Up to speed: Telstra and Optus race ahead

Summary:The latest data from ZDNet's Broadband Speedtest not only shows how Optus is vying with Telstra for leadership in the broadband speed stakes, but also how the two of them are way ahead of the pack.

At work

Just over 8 per cent of the 980,000 Australian speed tests were performed from work. As you might expect, it was harder to detect the provider in many of these cases — in fact, more than half of all tests came back "unable to detect". Of those that were identifiable, Connexus Internet came out on top, averaging 21.6Mbps for each of the 288 tests run. For the results where the provider was not identified ("other" networks — which accounted for 43,122 tests) the average was 11.1Mbps, still quite a way ahead of Telstra BigPond at 9.4Mbps. Of course, many of those other networks could well be provided by Telstra, or Optus, or any other provider, but if the IP range is addressed to the corporation concerned we have no way of knowing.

Let's also remember that the Connexus results are averaged over a small number of users, whereas the Telstra BigPond and OptusNet figures come from 14,297 and 4089 tests, respectively.

The growth of wireless

The number of speed tests performed from mobile devices has also increased over the last six months. While mobile access accounted for 2 per cent of speed tests in May, it accounted for 2.9 per cent in October. In the last six months mobile users averaged a connection speed of 2.74Mbps.

An analysis of the service providers used for each speed test would seem to indicate that the major players (Telstra BigPond and OptusNet) are rapidly increasing their share of the mobile broadband market. TPG is also seeing some growth (albeit from a lower base), while other major ISPs are struggling to hold their share. These figures could be influenced by the vagaries of IP addressing, of course; for example, resellers of one network could be included in the carrier's figures. That said, it wouldn't be a surprise to anyone if network operators did what they could to promote their own retail offering at the expense of their wholesale customers.

You'll notice Vodafone is conspicuous by its absence — it is no doubt included in the massive "other" figure for wireless, which accounts for 30 per cent of the market.

So why are the big carriers doing so well, and the others not so? Well, for Telstra it's almost certainly a question of speed. Over the six months from May to October 2011, the average speed for a Telstra wireless connection was 4Mbps. Although iiNet and Internode aren't far behind, it was Optus, which averaged just 2.1Mbps, that seemed to be gathering the most share. That would seem to indicate that, beyond a certain speed, it's price that influences purchase choice. (Unless, of course, Optus customers are so unhappy with the speeds they're getting that they keep going back to the Speedtest to check it!)

* Initially, in the performance charts on this and the previous page, we used the term "latency". As this score is not the same as technical latency, we have corrected the references to read "Time To First Byte" (or TTFB) — a measurement that represents the duration from the user making an HTTP request to the first byte of the page being received by the browser. We apologise for the confusion — the measurements still indicate the relative real-world responsiveness of the various providers.


Topics: Networking, Mobility, NBN, Telcos


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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