NBN Showdown: Telstra vs. Optus

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internet plan, telstra, optus
Both Telstra and Optus plans are sold on a no-contract basis but attract setup fees. Image: Supplied

Telstra and Optus are some of Australia’s largest internet providers, but they both sit toward the more premium end of the pricing scale. Spending a little more can net you some perks like more reliable peak hour speeds, but if you’re going to drop top dollar on your internet plan, which provider should you go for?

Speeds

Both Telstra and Optus report fairly respectable evening speeds.

NBN 100 NBN 50 NBN 25
Telstra 88Mbps 44Mbps 20Mbps
Optus 80Mbps 44Mbps

Based on these alone, Telstra is the better choice if you’re after a fast NBN 100 plan, while the telcos are tied for NBN 50 plans.

However, that’s not the entire story. Both Telstra and Optus report real world evening speeds, based on customer performance data.

Telstra’s real-world speeds are based on the performance of 90% of its NBN customers, excluding fixed wireless customers, and FTTN, FTTB, and FTTC customers with a limited line speed. Telstra’s most recent numbers come from February, where it said NBN 100 customers were getting average peak hour download speeds of 92.74Mbps, and NBN 50 customers were getting 46.50Mbps.

Optus’ average peak download speed metric is based on the speeds experienced by a representative group of customers across a two-week period. Optus’ latest numbers are from June, where it said NBN Co customers were getting average peak hour download speeds of 93.5Mbps and NBN customers were getting 47Mbps.

It is of course important to remember that past data is not necessarily an indicator of future performance, and that Telstra’s numbers come from February while Optus’ are far more recent.

Based on this data, Optus edges out Telstra on both NBN 100 and NBN 50 plans. But given there’s less than a 1Mbps between the telcos, you really shouldn’t notice a difference between the two in terms of day-to-day usage.

Contracts and setup fees

Both Telstra and Optus plans are sold on a no-contract basis but attract setup fees.

While Telstra normally charges a $99 connection fee, it will currently waive it if you sign-up online. Optus plans also have a $99 start-up fee.

Telstra plans include a second-generation Smart Modem, valued at $216. However, you’ll have to pay out the prorated value of your modem if you cancel your plan within your first 24 months with the plan. This is equivalent to $9 per month left in your term.

Optus has a similar approach to its bundled Ultra WiFi Modem. The modem is valued at $252, and you’ll need pay out a prorated amount if you leave within your first three years with Optus. This is equivalent to $7 per month left in your term.

NBN 50 plans

When it comes to NBN 50 plans, Optus plans start at $75 per month, while Telstra plans start at $90.

Spending an extra $15 per month with Optus will bolt on a Fetch TV subscription with a Mighty set-top box and one premium channel pack, whereas an extra $10 per month with Telstra gets you a Telstra TV set-top box.

NBN 100 plans

It’s a similar story when it comes to NBN 100 plans. You’ll pay $95 per month for an NBN 100 plan on Optus, or $110 for an NBN 100 plan on Telstra.

It is, however, worth noting that Telstra will only sell you an NBN 100 plan if you’re on an FTTP or HFC connection. Customers on FTTB, FTTN, or FTTC are limited to NBN 50 plans on Telstra.

FTTB, FTTN, and FTTC customers are able to sign-up for Optus NBN 100 plans.

Extras

Given both Telstra and Optus and NBN plans are at the premium end of the pricing spectrum, it’s natural to expect a few perks.

Firstly, both Telstra and Optus’ bundled modems offer 4G backup in the event that your NBN connection carks it. In the event of an outage, you’ll be able to keep using your Telstra plan with speeds of 6Mbps down, or your Optus connection at 12Mbps down. In both cases, you’ll get unlimited data.

Big T customers also get access to the Telstra Plus perks program. Telstra Plus members get:

  • $12.50 movie tickets for Event and BCC cinemas, excluding sessions after 5pm on a Saturday, public holidays, and special events
  • Free popcorn and drink large combo upgrade when you book a movie ticket through Telstra
  • Discounted tickets to select sporting events
  • Pre-sale tickets for select concerts and events (aww, remember those?)

You’ll need to join Telstra Plus to get these offers.

In addition, joining Telstra Plus earns 10 points for every dollar you spend on your monthly bill as part of a Frequent Flyer style rewards scheme. You can spend these points on selected gadgets or use the points discounts on devices.

Optus has its own perks program, simply called Optus Perks. Benefits include:

  • Discounted movie tickets for Hoyts cinemas, starting at $12.50 for an adult ticket or $27 for LUX for any session on any day (including Saturday nights)
  • Discounted tickets for “over 3,000 experiences” across Australia and New Zealand, including activities such as jet boating and hot air ballooning
  • Pre-sale tickets for concerts and sporting events

Optus NBN customers also get themselves a free Optus Sports subscription.

What about the rest?

If Telstra or Optus don’t seem right for you, here’s a look at how their NBN 50 plans stack up to the competition:

 

Alex Choros is Managing Editor at WhistleOut, Australia’s phone and internet comparison website.


As Lifehacker editors we write about stuff we like and think you'll like too. Lifehacker often has affiliate partnerships, so we may get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

Comments

  • What about lower speed options? I have a 25/5 200Gb NBN plan that meets all of my needs for surfing, streaming and video conferencing. There are many other people who don’t need high priced plans. How many people have been oversold?

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