Deciphering the internet

The internet makes our lives easier in so many ways, but it’s constantly changing. Keeping up with new developments can be tough; just when you think you’ve grasped the latest offering, it becomes obsolete and you have to start learning its replacement.

  • Summer 2019
  • Technology

If you think about how much the internet has changed in just the last 15-20 years, from dial-up to ADSL, ADSL2, cable, and 3G, it’s little wonder you might feel a bit lost. Now, we’re moving into the era of NBN and 4G networks. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this guide to NBN, WiFi and 4G.

Broadband or ADSL and ADSL2

ADSL is an internet service that’s delivered via the copper-wiring used for your home phone. The technology was launched in Australia approximately 19 years ago and has been the most common type of home internet connection for two decades. ADSL is gradually being replaced by NBN.

NBN (high-speed broadband)

NBN Co was launched in 2009 to provide high-speed broadband internet services. The National Broadband Network (NBN) is scheduled to reach 93 per cent of Australian premises by the end of 2020. 

Your phone and internet provider will send you a router or modem, depending on the type of connection you have. You connect your computer, phone or tablet to this via a cable or wireless connection. 

Most important to know is that the NBN is not an opt-in service. Eventually, existing copperwired telephone and internet connections will be switched off, making it compulsory to connect to the NBN if you want home internet and phone services. 


WiFi is a means of accessing an internet connection wirelessly. For example, you may have an ADSL, cable, or NBN connection for your home internet, but also have a WiFi router or modem to access the connection using your phone, laptop or PC. 

The main purpose of WiFi is to provide an internet connection without the need to plug your device or computer into a modem. Many cafes, restaurants, shopping centres and hotels provide free WiFi connection for customers to use. WiFi is useful especially if you have multiple users and devices that require internet connectivity. It can save you money if you have a limited data plan on your mobile phone by connecting to your home internet connection, rather than using your phone data.

Wireless or 4G

3G, 4G and 5G are wireless internet services used primarily for mobile internet devices, such as your phone or tablet, but can also be used in areas where cable internet is not available. 

While 4G is currently the most common type of wireless internet, service providers will gradually move to 5G networks over the coming years. 

Unfortunately, wireless internet connection also has its disadvantages. In some areas, coverage can be patchy at best, and it also tends to drain the battery on your devices faster than 3G or WiFi connections.

What is data?

Data is the amount of information transferred between your computer or device and the internet. That can be through you downloading information (using apps, watching videos, accessing websites or playing games) or uploading information (sharing documents, comments, photos or video). 

Home data plans allow you to access the internet through your home connection. 

Mobile data plans allow you to access the internet via your 4G or mobile connection.

Internet Data Allowances

The amount of data you need really depends on the features you use. If you download movies, stream videos or play online games, you’ll need more than someone who only checks email and Facebook. Remember, if you have a fixed data allowance within your monthly fee, exceeding that allowance may attract costly charges. To avoid nasty surprises, many internet providers have tools that allow you to track your data usage during a billing period, and should also provide you with alerts when you reach 50%, 85% and 100% of your voice, SMS and data allowance.