Guide to Buying the Best NBN Modems
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Once upon a time, you had one or two choices for internet connections at home or on the job. Now, technology and availability have advanced to the point where you have more options than ever before.
While this increases your odds of getting reliable, fast service no matter where you;re located in Australia, it may make your decision which is best for your needs that much harder.
Enter the National Broadband Network (NBN), high-speed network brought to you by the Australian government. They’ll supply the connectivity while you choose the best provider to bring it into your home or place of business.
What is the NBN?
Before we delve into our modem buying guide, we want to help you understand broadband technology and how it’s superior to previous networks. In order for a connection to be considered broadband, it must provide bandwidth of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps).
Not to be confused with megabytes, which is a file size, megabits are the amount of data that can travel through a phone, cable modem, or fibre-optic network during a pre-set time limit. With a connection speed of 25 Mbps, a typical 1MB web page can load in less than a second.
The National Broadband Network is a set of technologies that was created with the goal of bringing broadband access to 98 percent of Australians. That means that, even in the most remote location, you’ll have access to advanced tech that’s affordable and reliable.
The NBN was created by the government and distributed via the National Broadband Network Corporation (NBNCo). It’s delivered through a multi-technology mix (MTM) that includes newly purchased geostationary satellites that were designed to launch and transmit from low in the orbit around the Australian continent. Consider them the wholesaler that acts as a bridge between you and your internet service provider (ISP).
There are a number of ways that you can access the internet. The NBN rollout offers the following services and delivery methods:
- Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP): The fibre-optic cables runs from the street to a box mounted on an interior wall in your home or business building.
- Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN): With this setup, the fibre-optic cable is routed to a node in your neighbourhood and accessed in your building through a phone line.
- Fibre-to-the-Basement (FTTB): This configuration is used in multi-unit structures like office or apartment buildings. In this case, the node is placed in the basement of a building and run to individual units via phone lines.
- Hybrid fibre cable (HFC): With a hybrid setup, the internet connection is routed through an existing cable TV service into individual neighbourhoods and structures.
- Fixed wireless service: Through a fixed wireless service, the NBNCo sets up transmission towers in your neighbourhood. Individual users can then access the signal via roof antenna install on homes or business buildings.
- Satellite internet: This option allows areas that are inaccessible by other methods to have internet access. You would access internet service via a satellite dish installed on your building or elsewhere on your property, which is then pointed at a geo-stationery Skymuster satellite that’s locked into an orbit over your region.
If you live in a really remote location or you have other reasons to boost your connection, you can consider adding a WiFi extender to the mix. This device picks up and boosts your router signal, enabling it to reach multiple floors in your home or building and broadcasting to outdoor areas for movie or music streaming while you’re outside.
Those who want to increase connectivity within a building can add a power line inverter. This two-plug device allows you to bring the stability of a wired Ethernet connection to any room in your home or commercial space without installing additional wiring. Just insert it into a power point and plug in your Ethernet cable into one adapter; the second adapter can be plugged into another power plug. This will convert any plug into an internet connection.
The broadband technology is brought to you by the NBN and made available in your home or office through an internet service provider, many of whom are independent retail service providers (RSPs). Finding the best RSP to deliver the tech to your location is the slant of this guide.
Modem or Router: What’s the Difference?
A modem is the device that’s attached to your existing phone or cable line. The router is a device that takes the signal coming in through your phone or cable line and distributes it to your devices via wired connection or wireless transmission.
Modern services give you both by using a single device that receives the signal from the service provider and distributes it. They’re higher in price if you buy one rather than use the one provided by the retailer, but they’re able to handle the kinds of speeds enabled by current transmission capabilities in Australia and elsewhere.
The NBN-affiliated RSPs that provide routers to Australians include:
- Aussie Broadband
- Boom Broadband
- DoDo, iPrimus
There are also a number of VDSL routers that have been tested and approved for use with NBN broadband services. These must be purchased and installed by the user (you).
