Compare Cable Broadband Plans: Get The Fastest Cable Internet Plans
Your internet connection is one of those things you don’t think too much about until something goes wrong. Just as you don’t need to know how your car engine works until it starts blowing smoke, one broadband connection seems much like the next, until your web pages start loading slowly, and your video and music streaming isn’t fast enough for that true live feeling, and you start to wonder if there’s a better way to do things.
Top Broadband Plans
As computers and technology advance, it is almost predestined that the possibilities for broadband internet will only get faster and faster, and the whole digital landscape will change and advance to keep up. Websites will be more detailed and intricate, downloads will be of higher quality, and the fastest internet connections will browse and view these sites and files with ease. That’s not to say that with a standard ADSL connection you won’t be able to enjoy all of the data and information the web now has to offer, it just may mean that you’re not keeping up with the pace as those with the fastest connections.
Therefore, if you are the type of person who wants to always be at the forefront of new technology, and you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your online experience, you will want to consider a cable broadband plan.
What is cable broadband?
Where DSL internet runs through your existing phone line, cable broadband is transmitted via the existing wires which carry your cable television signals. There is a lot of bandwidth in your television wires which is not being used, so you can access cable internet and be watching TV in your home without affecting the performance of either medium. In this way cable internet is much like DSL internet, where ADSL for example runs through the unused frequencies of your phone lines, however, where cable internet stands out from the crowd is its super high speeds.
cable broadband has the ability to reach speeds as high as 50 Mbps
Where ADSL is rated to be able to reach top speeds of around 20 Mbps, cable broadband has the ability to reach speeds as high as 50 Mbps. Therefore, even though the speeds experienced in the reality of all broadband connections are lower than the theoretical speeds, cable broadband is still much faster than any other form of broadband in Australia.
Currently Optus and Big Pond are the only two ISPs who offer cable broadband plans, where some of their cable broadband plans are advertised to offer download speeds of up to 100 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 2 Mbps. The National Broadband Network will be operating over fibre optic cables, and this form of cable internet is also promising download speeds of up to 100 Mbps. Therefore, until the NBN is rolled out across all of Australia, your cable internet connection can still be affected by the hardware you’re using such as your computer or modem, the limitations of the server, the capacity and reception of the Wi-Fi signal, where the content you are accessing is hosted – for example content hosted outside of Australia takes longer to download. Plus, because the existing cable television infrastructure is being used to transmit the cable internet data, when there is a high number of cable internet users in the same area, sharing the same lines, download and upload speeds can be significantly affected by high traffic in your area.
Depending on what you predominantly use your internet connection for, it can be important to know that cable broadband will typically have lower upload speeds than ADSL2+. For example, even on a cable broadband plan with a 100 Mpbs download speed, the upload speed will still only be a maximum of 2 Mbps.
Where is cable broadband available?
You will be able to plug into a cable broadband connection if you live in an area which already has cable television available. If you don’t have cable television in your home, and so you don’t know whether there are cable TV lines to your home, you may need to pay an additional fee to have the line run from the main line to your home.
If you live in a rural area for example, and there are no cable wires in your area, then it is unlikely you will be able to access cable internet. However, if you are unable to access cable broadband, you can probably still access the ADSL network, and by contacting your ISP you will be able to discuss which connection type will give you the greatest speeds and reliability for your location.
How to check your availability for cable broadband?
Anywhere in Australia that pay TV cables have been laid, cable internet is available. Therefore if you already have Foxtel, or you know that your neighbours do, you are likely to be able to connect to cable broadband – this is not a guarantee however, as Foxtel can be delivered to your home via satellite too.
All you need to do is contact Telstra or Optus and give them your postcode, to find out whether your home is on the cable network.
Most of the Australian population is covered by the cable network, however, in the Northern Territory for example, it is just within the towns ofDarwin and Alice Springs that you could access cable internet, and in Tasmania, only Hobart and Launceston are connected.
