Exetel is an Australian-owned internet service provider (ISP) — now owned by Superloop — offering customers broadband connections via both the National Broadband Network (NBN) and private fibre services including OptiComm, as well as mobile phone services via its partnership with Telstra.
Exetel is often one of the more affordable NBN providers in Australia and for the most part, advertises the maximum typical evening speeds on its NBN plans, which start at NBN 25 and go all the way up to NBN 1000 (although Exetel refers to this speed tier as NBN 500, because it has a maximum download of 500Mbps).
On the surface, Exetel — an award-winning provider — appears to be a great option for anyone looking to get connected to the internet, or to save money compared to their current NBN plan. We’ve even claimed the telco to be one of our favourites here at Tom’s Guide. But now we’ve dug a little deeper, is it all smoke and mirrors, or is Exetel a genuine contender to be your next NBN provider?
Noteworthy Exetel deals
- NBN 100 — AU$68.95p/m (for 6 months, then AU$84.95p/m)
- NBN 250 — AU$83.95p/m (for 6 months, then AU$108.95p/m)
Exetel offers NBN plans ranging from Basic II (NBN 25) all the way through to Ultrafast (NBN 1000) speed tiers. Exetel does however refer to its top-end plan as NBN 500. We speculate as to why this is in the Speeds section below. We've also seen mention of NBN 12 plans on Exetel's website, but we haven't seen them appear when viewing the range of NBN plans on offer.
The telco also offers an NBN 100/40 plan alongside the more common 100/20. The second figure in both of these refers to the theoretical maximum upload speed of the plan. In the case of the former, this means a potential maximum upload speed of 40Mbps compared to the 20Mbps upload on the 100/20 plan. A higher upload speed can prove useful for anyone working from home the majority of the time and needing to conduct multiple video calls or send large files.
For its NBN 25, NBN 50 and NBN 100 plans (both 20Mbps and 40Mbps upload speed variants), Exetel advertises the maximum typical evening download speeds of 25Mbps, 50Mbps and 100Mbps, respectively. This is a gold tick in our books, as not all NBN providers can make the same claim, despite the NBN 50 speed tier being the most popular and all NBN connection types being theoretically capable of achieving 100Mbps download speeds.
Exetel’s NBN plans, including regular pricing (following any introductory discounts) and typical evening speeds at time of publishing are as follows:
- NBN 25: AU$64.95p/m (typical evening speed 25Mbps)
- NBN 50: AU$74.95p/m (typical evening speed 50Mbps)
- NBN 100: AU$84.95p/m (typical evening speed 100Mbps)
- NBN 250: AU$108.95p/m (typical evening speed 250Mbps)
- NBN 1000: AU$119p/m (typical evening speed 400Mbps)
We’re going to gloss over Exetel’s first three plans to begin with, as all quote the maximum typical evening speeds, which is great news. Where things get more interesting is on the NBN 250 and NBN 500 plans that Exetel promotes.
Currently in Australia, only two NBN providers advertise the maximum typical evening speed of 250Mbps on an NBN 250 plan: Telstra and Southern Phone. So for Exetel to not advertise it isn’t a mark against it. In fact, its advertised typical evening speed of 225Mbps is still one of the faster options you can find. And when you factor in the low cost of an Exetel NBN 250 plan, it does present good value.
As for Exetel’s NBN 500 plan, it technically falls in the Ultrafast NBN 1000 speed tier. The NBN doesn’t offer an NBN 500 plan at wholesale level to third-party ISPs, so this is the work of those ISPs renaming their plans. We can only speculate that it helps to cover up the fact their plans don’t reach anywhere near the potential 1,000Mbps speeds the Ultrafast tier is capable of.
When we first published this review in April 2023, Exetel was advertising typical evening speeds of 245Mbps on its Ultrafast plan, which also cost AU$129.95p/m. This, to us, wasn't great value.
