Ten years ago there was no Netflix, no Stan, Binge, Kayo, Disney+ and the average home was using 40GB of data every month. Fast forward to today and we’re using ten times more data every month and we have streaming services for every day of the week and then some. To respond to this demand, and help lift Australia’s “speed ranking” from low in the top 100 globally to nearer the top, the NBN is proposing a new set of Wholesale speed plans.

The proposal needs to be negotiated and agreed on with our retail telcos (Telstra, Aussie Broadband, Optus et al) who will sell them to us the end user. For it’s part, the NBN say they plan to “deliver these accelerated speeds at no extra wholesale cost to internet retailers”, but having only recently closed out a two year long negotiation on speeds and service plans with the Telcos it’s likely this proposal will be met with some distain among the telcos.

In terms of speed boosts the 100Mbps plan gets the biggest jump in available speed, lifting to 500Mbps downloads and an increase from 20 to 50Mbps in upload speed. The 250/25 plan will move to 750/50 and the fastest or “Ultrafast” NBN plan will go from being an offer between 500 and 1000Mbps down and 50Mbps up, to 750-1000 down and between 50 and 100Mbps uploads.

Speaking of the huge leap in Aussie household internet usage, NBN’s Chief Customer Officer Anna Perrin says “despite this explosion in data usage, many customers have remained on the same broadband plan for years. Our network monitoring suggests that some customers are potentially hitting their maximum speed on a regular basis. These customers may enjoy a better internet experience on a faster speed tier.

The good news for customers is we are upgrading the nbnnetwork to keep pace with customer demand. Fibre is the great enabler to deliver near gigabit speeds across the nbnnetwork. 

We are on track with our national fibre upgrade program to put these incredibly fast speeds within reach of more than 10 million Australian homes and businesses by the end of next year. 

Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland says the proposal is “consistent with the Albanese Labor Government’s objectives and will deliver turbo-charged speeds that would deliver significant benefits for businesses and households alike.” 

Adding, “Reliable, quality, high-speed internet is not a luxury or nice-to-have: it is essential 21st century infrastructure. “

How and when this happens though is the big question, with the minister adding “The Government expects nbn to consult closely with its retail partners and work with them to enable these speed enhancements to be available for consumers as soon as practical.”

From the NBN’s perspective, it seems likely the changes are 12 months away, Anna Perrin saying “we are proposing to deliver these accelerated speeds at no extra wholesale cost to internet retailers. By working together with the industry, we hope to deliver these accelerated services to customers later this year or early next year.” 

While these plans will be welcomed by the vast majority of Australians, they will create a bigger gap between the haves and the have nots of Australian Internet.

New 500Mbps plus speed plans are only available to those on HFC or FTTP connections, leaving those on Satellite, Fixed Wireless and Copper based technologies left wanting. This is of course a limitation of the non fixed line technology. They will though serve as a strong incentive for people to take up the NBN’s free Fibre Upgrade offer, something hundreds of thousands have done, and the NBN has the capacity to do on a much larger scale.

With that upgrade in place, over 10 million homes are capable of these new speeds by the end of next year.

Expect some interesting responses from Telcos today, who have just completed an updated Wholesale Broadband Supply agreement with the NBN at the end of 2023. Based on that, and their own and NBN’s forecasts for speeds and usage your Telco has likely made plans for their own network needs. Ordering the “backhaul” capacity that links their customers to the wider internet – this new proposal will mean a radical change to the possible data needs of the telcos and as such, they’ll be looking to understand the NBN’s forecasts and lock in deals that could take a year to negotiate.

As for price, while the NBN isn’t planning to up their wholesale supply charge, that again only covers the connection from the home to the internet provider – there will be an impact on the cost of the data supply, meaning telcos will need to adjust their pricing. It’s not likely to be a huge amount by any measure, but it may see more plan switching than otherwise, with people seeing value in the lower plans which may mean a similar or lower cost. Those on the 100Mbps plan today will be somewhat trapped by whatever the Telcos choose to charge for the new 500Mbps plan as there’s no way they’ll want to drop down to 50Mbps.

Great news for consumers, and particularly for those with big data needs.