However, if there are cable TV lines to your home, but you don’t already have a Foxtel subscription, you don’t have to take out pay TV to get cable internet. All you need to do is contact Telstra or Optus and give them your postcode, to find out whether your home is on the cable network. Unfortunately, because cable internet plans are offered only by the two biggest telecommunications companies in Australia, cable broadband plans are not as competitive as a standard ADSL plan, so you will have to make some careful comparisons to find the best value.
How to install cable internet
The first thing you will need to do is choose a provider and a cable broadband plan. If you are already receiving pay TV in your home via a cable, then you won’t have to worry about any additional installation fees, and you can save even more money by bundling your services. Ask your chosen ISP about any discounts available for bundling your pay TV, your cable internet and your phone services into the same package. Just make sure you are looking ahead at your needs throughout the entire contract period, because if you need to change or cancel your bundle you could be charged high exit fees.
The installation process can take up to two to three hours, or just 30 to 45 minutes if you are already connected to the cable network. The installation process involves:
- An overhead cable. Connecting your home to the cable network involves running an overhead cable from a pole on the street, to the outside of your property.
- Installation box. The overhead cable will run to the blind side of your property where your other services are located such as your metre box. Another small box will be attached to your house for the cable.
- Internal installation. There may be internal wiring and drilling required to connect your home to the cable, and new sockets may be installed.
- Detached installation. If you are installing cable internet to a building which is detached from the main property, such as a granny flat, there may be an additional installation fee.
- Cable modem. Your ISP can usually supply a modem compatible with your service when you sign up, or you can purchase your own. You may also want to consider a wireless router if you will be using laptops and other mobile devices in your home, and you want to be able to connect them to the internet from anywhere in the home.
Features and Benefits of cable broadband
If connecting to a completely new cable network just to access the internet sounds like a lot of effort, consider the additional benefits you can enjoy with a cable broadband connection:
- Reliable and high quality connection and speed. When you connect to DSL broadband services through your phone line, your connection quality can suffer the further away you are from an exchange. The loss of quality can mean that your connection drops out or slows down, and impedes your online experience. However, with a cable broadband connection the speed and quality of your connection is consistent regardless of your location, as the cable network uses repeaters and RF Gateways to extend the distance that the signal can travel. Therefore, the speeds of cable internet are often more constant, and the connection can reach higher speeds.
- No line interference. There is no doubt that dial up internet interfered with the use of your phone line, however, you can still experience interference on an ADSL connection. Even though ADSL and your phone calls run through different frequencies on the same line, you may experience interference, and need additional filters or splitters to be installed, or have your phone line upgraded. However, cable internet runs on a completely different line, and does not affect your other cable services.
Drawbacks to be Aware of When Installing Cable Broadband
While cable broadband is able to overcome many of the speed and reliability issues which plague ADSL connections, there are a few drawbacks you may come across in your usage:
- Slow down during busy periods. When you connect to the internet via the cable wire system, you are online with thousands of other Australians, and the number of other people online at the same time as you are, can affect the speed of your cable broadband. Typically you will notice a slow down at peak times such as evenings and weekends, however, you can avoid this issue by using the internet during typically off peak times. Therefore, just remember that the speeds quoted in your cable broadband plan are the theoretical speeds, not the actual speed you will receive.
- Cable modem. If you already have an ADSL modem, you won’t be able to use it for your cable internet. Instead you need to purchase a specialist cable modem to translate the signal from the cable wires to your computer.
- Plan limits. The cable broadband plan providers will often limit the amount of data you can upload or download each month – Big Pond for example are especially vigilant about monitoring your uploads. Therefore, make sure you choose a cable broadband plan which will have enough data for both your uploading and downloading needs, because if you exceed your planned amount there can be expensive excess usage charges to pay.
