Optus vs Telstra NBN: Broadband battle

Ding-ding. We’ve entered round two of our Optus vs Telstra match-up.
Telstra NBN
Better modem
Fewer outages
Optus NBN
Better value
Better bundles

While there’s a serious conversation to be had about the red-hot rivalry between Optus and Telstra in the mobile space, things aren’t as complicated when it comes to broadband (for now, at least).

With that said, there are a few key data points we can compare that paint a picture of what it’s like being a customer on either network. Optus still has the upper hand when it comes to price, and has better typical evening download speeds according to ACCC’s broadband speed test program. With that said, Telstra beats Optus when it comes to customer experience and stability. While the ACCC reports that Optus customers experience better speeds on average, its reports also show that Telstra outperforms Optus on almost every other measurement.

The rise of Home Wireless Broadband plans has also reignited the fierce rivalry between Australia’s telcos as more and more users choose to rely on 4G mobile speeds for their home internet connection. And with the 5G network slowly creeping its way into major Australian cities, the broadband battle is starting to heat up again. Before we kick things off, here’s a quick glimpse at the most popular NBN internet plans from Telstra and Optus.

Optus vs Telstra: Unlimited NBN plans

Unlike the days of ADSL, both Optus and Telstra offer unlimited data on all their fixed NBN plans. They both also offer contract-free agreements, so you can switch at any time. However, when it comes to speeds, there are some noticeable differences between which NBN tiers are offered by both telcos.

Optus has opted for less choice, but greater value, scrapping Basic I (NBN 12) and Basic II (NBN 25) plans altogether. Instead, there are only four speed tiers to choose from: Standard (NBN 50), Fast (NBN 100), Superfast (NBN 250), Ultrafast (NBN 1000). That said, things do get a little more complicated when you take bundles into consideration – more on that later.

Here’s how much each will set you back.

Telstra, on the other hand, offers more choice in terms of speed tiers, but fewer bundles and far more expensive plans. They offer all the same tiers as Optus (NBN 50, 100, 250 and 1000), as well as the slower Basic II (NBN 25). However, even that slower plan is $5 more expensive than Optus’ faster NBN 50 plan.

Check out the prices for each speed tier below.

Optus vs Telstra: Home Wireless Broadband

Optus is embracing an NBN-free future with its outstanding Home Wireless Broadband plans. Optus is currently selling its 4G Home Wireless Broadband plans at $65 per month for 200GB and, for a limited time, 500GB at $75 per month. If the NBN still isn’t available in your area, Home Wireless Broadband is a solid alternative. They even offer 5G Home Wireless plans in selected areas.

Telstra doesn’t technically sell Home Wireless Broadband plans in the same capacity as Optus. Telstra sells plain old mobile broadband plans to be used with a BYO device or one provided by Telstra at an extra cost.

Telstra’s mobile broadband plans start at $15 per month for 5GB and go up to $85 per month for 400GB. Not quite the same value as Home Wireless by Optus but then again, Telstra is still the leader when it comes to 3G/4G mobile coverage in Australia, and the $55 and $85 plans also include 5G network access.

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What is Home Wireless Broadband?

Naming conventions in the broadband space can unnecessarily vague. Home Wireless Broadband plans, as Optus has decided to call them, are simply mobile broadband plans with larger data allowances intended as an alternative to fixed-line broadband connections.

So not to distract from its fixed-line range, Optus used to throttle the speed on its Home Wireless Broadband plans (meaning you couldn’t take full advantage of 4G speeds). That’s not the case anymore, but you still can’t purchase a Home Wireless plan with unlimited data.

Optus also offers 5G Home Wireless Broadband deals to customers with 5G coverage. Interestingly, these actually do come with unlimited data.

Optus vs Telstra: Bundles and packages

Both providers offer the option to bundle entertainment extras with their broadband products. Optus customers can bundle a Fetch Mighty 4K PVR box and 1 premium Fetch channel pack for an extra $15 per month. So if you opt for the unlimited NBN 50 (Standard) plan from Optus and want to bundle in Fetch TV, you will end up paying $90 per month.

It’s also worth noting that every Optus customer gets access to Optus Sport, the company’s sports streaming service with exclusive EPL, UEFA and FIFA broadcast rights.

Telstra customers can pay a $9 extra per month on any NBN plan to get a Telstra TV 2 box included. Telstra TV 2 is a reskinned Roku box (a popular set-top box in the US) and while it doesn’t include access to exclusive content, it does have apps for Netflix, Stan, Prime Video, Foxtel Now, Binge, Kayo Sports, Hayu and more.

The bundle deal also comes with a free three-month Binge subscription and 20,000 Telstra Plus Points.

