Australia: nbn speeds ‘better than expected’

The first results from a broadband speed testing programme undertaken by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) suggest that nbn (national broadband network) broadband services from iiNet, Optus, Telstra and TPG are now delivering between 80 and just over 90 per cent of the maximum plan speeds in the evening busy hours.

The report, part of the ACCC’s Measuring Broadband Australia programme, found these busy hour speeds (between 7 and 11pm) are now only marginally below typical speeds at other times.

“These first test results are better than expected, and indicate the majority of Internet service providers are now delivering very close to their maximum plan speeds,” noted ACCC Chairman Rod Sims.

However, the report also found five per cent of services tested operated at less than 50 per cent of their maximum plan speeds. “The results for some types of services are still lower than we would like, but the overall results go against the current wisdom that the majority of consumers and businesses are having issues with nbn speeds,” he added.

“The relatively high average speeds during peak periods indicate to us that retailers are now providing enough network capacity to meet demand in peak usage periods, including on the top speed plans.”

“Our results reflect significant and recent changes in the market, particularly the recent discounting by nbn Co of capacity charges and consequent take up of more CVC by retailers. They likely also reflect the effect of our speed advertising guidance and anticipation that our testing was soon to begin.”

“It is highly likely that just a few months ago these results would not have been anywhere near as good,” he suggested.

Testing of 25, 50 and 100 Mbps plans and ADSL services took place in February and March 2018, and involved 400 nbn and ADSL services supplied by over 10 ISPs, reflecting 61,000 individual download speed tests. Results are statistically significant, including for the four largest retail brands named in the report.

The report shows three of the four major providers deliver download busy hour speeds between 88.1 and 90.7 per cent of maximum plan speed. (iiNet 88.6 per cent; Optus 80.7 per cent; Telstra 88.1 per cent and TPG 90.7 per cent.)

The report also reveals nbn 25Mbps plans, the standard to which nbn is instructed to build broadband services, significantly outperformed ADSL services. The average ADSL speed is 8Mbps compared with an average of 22-23Mbps for nbn 25Mbps plans.

FTTN connections that could not support the maximum plan speed were a factor that brought down the average speeds overall. The ACCC expects averages will improve further as service providers act on court-enforceable undertakings and adopt the ACCC advertising guidance to ensure customers are provided with plans that do not exceed the maximum attainable speeds of their individual connection.

“We know that there are customers who are not getting the speeds that are being advertised. We hope that the transparency and the regularity of our broadband speed reports will encourage all retailers to ensure their customers are getting what they are paying for,” concluded Sims.

As the nbn rollout continues, the ACCC’s future reports will provide information on a broadening range of services, including a regional/metropolitan comparison. The next reports will be out in the second half of 2018, with testing expanding to cover 2000 nbn and ADSL services by the end of 2018.

Testing devices are hosted by volunteers and the ACCC is still encouraging consumers to join the programme so an increasing range of ISPs and products are included.

Consumer issues in the provision of broadband services, including addressing misleading speed claims and statements made during the transition to the nbn, remain an ACCC compliance and enforcement priority in 2018.

The ACCC has taken investigation and enforcement action in 2017-18 on speed advertising, and reached court-enforceable undertakings regarding speed advertising with eight Internet service providers.

 

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