How to get the Best Connection Quality and Speed
While there are a number of factors which can affect the speed of your cable broadband, there are several steps you can take to improve your connection speed and get everything you’re paying for:
- Check for and protect from viruses. Make sure your antivirus and firewall protections are up to date and that you have scanned your computer for viruses, removing any threats. Current and comprehensive virus protection can offer you continuous protection as you browse the web, as well as remove clutter from your computer such as temporary files and downloads from the websites you’ve visited. All of this helps to enhance the performance of your computer and in turn your internet connection.
- Restart your computer and modem. If you are experiencing a slowed connection through your cable internet, then you can try turning off your modem and your computer, waiting 30 seconds and then turning them on again. This can solve issues such as freezing or hanging when you are browsing.
- Plan your usage. Cable broadband in particular is affected by the amount of other people in your area who are on the network at the same time. Therefore, if you know you need to download an especially large file, try and do so at a typically off peak time, like during the week, during the day.
- Turn off background programs. There could also be programs running in the background of your devices which are eating up your data and slowing down your usage. For example, peer to peer file sharing programs such as BitTorrent, can continue to use up bandwidth even if you’re not actively using them. You may also find that your browser has helpfully installed mini toolbars, which are designed to help you search to access certain tools quickly, however, they will affect the speed of your browsing, so you may want to disable them.
- Understand your ISP’s traffic management policy. ISPs are aware that on the cable broadband network there is only a certain amount of bandwidth to go around, and so to ensure they are able to offer the best internet experience for all of their customers, they may implement a traffic management policy which will curb the bandwidth consumption of the top 5% of users. This ensures that there is enough bandwidth to go around for everyone else.
- Connect via Ethernet. Connecting to your cable broadband modem via Ethernet cable will give you the best performance. Ethernet is a more reliable connection than USB and doesn’t require you to install any device driver software. An Ethernet connection will support a higher performance for networking, and make your internet smoother and easier.
- Optimise your computer system. Cable internet will run at its peak on the latest computer operating systems such as Visa or Windows 7, or Mac OSX. If you are not using one of these newer operating systems then check the system’s help section or look it up online for ways you can optimise the system.
- Wireless security. It may not only be other people in your house who are draining your internet connection and slowing your experience. You also need to check the security settings of your wireless router to make sure no unauthorised users are logging in – such as your neighbours, or people nearby on the street. Therefore, set your wireless password to something which will not be easy to guess, and don’t share it with anyone outside of your home.
- Enhance your wireless router. A wireless router allows you to connect to the internet in your home from a number of devices, without having wires running all over the house – it means your laptop, phone, tablet and more can be logged into the cable broadband, from anywhere in the house or even the backyard. However, the signal can be diminished when it received through a wireless router, and is often not as fast as if you were connected via an Ethernet cable. However, you can improve the performance of your wireless router by, not placing it near sources of interference such as a cordless phone or a baby monitor, keeping it out of the line of sight of other equipment, placing it high and clear of obstructions, keeping it at least two feet away from any metal such as sprinklers, pipes or reinforced concrete, keeping it away from large bodies of water such as a fish tank, and avoiding having the signal travel through thick walls to your computer or mobile device. You may also be experiencing a slow down in your usage if there are other users online in your house who are using high amounts of bandwidth.
If you want to stick with a wireless router for convenience and to allow everyone in the family to easily be online, you can further improve the performance of your wireless router using the following steps:
- Turn off your modem at your computer at the power, and restart them after 30 seconds.
- Check that you are using the latest version of your browser, and if not, download and install the latest version as it will download web pages faster.
- Make sure that your computer system meets the minimum requirements of the router, so both can achieve the optimum speed.
- Clear your Temporary Internet Files folder.
- Move your computer or mobile device closer to your router – you will achieve the best speeds if your router is in your line of vision.
- Replace the aerial of your wireless router’s antenna to one which will deliver a stronger signal.
- Install a wireless access point on your network which will act as another hotspot when accessing the internet in rooms not near your router.
- Replace your router with one which is rated to handle and optimise the high speeds you can expect from your cable broadband. Even the router provided by your ISP may not be the ideal device for your connection.
