Consumers on NBN fixed-line plans experienced download speeds averaging 97.2 per cent of plan speed and upload speeds of 84.9 per cent during the busy evening hours of 7-11pm in September 2021, the ACCC’s latest Measuring Broadband Australia report reveals. These results are in line with the previous May 2021 report.
“Upload speed determines how fast you can send information from your computer or device to the internet, which is particularly important for working from home, online gaming and uploading files to cloud storage,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.
“Given the growing importance of upload speeds to how consumers use their broadband services, the ACCC is keeping a close eye on how clear retailers are with their customers about upload speeds, and we will consider any necessary amendments to our Broadband Speeds Claims Guidance for industry.”
Chart 1: NBN fixed line daily average upload speed chart, with a toggle between busy hours and all hours
In September 2021, NBN fixed wireless services achieved an average upload performance of 56.2 per cent of plan speeds during all hours. NBN fixed wireless upload speeds varied significantly during the day and decreased to 44.8 per cent of plan speed during the busy hours.
During busy hours between August and October, average upload speeds for the Fixed Wireless Plus plan reached a maximum of 4.7 Mbps. For the 25/5 Mbps NBN fixed wireless plan, average upload speeds reach a maximum of 4 Mbps during these busy hours.
“Consumers on the NBN Fixed Wireless Plus plan are experiencing relatively low upload speeds. A typical video conference will require 2 Mbps of available upload, which means some consumers might have trouble achieving high quality while video conferencing, particularly if there are multiple conferences occurring,” Ms Brakey said.
Chart 2: NBN fixed wireless daily average upload speed chart, with a toggle between busy hours and all hours
About 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.
Download speeds hold up during lockdown
Retailers maintained strong busy hour speeds, achieving between 93.9 per cent and 101.6 per cent of plan speed across all major NBN fixed line plans. Dodo and iPrimus, both part of the Vocus Group, recorded the largest improvement for the second consecutive quarter, improving by 4.9 percentage points during the busy hours compared to May 2021.
“Overall, retailers continued to provide consumers with good download speeds during the busy evening hours, and even through lockdowns when there was a spike in demand,” Ms Brakey said.
In September 2021, consumers on NBN fixed-line connections experienced average download performance of 97.2 per cent of plan speed during busy hours, down marginally from 97.6 per cent in May 2021.
“In New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT, the lowest performance between August and October was during lockdown periods. This illustrates how short-term spikes in demand can lead to variations in the speeds that consumers experience,” Ms Brakey said.
Chart 3: state and territory time series toggle chart
- Periods of lockdown
- Note: We have not included data from the Northern Territory (NT) due to low sample size. This chart shows results from major NBN fixed-line plans, from NBN12 to NBN250.
For the first time, the report highlights retailers’ performance during the ‘busiest hour’, which is a proxy for when networks are under peak levels of stress. Retailers’ busiest hour speeds varied between 88.4 per cent and 99 per cent of plan speed in September 2021.
This is a wider range than the all hours and busy hours (7-11pm) download performance metrics, which indicates some retailers were more affected by high demand peaks than others.
Chart 4: all hours, busy hour and busiest hour by RSP toggle chart
- Note: This chart shows results from major NBN fixed-line plans, from NBN12 to NBN250.
No improvement to underperforming services
The proportion of fibre to the node (FTTN) connections that rarely record speeds above 75 per cent of their plan speed showed no improvement in September 2021, remaining at 12 per cent of the ACCC’s sample.
“There are a significant number of consumers on fibre to the node connections that are not performing as well as other network connections. It is disappointing that progress by NBN Co and retailers to improve these connections has stalled,” Ms Brakey said.
Very high speeds services got faster
The report shows that consumers on very high speed plans (known as NBN ‘Ultrafast’) experienced higher speeds in September 2021 than they did in May 2021. In September, the average download speed was between 680 and 813 Mbps across the day, up from 617 and 715 Mbps respectively in May.
“Some consumers don’t have a suitable in-home set up to access higher speeds, and we encourage them to contact their retail service providers to check that their hardware can support their plan speeds,” Ms Brakey said.
Note to editors
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. The report explains that NBN Co does not currently over-provision the upload component of NBN speed tiers.
For all upload and download internet traffic, ‘headers’ are added when traffic is sent over a network to provide network address information. Headers ensure that traffic is sent to the right network addresses and take up around 5 to 10 per cent of the NBN plan speed. Without over-provisioning, the presence of headers means that consumers’ upload speeds are lower than maximum plan speed.
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.
In this report, the busiest hour speed is the fifth-lowest average hourly download speed across each busy hour within the month. The measurement period had a total of 30 days with four busy hours each, totalling 120 busy hours in the month. For each busy hour, the ACCC’s testing provider SamKnows calculates the average download performance (download speed as a percentage of plan speed) for each retailer. It takes each retailer’s fifth-lowest hourly download performance as an indicator of performance during the busiest hours when networks are under the highest levels of stress. It doesn’t use the very lowest speed measure due to the potential for this view to be distorted by a network or an extraordinary demand event.
Home Ultrafast are plans where the underlying wholesale product sold by NBN Co has a download speed range of 500-990 Mbps.
The ACCC benchmarks the Fixed Wireless Plus plan to download/upload speeds of 50/10Mbps.
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.
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