Australians receiving broadband retailers' advertised download speeds more often

2 December 2022

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Broadband retailers are more regularly meeting or exceeding their advertised speed claims for NBN fixed-line plans during busy evening hours, the ACCC’s latest Measuring Broadband Australia (MBA) report shows. (Fixed-line connections are those that have a physical line running to the property, such as fibre to the premises or fibre to the node.)

In August this year, retailers on average met or exceeded their download speed claims in 92 per cent of the all-important busy hours (7-11pm on weekdays) when demand on the network is highest. This is up from 88 per cent in May.

Chart 1. Proportion of busy hours in which advertised speed was achieved by RSP

% of busy hours in which advertised download speed met or exceeded speed claims

The average download speed performance across all retailers’ fixed-line plans during the busy evening hours was 98.2 per cent of their maximum plan speeds. These results are slightly better than they were in May 2022.

The range between the best and worst performing retailers also narrowed in August. The lowest performing retailer delivered on average 96.1 per cent of the maximum plan speed during busy hours, compared to the highest at 103.3 per cent. In May, the range of results was between 88.8 and 102.3 per cent, which is almost twice as wide as the latest results.

“A combination of retailers sustaining strong performance and providing more accurate information in their advertising means that more consumers are getting what they pay for in their NBN plan,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.

Chart 2. Average download speed during busy hours per NBN fixed-line RSP

Smaller retailers improve

Broadband retailer MyRepublic improved substantially in August, providing an average of 98.2 per cent of plan speeds during busy hours compared to 88.8 per cent in the previous report.

For the first time, Launtel, a smaller retailer, delivered the highest download speeds in an MBA report. This follows consistent improvement over consecutive quarters.

“Launtel’s performance in August shows that emerging and smaller retailers can provide similar, if not better, performance than the larger telcos,” Ms Brakey said.

Busy period upload speeds matter

In August, average upload speeds on NBN fixed-line plans were 85.7 per cent of plan speed during busy hours, which is slightly higher than the previous quarter. NBN Co does not overprovision the upload component as it does with the download, which means that retailers’ upload speeds are substantially below the maximum plan upload speeds.

In late-October this year, the ACCC published revised broadband speed claims guidance for industry that promotes more transparent information about upload speeds, which includes providing typical upload speeds during the busy period.

Upload speeds are important to consumers working or studying from home, or using cloud applications such as photo storage.

“Retailers currently state their typical download speed reductions during the peak evening hours, and we now expect them to do the same for upload speeds,” Ms Brakey said.

“We expect retailers to make their typical busy period upload speeds available for fixed-line services by the end of January next year, and by the end of April for fixed wireless services.”

Latency impacted by heavy broadband use

The report includes latency measured when the internet connection is also being used to upload or download demanding volumes of data, known as ‘latency under load’. It shows that average latency increases under these heavy working conditions compared to when the line is idle, irrespective of the type of broadband connection.

Latency is the average time required to send a packet of data from a user’s device to a server and back. Lower latency results in faster responses, providing a more reliable experience when using real-time applications that are sensitive to latency. High latency may result in a lag or delay when using these applications.

Chart 3 below shows that latency under load, particularly during uploads, was on average high enough to be noticeable to users on fibre to the node and fixed wireless services. This indicates that consumers on these services are more prone to disruption when using latency-sensitive applications while their connection is uploading substantial amounts of data.

“The higher latency that fibre to the node and fixed wireless connections may experience when uploading large amounts of data can impact the responsiveness of real-time applications being used at the same time such as video conferencing platforms and online games,” Ms Brakey said.

The latency increase under load is primarily influenced by the router model and configuration, and therefore, switching to a higher speed plan does not guarantee improved latency under load.

Chart 3. Average idle latency and latency under load by access technology

Note to editors

The goal of the Measuring Broadband Australia quarterly reports is to encourage greater performance-based competition and better internet performance throughout the country, while increasing transparency amongst consumers.

Maximum plan speed refers to the download data rate associated with the retail NBN plan. For example, on an NBN100 plan, the nominal maximum download speed is 100 Mbps. It is possible for consumers to receive this speed, or slightly above, as NBN Co overprovisions the downlink of some products by 10-15 per cent.

NBN fixed-line services and NBN fixed wireless services utilise different technologies that are not directly comparable in terms of performance. The quality and maximum speed of a fixed wireless connection is often more variable than fixed-line technology. More information on fixed wireless performance can be found on the ACCC website.

Charts 1 and 2 include results from the current report and previous reports to illustrate the performance of retailers over time. We note there can be changes in the composition of panels between reports which may impact comparability.

Background

The ACCC encourages other superfast access network operators to support the MBA program and contact the ACCC if they are interested in joining. The Federal Government funded the ACCC to run a national broadband performance monitoring and reporting program from 2017-25.

Data for Measuring Broadband Australia is provided by UK-based firm SamKnows using methodology based on established speed testing programs in the UK, US, Canada and New Zealand.

To sign up, visit Measuring Broadband Australia

Release number: 
172/22
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