BigPond broadband is cheap as chips


video commentary I stumbled upon a shocking and unbelievable truth when casually browsing around the websites of several of Australia’s top internet service providers this afternoon.

The prices at Telstra’s BigPond division are substantially cheaper than those offered by major competitors like iiNet and Internode — at least when it comes to the high end.

The fact that BigPond simply costs more has been one of the core religious principles that Australia’s broadband market has been built upon over the past decade – especially for high-speed plans with large download limits favoured by IT professionals and the early technology adopter crowd.

Over the past ten years every Australian who lays even a small claim to being a geek or technologically savvy in any way has counted it as an item of faith that choosing BigPond as your ISP is an act of madness akin to trying to teach your mother in law how to use EMACS.

Various ISPs have been in vogue at various times – I remember phases where various of my friends would swear by Exetel, only to switch several years later to Netspace. Even hyped providers like Dodo and DingoBlue came in for their fair share of praise over the years (remember DingoBlue??).

But as the market has stabilised two ISPs have firmed as the geeks’ favourites – iiNet and Internode. If iiNet doesn’t have a DSLAM in your telephone exchange, so the conventional wisdom would go, you would pick Internode, which probably did. Or vice versa.

These ISPs have become beloved of the geek crowd for many different reasons. Their willingness to build their own infrastructure, their penchant for sticking it to Telstra, their value-add services such as gaming servers and the colourful personalities of their founders (one of the things I’m thinking of here is Simon Hackett’s Tesla Roadster, which apparently has arrived down under and is now sitting in his garage) have all been reasons to sign up to buy their broadband services.

But there’s a funny thing about Australians. We do value all of these value-add facets when we pick our broadband provider. But the price has to be right as well.

Traditionally BigPond has been known for having high prices and poor customer service. I can’t say that the telco has done all that much yet to demonstrate that its customer service has changed. But as of yesterday, its prices certainly have.

Let’s take, for example, the monthly cost of an ADSL2+ broadband service with a high download limit – a convenient number would be 200GB.

This is the sort of broadband plan that any Australian geek would love – you can download all you want each month, and you get the high speeds to boot.

As of today, that plan from Telsta will cost you just $89.95 – down from $179.95 last week as Telstra slashed its prices over the weekend.

A number of the options will change, but a quick check of the iiNet website will make it clear that these prices are significantly less than iiNet is currently offering. iiNet’s own 200GB plan – with 100GB eachway off- and on-peak – will cost customers some $129.95 per month (plus more for the included phone line).

Telstra doesn’t offer naked DSL – although it’s trialling it – so you’ll have to have a telephone line as well to use the company’s broadband service. But even if you do sign up for iiNet’s naked DSL, you won’t get any further ahead – the top naked DSL option is a plan offering a total of 170GB of monthly downloads at a cost of $119.95.

It’s a similar case when you look at Internode’s top plans – which cost even more – $139.95 per month for a 240GB plan with a phone line bundled in, and even more for naked DSL.

There is a ray of hope, however – Exetel, for example, is offering bargain basement prices – charging just $55 a month for a plan which offers a huge 90GB on-peak and 180GB off-peak plan. And if you really want to download a lot, the options get better when you sign up for naked DSL – Exetel will charge you just $70 for a 90GB monthly plan with unlimited downloads between 2AM and 8AM.

Now I know I am dramatically simplifying things here – it’s not easy to compare ISPs these days solely on price, when each offers a stack of value-added options and vastly differing levels of customer service. And obviously I am only comparing the top-range plans here — things get much more interesting and equal when you get into the mid-range.

But there is a trend here that seems relatively clear. BigPond is getting cheaper.

As I mentioned previously, price has to be an option. And on these current prices, ISPs like iiNet and Internode will have to re-examine their high-end plans – or face a future where Telstra is increasingly going to be getting some payback for the past decade worth of customer churn.


  1. As long as they move their wholesale port pricing downwards too, as competition laws would dictate, then fair play to them – maybe they’ll even start to repair some of the damage to their goodwill during the Trujillo era.

    If on the other hand, this is a cynical attempt to lock customers into two year contracts to boost their income from the NBNCo deal… I hope the ACCC whacks them hard.