- Let Windows XP create a connection for your cable modem, making sure the connection has only file and print sharing and Microsoft networks installed.
- Go to My Network Places and right click. Choose Properties and then highlight the cable modem connection.
- From the menu bar choose Advanced and then Advanced settings. In this section uncheck the two boxes in the bottom half, for File and Printer Sharing and Client for MS Networks. Then click OK.
- Go into the support directory on the Windows XP CD, and extract the file called netcap.exe from the Support tab. Place the file in a directory on your hard drive, or even in the root of your C drive so you can easily find it.
- You now want to change the directory where you have put the netcap.exe file, so open a command prompt window and type in netcap/Remove.
- Go to the Control Panel and open the System menu. Go to Dev Man and look at the network adapters which are listed. Right click on the one without the yellow exclamation point showing and select the Uninstall option. Choose Yes to continue with the uninstall, but do not restart your computer.
- Check the connection properties to make sure no connection is present. You do not need to follow through the wizard popup, so just cancel it.
- Now restart your computer.
- When your computer has restarted go back into connection properties and you should see a new connection called Local Area Connection 2. Highlight this connection and go to the Advanced menu and choose Advanced settings. Uncheck the two boxes next to File and Printer Sharing and Client for MS Networks. Then click OK.
- Go to Connection Properties and uncheck the box next to QOS.
- Restart your computer again.
You should now experience faster web page loading when searching the internet, because what you have effectively done is shut down one of the adapter cards, as XP runs two separate versions of the NIC card, where you see the LAN card, while there is a second invisible card which loads everything. Therefore, instead of running two cards and slowing down your machine, you have now removed one card and the NIC can run faster on its own.
Who is suited to cable broadband plans?
Cable broadband is a very different type of internet connection to the more traditional ADSL, in the way that it is connected, runs and is priced. Therefore, because of the added expense of cable broadband, you need to decide whether the unique benefits of cable internet are suited to you. For example, cable broadband could be best suited to you if:
- You’re on the cable network, regardless of your location. If you find that your home is already connected to the cable network, you will want to consider connecting to cable broadband, because it can deliver fast and reliable internet, regardless of how far you are from your provider’s exchange, as unlike ADSL, the signal does not deteriorate over longer distances.
- You already have cable TV. If you already have a cable TV service through Telstra or Optus, then not only do you know you can connect to cable broadband, but you will also often be able to negotiate a great deal for bundling your TV and internet services together, which – if you were planning to take out both services anyway, and aren’t just signing for extras to qualify for a better deal – can save you money and bring down the cost of cable broadband.
- You need a super fast internet connection. You may automatically think – yes, you want the fastest possible internet connection, however, the average internet user will not notice the difference in speed between cable and ADSL broadband. If you simply use the internet to browse web sites and check your emails, then the extra speed is not going to enhance your online experience. However, if you regularly watch and download large media files, or play online games, then the extra speed will be perfectly suited to your needs.
How to tailor cable broadband to your family’s needs
If your house is home to a growing family then you will have already noticed how every new gadget or innovation you bring home is quickly devoured by the kids so you don’t get a look in. Therefore, when you connect your home to super fast cable broadband, you are likely going to be competing with your family for the speed and bandwidth of your new connection.
Luckily it is easy to distribute your cable broadband signal so that everyone in your home can get online without compromising speed, reliability or data allowance. There are a number of ways you can set up your cable broadband to cater to your whole family:
- Computer networking software. To share your cable broadband connection with more than one computer in your home, you can set up a network. You can set up a proxy server or NAT (network address translation) routing software, which will allow you to set up one computer as a gateway, through which the other can access the broadband internet connection. NAT routing software may be built into your computer’s operating software, or you may want to buy a more comprehensive program with a few more features.
- A router. A router can be a more stable way for more than one computer or device to access the internet within your home. Buying a router may be more expensive than setting up networking software, but you may be able to get your ISP to throw in a router suitable for your new cable broadband connection when you sign up. You can choose a router which plugs into a local area network (LAN), or one which is used wirelessly. Most routers are ‘plug and play’ allowing you to plug in your computer, enter the password and get online. Routers also have some level of protection inbuilt.
