NBN outages: what you can do when your internet goes down

Internet Outage
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Internet outages are an unfortunate fact of life, and they can be crippling to your daily life, especially for those relying on their NBN plans in order to work from home. Thankfully, there's a number of steps you can take to identify and rectify the issue, getting you back online in your time of need.

Before we get started, if you're experiencing frequent outages, it may be worth considering a 5G home internet plan – as you could expect, these plans rely on the 5G network rather than the NBN but are still capable of delivering immense speeds, albeit in select locations at the moment. There's a few of the best below to choose from, or keep scrolling to learn more about why your internet may be down.

Is it down for everyone?

The first thing to do when your internet fails you is it to check if this outage is isolated to just your household. There are plenty of methods of checking this, including dedicated status pages on the provider's own site, but a third-party option may be the best port of call. And of course, if your main internet connection is down, you'll need to use a device with its own connection, such as your phone, to visit those status pages.

For the independent option, we suggest trying Down Detector (opens in new tab), a global service run by Ookla (of Speedtest fame) with an Australia-specific domain that has pages set up for each of Australia's major internet service providers.

In an example of the usefulness of a third-party service like this: in an instance when Optus customers experienced outages across all of Australia in 2021, the telco's own status page was also down, while Down Detector was able to report on the outage live.

This service offers an amalgamation of data, including a graph of outage reports over the last 24 hours, stats on the most reported problems, an outage map, and the ability for customers to write in and report outages themselves.

To check individual providers, we've linked some of the more popular telcos' dedicated pages below:

It's just my internet

If you've been able to verify that your provider doesn't have any known outages or issues, then it's time to take a look at your own setup, in particular, your modem router.

While it's become a bit of trope these days, 'turning it off and on again' is still a surprisingly successful strategy when it comes to tech. We suggest powering down your modem, unplugging its power cable, and leaving it off five minutes before reconnecting and powering it on again.

This 'power cycle' could lead to your router re-establishing a connection that it has previously lost. 

If that isn't successful, the next step is to contact your service provider and make sure they report a working connection on their end.

NBN with 4G backup

In situations where your connection is indeed down, some NBN providers offer a 4G backup service to tide you over while a technician resolves the issue, either as a standard inclusion or paid extra. 

These services are currently offered by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, and we've linked their NBN 50 plans below:

More NBN 50 deals

Hotspot and other alternatives

Unless you're in the unfortunate situation where both your internet and phone provider's services are down, you should be able to use your mobile's hotspot function to save you in a pinch.

Both iOS and Android phones should have a hotspot or tethering setting in their quick menu, accessed by swiping down from the top of the screen. If you're on an iPhone and don't see this option, navigate to Settings > Mobile > Personal Hotspot and activate it from there, and the same goes for Android – Settings > Network and Internet > Hotspot and Tethering.

Enabling this setting creates a Wi-Fi signal from your phone, using its 4G or 5G network to push internet connectivity through to any device that connects to it. In some cases, these connections can even be faster than your home internet!

It's worth paying attention to how much remaining data your phone plan has for the month when using this method – while NBN plans often have unlimited or high capacity data caps, mobile plans tend to have far lower limits.

If all else has failed, and your situation permits, then it's worth tracking down a local cafe, library or similar institution that offers public Wi-Fi. It's not ideal but if your situation is critical, it can be enough to get you by.

Harry is an Australian Journalist for TechRadar with an ear to the ground for future tech, and the other in front of a vintage amplifier. He likes stories told in charming ways, and content consumed through massive screens. He also likes to get his hands dirty with the ethics of the tech.