Here we will make things simple by splitting the deals into “home” and “on the move”, and explain what to look for in a provider that will ensure you have a speedy, stable and reliable internet service that will not break down or take ages to download information.
Don’t spend too long worrying about decyphering acronyms such as ADSL or ADSL2, just accept that they are different technologies that offer slightly different benefits at different prices.
As for the connection speeds quoted here, these will serve as a useful guide so that you can reference any deals that you find or ask appropriate questions to sales staff.
As for how much data download capacity you should look for, remember that 1GB of data is enough to browse around 500 websites. If you download much or watch a great deal of internet TV, then this consumes more data and you would need a large monthly allowance – an hour epsidode of a TV show is about 550Mb. Where possible, look for unlimited download deals.
For the home
First off you need to decide whether you want just an internet service or a “bundled” internet and telephone plan.
Although there are several providers who offer so-called “naked” broadband deals which do not require you to pay for a phone line, you will often find that a bundled phone and internet deal will actually be cheaper than a standalone “internet only” package.
When it comes to the type of broadband connection you need, probably the most popular is a Wi-Fi broadband connection because you can move your computer, tablet or laptop around the house and still receive the signal. It also means more than one person can plug into the signal at the same time.
The best type of Wi-Fi network is made with fast ADSL, ADSL2, or cable broadband connections, via a Wi-Fi enabled modem router – this is a device that broadcasts the wireless signal around your house or office. You can either buy your Wi-Fi enabled ADSL or cable modem from a shop, or you can get it through your Internet Service Provider (ISP). The advantage of buying it from your ISP is that it usually comes pre-programmed with your username and password (so all you have to do is plug it in), and the company will give you technical backup if you run into trouble. To have a good wi-fi network you need a fast broadband speed. The minimum speed should be 1500kbps on ADSL1, but an 8000kbps speed on ADSL2+ (with a theoretical speed of up to 24Mbps), or cable (with a theoretical speed of up to 30Mbps) connection speed will ensure you can connect numerous devices to the one signal simultaneously.
Cable, mobile, ADSL or ADSL2?
If your primary concern is speed, then you need ADSL2 not ADSL. With providers such as Optus, Internode, Exetel, iiNet and others now vying for customers, there is both increasing choice and competition. Maximum speeds with cable top out at 17000kbs with BigPond, while mobile (which most people really only need if they take their devices outside of the home) lags a little, with nothing over 15,000kbs. Remember that quoted speeds are only ever the maximum possible speeds – you will probably never actually experience them at all. It depends on your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and location of your house almost as much as the amount you pay.
“Your location is important because ADSL and ADSL2 both rely on telephone systems to carry the signal. The nearer you are to your local telephone exchange, the faster your signal will be” says Sarah Routledge of Comparebroadband
Cable is a little different. Cable is fast and reliable but you need to be in an area where cable has already been laid (to provide cable television) and you can access it from your property. Even then, if you have many households in the same area all plugging into the cable at the same time, speed can suffer. Even so, cable is regarded as a fast and effective option if you can get it.
If all you care about is the price, ADSL is the best option, as the large number of ISPs offering ADSL services means there is greater competition and consequently lower tariffs. Cable can be a good option if you have access, especially if you already watch cable TV, because bundled packages could make your internet service better value when tied up with tv and phones.
A logical approach therefore, if you are motivated by pricing, might be to start looking at ADSL, then ADSL2 then cable.
Club Telco* offers an ADSL deal with unlimited data download each month for just $25 a month while TPG offers an ADSL2+ deal, also unlimited, for just $29.99, although you need a phone line at an extra cost of $30 a month.
“Both these deals are pretty difficult to beat for what they offer” says Routledge.
On the move – mobile broadband
If you want to access the internet through your computer or tablet whilst on the move, then a mobile internet deal is the answer. Mobile broadband speeds are much slower than with ADSL or cable, because the more people there are using the mobile phone tower, the slower the connection speed. Anybody familiar with using their iPhone to surf the internet will most likely have experienced slow connection speeds from time to time.
However, if you need mobile access, experts suggest going for a month to month contract deal rather than a prepaid tariff because most prepaid deals cancel any unused download capacity at the end of each month. This is legalised daylight robbery so you are better off going to month-to-month provider such as Amaysim* or Virgin Mobile which will provide a decent amount of download capacity for a regular monthly fee. You can then cancel with minimal notice should you wish to change. Virgin offers 6gb of data a month for just $29.99 with no lock-in contract. Avoid Vodafone until they have solved their many issues.
However, remember that it will only pick up the internet where there is a mobile phone signal so it won’t be much use in many regional areas.
Make sure you question an ISP about their speed at your address before signing up – the theoretical speed of ADSL2+ is 24,000 Mbs – very fast. But we have never met anyone in Australia who gets this speed or anything near it. We have some serious concerns about how broadband speeds are advertised and we’ll be writing more about these soon – many users end up with 2 Mbs when they were expecting 12 times faster.