Telstra NBN Plans Review
Plus, the Telstra Smart Modem is a smart addition to the service that only a few providers, like Telstra, can offer.
Is Telstra worth the extra dollars?
There are some things in this world that cost more money than we imagine they should. Blueberries, for example. Why in the world do we pay so much for a punnet of blueberries? Louis Vuitton handbags, French Bulldog puppies, and don’t get me started on Apple iPhones.
Other things we accept as being worth the price premium, and after considering all of the factors we believe Telstra NBN plans fall squarely in this camp. Yes, a Telstra NBN plan will set you back a bit more each month, quite a bit when compared with the cheapest NBN plans in market, but when we break down the various components of an NBN service Telstra comes out on top.
There are a few key areas that we judge NBN providers on. Plan features, customer support channels, average NBN speed and value for money. Looking at the first two points, there are few providers that offer internet services with as many features as Telstra, and fewer still who have as many customer support channels available to their customers. In fact, you’d argue only Optus comes close.
Best Telstra NBN Plans
If you are considering an NBN plan through Telstra you’ll be relieved to know that your decision is a pretty easy one to make. Telstra advertises just a handful of NBN plans, a slow one with a data limit, a faster one with unlimited data, and options for both including a Telstra TV set-top box.
We suggest skipping on past the NBN 25 speed plan and considering one of the faster NBN 50 plans. Smaller households may find the cheaper plan fits the bill, but most families will benefit from the extra capacity you get with a faster NBN connection.
Whether or not you choose the $99 plan with the Telstra TV set-top box will come down to how you have your living room set up. We like the Telstra TV 3 box, it is a zippy device with several good apps to install, but if you already have a smart TV, or you’ve invested in something like an Apple TV, then you really don’t need another set-top box. Otherwise, the $9 per month you’ll pay for Telstra TV is probably worth it.
What about a Speed Boost?
The bad news is that if you find you can connect at Premium NBN speeds, it costs an extra $30 per month for the speed boost.
Average NBN speeds
Speed is the number one factor when choosing an NBN plan. Not only do you need to select a speed tier when you sign up, but speed is also the factor of your connection that may vary the most. Due to a number of technical hurdles, most people using the NBN will never see the maximum speed of their connection.
Instead we pay attention to how close to the maximum speed a provider can reliably offer, and Telstra really excels on this metric. It plays it safe in its advertising on only guarantees speeds at 80% of the maximum, but if you dig a bit deeper on the Telstra site (like we do) you find that real-world average speeds tend to be closer to 90%. At the time of writing this review the average Telstra speed is 87.8Mbps on NBN 100 speed plans.
Telstra doesn’t achieve these excellent results by chance. Delivering solid NBN speeds requires investment, in both the services they buy from NBN Co, and in the people they employ to manage the network. These are the things that the lower cost providers may skimp on, and we’d argue that this justifies the higher price.
If you want to see more, here are our picks for the best and fastest NBN plans.
Telstra Smart Modem
In general, the modems you are sent by a new NBN provider tend to be a pile of junk. Especially if you choose a no-frills ISP, you should expect a no-frill modem in the mail. The problems is that this leads to bigger problems down the track. Crumby modems tend to have poorer WiFi signal strength and may be prone to service drop-outs. What you might think is a poor NBN service may actually be just a lousy modem.
Telstra NBN customers needn’t worry though, as the Telstra technician who knocks on the door will come with a Telstra Smart Modem in hand. This modem has all of the features we expect to see in a modern modem/router: 4×4 WiFi 802.11ac, four gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB 3.0 port, etc.
But what makes the Telstra Smart Modem stand out from the pack is the SIM card inside it. Whenever you can’t connect to the NBN, either before you are connected or during outages, the modem falls back on a 4G mobile connection. It isn’t designed to be super fast (6Mbps download speeds) but it is enough to keep you online.
Plan Features and Customer Support
When we examine the NBN plans in market, we look beyond the basics and consider the extra features and perks that come bundled with plans. What we see is that the majority of service providers offer no-frills services. A home phone service is a common plan feature, but this is usually the extent of the packages. And the same goes for the availability of customer support.
Telstra NBN service is quite different in this regard. Plans can include entertainment bundles, like packs with Telstra TV or Foxtel. Home phone services are standard and calls to Australian numbers are included. All customers access the Telstra Air network too, a nationwide public WiFi network that you can log in and use when you’re away from home.
Telstra also has a rewards program called Telstra Plus which works like FlyBuys. You accrue points every time you pay your bill and you can spend these points on gadgets like smartwatches and tablets. You also get a big discount of movie tickets at Event Cinemas.
Customer support is always a contentious issue for telcos, but the sheer volume of customer support avenues gives Telstra a big advantage over its competitors. You can call and email, as you’d expect, but also chat online, send tweets and Facebook messages, ask questions in the community forum or walk into a store to speak with someone in person. This isn’t an assessment of how good the service is, it’s near impossible to say, but the multitude of options means you can deal with Telstra however you feel most comfortable.