What to look for when picking your NBN provider


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Forget the political argy-bargy: eventually, if you want broadband in your home, you're going to have to switch to an NBN (National Broadband Network) service.

More than 50% of the country already has access to the NBN, and by 2020 11.6 million premises will be able to connect.

So when you do make that switch, what should you look out for? Here are my top six tips for what to consider when choosing your NBN provider.

nbn national broadband network

1. Find out what technology is being connected to your home

Different technologies are used for the NBN in different areas. Most Australians will be connected via fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), the existing pay TV cable network (HFC) or fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP). In more remote areas, fixed wireless and the Sky Muster satellite are being used.

The key point to remember: you don't have any choice about this. You can check what technology will be used at your address by using an NBN tracker. That might influence your choice of provider; for instance, if you're in a rural area and connecting via satellite, plans from the "big name" providers aren't such good value.

2. Don't opt for the lowest speed

NBN plans offer a range of speed options. The faster the speed, the more you'll pay. That can make it tempting to opt for the cheapest basic plan, which promises a maximum download speed of 12Mbps. That's unlikely to be any faster than your current broadband, and could well be slower. If you're hoping for a speed boost, opt for at least a 25/10 plan. Remember those speeds are maximums too, and that some providers can suffer from congestion.

3. Don't settle for anything less than an unlimited plan

Bottom line: you will always use more data than you expect. In an era where we're watching 4K streams on our TV and every member of the family has their own device, having limited data doesn't make sense. Most providers offer a decent-value unlimited plan, so opt for that rather than trying to save a few bucks.

4. Don't just lazily stick with your existing provider

When the NBN arrives in your neighbourhood, you'll almost certainly be contracted by your existing broadband provider offering to switch you over on similar terms to your current deal. That might seem like the easy option, but it won't necessarily score you the best deal. Shop around to see what else is out there.

Remember: whoever you choose, you're likely to have a brief break in your service while the connection is enabled - staying with your current provider won't eliminate that. If you do want to stick with your current provider, get on the phone and ask for a discount.

5. Don't sign up for landline-like services unless you really need them

The NBN replaces the existing telephone network, but you can opt to have a landline-like service added in, often for an additional charge of a few dollars a month. Be realistic before you pay for this: how often do you make a call on your landline compared to your mobile?

With the vast majority of mobile plans now offering unlimited calls and texts in Australia, the only rational reason to have a landline for your home is if the reception on your preferred mobile network is really rubbish. (You might think a landline is useful for 000 calls, but unless you have FTTP and a backup battery, you won't be able to make calls using the NBN during a blackout anyway.)

6. Don't sign up for a long-term contract

Many NBN plans offer a 24-month contract, and try to make this more tempting by offering a free modem. However, if it turns out your provider has lousy customer service or doesn't buy enough capacity, you'll be stuck with a bad experience for two years. Choosing a month-to-month deal will give you more flexibility.

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Angus Kidman is editor-in-chief of finder.com.au.