NBN download speeds improve and more plans hit maximum speeds

31 August 2021

The ACCC’s latest Measuring Broadband Australia quarterly report reveals that in May 2021 consumers on fixed-line NBN broadband connections again experienced record high speeds. Most consumers received their maximum plan speeds more often in the busy evening hours of 7pm to 11pm.

The report shows that the average download performance in May was 98.4 per cent of plan speed during all hours, and 97.6 per cent during the busy hours. Dodo and iPrimus, both part of the Vocus Group, improved by 5.4 percentage points during all hours and busy hours compared to the previous report, which was the largest improvement of the telcos over the quarter.

The results suggest that the Vocus brands have improved their service quality monitoring methods, after the Federal Court found that they historically had not used an appropriate speed testing methodology.

Vodafone and MyRepublic also improved their busy hours speeds over the quarter by 4.3 and 3.7 percentage points respectively, compared to the previous report.

Retail service providers achieved between 92.2 per cent and 100.5 per cent of plan speed across all major NBN plans during busy hours. This is a range of 8.3 per cent between retail service providers, compared with a range of 12.3 per cent in the previous report.

“The performance gap between retail service providers’ download speed metrics has narrowed significantly in recent reports, however individual consumer experiences by retailer still vary,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.

The report shows that in May 2021, consumers on ‘Home Ultrafast’ NBN plans experienced average speeds between 617 and 715 Mbps. Between 7pm and 11pm, performance fell by 14 per cent on average compared with the day’s maximum.

Home Ultrafast are plans where the underlying wholesale product sold by NBN Co has a download speed range of 500-990 Mbps.

“Our testing has revealed that some volunteers on very high speed plans are unable to receive speeds above 100 Mbps to connected devices due to limitations on Ethernet ports on some home gateways. We encourage consumers on these higher speed plans to contact their retail service providers to check that they have equipment that can support their plan speeds,” Ms Brakey said.

“We expect retailers to take appropriate steps to assist affected customers on NBN250 plans and above, both when offering these plans and for existing customers who may require replacement home gateways, or the option to move to a suitable plan speed.”

Underperforming services decrease, but too many remain

The proportion of underperforming services in the ACCC’s NBN fixed-line sample decreased from 8.1 per cent in February 2021 to 6.2 per cent in May 2021.

When the ACCC first started reporting in May 2018, 13.9 per cent of services were underperforming but testing results over time have shown a gradual decline. This is likely due to two main factors: technical in-home wiring issues being addressed for monitored fibre to the node services; and, retail service providers moving consumers onto plan speeds that their service can achieve.

However, fibre to the node connections are still not performing as well as other network connections. The report shows that consumers on 50 Mbps and 100 Mbps fibre to the node plans received lower speeds than the maximum plan speeds at any given time.

“There is a persistent cohort of fibre to the node customers that are still experiencing slower than expected speeds, and NBN Co and retailers have been slow to address this,” Ms Brakey said.

“While it’s encouraging that some of the fibre to the node services we monitor are improving, especially given the additional investment announced by NBN Co last year, retailers and NBN Co need to collectively do more.”

Figure 1. Average download speed by plan and technology
NBN fixed-line plans including underperforming services.

  • All hours
  • Busy hours

NBN Fixed Wireless Plus supports multiple high definition streams

For the first time, the report includes video streaming results for the NBN Fixed Wireless Plus plan.

Figure 2. Netflix streaming for the Fixed Wireless Plus plan during busy hours

  • High Definition (A Netflix High Definition stream takes up around 2.2Mbps)
  • Ultra High Definition (A Netflix Ultra high Definition stream takes up around 12 Mbps)
  • Note: The results are not cumulative and should be read separately for High Definition (HD) and Ultra High Definition (UHD) streaming.

    The chart infers the proportion of services on the NBN Fixed Wireless Plus plan which would be able to reliably stream (without stopping and starting) a varying number of videos at HD and UHD from Netflix simultaneously. The actual data rate will vary during video streaming.

The results show that most Fixed Wireless Plus plans can support five simultaneous high definition streams from Netflix, or one ultra-high definition video stream.

The positive streaming results were supported by NBN fixed wireless connections experiencing better download performance in the last quarter. Average download speeds for the Fixed Wireless Plus plan were 36.2 Mbps during the busy hours.

Average performance across both the 25/5 and Fixed Wireless Plus plans was 83.7 per cent of plan speed during all hours, decreasing to 71.6 per cent of plan speed between the busy hours of 7pm and 11pm. This is higher than the February 2021 report, when the average download performance was 81.2 per cent and 70.8 per cent of plan speed during the busy hours.

Time series shows sustained performance increase

The report also includes a time series of network level download speed data from February 2020 to July 2021.

The time series tracks broadband performance from a pre-COVID-19 start date of February 2020 and highlights major events that occurred over the period.

Figure 3. Daily download speeds from February 2020 to July 2021

  • The chart shows average daily download speeds by NBN plan, since February 2020 until July 2021.
  • The chart shows percentage change in average download speeds compared with a February 2020 baseline.

The time series results show that from July 2020 broadband speeds picked up significantly, after NBN began overprovisioning the downlink component on most of its products. Between January and July 2021, average download speeds were on average 10 to 15 percentage points higher than the February 2020 baseline.

Notes to editors

In June 2021, the Federal Court ordered the Vocus Group to pay $2.5m for making misleading speed claims about their broadband speeds following an ACCC investigation. Dodo and iPrimus admitted that their ‘typical evening speed’ claims made between March 2018 and April 2019 were misleading because they were not based on an appropriate testing methodology.

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 over-provisions the downlink of some products by 10-15 per cent. A certain proportion of a customer’s plan speed is for protocol overhead, which is key to ensuring that communications are delivered to the right place. The over-provisioning of the download component now means that consumers can more reliably experience speeds that are closer to the maximum set download speed of their chosen retail plan speed.

The report identifies that some consumers on NBN250 plans and above are using home gateways/routers that have Ethernet ports with a physical limit of 100 Mbps. This caps the speed to any device connected to those Ethernet ports to 100 Mbps, even when the consumer has purchased a higher speed plan. The report excludes services on NBN250 plans or higher affected by speed constrained Ethernet ports.

Retail service providers have obligations under the Australian Consumer Law in how they supply goods and services, and the ACCC expects them to take steps to address impacted customers. The ACCC intends to include data from the services using the constrained Ethernet gateways/routers in future reports.

Background

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: 
135/21
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