Consumers on NBN fixed-line connections experienced strong speed performance in December last year, according to the ACCC’s twelfth quarterly Measuring Broadband Australia report.
Retail service providers achieved between 85.0 and 98.9 per cent of maximum plan speeds across all fixed-line plans in the busy evening hours of 7-11pm in December 2020. This result is slightly higher than the previous report, which tested October 2020.
“In December, consumers received the highest overall speeds since the ACCC began monitoring broadband performance in 2018, and internet service providers delivered a higher percentage of maximum plan speeds in the busy evening hours,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.
The report, for the first time, also provides an indicative view on the performance of the NBN fixed wireless network. In December 2020, consumers on NBN fixed wireless connections experienced average speeds of 78.5 per cent of maximum plan speed, but that declined to around 68.4 per cent of plan speed between 7-11pm.
“Consumers on fixed wireless connections experienced quite good speeds during the daytime, but we observed a reduction from 5pm when the network is busier,” Ms Brakey said.
“Despite the decline in speed, consumers on the fixed wireless network achieved sufficient speeds to access a range of internet applications during the busy evening hours.”
Proportion of underperforming services drops
The report reveals that the number of consumers experiencing underperforming broadband services has continued to slowly decline, falling to 7.7 per cent in December 2020. The figure was 13.9 per cent when the ACCC first started measuring the proportion of underperforming services in May 2018. Underperforming services have technical limitations that prevent speeds from ever reaching the consumer’s maximum plan speed.
“A significant proportion of fibre to the node connections delivered maximum speeds below the maximum retail plan speed that the consumer has selected,” Ms Brakey said.
“We encourage both NBN Co and retail service providers to help consumers on connections that do not perform to their plan speed.”
“In many cases, these limited speeds are caused by modem or in-home wiring issues and can be fixed with a visit from a technician, or by moving consumers to lower and less expensive speed plans to ensure they receive the speeds they pay for,” Ms Brakey said.
Higher number of simultaneous streams
Improvements to the way that streaming service provider Netflix compresses and sends content to consumers is enabling households on NBN fixed-line plans to simultaneously support more high and ultra high definition content streams. As content streaming accounts for a significant proportion of internet traffic, these changes are also relieving pressure on the NBN network.
Consumers using the popular high definition Netflix streaming packages can now simultaneously stream more content. The report shows that all NBN12 services can now support up to four simultaneous high definition Netflix streams. In October 2020, only 52 per cent of NBN12 services could stream two simultaneous high definition streams.
“Strongly performing broadband services, in conjunction with technological improvements, now makes simultaneous high definition streaming an option for consumers on any fixed-line NBN plan,” Ms Brakey said.
Figure 1. High definition Netflix streaming by plan during busy hours – October and December 2020
Note: Figure 1 excludes underperforming and impaired services.
Figure 1 shows the proportion of NBN services on main NBN plans which would be able to reliably stream (without stopping and starting) a varying number of videos from Netflix simultaneously.
The report also compares the ability of retail service providers to support multiple ultra high definition streams on an NBN50 plan. Consumers with the more premium ultra high definition streaming packages can now more readily support three simultaneous ultra high definition streams on an NBN50 plan, with some providers able to also support a fourth concurrent stream.
Monthly key indicators report
The fourth monthly key indicators report, also released today, shows the trend in daily average NBN fixed-line download speeds from November 2020 to January 2021. The report shows speeds remained strong and stable over the period across all reported plans, and reaffirms that download speeds were significantly faster during this period than the pre-COVID February 2020 period. During the busy hours of 7-11pm, NBN fixed-line download speeds were maintained.
Network level performance was also relatively steady for NBN fixed wireless services from November 2020 to January 2021.
Figure 2. Average daily fixed wireless download speeds by plan – November 2020 to January 2021
The ACCC is calling on broadband customers to volunteer to participate in the Measuring Broadband Australia program.
“We are particularly keen to see how gigabit plans are performing, as these plans are increasingly being offered to consumers,” Ms Brakey said.
Note to editors
We present results for Netflix as reports indicate that it has the largest volume of traffic over Australian networks and Netflix has also an established relationship with our testing provider, SamKnows, to allow for testing to its service. The ACCC welcomes other streaming providers to contact us if they are interested in participating in the MBA program.
NBN fixed-line and NBN fixed wireless performance is not directly comparable
- NBN fixed-line connections and NBN fixed wireless connections utilise different technologies that are not directly comparable in terms of performance. An NBN fixed-line connection utilises a physical line running to the household to connect it to the NBN network. An NBN fixed wireless connection transmits data over radio signals to connect a household to the NBN network and uses similar technology to mobile networks. Around 4 per cent of NBN consumers are served by NBN fixed wireless, typically in rural and regional areas, but it may also be used in outer metropolitan centres.
The quality and maximum speed of a fixed wireless connection is often more variable than fixed-line technology. The following factors may affect fixed wireless:
- Environmental factors, including:
- distance of the consumer’s premises to the fixed wireless tower,
- whether there is a clear line of sight from the premises to the tower, and
- weather conditions such as extreme heat or heavy rain.
- Network congestion
For further information on using NBN fixed wireless, see https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/internet-landline-services/broadband-speeds/using-nbn-fixed-wireless
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, Canada and New Zealand.
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