There’s a special type of frustration created by slow internet. To be watching the first episode of that hot new show everyone is raving about, only for its quality to constantly dip or to have it stop and start every few minutes. It’s especially frustrating if you’re paying the big bucks for a top-speed NBN plan that just isn’t hitting its full potential.
For some people, it’s been a particular bother as they’ve shifted to full-time or partial work-from-home setups. Thanks to an underperforming NBN connection, you’ll have to deal with video calls that make it look like you’re using a potato for a webcam and wait around for important files to finish downloading over hours instead of minutes.
While there’s no universal fix to slow internet, there are some solutions. We’re going to look at some common NBN issues and potential solutions, ranging from upgrading your plans or the devices you use.
You’re on the wrong NBN plan speed
The NBN comes in six main different speed tiers: NBN 12, NBN 25, NBN 50, NBN 100, NBN 250, and NBN 1000. The bigger the number, the faster the plan. NBN 12 plans max out at download speeds of 12Mbps, while NBN 1000 plans can go as fast as 1,000Mbps.
Most of us can get speeds of up to NBN 100, but those lucky enough to be on Fibre to the premise (FTTP) or Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) technology types can also get NBN 250 and NBN 1000 plans.
If you’re on a cheaper NBN 12 or NBN 25 plan, your connection could definitely feel slow. These plans are barely an upgrade over a standard NBN connection. It’s also important to understand that your NBN connection is a shared resource – everyone in your household has to share the speed. As such, if you’ve got multiple people trying to stream on a slower NBN plan, it’s going to feel even slower.
As such, we recommend NBN 50 plans as a minimum for most. Here’s a selection of the most popular NBN 50 plans:
Congestion may lead to slow internet
While congestion is less of a problem than it used to be, some NBN plans are still prone to congestion during peak hours. All NBN providers need to advertise their plans’ “typical evening speeds”, which refers to the speeds you can expect to get during the busiest hours of the day. These are often slower than the maximum speeds you can get on your plan, and they vary from provider to provider.
For the fastest possible service, you want a provider that reports high typical evening speeds. Here’s a look at the NBN 100 plans with the fastest typical evening speeds from major providers. You can tap the dropdown menu in the widget to select a different speed tier.
Your physical connection to the NBN sucks
Unfortunately, some NBN connection types just aren’t as good as others. Many Fibre to the Node (FTTN) NBN connections can’t even hit speeds of NBN 100, and Fixed Wireless and Satellite are both slower again.
If you’re on FTTN, there’s some good news – many properties will be able to upgrade to FTTP at no cost by the end of 2023. Fixed Wireless connections are also set to get some love, with NBN set to supercharge the network with 5G technology over the coming years. This will also bring some areas previously only served by Satellite into the Fixed Wireless footprint.
In the short term, 5G home internet is becoming an increasingly viable alternative – for those that have coverage, at the least. Here’s a selection of 5G home internet plans that have speeds of at least 100Mbps.
It’s also possible your modem or router just isn’t very good. Before buying a new one, there are a few things you can test.
If it’s predominantly Wi-Fi speeds that are slow, try moving your modem to a more central location. Definitely don’t keep it in a cupboard. Wi-Fi speeds can also be impacted by electronic devices like fridges, ovens, and microwaves – especially if they’re between you and your modem.
The best way to see if Wi-Fi speeds are an issue is by plugging your device directly into your modem or router via a LAN cable and running a speed test. If you don’t have a wired device, run a speed test standing right next to the modem. If the speed is drastically different next to the modem and a few rooms over, there’s a good chance your Wi-Fi signal isn’t great.
If you need a larger amount of wireless coverage, a mesh Wi-Fi system like the Google Nest Wifi range or the Amazon Eero family are good picks.
Alex Choros is Managing Editor at WhistleOut, Australia’s phone and internet comparison website.
The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans
Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.