Aussie broadband: How unlimited is 'unlimited'?

We take a look at the fine print for some ISPs' 'unlimited' broadband deals

Australia's broadband fanatics must be licking their lips as the country’s Internet service providers (ISPs) increasingly embrace unlimited ADSL2+ plans. Hardcore downloaders have now been given the license to run amok and “download the whole Internetz” as one user delicately described it on the popular Internet discussion forum Whirlpool.

But how genuine are these “unlimited” deals? The word has been thrown around frequently by ISPs. Sometimes it's only "unlimited" downloads until you reach a cap limit or "unlimited" use during off-peak times; however, there are plans that appear to genuinely allow users to download as much as they want (provided they abide by the ISPs acceptable use policy).

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), which handles consumer complaints about ISPs, has highlighted concerns about unlimited plans for the consumer. According to the TIO's Marketing of telecommunications services page, “"it is best practice for products to be marketed as unlimited or free when they are in fact unlimited or free in the everyday sense of those words. Companies may confuse consumers if they use these terms in another sense, either directly or indirectly - such as through qualifying contractual terms and conditions.”

The page notes: “The TIO receives complaints from consumers who claim to have purchased a telecommunications service marketed as having unlimited usage, only to find that usage was in fact restricted by an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).”

Below we've taken a look at some ISPs' "unlimited" plans.


Back in February, AAPT became the first ISP in Australia to offer unlimited ADSL2+ broadband plans without any download quotas.

For $99.95, AAPT’s ‘24/7 Unlimited Broadband Bundle’ includes line rental and a free wireless modem on a 24 month contract, which is a great deal. Users also get $50 included value from AAPT’s music store to download music. AAPT confirmed that users could download as much as they pleased. Whirlpool user ‘discord’ commented, “As for people getting bored with downloading, 3.6TB on the AAPT 24/7 unlimited plan (with another 2 or so TB on the 8pm-8am unlimited plan) and rising.” The plan is available for most users Australia-wide but there is no naked option.

An AAPT spokesperson said that the AAPT network was more than adequate to cope with large numbers of users downloading: “No, it won’t slow down the service because AAPT has its own national network infrastructure which easily has the capacity to handle all users — so regular ADSL customers won’t be affected at all by the 24/7 Unlimited Broadband product.”


On paper, TPG is offering the best unlimited ADSL2+ broadband plan. For $75 per month, the ISP is offering unlimited downloads, no shaping speeds and no hidden costs. However, the plan is currently only available to eligible customers in Sydney. Telephone line rental is not included, but TPG is offering $1 rental plus a minimum $10 call spend, so this still works out cheaper than AAPT if you rarely make calls. Contracts are available for 12 months (with $59.95 setup fee) and 18 months (no setup fee) so there’s less commitment than with AAPT. A TPG spokesperson indicated to us that users were free to download as much as they wanted, provided that they were abiding by the law. The spokesperson said that speeds experienced by customers would not be adversely affected by others who are downloading large amounts of data. Users that are taking advantage of the unlimited download quota are expressing their delight: “Ohh TPG I <3 you !!! I’m at 300 GB and I still got 24 days left for this month,” said Whirlpool user ‘dj_pain’.


Internode’s sole ‘unlimited’ plan, the ‘Home Standard Unlimited’, costs users $159.95 per month on the standard ADSL network. Users are limited to slow speeds (compared to ADSL2+ which most ISPs are offering) of 1.5 megabits per second when downloading and 256 kilobits per second when uploading. However there are no off-peak/on-peak times for this plan, no shaping speeds and no guidelines on excessive use.

Internode’s managing director, Simon Hackett, says that the network is more than prepared for users that take advantage of unlimited downloading. “There is no detrimental impact on other users; we run a network that has headroom pretty much 24/7 and we proactively upgrade ahead of demand,” he said. “When we sell an unlimited plan, it’s an unlimited plan. No shaping, no download limits. We don't make that statement lightly. We appreciate others may play fast and loose with the word, but we do not,” Hackett said.


Optus has joined in on the ‘unlimited’ broadband fun but unlike TPG and AAPT, it is not offering a plan with unlimited, unshaped downloads 24/7. The telco is offering two "unlimited" plans, which do technically allow unlimited downloads, but will be shaped down to 256Kbps after 100GB or 200GB of data is downloaded, for $109.99 or $139.99 per month respectively. Both of the plans are on two-year contracts with a $249 connection fee. Optus is also offering ‘Fusion’ bundle plans but the same shaping speeds apply once the quota has been reached. At least there are no further data charges once the quota has been reached by the user.


Dodo is another ISP that has embraced the ‘unlimited’ moniker, but its $89.90 Unlimited Data plan is not genuinely unlimited. It is offering downloads up to 50GB at full-speed but once this has been reached, shaping kicks in at 256Kbps but without extra data charges.

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Kevin Cheng

Good Gear Guide




Well I'm with Telstra business broadband on the ADSL2+ unlimited and it is truly unlimited...







I feel rather cheated as those that are able to get ADSL 2+ services get a far better deal than those that can only get ADSL 1 services.



@plasmo no you're not.