  2. I have experienced this too and have been very tempted to switch from iiNet to BigPond lately, but my inner geek won’t let me :-)

    One thing I note is that Telstra track both uploads and downloads against your quota, whilst it seems iiNet do not. Am currently researching the disadvantages (if any) of Cable against ADSL. Can you still run a dev server and have access to all ports on Telstra Cable? Telstra doesn’t allow relaying on port 25 either and I would also prefer not to let Telstra know about my visits to The Pirate Bay (ahem). Does anyone know if there are any other gotchas with Telstra?

      • That’s the clincher for me. Telstra support/customer service is so awful I’d pay 2x to iiNet, Internode etc just for the privilege of not ever having to talk to someone from Telstra again.

  3. I guess the plans will be welcome to many casual users, but if you’re a gamer and/or like torrents, then Bigpond still represents poor value, as all your uploading goes towards your quota. On my Internode plan I can upload all I want which also makes it much easier to plan how I will use my monthly allowance.

    I think as a geek I still have to avoid Telstra out of principle too. They are pure evil!

    • Yes, agree that I couldn’t go with Telstra purely on principle. However, when they are offering 30Mbps speeds on Cable and I am only getting around 4Mbps on ADSL 2 due to my distance from the exchange, it does make me ponder …

  4. Really… Bigpond releases new plans that are below the wholesale cost of the ports alone and – shock horror-, the other good (ie not cut-rate) ISPs are more expensive. Where have I seen this before…oh in 2004!

    More seriously, Bigpond is getting more competitive because ADSL penetration is so high but of all the weeks to run this story it does seem a little amusing, considering that I imagine the article is aimed at people who don’t really understand the industry.

  5. Also note, that Telstra Cable is damn fast. For most people, it will be much faster than ADSL2 ever will.
    Downside – uploads counted (though iiNet do this) and shaping is only 64k.

  6. The sad thing is that I started with Bigpond ADSL, when it was the only available option. I moved to Internode based on price and reputation, once price became a consideration. I’m happy with Internode, and I’ve especially recommended them based on my observation and experience of the service – especially support – that they provide. At the same time, I had no huge complaints with Bigpond – the service was quite fine.

    Node do have a strong geek loyalty factor. Hell, when they talk my grandmother through DSL modem configuration over the phone – twice – that makes an impression on me. But when every dollar counts more and more, I wonder how long they can retain that. From a technical perspective, there’s not much wrong with Bigpond. Internode provide a great and fast service, but I wouldn’t lose that much by moving back to the pond.

    Either way, my last mile is always going to be a Telstra service – whether resold by Internode or not. I love my Nodephone and Nodeline service – they were great in managing Telstra when we developed a line fault – but if I were to do the figures, I’m sure I could save a bomb and not worry too much about the loss of support and service.

    I’ll stick with Node for now at least – my loyalty runs a bit deeper than this – but I do hope that Telstra can be made to play fair with wholesale customers. My wallet would appreciate it while allowing me to stay with my provider of choice. And Telstra still make their money – so everyone wins.

  7. Telstra just don’t play fair – and never have.

    This is all about a land grab so that they can have as many customers as possible ready to move onto the NBN – and have the government pay them for the switch over.

    and/or their numbers aren’t looking too healthy for this quarter – why have a landline if you don’t need one eh? So Mr T is trying to pump up the numbers as quickly as possible – maybe he has already announced or done all of his re-orgs for this year.

    The ACCC need to really step on this, and do it quickly.

  8. No mention of TPG? Or is their 180GB for $50/mo plan only in WA? Also, Internode offers IPv6, which warms the heart of any geek. Bigpond do have their own unmetered gaming servers.

  9. Telstra’s new broadband pricing is still grossly unfair on the many rural users who are too far from an exchange to access ADSL and must use the exorbitantly expensive wireless Next G network for broadband (up to 28 times more expensive!). As a rural Bigpond customer without a landline I can’t even access Telstra’s bunding discount despite the fact that I pay heftily for two mobile phones with them. With 5 internet connected devices in the home, we are wary of every webpage we visit, audio stream we access and video we watch. We know that before the end of the month we’ll be back on dialup speeds because we’ve overstepped Bigpond’s miserly limit despite paying their obscene monthly fees. The moment another wireless internet option comes our way we’ll be gone (please hurry Vodaphone).

  10. All this whinging about the accc this the accc that, be thankful that they are finally competitive and another option.

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