- Protection software. As soon as you connect to the internet you are at risk of attacks from viruses, spam and scammers, and as soon as you start sharing that internet connection, the risk increases again. Therefore, while connecting via a router or networked computer, you should also make sure that your protection software is up to date.
- Wireless encryption. Using a wireless router, you and your family can connect to your cable broadband without having to run wires from your router to each room and device in the home. However, the wireless signal from the router can be accessed up to several houses away, so firstly make sure you have set your encryption levels at the maximum 128 bit.
How to Compare Cable Broadband Plans
Now that you know more about the features and benefits of cable broadband, and how it works, you can use the following tips to help you narrow down your options as you compare and choose from the range of cable broadband plans available:
- Maximum speed promised. Where it can be difficult to compare the speeds offered by other forms of broadband because they can differ so much depending on your location, cable broadband does not lose speed over long distances. Therefore, while the maximum speed quoted by the provider for cable broadband may not be exactly what you’ll experience on your computer in your home due to differences in hardware, software and the traffic of other users, you can still compare fairly accurate speeds for each cable broadband plan.
- Cost of the plan. Price is always an important factor to consider when comparing cable broadband plans as you need to not only be able to afford the plan now, but month after month into the future too. Therefore, make sure you shop around to find the best value plan you can, and saving money where you can – for example, by choosing a naked cable broadband plan so you don’t pay for any related services you don’t need, or by bundling your cable broadband with services you already use and need. Also look for a cable broadband plan with a shaped plan for excess data usage, so that if you go over the allotted amount of data in your plan, you’re not going to have to pay the excess usage fees.
- Data allowances. It is very difficult to find a truly unlimited broadband plan, so you will need to compare the data limits which are imposed on each plan, and choose one which will give you enough allowance to do everything you want to online each month. Work out what sort of internet user you are, and whether you will be online all day and night browsing, downloading and playing games, or whether you are a light user who is just going online to check the bank and a few emails. Even after choosing a data plan you will still need to monitor your usage to make sure you don’t go over your allowance – which is easy to do when you see just how much there is to do online.
- Contract and contract term. You then need to decide if you want to sign a contract for your cable broadband service, and how long you want to be locked into your provider for. While you can normally find great value services in a cable broadband plan, you need to make sure that these services will meet your needs for the entire duration of the plan, because expensive cancellation fees can apply if you need to change the terms of your contract.
- Access and installation. While cable broadband can be faster and more reliable than ADSL, it is not as widely available. Plus, even if the necessary cables have been laid in your area, if your home has not been wired to the cable network then you can be looking at additional installation costs.
- Cable broadband plan bonuses. To offset the cost of cable broadband plans, some providers will offer bonuses when you sign up with them, so make sure you compare the full value of any plans you are considering. For example some providers will include a cable broadband modem for free with your plan, while others will offer you discounted or free VoIP services so you can make phone calls over the internet and do away with your landline all together.
- Cable broadband plan bundles. Another way ISPs will entice you to their plans is to bundle together a number of services at a discounted rate. By taking out more than one service, an ISP is willing to offer you a discount on the total cost of all services, so consider whether you can add value and make genuine savings by bundling cable TV and cable broadband for example.
- ISP. The comparison of ISPs offering cable broadband will be a quick one, because it is only Optus and Telstra who are currently providing the service. However, it is still important to read reviews and ask friends and family about their experiences to make an informed decision about the ISP best for you.
How does cable broadband compare to the other technologies?
Of course cable broadband is not your only option when it comes to fast and reliable broadband, and each type of broadband connection simply has different strengths and weaknesses, and it is up to you to choose the service with the strengths which meet your needs, and the weaknesses which don’t affect your situation.
