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NBN vs ADSL

NBN vs ADSL

Many of us have heard about the NBN network rolling out in Australia while we were using ADSL but didn’t understand what it all meant beyond “NBN is much better”. Are you wanting to learn more about these two internet technologies? This short article includes everything you need to know about the NBN and ADSL.

What is NBN?

NBN stands for the National Broadband Network, a network project led and implemented by NBN Corporation since 2009. When compared with the traditional copper wires phone and internet infrastructure, the NBN has remarkable advantages – faster data transmission speed, higher capacity and improved reliability. Under the NBN project, the traditional copper wires and cable broadband are replaced by optical fibre which can deliver better Internet services.

Now, NBN Co have completed the NBN rollout for all of Australia (with very few exceptions). By the end of 2020, over 11.9 million Australian homes and businesses are able to connect with NBN and over 70% of Australian premises1are now on an Internet plan faster or equal to 50Mbps.

As a wholesaler, NBN Co does not sell Internet plans directly to the public. People who wish to connect with NBN need to contact an Internet service provider (ISP) and purchase an internet plan through them. Similarly, if anyone wishes to check if their home is NBN ready, they may simply enter their address on the address checking website of NBN Co or of some ISPs. As the top-rated ISP in Australia, Occom can offer plentiful choices and help people choose their most suitable Internet plan.

What is ADSL?

ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) is the first generation of broadband Internet. Using ADSL technology, users can connect to the Internet by using existing copper telephone lines and a conventional voiceband modem. ADSL is considered the default broadband solution for areas which have not yet been covered by NBN. As an obsolete technology, ADSL has been phasing out in Australia over the last decade and will eventually be switched off in Australia after the NBN rollover has completely finished.

Differences between NBN and ADSL

The most important difference is the speed.

At the moment, the fastest NBN plan (nbn250) reaches an average peak download speed of 216Mbps, while ADSL has a maximum potential speed of only 26Mbps. In fact, most existing Australian ADSL connections only have an average download speed of 8Mbps. In comparison, the most popular NBN plan2, nbn50, has an average peak download speed 43Mbps. This is five times faster than ADSL, with the monthly cost remaining similar to a typical ADSL plan.

The reason for such big differences in speed is the utilisation of optical fibre and other related networking technologies. The design of the old telephone line infrastructure never considered the transmission of massive amounts of information through copper wires, so it does not have the capacity to match. The speed of ADSL will decrease significantly if your home is too far away from an exchange point, while the optical fibre has completely avoided this issue. For some addresses, copper wires are still involved as the last part of the NBN connection. However, the distances of copper cabling in these cases are short enough that the user will not experience a significant dip in speed.

In addition, the speed of copper wires can also be affected by weather conditions and the number of people online in your area. ADSL users will experience frequent dropouts or even lose their Internet connection during severe weather, like thunderstorms.

NBN also has much faster upload speeds when compared to ADSL. Generally, the upload speed limit for an ADSL connection will be 1Mbps, while the maximum upload speed for a typical nbn50 plan is 20Mbps. For users who live stream content or have massive uploading demands, NBN will be much more desirable if not necessary.

Can I use my old ADSL modem for NBN?

Unfortunately, you cannot directly connect an old ADSL modem to NBN. Most old modems are not NBN ready and do not support NBN.

If you have received a relatively new modem from your ISP or from somewhere else, you may check with your ISP to ensure that it is compatible for NBN connections. Keep in mind that even if your modem is NBN ready, a reconfiguration is still necessary before connecting your modem with NBN.

In some recently developed houses or apartment buildings, a network termination device (NTD, also known as NBN box) may have already been pre-installed – in this case, you may directly connect your own router to it instead of purchasing a new NBN ready modem.


1. Only account for premises which have already connected with Internet
2. Based on data from February 2021