To help you find the best plan for your needs, we've split up users into the following common profiles and provided recommended plans for each. Note that many ISPs have more plans than we could list in the table. We chose to only include the plans from each ISP that were the most competitive compared to the rest of the industry. This means there might be a more suitable plan for you that we didn't list, so be sure to check out the complete range of plans from an ISP if you don't find a good fit.
Most internet connected households fall into this category. The most common needs for these users are email and surfing and, although speed is always important, a blinding fast connection wouldn't be worth the money. As home users become more experienced online they might want to build their own personal website or host their own blog, which means web space is another consideration.
Keeping these habits in mind, the home user should be looking primarily at lower priced plans with more conservative download limits. A large download quota isn't necessary, but a bit of headroom is important on the off chance that you'll need to suck down some large files now and then.
A well equipped tech support service is also a must. Look for one that operates during the hours that you're most likely to be using it – typically weekends and evenings. 24-hour tech support is nice, but usually unnecessary. Finally, security is also important so it's best to check what kind of spam filtering and anti-virus scanning is on offer.
ADSL plans are the best bet and home users are spoilt for choice when it comes to low cost 256Kb/s plans. Froggy and iiNet offer some low cost sub-$50 plans and low oversubscription rates. Froggy has listed its oversubscription at 1:1, which guarantees full rate at all times. Aardvark also offers a neat 256Kb/s unlimited plan for $69.95 (metro), but the 30:1 oversubscription rate won't give you the full speed at all times. NetExpress, on the other hand, charges the same price for the same plan, but the oversubscription rate of 6:1 is much better value. Finally, the sweet spot between price and downloads would have to be Netspace's $59.95/6GB plan with a 1:1 oversubscription ratio. Aside from Aardvark, all these plans have good tech support offerings and free spam filtering.
This category is almost the opposite of the home user, with email and web surfing secondary to large file uploads and downloads. Power users are known for downloading 600MB files around the clock.
The only plans that make sense for power users are those that have a large download quota and fast download speeds. Mirrors and other unmetered content are also important. Unmetered uploads are vital as peer-to-peer networks and IRC channels often require, or encourage, uploading content. Finally, as power users are often gamers and webmasters, also look for free, local game servers, web space or a static IP address.
Looking at the ISPs on offer here, cable and ADSL plans are both on the cards, but there are trade-offs for both options. Cable plans are faster, but they aren't available everywhere. ADSL, however, offers superior download quotas with most plans being cheaper.
The last thing to look for is whether excess downloads are charged per MB or shaped to a lower speed. Power users will definitely want shaping – otherwise you'll be charged through the roof when you go over your limit. Unlimited accounts have the obvious advantage of not suffering from shaping or excess charges but you can often get a better deal with a rounded set of features by going for a large, 20GB plan with a ton of local, unmetered content.
Telstra and Optus both offer high-speed cable connections, but out of the two you might want to look at Telstra due to the low $69.95 price, local, unmetered content, and 10GB cap (which is shaped thereafter). Unfortunately, neither Optus nor Telstra provided oversubscription rates, which means we can't recommend them.
Instead, take a look at plans by iiNet, NetExpress, Netspace, Pacific Internet and Kern Internet. iiNet's 512Kb/s and 1,500Kb/s plans give you a decent amount of downloads, plus unmetered peer-to-peer content and competitive pricing. For unlimited downloads, look at Kern Internet, Tel.Pacific and NetExpress.
Overall however Netspace makes it in over the cheaper NetExpress and Tel.Pacific unlimited plans due to the awesome amount of local mirrored content – but only just.
If unlimited downloads are what you're really after, and the local, unmetered content won't do, be sure to check NetExpress and Tel.Pacific out. Our recommended plans are 512/128 only, as the price for 1,500/256 plans doesn't justify the speed boost. But if speed is essential, go for the fast plan.
The home office user requires everything the home user has, but also needs added business features. Home office users tend to conduct business through their inboxes, so a solid email service is a must. Extra mailboxes, cheap spam filtering and anti-virus are also worth serious consideration.
Home offices may need to host a web server, and a static IP is the only way to do it. Typical residential plans use dynamic IPs, but this means that the IP, and thus the server location, is consistently being moved around. If you're not interested in hosting your own server internally, but you still want a website (and what business doesn't?) then web space from your ISP and bandwidth is crucial.
The other top consideration is tech support and reliability. Some ISPs offer a backup dial-up account so you can still remain connected and get email if the main connection goes down. Tech support hours and cost are important, because managing a business while you're trying to figure out why your connection keeps cutting out isn't the best way to use your time.
Most ISPs have dedicated business plans that emphasise reliability and other features like Pacific Internet's secure point to point connections for linking separate offices or branches together. Even so the residential plans in this roundup can offer good value for a small office user. NetExpress, extremeDSL and Tel.Pacific, for example, give you free spam and anti-virus filtering, good tech support hours and a static IP, while ISPs like MightyNet provide you with a hefty 127MB of web space.
Gamers share many similarities to power users but their primary interest is gaming. Gamers require local game servers to connect to, a low latency to reduce lag, and mirrors for games, game demos and patches.
Many gamers favour instant messaging over email so extra mailboxes and spam filtering aren't necessary, but they don't hurt either. Tech support is important and, as gamers are usually online at all hours, 24-hour support is desirable.
This is possibly the biggest category for cable ISPs, particularly Telstra. The overall download speed isn't too important for playing games, but cable typically has lower latency. Latency is the speed at which a single packet can go to and from a server, so the lower the latency, the smoother the game will be. Telstra's GameArena service offers a massive amount of game servers, free downloads and other unmetered content, and with the new 10GB, uncapped plan, it looks like fantastic deal. But again, as we weren't supplied with the oversubscription rate, we can't recommend it due to the potential bandwidth squeezing that could occur at peak times.
Looking outside Telstra, check out Internode, Kern, Netspace and iiNet. All of these providers host their own game servers and provide local downloads. iPrimus also offers a number of game servers, but unfortunately th