Belong NBN Review: The Best Internet for Streaming Netflix
What you need to know
Belong is the fresh-faced internet service provider (ISP) that’s been making waves in the Australian broadband space since it launched in 2013. At the end of the NBN rollout’s most tumultuous year, Telstra decided to ice the broken FTTP promises with a no-nonsense subsidiary brand, Belong.
Belong hit the market with a simple offering: two ADSL2+ plans at $50 and $65 per month for 70 GB and 250 GB, respectively. There was one caveat: Belong’s plans were exclusive to Sydney metropolitan areas at launch. Soon after, with NBN coverage expanding, Belong began offering ADSL and NBN plans to regional and metro areas across Australia.
In 2019, Belong is still so basic. Belong offers a single unlimited data option, three NBN speed tier options, two ADSL2+ plans, and three mobile SIM plans.
With more broadband providers than ever, Belong isn’t the only one breaking down the complicated NBN market but it is the best for streaming Netflix on a budget.
What is Belong NBN like?
This is a provider very much focused on providing simple plan, data and pricing structures with its suite of NBN options. Unlike its parent company, Telstra, Belong doesn’t differentiate plans by data inclusions; every NBN plan is unlimited.
The only choice you have to make is which speed tier you need and whether you want to commit to a 12-month contract (and have your $60 modem router charge covered) or the flexibility of a month-to-month plan (which will cost you an extra $5 per month and a once-off $60 modem fee).
It also doesn’t charge any setup fees on any of its NBN plans.
While Belong’s basic plans are a breath of fresh air, it seems to have picked up some bad habits from its parent company when it comes to customer service. Users over at Product Review don’t seem too impressed with Belong, rating its customer service with 2,694 1-star (out of 5) reviews out of a total of 3,374 reviews and an average of 1.6 out of 5 overall. That’s quite the ratio.
How does Belong rate for streaming?
Streaming video-on-demand giant Netflix has taken broadband providers across the world to task with its monthly ISP Speed Index leaderboard. While Netflix doesn’t track Belong speeds specifically, it has been tracking Telstra speeds since January 2019. Belong is owned by Telstra and uses its network.
The problem is, Belong and Telstra don’t disclose any information on how Belong operates on the Telstra network. For example, there’s no publicly available information about whether Belong shares common NBN network capacity with Telstra or purchases its own.
So we can’t say for sure whether Telstra’s speeds are representative of Belong’s. Regardless, it’s worth noting Telstra’s ranking in the Netflix ISP index.
Between January and March 2019, Telstra has remained on top of the ISP index leaderboard in Australia, testing at 4.38 Mbps in January and 4.9 Mbps in March.
Netflix’s “prime time” performance doesn’t provide an accurate speed snapshot for overall performance of ISPs and other services used on the network. Just because Netflix rates Telstra as the top dog in Australia, doesn’t mean the same can be said for streaming Stan, Prime Video or Foxtel Now.
So Netflix considers Telstra the best ISP for streaming in Australia. If Belong’s network is as tight-knit with Telstra as it suggests and Belong NBN really is just a “cheaper version of Telstra” that would make it the best broadband provider for streaming Netflix in Australia.
The best Belong NBN plan for streaming
A small household of 2 to 3 people would have no issue streaming on the Standard Plus speed tier (40 Mbps) but for larger households and power users who want uninterrupted 4K/UHD streaming, we’d recommend the Premium plan (80 Mbps).
Netflix recommends 25 Mbps for 4K/UHD streaming and Stan recommends at least 15 Mbps. This is a case of better safe than sorry.
How fast is Belong NBN?
Technically, Belong gives you the option of three speed tiers: Starter, Standard Plus and Premium. However, it’s worth noting that Belong’s Starter Plan is a unique type of NBN plan with a capped 50 Mbps speed tier, promising average speeds of 30 Mbps. Belong offers the Starter Plan for $10 cheaper than its industry-standard Standard Plus plan, which promises 40 Mbps. The idea is that, by capping the 50 Mbps tier, Belong can offer a budget choice that’s faster than the 20 Mbps Standard tier but cheaper than the 40 Mbps Standard Plus speed.
