If you often experience NBN outages then you may be wondering about an NBN upgrade and if it’s possible for you. The answer to that is, maybe.
The National Broadband Network (NBN) may be one of the better things to happen to Australia in the 21st century and is responsible for some of the best internet plans now available, but it’s not been without its controversies.
Chief among them is the backtrack on initial promises to connect the majority of Australian homes with fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology, a proposal first made by the Labor Party Rudd Government in 2009 after initially indicating that the slower fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) would be the main connection used.
The return of the FTTN connection instead was announced by the Abbott Government in 2013 after it came into power, with reasons for the change determined to be cost savings and a promise of earlier completion.
Naturally, the resulting limit to maximum download speeds ruffled a few feathers around the country, something the NBN has now decided to make amends for by laying out its plans to provide NBN upgrades beginning with select areas of the country.
In a recent update on its upgrade plans, the NBN announced in October 2022 that a further 1.5 million homes and businesses would have their technology upgraded from FTTN to the much faster FTTP, a change made possible by a AU$2.4 billion investment from the Federal Government.
NBN Co had previously earmarked 2 million premises around the country to also receive an NBN upgrade from FTTN to FTTP, previously suggesting that: “By the end of 2023, up to 8 million premises in total will be eligible to access NBN Home Ultrafast, offering wholesale download speeds of 500Mbps to close to 1Gbps.”
So, what does this mean for you? Well, if you’re currently on an FTTN or fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) NBN connection then you might be eligible for an upgrade. If you’re not sure, you can either check the details of your NBN plan or head to the NBN Co website and enter your address.
And if you are, you could be 12 to 18 months away from incredibly fast download speeds.
How to upgrade your NBN for free
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If you’ve performed a check to find out which NBN connection type you have (both FTTN and FTTC connections are eligible), and the NBN have announced that you’re in an area that is due for an upgrade, then there are a few things you need to do as a customer in order to be upgraded to FTTP.
First, you will need to place an order for an NBN plan that offers speeds of 100Mbps or higher (check out our roundup of the best NBN 100 plans for some inspiration). These are called Home Fast, Home Superfast and Home Ultrafast, although some NBN providers may also refer to these as NBN 100, NBN 250 and NBN 1000 (some providers, such as Exetel, refer to the top tier as NBN 500).
Check out our complete guide to NBN speeds for more information.
Based on the NBN’s wording, your premises will only receive an upgrade to FTTP if you order a new NBN plan and if you do want to place an order for an FTTP plan you will need to do so through a participating NBN provider. A full list of such providers can be found on the NBN website.
Following the ordering of your new plan, all you need to do is sit and wait for the upgrade to occur and you will remain on your current NBN plan until an NBN technician visits your property to perform the upgrade.
However, you will need to ensure that you remember to cancel your current NBN plan before transferring over to the new FTTP plan. Since most NBN plans work on a no-contract basis, you can usually elect a day to have your service closed down as opposed to having to give 30 days notice.
What suburbs will be upgraded?
The NBN has released a list of suburbs around Australia that have currently been selected to be upgraded to faster internet speeds. As of October 18th 2022, these are:
NSW: Aberglasslyn, Batehaven, Berowra Heights, Bowral, Brookvale, Catalina, Charmhaven, Collaroy, Cooks Hill, Corlette, Corowa, Cowra, Cronulla, Culburra Beach, Deniliquin, Eleebana, Flinders, Griffith, Hamilton South, Hamlyn Terrace, Hillvue, Katoomba, Kooringal, Lake Munmorah, Lambton, Lavington, Lennox Head*, Mardi, Moree, Narara, Noraville, North Albury, Parramatta, Port Kembla, Sanctuary Point, Saratoga, Shoalhaven Heads, Surf Beach, Tweed Heads West, Vincentia, Wagga Wagga, Waratah, Woongarrah, Yamba
Victoria: Bairnsdale, Burnside Heights, Capel Sound, Castlemaine, Corio, Crib Point, Delahey, Dromana, East Bendigo, Golden Square, Inverloch, Kennington, Koo Wee Rup, Moe, Newcomb, North Bendigo, Safety Beach, Spring Gully, St Albans Park, Strathdale, Wallan, Wendouree, Whittington
Queensland: Airlie Beach, Aroona, Banksia Beach, Beerwah, Berserker, Bongaree, Bucasia, Buddina, Carindale, Cashmere, Emerald, Gatton, Gracemere, Gympie, Holloways Beach, Kings Beach, Kuluin, Laidley, Little Mountain, Moranbah, Nambour, North Lakes, North Mackay, Peregian Springs, Pimpama, Rasmussen, Reedy Creek, Sandstone Point, Urangan, Wilsonton, Wilsonton Heights, Windaroo
South Australia: Aberfoyle Park, Blakeview, Clearview, Hahndorf, Hallet Cove, Happy Valley, Mount Barker, North Haven, Northfield, Ottoway, Park Holme, Pooraka, Sheidow Park, Willaston, Wingfield, Woodcroft
Western Australia: Australind, Beechboro, Beeliar, Bennett Springs, Byford, Camillo, Caversham, Clarkson, Cooloongup, Currambine, Dawesville, Doubleview, Duncraig, Eaton, Hamersley, Hammond Park, Hocking, Iluka, Jandakot, Joondalup, Kardinya, Kinross, Koondoola, Lake Coogee, Leschenault, Madeley, Merriwa, Mindarie, North Beach, Orelia, Parkwood, Parmelia, Piara Waters, Quinns Rock, Success, West Busselton, Wilson, Yangebup
ACT: Ainslie, Braddon, Charnwood, Dunlop, Macgregor, O’Connor
Tasmania: Brighton, Longford, Shearwater, West Ulverston
How to upgrade your NBN at a cost
If your premises isn’t yet in the areas selected for a free NBN upgrade but you’re desperate to get those sweet, sweet 100Mbps+ download speeds, you are still able to apply to pay for an upgrade. This can be done through what the NBN calls the Technology Choice Program.
