Video conferences and streaming services tested but holding up well

8 July 2020

Steps taken by NBN Co and service providers meant that broadband speeds and connectivity held up well during May 2020 despite a big increase in the use of video conferencing and streaming services due to COVID-19.

The ACCC’s Critical Services Report, released today, examines the ability of NBN fixed-line broadband connections to support a number of popular video-conferencing and streaming services.

“Now the NBN roll-out has reached the majority of Australians, it is timely to look at the integral role broadband has played in supporting Australians at this critical time,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“This report details how well NBN broadband services held up during May when Australians were increasingly dependent on video-calling for work, education and connecting with family and friends because of the pandemic,” Mr Sims said.

Video conferencing applications hosted in Australia connected more quickly than those hosted overseas, the report shows. Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Skype recorded latency up to ten times lower on their Australian-based servers, than those video conferences hosted overseas.

Latency refers to the delay in receiving and responding to data and is dependent on the distance to servers where applications are hosted. Longer delays, or higher latency, are likely to lead to disjointed conversations during a video call.

Consumers in Western Australia enjoyed the lowest latency using Skype due to Skype being hosted on local servers, while slower test results for Google Meet and Microsoft Teams in WA are consistent with those servers being hosted on the East Coast.

The report also finds that streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube were typically downloading faster in May 2020 than during February 2020. 

“NBN Co’s decision at the outset of COVID-19 restrictions in March to offer retail service providers 40 per cent extra network capacity for no extra cost was a major factor in preserving the quality of broadband services for consumers,” Mr Sims said.

Service providers put in place various mitigations to alleviate pressure and congestion on broadband networks. That included Retail Service Providers (RSPs) provisioning more network capacity, and streaming providers, such as Youtube and Netflix, reducing their picture quality.

“The faster broadband speeds in the report show the NBN could have delivered more streamed content in May 2020, which is good news for consumers as streaming providers move to restore their usual picture quality,” Mr Sims said.

“The report also shows that the video conference platforms work equally well across both NBN 50 and NBN 100 plan speeds.”

Results from seven of the eight RSPs tested were used for the video streaming analysis. MyRepublic was excluded from the aggregate analysis due to factors not related to the NBN. All collected data concerns test communications that were initiated by the Measuring Broadband Australia (MBA) testing device, which does not involve monitoring or logging user activity.

The ACCC will release further Critical Service Reports,  as well as the regular in-depth quarterly MBA report, later in 2020.

Broadband customers can apply to be a volunteer at measuringbroadbandaustralia.com.au

Correction

An earlier version of this media release, issued on 8 July 2020, contained references to Zoom and Webex (Cisco) hosting servers internationally which have been removed from this version.

The ACCC Critical Services Report is based on free accounts for video conferencing services.

Zoom and Webex (Cisco) advised us that in addition to hosting video conferences on servers based overseas, they also host video conferences on servers based in Australia.

Whether a video conference is hosted from a domestic or international server can depend on such factors as where the account is created, whether it is a basic or premium (paid) account, and the overall demand at the time. It is not known how much traffic is off-loaded onto international servers. 

Further information is available at:

Critical Services Report Part 1

Broadband speed information for consumers

More information: Measuring Broadband Australia

Fixed-line broadband customers can apply to be a volunteer by signing up at: measuringbroadbandaustralia.com.au

Background

In April 2017, the Federal Government announced that it would fund the ACCC to run an independent national broadband performance monitoring and reporting program to provide 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.

 

Release number: 
139/20
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Media team - 1300 138 917

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