Therefore, when you compare cable broadband to DSL internet:
- Difference between cable and DSL broadband. The practical speeds of cable broadband internet can far outstrip DSL as the higher levels of bandwidth should relate to raw speed. However, there are a number of factors which can impact on the speed of cable broadband and bring it back to DSL levels, and these factors may impede your cable broadband experience.
- Cable has greater raw speed. The theoretical speeds of cable broadband can support around 30 Mbps of bandwidth, where most types of DSL cannot reach more than 10 Mbps. The only type of DSL which can compete with the 30 Mbps speeds of cable is VDSL, which is not widely offered by Australian ISPs.
- Cable can be slower than DSL in real world applications. You should not base your decision on the fastest type of broadband on theoretical speeds, as in reality, both cable and DSL can be affected in the course of usage by patterns of use, and traffic congestion online. Cable broadband speeds for example can be significantly affected when there are a high number of people in your area using their cable broadband at the same time.
- Capped speeds. Both DSL and cable broadband providers may also impose speed caps on the speed of your connection to control the usage and keep traffic flow smooth and fair for all users, and to ensure that the system does not become overloaded and crash. For example, a speed cap could reduce a 30 Mbps service to 3 Mbps or less. In other instances ISPs may impose speed caps on services because they want to be able to charge different rates for different bandwidth levels.
As the most common type of DSL connection is ADSL or ADSL2+, you will need to look at how this particular service compares to cable broadband:
- Comparable speeds. The speeds of ADSL2+ broadband are very close to those you can achieve with cable broadband.
- Better value bundling opportunities. Rather than having to bundle your broadband services with pay TV when you connect to a cable broadband service, with an ADSL provider, you can bundle the telephone services you already use, instead of adding new and more expensive services like cable TV. You’ll also have a wider range of choice when comparing ADSL2+ bundles, as there are only two ISPs who offer cable broadband plans in Australia.
- Type of connection. Cable broadband connects to your home through Hybrid-Fibre-Coaxial cables, through which the speed and quality of your broadband service is not affected by your distance from the exchange. However, the further you are from your telephone exchange, the slower your ADSL2+ broadband service will be.
Another broadband connection option you may be considering is mobile broadband, to give you a bit more flexibility, however, make sure you compare the following with cable:
- Cable broadband is often cheaper than mobile broadband. Mobile broadband is often sold on a monthly basis, and can therefore be a lot more expensive than a permanent cable broadband connection in the long term. However, with cable broadband you can sign up to a plan, and even bundle your service for a discount. Plus, if you are using mobile broadband at home, and then you also have to pay for access to Wi-Fi hot spots when you are away from home, this is an added expense.
- Portability of mobile broadband. While you can connect to cable broadband using a wireless modem, and therefore access the internet from anywhere in your home, and even places in your backyard, there is a limited range. However, with mobile broadband you can take your service with you anywhere.
- Using unsecured connections. When you connect to the internet using mobile broadband, your ISP will always guarantee you a secure connection. However, if you have only cable broadband and need to connect to Wi-Fi hot spots when you are out of range of your cable broadband, you risk signing into an unsecured network.
- Networking your internet. You can create a network through either a mobile broadband or cable broadband service so that more than one person in your home or office can be connected to the internet at the same time. This also allows you to connect mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets or games consoles to the internet throughout your home.
- Do you need to take your internet with you. If you will primarily be using the internet within your home or office, then the speed, affordability and reliability of cable broadband could be the right choice for you. However, if you frequently log onto the internet both at home, at the office and while out and about on the road, then you may be better suited to a broadband connection which can go with you wherever you go. This could also be the most cost effective option because you are taking your broadband connection with you wherever you are, rather than leaving a cable broadband connection at home and unused.
Cable broadband has some important advantages over other broadband services on the market, and has been the forerunner for the National Broadband Network. Therefore, take the time to consider how you use the internet, and whether you and your family could benefit from being connected to cable broadband, or whether you will stick with the more familiar – yet often temperamental – ADSL connections available to you.