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Forget speed limits, Telstra is offering unlimited NBN data

Telstra is boosting data limits for all its broadband customers, with unlimited data for top-tier NBN, ADSL and cable plans. But what will this mean for speeds?

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Telstra announced Thursday that it will introduce unlimited data plans for top-tier broadband customers by the end of the month, as well as doubling data allowances for customers on lower plans.

The deal, which Telstra is dubbing a "data gift," will see new and existing Telstra home broadband customers on $99 and above plans get unlimited data. Telstra says it is also "at least doubling existing plan allowances" for customers on plans below the $99 per month mark.

The offer will be available to customers on ADSL, cable and NBN plans, but is not open to customers who've signed up since 31 October -- they will be signed up to the new allowance already. Telstra says further specifics around the deal will be announced in the coming weeks.

According to Telstra CEO Andy Penn, the new allowances will help the telco meet demand for increased data as "connectivity becomes increasingly more important."

But while higher data limits are a win for customers, they don't necessarily mean higher speeds when you're sitting down to your laptop or trying to stream Netflix.

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Speaking at the company's investor day Thursday, Penn acknowledged that some factors impacting speeds -- specifically the technology NBN rolls out in a given area -- are out of Telstra's hands.

But when it comes to ensuring enough capacity and bandwidth for customers, Telstra said it was looking after customer needs. That capacity is provisioned by Telstra's purchase of something known as CVC from NBN (you can read all about how CVC works here and watch our simple explainer about how it affects speeds).

In August this year, the ACCC released industry guidelines around broadband speed claims and CVC [PDF], stipulating that internet service providers need to be realistic with customers about what speeds they can expect on the NBN. ISPs must advertise the "speeds at which the plans typically operate during the busy evening period" (especially for fibre-to-the-node and fibre-to-the-basement connections) and these descriptions need to be standardised across ISPs so customers can compare plans.

Giving customers a blank cheque on data allowance may well result in even more traffic on the NBN (and potentially more bottlenecks), but Penn said Telstra was doing its part to ensure it was buying enough capacity for its users and ensure those users were getting good speeds. 

"We continually monitor traffic and adjust our CVCs to meet demand," said Penn. "We installed robotic testers in our network more than 18 months ago to measure a sample of customer speeds to ensure that we are buying enough CVCs, and it is this testing that gives us the confidence that we are buying the right amount of CVCs to meet or exceed the ACCC's recently issued guidelines on CVCs and on NBN."

Telstra did not immediately respond to a request for comment about how much CVC it purchases on average per user.

There's no doubt extra data is a big win for internet-hungry Telstra customers. But when it comes to the NBN, are better data limits or better speeds more important?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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