Fixed-line NBN broadband services reached a new performance high in February 2021, the ACCC’s thirteenth quarterly Measuring Broadband Australia report reveals.

Retail service providers achieved between 86.8 and 99.1 per cent of plan speeds across the major NBN fixed-line plans during the busy evening hours of 7 pm to 11 pm, the latest report shows. This is the highest result since the ACCC started the Measuring Broadband Australia program in 2018.

The difference in download speeds between retail service providers also narrowed slightly since December 2020. Overall, average download speeds were 95.7 per cent of plan speed during the busy evening hours, and 96.7 per cent during all hours of the day, marginally higher than in the December 2020 report.

“These latest results suggest the NBN is performing well and retail service providers are largely delivering what consumers expect and have paid for,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.

The performance gap between larger and smaller telcos narrowed in February 2021. Internet service provider Exetel improved the most, as its download speeds reached 98.7 per cent of plan speed during the busy evening hours, up 8.8 percentage points since the last report.

Exetel is a reseller that acquires NBN services from another provider, rather than buying directly from NBN. Exetel is now achieving results that are comparable with providers that directly connect to the NBN.

“These results suggest that a broader range of retailers, not just those that directly connect to the NBN, are able to achieve close to full plan speeds, which is good news for consumers and competition. This points to a further maturing of the broadband market,” Ms Brakey said.

In February 2021, consumers on NBN fixed wireless connections experienced average download speeds of 81.2 per cent of maximum plan speed across the day, declining to about 70.8 per cent during the busy hours of 7-11pm. This represents a small improvement since December 2020.

“Despite the decline during busy hours, consumers on the fixed wireless network are experiencing sufficient speeds to access a range of internet applications,” Ms Brakey said. 

The report also provides a first indicative view on the performance of very high speed NBN plans called ‘Home Ultrafast’. These are plans where the underlying wholesale product sold by NBN Co has a download speed range of 500-990 Mbps.

In February, consumers on Home Ultrafast NBN plans experienced average speeds between 608 and 745 Mbps. Between 7-11pm, performance fell by 23 per cent on average compared with the day’s maximum.

“We encourage consumers who are weighing up whether to upgrade to a very high speed tier to consider the value of these services relative to their normal daily usage,” Ms Brakey said.

“Most Australians have 50 Mbps speed plans which are capable of meeting the needs of a typical household, even when multiple devices are online at the same time.”

Figure 1. Average hourly download speed for very high speed plans

Web browsing and consumer experience

The ACCC has also released a report examining factors that can impact web browsing performance. It shows that the NBN access speed and retail service provider chosen by a consumer does not have a material impact on website browsing performance.

The report also shows that only small differences exist in web browsing performance for NBN25 plans and above.

“When choosing NBN plans, consumers should consider the number of people in their household that will be online at the same time and whether they use online applications that require higher levels of network speed and performance, such as gaming, video streaming and video conferencing,” Ms Brakey said.

Figure 2. Time to first visual and time to visually complete, split by NBN speed tier and target website

Website 1

Website 2

NBN plan (download/upload speed in Mbps)

  •   Time taken for the first visual object to load on the webpage
  •   Time taken for the whole webpage to load (visually complete)

Note: Website 1 is an online marketplace and Website 2 is an online platform that lists properties for sale and rental.

Figure 2 shows the two key metrics for each NBN speed tier in loading each of the websites used for the purpose of the tests:

  1. time taken for the first visual object to load on the webpage, and
  2. the time taken for the whole webpage to load (visually complete).

Renewal of the program and expansion into other networks

The ACCC welcomes the Federal Government’s announcement on 11 May 2021 that the Measuring Broadband Australia program will continue for an additional four years, until June 2025.

The program will continue to measure the typical speeds and performance of Australian’s home internet connections, and will now extend to additional regional and emerging market segments.

“Reliable information about broadband performance helps Australians make informed purchasing decisions. The renewed program will continue to make it easier for consumers to compare plans and shop around, and check that they receive what they are paying for,” Ms Brakey said.

The ACCC is seeking more volunteer households for the renewed program, particularly people using:

  • NBN fixed wireless services
  • NBN higher speed services (with download speeds greater than 100 Mbps)
  • alternative non-NBN high speed fixed-line networks and fixed wireless networks that compete with the NBN.

“We are interested in seeing how these broadband market segments are performing and look forward to receiving interest from consumers on these plans,” Ms Brakey said.

The ACCC encourages consumers to register their interest to volunteer. It is easy and free for volunteers to sign up. Volunteers benefit by having access to information about the performance of their broadband service.

To sign up, visit Measuring Broadband Australia

Notes to editors

Exetel is a ‘reseller’ because it does not directly connect to the NBN and instead acquires NBN wholesale aggregation services from other providers to supply retail NBN services.

The program currently measures retail service providers’ average performance against the maximum plan speed, aggregated for plans from NBN12 to NBN250 and across NBN fixed-line technologies in the report’s main metrics. The NBN very high speed services and NBN fixed wireless services are isolated from the main metrics of the report.