Monitoring Shows Improvement in Australian Broadband

Australian consumers experienced generally improved speeds on fixed-line NBN services during the last quarter, including during the high-demand evening period. That’s the world from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in a new report Measuring Broadband Australia. 

This latest report, the fifth since the Measuring Broadband Australia series was launched, was compiled with data from a growing pool of almost 1000 volunteers Australia-wide, who used a variety of retail service providers (RSPs) and technologies in February 2019.

RSPs’ download speeds generally increased compared to the previous quarter, including during the busy evening hours of 7pm to 11pm. This followed a dip in performance during the previous testing period, which may have been due, in part, to RSPs migrating their customers to new wholesale products offered by NBN Co.

Exetel and Dodo/iPrimus both improved their speed test performance, after their results were included for the first time in the previous report.

For the busy hours, iiNet posted the biggest improvement for download speeds, while TPG achieved the highest percentage of its maximum download speed.

“It is good to see providers improving their performance in recent months, including those whose performance was seen to be lagging in our previous report,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“We believe the additional transparency and scrutiny provided by our monitoring program has helped lift speeds across RSPs.”

This report also examines whether RSPs’ performance matches their advertised speeds.

Most RSPs are achieving average speeds on their NBN broadband plans across the busy hours that meet or exceed the typical plan speeds they advertise for the busy evening periods.

Some consumers continue to experience underperforming services that never achieve close to their maximum advertised plan speed. This situation impacted 13 per cent of volunteers in the MBA program, including one in four fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) services on plans with a maximum speed of 50 and 100 Mbps.

These underperforming services continued to significantly impact the overall download speed results. In addition, this latest report finds that these services have a relatively higher latency, meaning the users may have a less reliable experience for uses like video calls and online gaming, even where there are adequate speeds to support such applications.

“RSPs need to continue to monitor their networks to ensure their speed claims are realistic, and we expect NBN Co and RSPs to work harder together to help consumers achieve the speeds they are paying for,” Mr Sims said.

“We will be watching to see how companies respond to customers who aren’t getting the advertised speeds on their current plans, and we will act on misleading speed and performance claims made by providers.”

“Consumers should also ask whether their service could be being affected by in-house wiring issues, which in many cases can be remedied through a visit from a technician.”

For the first time, the Measuring Broadband Australia report includes data on the frequency of outages on NBN services for major RSPs, a bugbear for many consumers.

Most volunteers experienced less than one outage of 30 seconds or more per day, depending on their RSPs. However Optus customers experienced, on average, more than 1.5 outages per day.

“We expect this new reporting to drive retailers to improve their service on outages, as it has with lifting speed performances,” Mr Sims said.

“There are various reasons why an outage may occur, so we encourage consumers experiencing a high rate of drop-outs to contact their RSP to discuss whether they have a fault with their connection or modem.”

Services delivered on the NBN continue to outperform ADSL services. Consumers on NBN plans with a maximum speed of 25 Mbps received average download speeds of 22.7 Mbps during the busy hours compared to the 7.2 Mbps speed received by ADSL users.

While the number of volunteers for the Measuring Broadband Australia program has continued to increase, the ACCC says more participants are needed.

“Measuring Broadband Australia provides Australians with the data they need to make informed decisions about which providers are performing well, and which ones have room for improvement,” Mr Sims said.

“More volunteers will enable us to provide information that is reliable and useful for all Australians, regardless of their RSP, technology or speed plan.”

Data for the latest report was collected in February 2019. The previous testing period was during November 2018.

Australia’s Communications Alliance welcomed the further improvements in the fixed-line broadband speeds being delivered to Australian consumers, as demonstrated by the ACCC’s Measuring Broadband Australia report.

“The positive performance against advertised speeds has been consistently demonstrated by the ACCC’s data over the previous four reports, and we welcome the ACCC’s inclusion of this important metric in today’s report,” said Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton.

Communications Alliance noted that the reporting of performance against advertised speeds would be improved if it took account of the existence of underperforming lines, the inclusion of which depressed the results of some providers.

Stanton also said “we are pleased to see that consumers are receiving further improvements in speeds delivered. All elements of the broadband supply chain are committed to working together to continue this trend.”

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