What are the types of internet connections in Australia?

9 January 2019

You’ve probably heard a lot of jargon about different types of internet connections - but what do all those letters and numbers mean?   Let’s spell out the ways you can connect to the internet in Australia - and how fast they are.

We’ll start with the types that are available on the National Broadband Network (NBN) and finish with those that use the existing telephone network.

Optical Fibre

'Fibre' is the term you’ve most likely heard when talking about the NBN. It reaches your home through high bandwidth fibre-optic cable laid in the ground or in overhead powerlines. There are a few types of fibre connections:

  • Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) – fibre optic cable is laid all the way to your home.
  • Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) – fibre optic cable is laid to your kerb or driveway, and then connects to your existing copper phone line.
  • Fibre to the Node (FTTN) – fibre optic cable is laid to a central point in your neighbourhood, and then connects to the existing copper phone line for each house.
  • Fibre to the Building (FTTB) – in an apartment building, fibre optic cable is laid to a central point, and then connects to the existing copper phone line for each apartment.
  • Fibre NBN connections are available in speeds up to 100Mbps (that’s 100 megabits per second - have a look at our internet speed guide to find out what speed you need for your internet usage).

Why your type of fibre connection matters to your connection speed
Fibre optic cable is the medium of choice because the strength of the internet signal does not weaken as it travels over a long distance. A weak point of an NBN connection, however, can be when there’s copper cable involved. As a signal travels through copper cable it weakens, so in general, the longer this distance, the more your connection speed drops.

For Fibre to the Premises connections, this isn’t an issue as there’s no copper involved, and for Fibre to the Curb or Building connections, the short length of the copper section shouldn’t affect your speed.

Fibre to the Node connections, on the other hand, have more copper, and may not reach the maximum 100Mbps speed of the NBN. If your house is more than 400 metres from your node, you can expect a maximum speed of less than 60Mbps, and that gets lower the further away you are.

Other types of NBN connections

  • Cable (aka Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial, or HFC) is a broadband technology that uses the sort of cable used by pay TV to connect you to the world wide web. Cable NBN connections are also available in speeds up to 100Mbps.
  • Fixed Wireless uses the same technology as your mobile phone to connect your house to the internet. It’s a type of NBN connection that’s available in a few rural areas, and it’s currently available in speeds up to 50Mbps.
  • Satellite internet beams down data to a dish on your home from the two Sky Muster satellites launched as part of the NBN rollout. It’s a type of NBN connection that’s available in a few rural areas – fewer than fixed wireless – and currently only in speeds up to 25Mbps.
ADSL

ADSL and ADSL2+ connections use copper telephone lines to deliver internet to your home via your local telephone exchange. ADSL has a top speed of 8Mbps, and ADSL2+ technology maxes out at 24Mbps.

Like the above fibre connections with a copper component, ADSL speeds are also slowed as they travel through the copper network. That means the closer you are to your exchange, the faster your internet can be. Look at what happens to a 24Mbps ADSL2+ connection the further it has to travel to your home.

ADSL Speed Graph

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Finally, old favourite dialup also uses the public telephone network, but instead a modem dials a normal telephone number to connect. Although much slower than everything that’s come since its heyday – only 56kbps, or 0.056Mbps! – there are still a few providers in Australia.

The area you live in may have a few different methods available. If you’ve got the NBN in your area, then NBN Co has chosen which type of NBN connection to roll out to your neighbourhood. Find out if the NBN is available where you live with our internet connection address checker.

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