Are you in NBN hell? ADSL too slow? Here’s some fast 4G alternatives you can buy today

There’s a growing number of Australians who just can’t get fast internet. Perhaps you’re in a crummy apartment building, or maybe the NBN isn’t coming to your area for months and the only alternative is ADSL so slow you couldn’t even watch paint dry on YouTube.

Maybe you can get the NBN, but you’re in a Fibre to the Node area where performance is so bad that – for you – the NBN is a four letter word not mentioned in polite company.

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Regardless, you may one one of a growing number for whom quality fixed broadband is little more than a dream.

Fortunately, in some areas, there are alternatives. Everyone derided 4G and 5G as a threat to the NBN, but in 2019, those wireless plans can be a realistic, viable alternative that can offer speeds equal to (or even faster than) the fastest NBN plans.

One plan many will be familiar with is Optus Wireless Broadband. We’ve written about it before – and in fact, we use it at the moment – because it offers great value, and the flexibility of month-by-month plans (provided you buy a modem up front.

On the plus side, you get up to 500GB data for $85 a month, on your choice of month-by-month or 24 month contracts. Opt for the contract, and you get the modem for free, month-by-month and you’re up for about $192 for a Huawei fixed 4G modem.

Depending on where you are, the built-in antenna might meet your needs, but you can always grab an external antenna to boost your signal through the roof. This is precisely what we’ve done, and we frequently see speeds in excess of 100mbps .. though, like most broadband services, it slows down a little in the evening.

The downsides are that you’re stuck with Optus’ limited range of supported modems. You can’t put an Optus Wireless Broadband SIM  in just any device. We’ve heard some stories about Optus’ modems locking up from time to time and requiring a reboot, and due to the locked-down SIMs, you can’t put them in more reliable modems to solve that issue.

Still, for $85 a month, it’s the cheapest wireless 500GB you’ll find.

If you want the flexibility of month-by-month commitment, and the option to use your SIM in whatever device you like, OVO is probably the next best option. There’s a range of plans from $49.95 a month for 50GB to $109.95 a month for 500GB.

Setting itself apart from Optus, OVO allows you to use any device – you can use a fixed wireless modem, a portable WiFi hotspot, a tablet or even a mobile phone – it’s up to you, any will work. OVO uses the Optus 4G Plus network, so you’ll get pretty decent speeds in most places, but you’re subject to the same constraints as any other wireless service. If your local tower is heavily subscribed, your speeds mightn’t be so great.

It is also a bit more expensive than Optus, at $109.95 for the same data inclusion as Optus offers for $85. What do you get for that extra $24.95? Some free streaming, basically:

Whether that’s of much value to you is entirely your assessment – for me, really, I’m not interested in any of those offerings, but the most appealing difference to Optus’ own offering is being able to use your own modem – perhaps one less prone to bugs than those Optus sell.

If 500GB data is a bit much, there’s quite a few options if you drop your requirement down to 200GB or so. With plans ranging from $64.90 a month (over 12 months), Jeenee Mobile isn’t a bad option, and you can get the same from Spintel for $74.95 a month with no contract, or for $79.95 from OVO. Southern Phone charge a large $110 a month for 250GB, again on a 12 month contract, making this a rather unappealing option for most.

Sadly, virtually none of these plans are competitive price-wise with fixed broadband options. If you can get fast ADSL, or a decent NBN connection, you could get 500GB data for as little as $55 in most places.

If you’re reading this far, though, chances are that these options just aren’t options for you. I know they aren’t for me, for at least another six months (and knowing the NBN, probably much longer) and so these options are about all I can really consider unless I’m prepared to languish on 4mbps ADSL.

Have you found a better deal? Let us know!

Chris Rowland: @ozcjr Chris has been at the forefront of smartphone reporting in Australia since smartphones were a thing, and has used mobile phones since they came with giant lead-acid batteries that were "transportable" and were carried in a shoulder bag. Today, Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.

View Comments (11)

  • Many areas are not covered by optus! where are the telstra plans? there is 60gb boost mobile plan for $70 I use, which is the best prepaid i can find. any others?

    • See if you can guess why.

      If you can't, here's why. They offer a maximum of 100GB data plans, for $75 a month. For home broadband use, that's nowhere near enough for the average family that's using any form of streaming media.

      If all you do is check your email and read the news, that's probably fine, but if that's the case, there's better plans anyway.

      The only reason you'd consider Telstra plans, imo, is if you have no Optus or Vodafone coverage, because you're going to be paying quite a premium.

      • telstra covers huge areas where optus and vodaphone dont. so why exclude those people from knowing about the telstra plans? i use 60gb telstra because nothing else is available, and its great.

  • Interested to know what patch lead and aerial combo also to use with the Optus/netgear ac800s router.

  • The opening paragraph of this article has a MAJOR error.
    No-one is getting the Real Fibre To The Premises National Broadband Network anymore.
    What is being inflicted on the Australian public is the Liebral Party National Fraudband Notwork (the fake NBN notwork).
    For anyone to get the Real NBN, they need to hunt for a property for sale or rent, in an FSAM area that has the Real NBN. Live anywhere else in Australia and all that is, or will be, available is the LPNFN.

    • Jeni. I connected to 100Mb FTTC 2 months ago. Consistently do ~97Mb per second on the LPNFN. Would this not be ok for you? I recognise others on FTN won't have this experience.

      • Festivus, FTTC is still the LPNFN. It is NOT the Real NBN. Anything other than FTTP is NOT the Real NBN. No amount of spin will change that.
        edit: fix typo

      • FTTC is, for the vast majority of people connected via this technology, perfectly adequate, as is FTTB etc.

        FTTN is a travesty and should be overbuilt with FTTC as a priority.

  • I was on adsl2 and only recently found out about 4G wireless broadband
    NBN isn't an option for me
    Purchased an omnidirectional antenna
    Now on 2300mhz only I see speeds of 70+ even during evening peak
    Best decision I've made

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