- ASUS DSL-AC52U and DSL-AC68U
- Billion 8900AX-2400
- Cisco 887VA
- D-Link Taipan
- FRITZ!Box 7490
- Linksys X6200
- Netgear Nighthawk D7000 and Nighthawk X4S D7800
- Netcomm NF8AC
NOTE: The above routers are listed by brand name. Each has a variety of models. You can find an updated list of NBN-compliant devices here.
You may also be thrown off by the terms Asymmetric Digital subscriber lines (ADSL) and Very-high-Bitrate Subscriber lines (VDSL). ADSL uses the traditional copper phone lines to bring you internet service if the line isn’t already in use for a voice call. VDSL lines appear and act more like cable lines used to transmit your TV service.
In order to obtain the kind of speed promised by advanced tech, you need a router than can process the data at the rate of speed; traditional ADSL routers simply aren’t up to the task due to having max speeds of only 24 Mbps. Now that you know how your internet service is delivered, read on to find out the best NBN plans and service providers for your needs and budget.
Top 7 NBN Modems
Newer modems/routers that are approved by the NBNCo offer more than just faster connections, VDSL and VDSL2 routers makes sure there are no gaps or diminished coverage no matter where the receiving device is located on your property. Installed in an interior room on the ground floor, these devices are still able to provide a strong wireless signal on upper floors and outside.
You can also increase your modem speed by:
- Monitoring your bandwidth consumption
- Limited the number of connected devices
- Segmenting your service between a primary and guest line
- Setting your router for auto-rebooting
- Using a proxy cache
- Managing streaming or downloads more efficiently
- Configuring the best wireless channel
- Choosing the best RSP
There are several tools that you can use to test your speed. The Speed Test by Ookla has been around for a while and it super easy to use, Simply visit their website from the device that’s connected to your network and click the “GO” button. It can also test speeds from servers in different locations, if you’re connected to a VPN or proxy server.
The OZ Broadband speed test works in much the same way, except that it tests download and upload speeds. Just go to the website and click “Start Speed Test”. It works for ADSL 1, 2 and 2+; cable modems; NBN devices; 3G, 4G, wireless routers, and satellite connections.
You could also test your network by using the Speed Test. This mechanism was designed to check Telstra speeds, but it will work on almost any internet connection. As with the other two, simply visit their website from your connected device and click the “GO” button.
Now that you have a keen understanding of the basics and how to test them, here is our list of the 7 best NBN modems for Australians. Many of them will also work with IoT networked devices and home assistants like Alexa.
All prices are approximate and subject to change at the reseller’s discretion.
1. ASUS DSL-AC68U AC1900 Dual-Band ADSL/VDSL Gigabit Wi-Fi modem router
The DSL-AC68U remains one of the most advanced ADSL devices you’ll find from ASUS despite it’s longevity on the market. This is due mainly to the company’s firmware, which is some of the best you’ll find. It’s based on the open source OpenWRT protocol, and you can install a VPN on it with no problem.
One of the best things about this router is it’s flexibility. Although it’s an ADSL device, it also works with VDSL and fibre-optic networks. It can also handle speeds of up to 1,900 Mbps, making it ideal for gaming and movie streaming, and multiple concurrent connections.
- Per-user monitoring
- Compatibility with ASUS AICloud service
- Time-based parental controls
- USB LTE support
- Load balancing
2. AVM Fritz!Box 7490
At less than $300, this is one of the few bargain-priced models on our list. It’s brought to you by a German company, and it’s one of the few newer routers that still supports VoIP. The firmware offers support for VP installation, and you can assign one of the LAN ports as a WAN port. Best of all, it’s plug-and-play right out of the box.
- PSTN failover port
- Cordless handset synching
- Access control and monitoring rules configuration
- Multiple mailboxes
- Cloud-based contact list databases
- Automated wakeup calls
- VoIP-enable mobile apps
- Separate ports for analogue phones and DECT base stations
3. D-Link Cobra AC5300 DSL-5300
If you’ve been waiting like the rest of us, you’ll be happy to know that D-Link finally built a router with a modem attachment. That’s not all you’ll love about this powerful device. It also has the fastest wireless capability currently on the market. Although it’s large, crab-like appearance isn’t exactly a home style statement, the eight antennas allow you to generate two separate, independent 4X4 MU-MIMO AC networks that are capable of 2137 Mbps download speeds.