This update, in May, brings with it some more positive news. Not only has Exetel reduced the price of its Ultrafast plan to AU$119p/m following introductory discounts, but the typical evening speed advertised has increased to 400Mbps.
This is still way off the theoretical maximum of 1,000Mbps this tier should be capable of, but much closer to the 500Mbps maximum Exetel says its plan is capable of.
While a reduction in cost and an increase in speed does make Exetel's Ultrafast tier better value than before, it should be worth noting that its sister company Superloop currently charges the same monthly price (correct at the time of publishing) yet advertises 600Mbps typical evening speeds.
You should also consider the fact that Exetel's Speed Boost Days feature can be employed on the NBN 250 tier, allowing you to temporarily increase your download speed to (potentially) 400Mbps speeds, for free. In our opinion then, the NBN 250 plan is the one we'd recommend.
You can find out more information about Speed Boost Days in the ‘Extras’ section further into this review.
Overall though, Exetel has been found to perform incredibly well according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The regulator’s most recent Measuring Broadband Performance report, published in April 2023, found that Exetel delivered 104.1% of advertised plan speeds during all hours, and 102.9% during the busy evening hours. Both these figures are an improvement on the previous December 2022 report, which reported 102.9% and 101.5%, respectively, during the same monitoring periods. Essentially, that means Exetel is overdelivering on its promised speeds, which is great news for consumers.
While it’s fair to say these results can’t necessarily be applied to all Exetel customers, they do at least imply that the telco should deliver the speeds (or in some cases exceed them) that it advertises on its plans. Faster speeds than what you’d expect and that you’re paying for? Sounds like a great deal to us.
If you’re looking for the outright cheapest NBN plans in Australia, then Exetel isn’t the NBN provider for you. However, the telco is still what we would call comfortably affordable. Not only are Exetel’s plans competitively priced, but you’ll regularly find introductory discounts being offered (along with exclusive discounts through WhistleOut that usually beat going to Exetel directly).
Based on our comparisons of NBN plans across all speed tiers and from over 30 providers, Exetel usually features in the top four or five cheapest options. And at the time of writing, Exetel is offering the cheapest NBN 100 plan in Australia, with a total first year cost of AU$887.10, just AU$6 cheaper than Dodo.
Below is a comparison of Exetel’s regular monthly pricing for its plan (following any introductory discounts) versus the average monthly price for each speed tier, based on pricing data obtained from WhistleOut at the time of writing.
- NBN 25: Average monthly cost AU$66.92. Exetel monthly cost: AU$64.95
- NBN 50: Average monthly cost AU$75.97. Exetel monthly cost: AU$74.95
- NBN 100: Average monthly cost AU$91.51. Exetel monthly cost: AU$84.95
- NBN 250: Average monthly cost AU$118.68. Exetel monthly cost: AU$108.95
- NBN 1000: Average monthly cost AU$144.38. Exetel monthly cost: AU$129.95
As you can see, across all speed tiers, Exetel’s pricing comes in under the monthly average, with this difference increasing in line with the speed. Exetel’s pricing model therefore indicates it’s one of the most affordable ISPs for anyone looking for faster fibre.
As is the case with the majority of other NBN providers, Exetel doesn’t include a modem with any of its NBN plans, but does offer a ZTE Wi-Fi 6 modem to buy for AU$140 during the order process. You can also buy a Wi-Fi extender if you wish to improve network coverage in your home. In our opinion, if you want to improve network range and stability, you’ll be better off choosing one of the best mesh Wi-Fi systems instead.
It’s not just how much you can expect to pay that should convince you to sign with (or steer you away from) an NBN provider. It’s also good to know how reliable a service you can expect. After all, there’s no point signing up with a new ISP, only for you to then experience frequent dropouts in service.
Fortunately the ACCC comes to our aid once again, as it publishes data relating to average daily outages lasting over 30 seconds. Exetel was in the sample group of providers in the most recent December 2022 report, and was found to experience 0.36 daily outages on average.
