GUIDES & RESOURCES

Cheap Internet Plans: Is Price Everything?

Want to lower your Internet bill? Who wouldn't, right? But wait – what's the trade-off? When you're looking for a deal on an Internet Plan, it can be hard to balance what you want against what you want to pay. Here's our advice.
woman using laptop sitting on couch

*iSelect's partnered with CIMET to help you compare a range of internet plans and providers. Not all plans or providers in the market are compared and not all plans or special offers are available at all timesthrough all channels or in all areas. Not all plans available from CIMET's providers are compared and due to commercial arrangements, area or availability, not all plans compared will be available to all customers. Learn more

Written by

|

Edited by

Updated 26/10/2023
What changed?
Updated information around unlimited data plans.
|
Fact checked
Our aim is to help you make better informed decisions. That’s why iSelect’s content is produced in accordance with our fact-checking and editorial guidelines.
|

Find out more about how we make money.

View our Privacy Policy.

Written by

Francis Taylor

Updated 26/10/2023

What changed?

Updated information around unlimited data plans.
Our aim is to help you make better informed decisions. That’s why iSelect’s content is produced in accordance with our fact-checking and editorial guidelines.

Edited by

Laura Crowden

Find out more about how we make money.

View our Privacy Policy.

Compare NBN plans the easy way

Save time and effort by comparing a range of NBN plans and providers online*

What does a cheap Internet Plan cost?

So, how cheap is cheap? That really depends on what you’re after. If you want Internet that travels at the speed of light, then you might struggle to find something that’s gentle on your bank account. On the other hand, for a standard NBN Plan with 25Mbps speed, you might be able to find something for under $60 a month.1

How fast is that, exactly? Well, it’s fast enough to stream videos on Netflix at the highest definition.2 But if you have more than three people using the Internet at once, you might notice some slowdown.3

Does cheaper Internet mean less speed?

Usually, but not always. Some providers might charge the earth for their slowpoke plan while others offer a reasonable price for faster Internet – but this is typically the exception, not the rule.

Yes, we’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but there is often a trade-off between lower prices and more speed.

Speed is how quickly your device or computer can download data from the Internet. It’s measured in megabits per second (Mbps). The higher the number, the faster your speed.

So, as mentioned, you might be able to find an NBN Plan with 25Mbps speed for under $60 a month.4 But for one that gives you 100Mbps, you could end up paying upwards of $90 every month.5

How fast are the cheapest NBN Plans?

Nowadays, providers’ cheapest NBN Plans often have speeds of between 15 and 25Mbps during peak hours.6,7 So, how fast is that? On the lower end, it’s about fast enough to stream TV in standard definition; on the higher end, you can probably eke out high definition.8

There are a few different ways you’ll see NBN speeds labelled. NBN Co used to use numbers like ‘NBN25’ and ‘NBN100’,9 and though they’ve now switched to descriptive labels like ‘Home Basic’ and ‘Home Standard’,10 you’ll still see some providers using the numbers.

Here are the NBN’s speed tiers, their estimated speeds and the different names you might see for them:

NBN tier11 Estimated download speed (peak hours)12 Closest equivalent NBN number13
Home Basic I Less than 12Mbps NBN12
Home Basic II At least 15Mbps NBN25
Home Standard At least 30Mbps NBN50
Home Fast At least 60Mbps NBN100
Home Superfast At least 150Mbps NBN250

The NBN lists one even faster speed tier, Home Ultrafast, but don’t specify its download speed.14

What speed do I really need?

Here’s a little secret most providers don’t tell you: you might not actually need the fastest Internet Plan on the market. Depending on what you want to do on the Internet, a NBN Plan that runs at 25Mbps could suit you just fine.

If you just want to browse the web, do some online shopping and watch a few videos on YouTube, then an evening speed of 15Mbps could work well.15 Of course, if you have a big household where everyone is trying to use the Internet at the same time, then your 15Mbps connection is likely to buckle under the strain.

Alternatively, if you’re streaming 4K movies and playing Apex Legends with your mates, then you might need an evening speed that gives you 60Mbps.16 This could go even higher if you want to download large files in a matter of minutes or if you’ve got a whole family of Internet users who need to share the connection.

In the end, it all depends on what you need from the Internet. It can be a little tricky to tell until you actually take your plan for a test drive, but here are some numbers to give you a ballpark of what you might need. (It’s probably not as much as you might think!)

