plans around, these rarely tend to offer a real saving when compared to NBN 50 plans - even when it comes to plans with download allowances around 100GB.
Kogan and Vodafone have some of the cheapest unlimited NBN 25 plans around, but at the same time, it's possible to get the aforementioned NBN 50 plan from Exetel for an almost identical price.
NBN 12 (Basic Evening Speed)
Plans on this speed tier are next on NBN Co’s chopping block. New NBN wholesale changes will essentially make it impossible for providers to deliver an NBN 12 service without raising prices or increasing congestion for customers. As such, we've seen telcos including Exetel, Dodo, and iPrimus remove their NBN 12 offerings entirely. While there are still plenty of NBN 12 plans to choose from, it wouldn't be surprising if we soon see other telcos follow suit and ditch them.
NBN 12 plans offer download speeds of up to 12Mbps, and uploads of up to 1Mbps. In peak hour, these plans typically promised download speeds around 10Mbps, but look set to decrease.
As with NBN 25, NBN 12 plans don't make much sense. In most cases, you can get an NBN 50 plan for the same (or similar) price.
So what speed tier should I choose?
As it stands, the real choice you have to make when signing up for an NBN plan is between NBN 50 and NBN 100. NBN 100 is obviously better by virtue of being faster, but you'll want to make sure you can justify the premium.
If you don't want to spring for an NBN 100 plan, NBN 50 will still be a significant improvement over an ADSL connection and fast enough for almost anything you want to do online.
Alex Choros is Managing Editor at WhistleOut, Australia's phone and internet comparison website.