When viewing the data in full, the ACCC also displays an error bar to indicate its confidence interval. In the case of Exetel, this interval is 0.15 — 0.58, and this means the ACCC is 95% confident that if it were to run the same sample test 100 times, it would expect the average number of daily outages to fall in between these two figures.
How does this compare to other providers though? According to the ACCC’s data, Exetel’s average daily outage figure of 0.36 is on par with Superloop (again, potentially because they’re sister companies) and only lower than TPG (0.39) and Vodafone (0.53). The telco with the lowest figure in the ACCC’s reporting period was Optus, with 0.14.
Delving further into the outages data, the ACCC also reports how long, on average, these outages last. In the case of Exetel, around 41% of daily outages that occur on Exetel services were found to last 10 minutes or more. Approximately 26% lasted 3 — 10 minutes, 25% 1 — 3 minutes and 8% lasted 30 — 60 seconds.
All of Exetel’s NBN plans come with unlimited data as standard, so you never have to worry about data caps. Based on information gathered from WhistleOut, the vast majority of NBN providers offer unlimited data on the majority of their plans. Where you’re likely to find data cap limits is on satellite and wireless internet plans, or Aussie Broadband, which gives you the ability to customise your own plan depending on your needs and budget.
Only a few telcos in Australia advertise themselves as being a perfect match for online gamers, so it’s not a huge deal to find that Exetel is among the group that doesn’t advertise dedicated NBN plans for gamers. But how does Exetel fare with the online gaming community?
The ACCC also publishes data regarding latency and in its latest report, includes data collected from August 2022. The regulator found that Exetel’s NBN service experienced 8.9ms latency across all hours and 9.3ms during the busy evening hours. These figures are virtually on par with all other providers that were monitored during the reporting period. Interestingly, MyRepublic, which has now exited the Australian market and which did advertise itself as a provider geared towards gamers, had much higher latency times of 22.6ms during the busy hours.
It’s tricky to determine a realistic real-world opinion of how Exetel fares for online gaming today, because the majority of customer reviews on sites such as Whirlpool are several years old. We’d say it’s fair to argue that the state of the infrastructure Exetel uses now will be much improved, with latency likely improving as a result. So, for this section, we have to rely on the ACCC data, and with Exetel sitting in third-best position, we reckon it should be a good ISP for you to game on.
Understanding that it might not have quite the same pull or brand awareness as some of the bigger players on the NBN scene in Australia, Exetel has a number of attractive features to entice customers to its service.
Speed boost days
We mentioned Exetel’s Speed Boost Days feature earlier, but we’ll go into a little bit more detail here. Essentially, the service allows you to boost the download speed of your connection for 24 hours from the moment you activate it.
The Speed Boost Days feature is available for all plans except NBN 500, but only customers on plans from NBN 50 through to NBN 250 get five free days each month. Customers on NBN 25 plans can still use the feature, but will need to purchase days for AU$2 each.
In certain circumstances, you’ll need to have an eligible connection type in order to use the Speed Boost Days. This only applies to customers wanting to boost to NBN 250 or NBN 500 plans, as these require a fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) or hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) connection. For example, if you’re a customer with an NBN 100 Exetel plan, and you wanted to boost to NBN 250, but you’re connected via fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC), you wouldn’t be able to speed boost your service.
You get five free Speed Boost days each month, but you can purchase additional days for AU$2 each. If you don’t use all five Speed Boost Days during the month, they can rollover into the next. You’re able to bank a total of 30 Speed Boost Days.
Slash my bill
An incentive to help you save some money is called Slash My Bill. To activate this, you first need to have at least one active Exetel residential NBN service. With this, you can choose to add-on home and/or mobile phone services. The more you add-on, the higher the savings. Adding on one additional service will save you AU$5p/m or five additional services (the maximum available) will save you AU$15p/m.
You are able to add-on services if you’re already an Exetel customer and you’ll see the discount applied to your first invoice after the 1st of the next month.