Lastly, Foxtel also offers Xbox All Access, a bundle option that gets you an Xbox One S or Xbox One X console, and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (valued at $15.95 per month). The Xbox One S bundle costs an additional $27 per month (or $648 over 24 months), and the Xbox One X bundle costs an additional $34 per month (or $816 over 24 months).

Optus vs Telstra: Internet speed

If both providers have 100Mbps broadband plans there shouldn’t be a difference in the speed they deliver, right? Wrong. Although most providers offer an NBN 100 option, the actual speed delivered on their plans depends on a multitude of factors but most importantly, how much Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC) the provider has purchased in your area.

CVC is essentially a bandwidth currency. If a provider has purchased enough CVC in your area, you shouldn’t experience much congestion, and as a result, faster speeds. If the provider has underestimated the bandwidth it needs in an area, its customers may experience congestion and slower speeds. We’ve got more information on CVC in our guide to NBN speeds.

Thankfully, there are a few institutions reporting on the performance of Australian ISPs. Most notably, the ACCC and Netflix.

Is Optus NBN really faster than Telstra?

As you can see in the results below, Optus has performed better for download and upload speed in both the ACCC’s and Netflix’s tracking program, but Telstra has trumped Optus when it comes to latency, web page loading time and daily outages.

What that tells us is, while Optus has a better track record of delivering as close to its maximum speeds as possible, Telstra NBN is more stable with fewer outages, lower latency, and a faster web page loading time.

Optus NBN isn’t better than Telstra, it’s just more consistent at delivering its maximum potential speeds. That’s still worth something but Telstra’s cleaner track record for stability is a better selling point.

SourceTelstraOptus
Download speed ↑ACCC97.1%98.7%
Upload speed ↑ACCC83.4%83.9%
Latency ↓ACCC10.3ms10.7ms
Web page loading time ↓ACCC3.9sec4.2sec
Daily outages per user (avg)ACCC0.180.26
Average streaming speed (mbps)Netflix3.63.4

↑ = Higher the better
↓ = Lower the better

Is Telstra better than Optus?

Though their plans may look similar, the two telcos are pretty different when it comes to pricing, customer service and stability. If saving money is your number one priority, then Optus would be a better choice than Telstra (but other providers offer better cheap, unlimited NBN plans).

Optus offers a little more bang for your buck when it comes to bundles; Fetch might not be the most favourable entertainment option, but it does offer 4K streaming, scheduled recording, and 1 premium channel pack fetch (Vibe, Knowledge, Kids or Variety). However, Telstra offers more bundling options, with Telstra TV and Xbox One console add-ons available.

Where Telstra bests Optus is with its stability, streaming performance and included modem.

In April, the ACCC rated Optus higher than Telstra when it came to delivering the maximum potential download and upload speeds each provider offers on NBN. However, Telstra was ahead of Optus on almost every other front; web page loading time, latency and average daily outages were all lower on Telstra’s NBN plans. In fact, Optus tied with TPG for the most average daily outages out of all the providers tracked by the ACCC. Web page loading time will impact anyone who uses the internet but latency will only matter to folks who need lightning-fast ping (for things like gaming online).

Telstra also offers a better modem than Optus. Both providers’ branded modems offer 4G backup these days (to cover you in the event of an outage) but user reviews suggest Telstra’s Smart WiFi Modem is the more popular choice. 4G backup allows your modem to switch to the mobile network via a SIM card in the event of a fixed-line outage.

If you prefer to pay the price for premium, we recommend Telstra, but if you’re after quality service at a cheaper price, Optus should satisfy most users.

Optus vs Telstra Broadband
CategoryOptusTelstra
CheapestTick icon
Cheapest Premium (NBN 100)Tick icon
Better modemTick icon
Best bundleTick icon
Better customer satisfactionTick icon
Best Home WirelessTick icon
Better Netflix streamingTick icon
Better download speeds (ACCC)Tick icon
Better upload speeds (ACCC)Tick icon
Fewer outagesTick icon
Lower latencyTick icon
Faster web page loadingTick icon

What are my other options?

When it comes to Telstra vs Optus, you might as well go the country mile if you’re already paying a premium. But as we mentioned up top, there’s not a massive difference in quality when it comes to an NBN connection so don’t feel beholden to the biggest telcos just because of their top-tier mobile offerings.

The NBN rollout has lured an army of smaller broadband providers out of the woodwork and they’re just as viable as Telstra and Optus, at a much lower price.

We recommend Tangerine for a flexible and affordable NBN 50 plan with unlimited data. For the cheapest of the cheap, you can’t go past SpinTel’s unlimited basic speed plan. And if you want premium speed with a friendly price tag, don’t look past Mate Broadband.

Sick of researching? These are the most popular NBN 50 plans this week according to WhistleOut’s comparison engine.

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