Activity Recommended download speed17
Sending emails, making phone calls Less than 12Mbps
Browsing the web and social media, streaming music, streaming video in standard definition Less than 15Mbps
Streaming video in high definition (1080p), downloading files, playing online games, videoconferencing Less than 30Mbps
Streaming video in high definition (4K), downloading large files Less than 60Mbps
Streaming video in 4K and 8K at the same time, downloading game updates more quickly, downloading and uploading large files more quickly Less than 150Mbps

How much data do I need?

If speed is how fast you can get information from the internet, data is the name for the information itself. In the context of Internet Plans it’s usually measured in megabytes (MB).

These days, it’s hard to find an NBN Plan that doesn’t offer unlimited data – so if you’re looking to cut down on data to save money, you might be looking for a long time. With unlimited data, you can stream as many videos or play as many games as you want and never get hit with additional data fees or get your Internet slowed down by your provider.

Data limits are a lot more common when it comes to 4G and 5G Mobile Broadband Plans. On a Mobile Broadband Plan, it can be easier to go over these limits if you download video games or binge movies and TV shows on the regular. So if this is you, a large – or unlimited – data allowance might be more suitable.

How much data does the Internet use?

If you’re looking for the cheapest Mobile Broadband Plan, you probably also want to be confident you won’t run out of data. To help you get a sense of how much data you want, here’s how much is required for common online activities.

Activity Data used18
Streaming YouTube in 4K (highest resolution) 450MB per 10 minutes
Streaming YouTube in 480p (lowest resolution) 44MB per 10 minutes
Streaming Netflix in 4K (highest resolution) 7GB per hour
Streaming Netflix in 480p (lowest resolution) 500MB per hour
Streaming Spotify Free 72MB per hour
Using social media 1.5–3MB per minute

Is there a formula for finding a cheaper Internet plan?

Well, yes! Comparing different Internet Plans is a pretty reliable way to find the deal you need at a reasonable price.

True, it’s a bit of a balancing act. It involves weighing all three factors – speed, price and data allowance – against each other and deciding whether you can compromise on any of them. But you can also compare similar plans and see which one offers the best value.

When you’re comparing, keep an eye out for extra fees. A lot of different costs can come into play, such as:

  • Introductory rates: Some plans charge a cheaper price for an initial period. Once this period is over, the price you pay for your Internet goes up.
     
  • New development fees: If you need to get NBN set up on a newly developed property, then your provider might pass a $300 fee your way.19
     
  • Setup fees: Your provider might charge an additional fee to set up and activate your Internet connection from their end.
     
  • Additional fees: You might be charged extra for paying by credit card, choosing to get paper bills, any late payments and a variety of other things.

Providers usually provide this information as part of a Critical Information Summary that you can download from their website. This document should tell you everything you need to know about the costs involved, so it’s worth giving a thorough read.

How do I find a suitable plan?

If you’re still feeling a bit overwhelmed, you can save time and effort by comparing from a range of Internet providers and plans with iSelect online.* Or if you’d rather talk to one of our friendly team members, just call 13 19 20.


Sources:
1 Tangerine – Make the switch to a Tangerine award-winning NBN plan ($49.90 Value or $54.90 Value Plus plans, price checked 6/10/23)
2 Netflix Help Center – Internet connection speed recommendations
3 Exetel – NBN Broadband
4 Tangerine – Make the switch to a Tangerine award-winning NBN plan ($49.90 Value or $54.90 Value Plus plans, price checked 6/10/23)
5 Aussie Broadband  Unlimited NBN plans with Australia’s most trusted telco (Family NBN plan, price checked 6/10/23)
6 More – Choose your plan
7 Dodo – $15/mth off nbn
8 As above
9 The Sydney Morning Herald – NBN ditches speed 'tiers', introduces new names for plan types
10 NBN Co –You have a choice of speeds
11 As above
12 As above
13 Tangerine – Making sense of the different NBN speeds
14 NBN Co – You have a choice of speeds
15 Australian Competition & Consumer Commission – Broadband speeds
16 As above
17 NBN Co – You have a choice of speeds
18 Aussie Broadband – How much data do I need for my mobile plan?
19 NBN Co  Government policy for new developments

Feedback