Realistically, Belong’s Starter Plan isn’t really worth the $10 saved and it unnecessarily confuses the already muddy issue of NBN speed tiers.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commision (ACCC) tracks the real world performance of NBN speeds for every major provider in Australia’s busiest hours for downloading and uploading. However, Belong has decided to self-report its speeds, claiming an average evening speed of 80 Mbps on its Premium plan and 30 to 40 Mbps on its Standard Plus offering. Those are fairly conservative numbers and lower than Telstra’s average speeds. Telstra tracked an average of 92.46 Mbps on Premium and 46.47 on Standard Plus.
Between November 2018 and February 2019, the ACCC reported that NBN connections on the Telstra network delivered 82.7% of its marketed download speeds in busy hours, 69.8% of its marketed download speeds in its busiest hour and 81.9% of its marketed upload speeds.
Out of the 8 providers tracked, Telstra’s network ranked fourth highest for download speeds in busy hours, second highest for download speeds in the busiest hour and lowest for upload speeds in busy hours. The lowest rated for download speeds in busy hours was MyRepublic.
Why is my Belong NBN so slow?
So we’ve established that Belong NBN speeds should be fairly consistent with what you’ve been sold but like any broadband connection, NBN or otherwise, there are many reasons why you may be experiencing noticeably slower download and upload speeds.
Firstly, there’s congestion, on your home Wi-Fi network and the Belong/Telstra network at large. As we can see by the figures above, connecting during the network’s busiest hours takes a toll on your download speeds. More network users means more congestion and speed bottlenecks during busy hours.
Next we have the Connectivity Virtual Charge (CVC). The CVC is a charge ISPs are asked to pay for the benefit of bandwidth on their network. How much CVC is purchased in a particular area is up to the discretion of the internet service provider (ISP). They purchase CVC based on an estimated number of users they will need to connect at any point of interconnect (POI).
Let’s say an ISP has grossly underestimated the amount of clientele it would need to connect at the Dandenong POI. If that’s the case, it will need to pay more CVC else its Dandenongian customers suffer from congestion and slower speeds.
The most common way a POI is described is as a freeway for your internet traffic. If your ISP skimps on purchasing CVC, your internet freeway could look a lot like the single-lane road out of Wagga Wagga. For smaller suburbs or POIs with fewer customers, one lane could be all that’s needed but if you live in a busier area or happen to be a town that stans one particular provider, you’re going to need a few more lanes (CVC) on the internet freeway. Otherwise, you’re bound to experience some congestion and slower speeds in peak traffic hours.
Then there’s the microcosm of devices connected to your Wi-Fi modem.
If your downloads have slowed to a crawl, it’s worth checking how many devices are connected to your Wi-Fi modem and what kind of activity they are performing. If somebody has just logged in for a few cheeky rounds of Apex Legends, it’s probably going to impact your 4K Chef’s Table stream.
If you’re wondering whether the problem is your Belong NBN connection, run a speed test while connected to your home Wi-Fi modem and compare the results. If the speeds delivered are much slower than what you’re paying for, it might be time to consider jumping ship.
How to cancel Belong NBN
If you’ve tried every suggested troubleshooting method with no improvement to your speed, or if you’re simply not satisfied with the service that’s been provided to you, you may be considering cancelling your plan.
Before you do, it’s worth checking if you selected a month-to-month or 12-month contract. If it’s the latter, you may be charged an early cancellation fee. Cancellation fees are typically calculated by how many billable months are remaining on your contract.
Once you’re certain you would like to cancel your service, you have two options:
If you’re moving to another provider immediately, you can ask to transfer your service. In this case, the switch will be handled by your new provider and you won’t need to deal with Belong
If you’re not sure what you want next then give Belong a buzz on 1300 235 664 to cancel your service
Belong’s customer service center is open from 7am to 12am AEST, seven days a week.