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Australians pay third-most globally for internet, but shopping around can help

Only Norwegians and Icelanders pay more than Australians for internet access, and Australia's fixed broadband speeds rank a dismal 92nd globally. But consumers, even those on a fixed income, shouldn't despair: a little research can save a lot of money.

Australia has the third most expensive internet in the world, and without the speed to show for it. With the causes of this imbalance – ranging from the country’s vast geography to a lack of competition – unfortunately well embedded, it pays for consumers, particularly retirees on a fixed income, to shop around for the best deals.

According to e-commerce platform Picodi Australia, for a 100 megabits per second (Mbps) internet plan, only Norwegians and Icelanders, at $79.40 and $62.10, respectively, pay a higher average price than Australians, who pay $61.80 on average (see chart). Russians ($5.60), Ukrainians ($6.10) and Romanians ($6.40) currently pay the least per month for 100 Mbps internet access.

Source: Picodi Australia

That’s the most commonly offered bandwidth worldwide – although some countries, including China, France and Singapore, no longer even offer “such ‘slow’ bandwidth”, the Picodi report noted. Watching movies in high quality on major streaming platforms generally requires a bandwidth between 15 and 50 Mbps.

  • And while Australia ranked 14th on Speedtest.net’s global index of internet speeds for mobile performance, it’s down at 92nd place for fixed broadband speeds. Average global broadband download speeds were 87.79 Mbps; Australia’s average speed is 54.37 Mbps.

    It compared price lists from 364 internet service providers in 85 countries, covering only offers with unlimited internet access and without additional services, like TV and mobile phone plans, bundled in.

    In Australia, the second most commonly available internet speed that internet service providers offer after the 100 Mbps plan is 250 Mbps, for an average monthly price of $76.70.

    But when Picodi checked what bandwidth consumers could buy for $20 a month, Australia – along with most of Western Europe, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan – dropped off the list altogether. “In those countries, the biggest ISPs do not offer internet access at this price point,” it said.

    For the fastest internet speeds – 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) – Australians can find the cheapest deal at $81.90 per month, cheaper than only the Philippines, Austria and Norway. In the US, 1 Gbps plans are available for as low as $60; Ukraine has the cheapest, at $8.20.

    Research, compare and save

    According to Canstar Blue, the average household in Australia pays $75 per month, or $900 per year, for an NBN plan, with the price ranging from $73 in South Australia to $76 in Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria. In 2022, that range was between $71 and $73 – the 2023 figures continue a consistent $2 year-on-year price increase, Canstar explains.

    With high inflation and interest rates pushing up the cost of living, many Australians are looking for ways to make room in their budgets, including searching for a cheaper internet provider.

    However, the increased reliance on the internet for remote work, education and entertainment has led to a surge in demand for higher data allowances and faster speeds. This, in turn, has prompted some ISPs to reassess their pricing models, often resulting in adjustments to subscription plans.

    Several major players in the Australian internet market, such as Telstra, Optus, and TPG Telecom, have introduced competitive pricing strategies to attract and retain customers. Other ISPs are offering discounts and sign-up bonuses to attract new customers.

    To find the best internet deal, consumer groups say people should evaluate their bandwidth needs and compare available plans, considering factors like data limits, connection types and customer service quality. There are numerous comparison sites that allow shoppers to easily apply filters and sort results according to their needs, providing up-to-date pricing and eligibility information.

    Many ISPs also offer internet service deals tailored specifically to seniors, such as Flip’s Senior Family 50 BYO plan, which currently has an offer beginning at $39 per month for the first six months. But it’s important to be aware of short-term offers and promotions and what the longer-term price will be.

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