It’s no surprise to may of us that the NBN can be confusing, particularly when it comes to NBN speed tiers. While your Internet Service Provider (should) ensure your business gets the best speed available, at the end of the day it is NBN Co. who govern the way your NBN is supplied to you, and how information about it is provided. Unfortunately, this has been an issue for some ISP’s and many consumers since the NBN first rolled out across Australia, because the language NBN Co. has used to describe their services has been ambiguous and confusing.

Some ISP’s have been aware of this issue for quite some time, and strive to provide clear and easy to understand information to their customers from the first point of contact. Others, unfortunately, have been able to take advantage of the confusing way NBN speed tiers have been structured, angering consumers and leaving many people disappointed with their service.

This article will look at the traditional NBN speed tiers, the ACCC investigation into NBN Co’s confusing and unclear speed tier system, and finally, how forward-thinking ISP’s are changing the game to ensure their customers are better educated as before they purchase their NBN data service and move their business to the NBN.

What were the NBN speed tiers called? (Pre September 2017)

When it was originally rolled out across Australia, NBN Co. structured its plans round five different speed tiers to differentiate between the upload and download speeds that would be provided. Your ISP is governed by the speed tiers set out by the NBN, which is technically the term to describe the speeds they are allowed to access, in order to pass on to their customers.

but there has been some controversy about exactly what it is NBN consumers are paying for, despite the best efforts of their providers (we’ll get to that in a moment).

Below you can see the five tiers that were originally offered to ISPs to sell by NBN Co. and the access speeds for each:

Tier 1

Your internet is provided with access to wholesale speeds of up to 12Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload.

Tier 2

Your internet is provided with access to wholesale speeds of up to 25 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload.

Tier 3

Your internet is provided with access to wholesale speeds of up to 25 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload.

Tier 4

Your internet is provided with access to wholesale speeds of up to  50 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.

Tier 5

Your internet is provided with access to wholesale speeds of up to 100 Mbps download and 40 Mbps upload.

Why are NBN Co. changing the name of NBN speed tiers?

It’s probably not news that telco jargon is often confusing and complicated to the average consumer, and NBN speed tiers have been no different. In fact, NBN speed (or lack thereof) has been one of the biggest cause for complaints about the National Broadband Network.

Why? Because, despite the appearance of being a service where you can choose the best speeds and get those speeds, the upload and download capacity for your data service – no matter which tier you are paying for – is not guaranteed. That’s because the NBN is a Multi-Technology Mix (MTM), and the speed available to your business depends on the type of NBN you have installed and the quality of the connection itself.

The ACCC Investigates NBN Speeds

Because of the number of complaints about the NBN and speed, the ACCC has been investigating how NBN Co. and ISP’s advertise NBN data services. They found that a massive 80% of Australians were confused by the way NBN speed information was presented.

In response to their investigations, the ACCC have developed six principles to guide ISP’s in providing information to the public, which you can see in full at the ACCC website. Furthermore, NBN Co. have been forced to change the language they use when advertising their data speeds, and the old, confusing speed tiers have been given the boot.

The new NBN speed plans & namings

To take some of the confusion out of getting an NBN service, NBN Co. no longer use their traditional ‘speed tiers” to advertise their different data services. Now, the five tiers have been replaced by four offerings. They are:

NBN 12 (12/1Mbps)

Basic NBN data service speeds

NBN 25 (25/10Mbps)

Standard NBN data service, suitable for everyday use

NBN 50 (50/20Mbps)

Advanced data service, suitable for homes where more than one person is using the NBN at a time

NBN 100 (100/40Mbps)

Premium NBN data service, suitable for businesses and high-use domestic environments

What’s the difference between speed tiers and speed plans?

Well, there is no actual difference in the way NBN data speeds increase with each increment, and the speeds advertised are still a best-effort service on the part of your ISP & NBNco – which means that the speeds are still not 100% guaranteed. However, the fact that the language has been changed means that the information is easier to understand on the part of the consumer.

When speaking to the Canberra Times, NBN Co said that, “Changes to [NBN Co’s] website reflect the company’s move to better inform Australians that there are speed options available from retail providers on the NBN network. Website changes include more detailed information on NBN wholesale speed tiers available to [retail service providers] to sell to homes and businesses. This is with the aim of allowing them to better discuss their requirements with their preferred retail provider.”

Basically, the plans replace the speed tiers and reduce the confusion about having a guaranteed speed by removing the Mbps language.

NBN Speed Changes Throughout The Day?

Along with the fact the NBN is a ‘best effort’ service mainly because of it’s MTM, the ACCC’s investigation into the advertising of NBN service by NBNco & ISP suggested that providers should be upfront with customers about the fact speeds can change through the day. The maximum speed of an NBN connection can change through the day depending on the congestion on the NBN network, and the amount of bandwidth your ISP have reserved for you.

Because the NBN network is most used in the evenings when people are streaming NetFlix and watching YouTube video’s business customers are less likely to see huge variations in speed during the business day. Never the less it is worth understanding that not all NBN packages are created equal and cheapest may not always be best for business customers.

What does this mean for ISP’s?

For those ISP’s who base relationships with their customers on honesty and simplicity, it’s fantastic. Providers like SpringCom, who have been concerned about their limits to advertising, it means that they can now be more open and clear about what they have the power to provide as wholesalers of NBN Co. While it doesn’t change the actual quality of NBN data services, it does change the way they can communicate with their customers when helping them choose a plan.

SpringCom also points out that for businesses who don’t want to use the NBN’s ‘best effort’ service, there are Alternatives to the NBN available that can be a great option for business.


Because the NBN is not a choice, it’s good news that the ACCC has ensured changes to the way ISP’s are allowed to advertise their NBN services. Despite there being no changes to how fast your data service will be, and despite the fact that your ISP still can’t give you a 100% speed guarantee, the fact that they can now use less ambiguous language is a great thing.

As always with your telco needs, it’s important that you look around for a provider that actually cares about your business needs and finds a solution that keeps your communications running smoothly. And, as always, if you have any questions about this article or how the new NBN data plans will fit into your business, give us a call on 1800 850 214.