NBN upgrades are coming, but the wait could be long

Two NBN technicians installing fibre infrastructure
(Image credit: NBN Co)

NBN Co has given an update on its free fibre upgrade program, and it's gradually making progress to meet its promise to deliver better connections for millions of Aussies on depreciating fixed-line tech.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) measuring broadband quarterly report, one-third of Aussie homes and businesses are powered by fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) connections, and the tech accounts for 90% of underperforming services nationwide. 

However, since March 2022, NBN Co has offered those on the diminishing FTTN network a free full fibre upgrade. During its FY24 half-yearly earnings call, the company reported that more than 197,000 customers had upgraded to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections in December 2023 — up by more than 107,000 compared to the same time in FY23. 

In the report, the company stated it now receives at least 7,000 fibre orders per week. But on average, and based on the 107,000 connections setup in the past six months, around 4,100 homes were connected weekly. However, NBN Co CEO Stephen Rue has suggested that this rate has improved recently, with 6,000 premises connected just last week. 

Rue noted in the report that the nearly 200,000 homes that have already upgraded "demonstrates customers' strong appetite for high-speed internet amid the consumption of increasing volumes of data" and that the network "remains best placed to deliver such speeds and capacity at scale". 

However, it's worth mentioning that this won't be an overnight fix for those struggling with slow connections, as upgrades to the existing FTTN network are still rolling out — and after crunching some numbers, we speculate it'll continue to do so over the next eight years (at least).

NBN Co said that more than 50,000 kilometres of new fibre cables have been rolled out so far, extending full fibre access to 3.5 million homes with FTTN connections and 1.5 million with FTTC (fibre-to-the-curb) connections.

Additionally, more Aussie homes are set to be eligible for ultrafast speeds, as NBN Co expects at least 10 million premises to be able to receive 500Mbps-plus downloads by the end of 2025.

Rue said more than 8.4 million homes (75% of the fixed-line network) were now eligible to access ultrafast home internet speeds of 1,000Mbps. But this doesn't mean it's all FTTP tech; many hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) connections can also sign up for an NBN 1000 plan.

So, if you're one of the Aussie households that can take advantage of the FTTP upgrades, NBN Co estimates it'll take around 2-4 weeks between order and fibre installation. Once you've made the switch and can achieve superfast (or ultrafast) NBN speeds, here are some plans we recommend.

Best NBN 100 plan

Optus | NBN 100 | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | AU$75 p/m

Optus | NBN 100 | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | AU$75 p/m (for six months then AU$99 p/m)

This fantastic Optus deal is one of the best we've seen from the big three telcos. Retailing at AU$99 p/m, this introductory offer will save you AU$24 p/m for the first six months — that's a saving of AU$144 — before the price increases. According to ACCC data, Optus delivers 100.6% of advertised download speeds across all hours of the day — meaning you can reasonably expect to reach 100Mbps during the peak evening hours.

Total minimum cost: AU$381 (including modem fee) | Total cost for first 12 months: AU$1,044 | Yearly cost after discount: AU$1,188

Best NBN 250 plan

Flip | NBN 250 | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | AU$84p/m

Flip | NBN 250 | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | AU$84p/m (for 6 months, then AU$94.90p/m)

Flip currently offers the cheapest NBN 250 plan (which advertises a typical evening speed of 236Mbps), which will cost just over AU$1,000 for the first 12 months. But there's no need to assume that a cheap plan means a cheap service, as there are a wealth of good reviews for customer service and easy installation/setup. If you have the connection type to support NBN 250, Flip's budget-friendly plan could be your best option. 

Total minimum cost: AU$84 | Total cost for first 12 months: AU$1,073.40 | Yearly cost after discount: AU$1,138.80

Best NBN 1000 plan

Superloop| NBN 1000 | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | AU$99p/m

Superloop| NBN 1000 | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | AU$99p/m (for 6 months, then AU$109p/m)

Superloop's NBN 1000 offering is one of the cheapest ultrafast plans available. It's even more affordable than some NBN 250 plans, making it almost a no-brainer if you have the right connection type to support it. This Superloop NBN 1000 plan advertises typical evening speeds of 600Mbps, which is enough to keep the heaviest internet users happy.

Total minimum cost: AU$99 | Total cost of first 12 months: AU$1,248 | Yearly cost after discount: AU$1,308

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Lucy Scotting
Staff Writer

Lucy Scotting is a digital content writer for Tom’s Guide in Australia, primarily covering NBN and internet-related news. Lucy started her career writing for HR and staffing industry publications, with articles covering emerging tech, business and finance. In her spare time, Lucy can be found watching sci-fi movies, working on her dystopian fiction novel or hanging out with her dog, Fletcher.