Chained to Bigpond


You forgot Bigpond's "Unlimited" plans. $89.95 a month for "unlimited" downloads, except you get capped to 64kbps (a whisper faster than dialup!) after 24gb.

I'd laugh if it wasn't happening to me...



So how on earth does Telstra get away with selling an "unlimited" plan that well, isnt unlimited in any way? It certainly doesnt surprise me but it just seems dishonest to do so. Being reduced to dialup speeds means the service is no longer broadband and therefore limited I would have thought?



How are the Optus and Dodo plans different to ANY other plan at the moment? Nearly ALL ISPs have plans that are capped to a slower speed after a certain download quota. Sure, it's technically "unlimited", but it's nothing special at all.

You mentioned the TPG plan doesn't include line rental, but do the other plans listed on the page include it? If not, why single out TPG?

Jeff Kemp


Peter, agreed.

Optus and Dodo etc are guilty of fraudulent advertising, no question.

By these definitions I'm on an "unlimited" plan with iiNet - with a ADSL1 plan - I can download as much as I want (except that it slows down to 64kbps after a cap is exceeded).




"Telstra Business Unlimited ADSL2+" is truly unlimited with an SLA. It comes at a cost of $310 per month, which - if you download one terabyte - is 31 cents per gigabyte.

PS. Whirlpool members have posted of downloading terabytes per month over this service.



In Australia, "unlimited" refers to ISP's... NOT to their plans.

Eg, last time I checked, Telstra was -still- allowed to bait naive, new Internet users of their low-end ADSL / ADSL-2+ plans...
so, if they use more than, eg, 2 GB / month, their "excess" usage costs them $150 / GB.

Just wait until Grandma gets the bill for all the DVD images her grandchildren downloaded, during their weeks' stay with her.

Australia needs both usury laws and laws to bell the Telstra tiger, so the $150 / "excess" GB will soon be a thing of AU's Internet past.

I, for one, don't want studpid people to fund Telstra's bottom line; I want an Australia, in which people aren't given so much rope to hang themselves with.

My 2.2 cents.



After leaving the UK in 2002 to return to Australia I still find is perplexing to see that we pay for plans with a download cap (peak or off-peak). As usual Australia trails tardily behind the rest of the world in adopting modern technology and the Australian consumer happily pays top dollar for an inferior level of service.




There is limited submarine fibre capacity b/w AU & US, whereas there is excess capacity b/w UK/EU & US. This accounts for most of the costs.



Bob, what exactly are exetel's ones? I'm guessing something similar to:

Unlimited until you start downloading something then you will be kicked off the service for "abusing it" by downloading too much.



I for one am disgusted at AAPT's so called unlimited broadband. its unlimited in name only. they do limit it. any sort of streaming protocol is severely limited at certain times of day. and they activally disable torrents. I have developed an application for streaming video. Its performance was dreadful. until I realised it wasn't my application. tests have confirmed that AAPT throttle any ports other than the "well known" ports (<1023). For the uninitiated a port is used to differentiate between programs so MSN messnger uses a different port to web pages and torrents use a large range of ports.

So AAPT call it unlimited but its probably impossible to exceed even a moderate bandwidth limit due to their throttling (speed impairment).

It's time to move to a real ISP (are there any left?) maybe I'll try Internode...




AAPT's plan is the best value for money, as quoted i've done insane amounts of downloads to the extent i've run out hard disk space quickly!



I came upon this article when searching for a press release or something saying that telstra would be lowering the cost of their plans and/or increasing the cap. I would have thought they might want to after all the other big ISP brought in reasonable broadband plans (most recently Optus and their 120GB for $50/month... in contrast I pay $80 for 25GB with Telstra). Unfortunately I'm starting to think this won't be happening.

This article is complete crap. Don't be fooled, Telstra charge 2 - 3 times what everybody else charges. I for one will be changing service as soon as possible.



I am on a pre-paid mobile wireless broadband plan and the modern is disconnecting itself and re-connecting every 2 hrs or so and we get charged for a connection fee and it shouldn't be disconnecting. We are supposed to be on a $50 per month with 8gb space to download and with Vodaphone Australia but my friend i talk in the usa said they pay about $50 a month and they can use it as much as they want with no connection fee....

Australia is falling behind the rest of the world with the latest technology ...

I'm planing to change contract plans when we find a better deal



Dodo have recently introduced a plan with unlimited ADSL 2+ for just $39.90 per month. There is no shaping or time restrictions, so its unlimited in the true sense of the word. I thought it was too good to be true so I contacted them and they advised me that it would be available in my area but I would need to bundle my home phone with them. They also giving away free modem and setup on 24month contract with $100 free calls on the home phone for the first 3 months..I would definitely recommens having a look at their site
I can not wait to join this plans so I can rid myself from Telstra once and for all.



Yup tyman88, I was gonna say the same thing about Dodo. Infact, just to make sure that my idea of unlimited data (which is unlimited in true sense, without any capping) is same as theirs, I called and spoke to a sales rep. I cant see myself paying TPG about $35 more for the same kinda service. As for their call centres, even Telstra's call centres are based overseas. So, we'll have to deal with it.

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