Home and mobile services
Expanding upon the extra services mentioned above, Exetel can supply you with both a home phone line or a mobile plan. A home phone Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service can only be bundled with an NBN plan, and you have two options relating to how you’re billed.
You can either elect for a pay-as-you-go plan, which would be ideal for customers who may only use their phone line occasionally to call others, or you can select an unlimited plan (which includes unlimited international calls to 12 countries) for AU$10p/m. However, this plan is included in the Slash My Bill feature, and will save you AU$5p/m on your broadband bill.
Mobile services as provided by Telstra and you have the choice of either 4G or 5G connectivity. There are five 4G plans to choose from, each with increasing amounts of data, or a single 5G plan for AU$60p/m with 60GB data. When comparing this with some of the best SIM-only mobile plans, Exetel’s 5G plan doesn’t present as amazingly great value. But, if you’re an NBN customer and you bundle the service on, you may find it works for you.
Business NBN plans
Finally, Exetel also offers a range of NBN plans targeted at businesses and which comes with their own useful features. Firstly, Exetel supplies a modem for free (instead of the AU$180 charge for residential) and priority technical support. In fact, Exetel says you’re guaranteed to get the help you’re looking for within five minutes, and if you don’t, the telco will apply AU$10 credit to your bill.
Home business NBN plans do cost an extra AU$10p/m more than their residential equivalent, but the included benefits justify this, in our opinion.
Cancellation and hidden costs
One area that we have noticed has caused some customers aggravation is how cancellations are dealt with. Exetel, like many other NBN providers, advertises it works on a no lock-in contract model, meaning you’re free to cancel at any time and switch NBN provider.
What we don’t think is so clearly highlighted is that Exetel requires 30 days notice in order to cancel your service. This information is mentioned on the main NBN plans page, albeit in small print. It’s also mentioned in an FAQ on the site, but the FAQs at the bottom of a page change depending on which page you’re on.
On the standard page where you place your order for an NBN plan for example, there’s no mention of the cancellation policy in the FAQs. But we did find it on a page called ‘Things you need to know’, which you can access by clicking on a hyperlink within some small print (and which is actually in the same small print section as the first mention of the cancellation policy).
The official policy reads, “You may cancel your service at any time by giving Exetel thirty days’ notice (including if you do not wish to continue to use your service during the notice period).”
Credit where credit is due, the information is there, but Exetel has not made it as obvious as we’d like to see.
On the whole, we’re happy with the service Exetel puts forward, on paper at least. But what do actual customers have to say? The quick answer is, it’s a mixed bag. As we all know, a disgruntled customer is more likely to leave a negative review than someone who is satisfied with their service, but interestingly, there appears to be a difference in opinion depending which review site you look at.
ProductReview.com.au, for example, is compiled of predominantly negative reviews from customers, claiming customer service and the way Exetel bills its customers isn’t up to scratch. Head over to TrustPilot.com however, and it's a completely different story, with customers saying they’re satisfied with the service and that customer support is excellent.
After reading reviews from both review sites you may not be able to come to a decision as to whether to join Exetel or not. For us, taking into account the lower than average monthly prices, maximum advertised and positively-reported download speeds and the Speed Boost Days feature, we think Exetel is an NBN provider well worth considering.
You’re free to leave whenever you like if you don’t value the service (we’d at least wait out the six month introductory period) and as long as you’re clued up on the cancellation policy, you shouldn’t be stung with any unexpected costs.
For us, Exetel comes across as a great-value NBN provider. According to official data provided by the ACCC, download speeds should be consistent with those advertised, and in some cases you may even see an increase.
We also appreciate Exetel's regularly low monthly prices compared to other ISPs and the regular introductory offers for new customers are often too good to pass on. The Speed Boost Days feature is another key selling point, and one that we think offers exceptional added value.
While we have found negative customer reviews online, we've also found a raft of positive ones to counteract them, so feel they shouldn't necessarily influence your decision as to whether to sign up for an Exetel NBN plan.