Broadband speeds reach record highs during the pandemic

4 December 2020

Consumers are benefiting from faster download speeds, as retail service providers now deliver on average more than 94 per cent of plan speed in the busy evening with some monitored services regularly achieving higher speeds than expected by consumers, according to a new ACCC report.

The eleventh Measuring Broadband Australia (MBA) report, published today, shows that in October retail service providers (RSPs) achieved between 84.8 and 98.5 per cent of maximum plan speed across all plans across busy hours (7-11pm).

More than half of monitored NBN services achieved download speeds exceeding the maximum speeds specified in the retail plan description when averaged across all hours of the day.

“Speeds in the October test period were the highest we have seen for all monitored RSPs since the start of the MBA program,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

In October, daytime download speeds held steady, and even during the busy hours (7-11pm) customers experienced a minimal decrease in performance.

Telstra has shown the greatest improvement in their busy-hour download speeds, up by over 11 per cent since the last report. Superloop featured for the first time in this quarterly report, and achieved comparable results to other monitored RSPs with an average of 93.4 per cent of maximum plan speed during busy hours.

Pandemic pressure largely resolved

This is the second ACCC quarterly report detailing NBN network performance results during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put sustained pressure on the network.

“NBN Co’s decision to temporarily waive charges for up to 40 per cent extra capacity for RSPs in the form of increased connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) has played a key role in supporting broadband speeds during the pandemic,” Mr Sims said.

The more recent uplift in speeds has also been assisted by an increase in how NBN Co over-provisions the download component of most NBN speed tiers by around 10 to 15 per cent where possible. This ensures that consumers can more reliably experience speeds closer to the maximum download speed of their chosen retail plan.

“We had been concerned that consumers haven’t experienced full use of their plan speed even outside busy hours for some time now, so it is good to see the MBA’s transparency measures showcasing the faster broadband speeds available to consumers during these difficult times,” Mr Sims said.

Figure 1. NBN download plan speeds comparison over time

This chart shows NBN download speeds over time since MBA Quarterly Report 2 which was published in July 2018. Data is shown for both all hours and busy hours (7-11pm) by NBN plan and also by access technology.

For more broadband performance data from the latest report see: Broadband performance data.

FTTN still lagging behind

Fibre to the node (FTTN) connections, however, are still performing considerably lower than other connection technologies. The results show that consumers on FTTN connections who are paying for high speed 50 Mbps and 100 Mbps plans received around 10 and 20 per cent lower speeds than the maximum plan speed respectively, at any given time.

“Although most consumers have already benefited from increased download speeds, those on FTTN connections are continuing to experience lower than expected speeds. We encourage NBN Co and RSPs to work to resolve this, especially given the additional investment in FTTN services announced by NBN Co in September,” Mr Sims said.

“Good progress has already been made on addressing this issue with the proportion of underperforming services in our sample falling from 13.9 per cent in May 2018 to 8.1 per cent in October 2020," Mr Sims said.

Streaming services now able to be viewed on more simultaneous screens

The MBA report also shows how different NBN plans perform in streaming popular video content from Netflix.

“The faster speeds are allowing households to stream an increased number of high definition and ultrahigh definition screens at the same time over one NBN connection,” Mr Sims said.

The report also shows that all major NBN plans can support at least one high definition stream at a time. NBN plans provided on the 25 Mbps tier can support at least one ultrahigh definition stream, and nearly all could support three simultaneous high definition streams. 

Third monthly key indicators report

The ACCC also released today its third monthly key indicators report which shows the trend in daily average NBN download speeds from August through to October. The report reaffirms that download speeds are significantly faster than the pre-COVID February 2020 baseline and trended up since August due to NBN Co’s 40 per cent additional capacity boost and the recent over-provisioning of download speeds to allow for full plan speeds to be achieved, in line with international practice. Speeds were also maintained during busy hours, reflecting abundant capacity on the NBN network to support additional evening demand.

This is also the first report to provide network level performance results for NBN fixed wireless services. These results are drawn from a relatively small sample of fixed wireless services.

“These are encouraging first results and will better inform consumers about broadband performance quality in our regional, rural and remote areas,” Mr Sims said.   

The ACCC is calling on broadband customers to volunteer and to also take part in the free speed test program via measuringbroadbandaustralia.com.au

More information

Measuring Broadband Australia Quarterly Report

Measuring Broadband Australia Key Indicators Report

Broadband speed information for consumers

Home broadband consumer guidance

Background

The Federal Government funded the ACCC to run a national broadband performance monitoring and reporting program from 2017-21.

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

Release number: 
255/20
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Media Team - 1300 138 917, media@accc.gov.au

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