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 internet

If you’re looking to unleash your data cap and go unlimited with the fastest NBN speed available, you can do it cheapest with Optus. Optus offers its Unlimited NBN Fast plan for $95 per month (plus setup fees) on a month-to-month contract.

Although Telstra doesn’t advertise a specific NBN 100 speed plan, it does offer a $30 premium (NBN 100) speed boost option for its Unlimited Standard Plus plan, which costs $90 per month. With the premium add-on, Telstra’s unlimited plan will cost you $120 per month.

Optus vs Telstra: NBN plans

Both providers have pretty slim offerings in the NBN space. In a push to simplify their plans in an increasingly complicated market, both providers have removed all Basic (NBN 12) plans from options and reduced the number of data cap options available.

Telstra offers a little more variety, with a lower data option (500GB) and three speed tiers: Basic II (NBN 25), Standard (NBN 50) and Fast (NBN 100).

Optus, on the other hand, only offers unlimited NBN and two speed tiers: Standard (NBN 50) and Fast (NBN 100).

Both providers offer 24-month contract and low-commitment month-to-month options on their plans. In both cases, the provider will knock a percentage off your setup fees if you sign up for 24 months. 

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 $68 per month (ends 12 July 2020). If the NBN still isn’t available in your area, Home Wireless Broadband is a solid alternative.

Telstra doesn’t technically sell Home Wireless Broadband plans in the same capacity as Optus. Telstra sells plain old mobile broadband plans and a range of 4G/5G hotspots and modems.

Telstra’s mobile broadband plans start at $15 per month for 5GB, and go up to $79 per month for 200GB. 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.

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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.

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 $20 per month. So if you opt for the unlimited NBN 100 (Fast) plan from Optus and want to bundle in Fetch TV, you will end up paying $110 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 $125 credit for the Telstra TV Box Office to download new release movie and TV rentals, 3 months access to Hayu, DocPlay and Garage Sports.

Telstra also gives you the option to bundle a variety of Foxtel packages with an upfront hardware cost of $285 and recurring monthly fees between $49 and $99, depending on the Foxtel package you want.

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: Broadband 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 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 the ACCC’s tracking program but Telstra has trumped Optus when it comes to latency, web page loading time, daily outages and Netflix download speed.

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. Telstra also tops the Netflix ISP leaderboard.

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.

Download speed ↑ACCC83.9%89.3%
Upload speed ↑ACCC89.1%88.4%
Latency ↓ACCC12.9ms13.5ms
Web page loading time ↓ACCC2.5sec2.8sec
Daily outages per user (avg)ACCC0.150.46
Average streaming speed (mbps)Netflix4.724.65

↑ = Higher the better
↓ = Lower the better

Is Telstra better than Optus?

Australia’s two biggest telcos are so similar, they were completely tied in our best NBN provider analysis. Still, they aren’t entirely similar 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, Foxtel, and Xbox One console add-ons available.

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

In May, 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 had more average daily outages than any other provider 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 comes in a close second.

Optus vs Telstra Broadband
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 Exetel for a flexible and affordable NBN 50 plan with unlimited data. For the cheapest of the cheap, you can’t go past TPG’s unlimited basic speed plan. And if you want premium speed with a friendly price tag, don’t look past Mate Broadband’s Unlimited 100 plan.

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

Now that you've compared Optus and Telstra, why not compare the rest?

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Still looking? Check out the top ranked providers.