NBN speeds mostly steady, but improvements needed

6 February 2019

Fixed-line NBN customers received generally good levels of service during the latest round of ACCC broadband speed tests, but some consumers experienced a dip in speeds.

The ACCC’s latest Measuring Broadband Australia report, released today, expands the number of retail service providers (RSPs) to include Dodo, iPrimus and Exetel, enabling the report to cover a wider range of price points.

The performance of most RSPs remained steady across the busy evening hours of 7pm to 11pm, but TPG and iiNet experienced a decline in download speed performance compared to the previous quarter.

Download speeds during the busiest hour – when RSP networks were under the most stress during the 30-day testing period – were significantly lower than at other busy times.

The performance of different RSPs in managing this congestion varied considerably, ranging from 71.8 per cent of the maximum plan speed to as low as 48.3 per cent.

The ACCC believes the drop in speeds may have resulted from retailers migrating their customers to new wholesale NBN products launched in October.

“It is good to see that providers have generally managed the transition to NBN Co’s new wholesale products without too much impact on customers,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

"We will await the next round of speed testing results with interest, to see if providers have improved their performance.”

Underperforming services, which represent about 13 per cent of all tested connections and are mostly fibre to the node (FTTN), continued to significantly impact the overall download speed results.

These services never come close to delivering the maximum speed promised, because of either limitations with some FTTN lines, or connection issues such as in-house wiring faults.

“We encourage customers who aren’t getting the maximum speeds to contact their internet service provider to ask whether the problem can be fixed or about moving onto a cheaper plan,” Mr Sims said.

This report includes, for the first time, a breakdown of speed results by NBN technology, reporting the performance of fibre to the premise (FTTP), FTTN and hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) networks.

The results show FTTP and HFC services deliver about 86 per cent to 87 per cent of maximum plan speeds at busy hours, compared to about 79 per cent for FTTN. However when underperforming services are removed, the results are comparable for all technologies, at almost 88 per cent. This demonstrates that with further work, many more FTTN customers could expect to see similar speeds on their current plans as customers on other NBN technologies.

All the NBN broadband technologies are currently delivering a faster broadband experience than ADSL, where the average speed is just 8.5 Mbps during busy hours.

“We expect NBN Co and RSPs’ focus to remain on fixing speed-related problems and ensuring consumers receive good speeds on their current plans, regardless of which NBN fixed-line technology is supplied to them,” Mr Sims said.

While the increased number of volunteers for the Measuring Broadband Australia program has allowed the ACCC to report on broadband speeds on a wider range of retailers, more participants are needed.

“The more volunteers that sign on, the more extensive and detailed information we can provide Australians to help them make informed decisions about NBN services,” Mr Sims said.

“We are especially in need of consumers with small RSPs or on lower speed plans, so please head to our website to sign up.”

Broadband customers can apply to be a volunteer by signing up at: https://measuringbroadbandaustralia.com.au/

Notes to editors

Testing of 25, 50, and 100 Mbps plans and ADSL services took place over 30 days during November 2018 and involved more than 980 NBN and ADSL services supplied by 15 RSPs, using 220,000 download speed tests. Results are statistically significant with a small sampling error.

“Busiest hour speeds” refers to the fifth lowest hourly average speed out of all the month’s busy hours (7pm to 11pm). This measurement indicates how well RSPs are managing congestion on their networks. This information was included in previous reports, but has, for the first time, been provided in the Measuring Broadband Australia consumer dashboard.

See also

Measuring Broadband Australia report

Broadband speed information for consumers

More information: Measuring Broadband Australia

Background

In April 2017 the Federal Government announced that it would fund the ACCC to launch a national broadband performance monitoring and reporting program, aimed at providing Australian consumers with accurate and independent information about broadband speeds through to 2021.

Program testing and data is provided by UK-based firm SamKnows using internationally tested methods similar to those used in established programs in the UK, US and Canada.

The program has a growing testing panel of more than 1500 volunteers in the field in readiness for the next quarter of testing and continues to collect expressions of interest from potential volunteers.

Underperforming services

A service is classed as “underperforming” if it rarely, if ever, records a download speed that is at least 75 percent of the plan speed. In the test period for the current report, 13 percent of NBN services tested were underperforming.

The MBA reports also record the proportion of NBN speed tests that fail to reach even 50 percent of the plan speed. In the current report, 7.4 percent of speed tests failed to reach this level. Most of these very low test results relate to underperforming services, although other NBN services tested can also record speeds at this very low level from time to time.

Two factors may result in FTTN services delivering substantially lower than the maximum plan speed - the distance of the home from the node, and issues with internal wiring within the home.

Consumers with underperforming services may fall into one of three categories:

  • The consumer may have chosen to sign up to a higher speed plan after being informed by their RSP that they would only receive a limited speed boost, because they sufficiently value additional speed to pay the higher plan fee. In some cases, the RSP may be offering the consumer a discount on the higher plan fee.
  • The consumer may have been put on to a higher speed plan on a special deal that only charges them the price of their original plan, but that may offer some increase to their maximum speed as a result.
  • The consumer may not have made a properly informed decision to sign up for the higher speed plan, because the RSP did not disclose that the plan speeds could not be achieved over the consumer’s current network connection.

The Australian Consumer Law applies in respect of underperforming services. RSPs must ensure they are providing accurate information and support to customers.

If consumers believe they are not getting the services promised they should raise the issue with their RSP in the first instance and, if necessary, lodge a complaint with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).

Figure 1. NBN plan speeds delivered during busy hours and the busiest hour

Aussie Broadband -1.0%
Dodo & iPrimus New
Exetel New
iiNet -5.0%
MyRepublic -0.1%
Optus -0.1%
Telstra -0.8%
TPG -2.3%
Aussie Broadband -1.4%
Dodo & iPrimus New
Exetel New
iiNet -18.6%
MyRepublic +5.7%
Optus +0.6%
Telstra -2.1%
TPG +2.6%
Aussie Broadband -1.4%
Dodo & iPrimus New
Exetel New
iiNet +1.1%
MyRepublic -0.2%
Optus +0.3%
Telstra -1.2%
TPG -3.2%
  • Busy hours = 7.00pm to 11.00pm.
  • Busiest hour = Fifth lowest hourly average speed out of all the month’s busy hours.
  • = Benchmark level 60%.
  • +- Percentage point changes compared with previous quarter's measurements.
  • Percent of maximum plan speed.

Figure 2. Potential speed excluding results that are unable to achieve maximum plan speeds during busy hours

  • indicates the boost to average speed if services not able to achieve maximum plan speeds were excluded from the overall results. These services include NBN FTTN connections not capable of delivering 50 Mbps. If you are a customer on a service that does not deliver expected speeds, contact your provider to ask whether the problem can be fixed or about moving onto a cheaper plan.

Figure 3. NBN and ADSL plan speeds delivered during busy hours by technology

  • All results
  • Potential speeds that could be delivered when excluding results that are unable to achieve maximum plan speeds
Release number: 
9/19
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