This device works better as a wired connection than a Wi-Fi router, but that doesn’t diminish its speed and power. It has fewer features than other brands on our list, but the features it has are worth the high price.
- Quad-core 1.8 GHz processor
- Mobile apps
- VPN support
- Multiple device support
- Configurable parental controls
4. DrayTek Vigor2760n Delight
This device is the mid-range model from DrayTek, and it offers both affordability and ease of use. Best of all, it includes the feature-rich DrayTek firmware with its suite of tools that you can’t find elsewhere at this price. For one thing, the Vigor2760n supports two simultaneous tunnels for more connectivity options.
Other features include:
- Support for a USB LTE modem
- Load balancing
- Advanced session and bandwidth management
- LAN segmentation
- QoS and SNMP management support
The only drawback is that it isn’t easy for newbies to set up and configure. You’ll find guides and setup wizards online, but there’s no mobile setup tool to speak of or knowledge base to explain advanced functions and features.
5. Netcomm NF17 ACV VDSL/ADSL Dual Band Router
If you’re going to pay for a router/modem to access your NBN service, this is the best priced model around. For less than $100, you’ll enjoy free TPG bundles with your NBN service and a design that’s similar to the TP-Link model detailed below. In addition to its wireless and broadband capabilities, you can attach up to two USB devices and share A/V media files fast and in real time. This UFB/NBN-ready device features dual bands and a number of other functions.
- Fully functional ADSL2+/VDSL2 gateway
- Four Gigabit Ethernet 10/100/1000 LAN ports
- VoIP feature with connectivity for two phone lines
- Two push button connection for 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands
- TR-069 device and performance monitoring
- 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet WAN port
Price: Starts at $99
6. Netgear Nighthawk D8500 tri-band Wi-Fi VDSL/ADSL modem router
The Netgear D8500 breaks the rule about modems being at least one gen away from routers in terms of tech and capabilities. You can put it right up there with the most advanced on the market, and it will hold its own. It even offers top-of-the-line wireless support.
Because the four antennas are internal, it’s much more compact and less clunky than other tri-band 4×4 MU-MIMO wireless solutions. Netgear even takes it a few steps further by installing six Ethernet ports in addition to the traditional four, making it ideal for labs and office networking. It also functions as a broadband router.
Other advanced features justify the high price, including:
- Configuration from mobile or we interfaces
- OpenDNS site filtering on both firmware and mobile apps
- Configurable mobile exceptions
- Remotely accessible, internet-based USB shares
- Remote router management
- PC backup tools
- Media serving tools
7. TP-Link Archer VR2800
When you’re looking for something relatively low priced and basic, consider the TP-Link Archer VR2800. This router offers excellent features without going over the top or complicating setup and use. It’s not quite as fancy as Netgear devices, but you’ll still enjoy 4X4 MU-MIMO wireless capabilities. You’ll also experience high speeds even with multiple connections or a large household full of gamers and streamers. The range is fantastic as well.
There are a couple of ways to set this device up, including the traditional standard web user interface (UI) and the TP-Link mobile app. Of the two, the mobile app is the easiest and fastest, and you’ll still be able to access the best features.
- Twin USB ports
- Support for USB-based storage 3G/LTE modems
- Configurable failover capability
- DSL service load balancing
- Internet setup
- Time-based parental controls
- VPN support
Don’t Forget About Security
Next to speed, security should be your biggest concern. The best way to protect your identity while surfing the internet is to install a virtual private network (VPN) on your router and all connected devices. If you don;t know much about virtual networks or you’re unsure which is the best service, you can check out our comprehensive guide to hiding your IP address. It will tell you everything you need to know about the benefits of network protection.
Our goal is to provide you with the most up-to-date information possible about internet access in Australia. We strive to give you the facts you need about connections, tech requirements, pricing, and reliability so that you can make solid decisions about your home or business connectivity.