At the time of writing, the NBN says it is currently not accepting applications for Group Switch (you and other properties in your area share the cost of a mass upgrade) or Area Switch (an entire suburb receives an upgrade with one person acting as a representative). It is, however, still accepting applications for “some single premises.”
The NBN says the reason that payment is required in such examples is because the work would be “additional to NBN’s rollout activity.”
The total cost of an upgrade to FTTP NBN will vary from property to property and be influenced by a number of factors, with the location of your property and how easy it is for a technician to access chief among these. The NBN also adds that it is currently not accepting applications for “properties considered to be complex,” i.e. those that require a manual assessment.
If you want to find out how much it will cost to upgrade your FTTC or FTTN connection to FTTP, you can enter your details on the NBN’s website. These upgrades will usually cost a few thousand dollars at a minimum, but can even surpass AU$10,000 in some instances. There is no longer a fee to request a quote, however, and you’ll only pay once you’ve signed a contract agreeing to the upgrade works.
Unfortunately, if you can’t already connect to the NBN because you are one of those that rely on NBN fixed-wireless or satellite internet services you won’t be able to even pay for a fixed-line NBN connection.
Should I upgrade my NBN?
As our demands for how we use the internet continue to increase – such as wanting to stream 4K video, carrying out more video calls (especially since the advent of the global pandemic) or wanting our social media feeds to update as fast as possible – so has our need for faster internet.
But the NBN you actually need is better determined by the number of people living in your household and what you need the internet for. If you live by yourself, for example, then you’ll realistically be able to survive on an NBN 50 plan with a maximum download speed of 50Mbps. This NBN speed tier is served by FTTN and FTTC connections.
If you live in a household with five or more people and several devices connected to the internet, such as TVs, laptops, tablets and smart home devices, then you definitely stand to benefit from a faster connection. If you are currently on an FTTN or FTTC connection, you may already find that your service struggles to keep up with your demands.
This can be especially true for FTTN connection types in particular, as the distance of your property from the distribution node can affect the real world speeds you can achieve. This is because copper wiring carries the data signal from the node to your property and the greater the distance the copper wiring has to travel the more susceptible it is to interference and drop outs.
So unless you are absolutely desperate for superfast NBN speeds we’d recommend waiting until the free NBN upgrade comes to your suburb, rather than paying a large sum of money to have it done quicker.
Any other options?
If you feel your current NBN plan doesn’t quite cut it in the speed stakes, there are still a few things you can do in an attempt to increase it.
Upgrade your current NBN plan
To begin with, you can look into upgrading your plan to the fastest possible speed supported by your connection type. Despite being due an upgrade to FTTP, both FTTN and FTTC connections are still theoretically capable of achieving 100Mbps download speeds. Of the two, you’re more likely to achieve this on FTTC because of the shorter distance between the premises and the distribution point.
If you’re currently on an NBN 25 or NBN 50 plan, it’s highly likely that you can upgrade to an NBN 100 plan. While you may find you don’t achieve the full 100Mbps download speed particularly during the busy evening hours, there is still a good chance that you will achieve speeds faster-than-50Mbps.
If you’re unsure if this is possible, you can look out for NBN providers that offer free trials such as Tangerine. With such a free trial, you can then test out a service to see how it performs in your day-to-day life. If for whatever reason it doesn't quite cut the mustard for you, you’re free to leave with no harm done.
Upgrade your equipment
If you’re already on a fast NBN plan but not getting the speeds that you expect around your home, you can look into upgrading your equipment such as your router. Although, it is worth remembering that your router can’t work miracles as it relies on a strong signal coming into it from your internet service provider (ISP) to then send around your home.
If you find you’re getting a strong signal in a room close to where the router is positioned but a much weaker signal in other rooms of the house, you may want to look into investing in a mesh router system. A mesh Wi-Fi router system creates more points of connectivity around your home so that your devices will always be close to a strong Wi-Fi signal rather than having to connect to one main router through multiple walls.