Best internet plans while you wait for the NBN

We’ve taken a look at what the big internet providers have to offer while you’re waiting for your NBN connection.

Do you feel like waiting for the NBN to arrive is keeping you in a holding pattern? We keep hearing about how the NBN is coming to all Australian homes, but when exactly will that be? In a month? A year? And in the meantime, do you just have to let your old plan keep rolling?

In actual fact, you don’t. You can shop around now and choose a new internet plan on the existing technology because in most cases your provider will help you switch over to the NBN when the time comes. There’ll be no installation fees and no need to cancel your contract. You might even get an NBN-ready modem now, for free. Or you’ll be given one when it’s time to switch over.

Here’s how switching over will work:

  • NBN Co will inform you when the NBN arrives in your area.
  • At that point, all you need to do is contact your telco and ask for an upgrade.
  • Your telco will organise everything for you, and your upgraded contract will usually cost the same per month.

So what are the best plans to sign up for while you wait? We’ve taken a look at what the big internet providers have to offer.

Telstra plans start at $69 per month, but be aware that with the cheapest plans, phone calls are Pay as You Go (PAYG). However, for an extra $10 per month on top of any plan, you can get unlimited calls to local, national and Australian mobile numbers. In terms of data, Telstra lets you choose from 100GB or 1000GB per month – but if you want unlimited data, you’ll need to upgrade to an entertainment package.

Switching to the NBN with Telstra should be relatively stress-free thanks to the telco’s new Smart Modem. The modem uses mobile phone internet technology to connect you to the internet during outages — like the black hole period between your old internet switching off and your new NBN switching on. In practice, you shouldn’t even be able to tell when this happens because the internet will stay connected.

If you’ve settled on Optus as your telco of choice — it may be the last big decision you’ll have to make about your internet. The telco makes it easy to choose a contract by including unlimited data with all plans – so there’s no need to try and guess or calculate how much you’re going to need. Then it’s just a simple case of deciding if you want to pay the $20 extra per month for the entertainment package.

All Optus plans include PAYG calls, which means each of the plan rates you see above is a baseline, rather than the total cost per month. You shouldn’t end up paying too much extra though. Call packs for dialling landlines across the country are $5 each extra per month. Another $5 per month adds calls to Australian mobile phone numbers.

If you don’t like Telstra or Optus, iiNet is another good internet provider you might want to consider. Renowned for great customer service, iiNet plans start at $59.99 for 500GB.

Like Optus, all plans include PAYG calls which means your monthly contract rate is a baseline. Unlike Optus, however, iiNet call packs are expensive if you go for a traditional line rental — $20 per month for unlimited calls to Australian landlines and mobiles. You can save money by ditching your line rental and choosing a Naked DSL and Netphone option. When you make calls using Netphone (also known as Voice over Internet Protocol or VOiP), you still use your landline handset but your call is made using the internet.

We’ve all heard there’s money to be saved by venturing outside the familiar pool of Telstra, Optus and other big-name telcos, and it’s true. But an unknown provider can be a risk. To get the best of both worlds, then, you may want to try Belong.

Owned by Telstra, Belong offers much cheaper rates, starting at $35 for 100GB. There are a couple of catches. The first is that if you’re not an existing Telstra customer, you have to pay $20 extra per month. The second is that none of Belong’s plans include a phone bundle. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a landline, it just means you’ll be venturing into the land of VOiP. Not a problem if you’re in the mood to learn a little, and there’s savings to be made.

Jacqui Dent is Associate Editor at Australia’s most comprehensive telco comparison site WhistleOut.

* In highlighting particular offers we are not making specific recommendations as this article does not cover all available products and may not compare all features relevant to you. Any advice provided is general in nature and does not take account of your needs, objectives or financial situation. Individuals should consider their own circumstances, and if in doubt seek appropriate advice, before proceeding.