Australian internet: Still slower than the rest

Australian internet: Still slower than the rest

Summary: New research by Akamai shows that Australia's has one of the slowest internet speeds in the world in comparison to a number of other countries.

TOPICS: Broadband, NBN

It's true even though it might not seem like it, the internet is getting faster — even here in Australia.

Sadly, a 38 percent spurt in average speeds — as measured by the latest Akamai State of the Internet Report — still has us seventh from the bottom of all 34 OECD nations. That's the same place in the league table as a year ago. Not exactly where a remote nation in the South Pacific wants to be if it wants to be a serious contender in the emerging digital economy.

At the other end of the scale, South Korea has gone on leaps and bounds — up 56 percent to an average speed of 21.9 megabits per second (Mbps). That's almost four times the average Aussie connection of 5.8 Mbps.

Australia and New Zealand are stuck at the bottom of the list along with an assortment of economic basket cases: Chile, Mexico, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. Map internet speeds related to wealth — however you want to measure it — and Australia is clearly at the bottom of the table.

Akami_Internet Report
(Image: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet)

So, why has South Korea suddenly led further ahead of the pack? Simply, more people have faster connections. The proportion hooked up to speeds faster than 10 Mbps has risen from 49 percent in Q4 2012 to 71 percent in Q4 2013. In Australia only 9.7 percent of connections hit that speed, although that's a significant improvement on 3.9 percent a year ago.

Let's use these stats for the inevitable NBN technologies discussion (the author lights the blue touch paper and waits for the explosion).

The node-ridden British Isles currently enjoys average speeds 62 percent higher those we are struggling with in the antipodes. 30 percent have speeds faster than 10 Mbps — more than three times the penetration in Australia. In fact a year ago, the poms were pretty close to where Australia is today where their average broadband speed was 6.5 Mbps, our is now 5.8 Mbps; their penetration over 10 Mbps was 11 percent, here in Australia it's currently 9.7 percent. So presumably, if we could see a tripling of the penetration of speeds over 10 Mbps in the next 12 months, we can again follow the path of the Brits.

Like it or not, doing that probably means lots of cabinets on street corners.

Or we can slide down the path, waiting for the day when fibre utopia takes us from the bottom of the table right to the top. Like that's going to happen! Surely, common sense suggests we have two plans — one to help us keep up, and one to pump us a few places up the table in the longer term.

Topics: Broadband, NBN


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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  • Hello?


  • Malcolm Replies

    No Time to answer you or wait for a CBA Rr. Am far too busy setting up more staged reviews & sacking all pre-existing highly competent personel that I'm quickly replacing with my hand picked compliant associates.
  • So free wifi lowers average speeds! So what

    Phil, Akamai cannot tell if you are downloading your iTunes from your home wired, home wifi or free street corner wifi connection. This means as more and more wifi is rolled out speeds in countries where it is provided most will reduce!

    This comparison is not worth quoting, the variables of collection make comparisons meaningless

    We published the best form of speed comparison recently on, but without good data from Australia we cannot yet compare so we are keen to find more Australian volunteers to enable more informative comparisons
    • Free will never be fast.

      I'm not a wi-fi fan at the best of times. Just like any other saturated radio signal, it is helping to destroy our health. On the very few occasions that I have had to resort to wi-fi (where did the word fidelity ever come into this?), the "provider" has spent most of the funds meeting legislative and security requirements (i.e., you're not going to successfully torrent in the middle of a Macdonalds), and the least funds in providing the actual service. If you were paying $1 per hour access and plugging straight into an Ethernet port, then you could expect Internet Cafe grade service. It has been my experience that free wi-fi makes dial-up in a phonebox with an accoustic modem a viable choice.
  • Where's the Gasp! Schlock! Horror! in this story?

    When my ADSL2+ modem died and I had to rely on dial-up while awaiting the replacement, the biggest hindrance was UPLOAD speed (probably because of how big my internal cache was) so, on visiting sites like this, most of the graphics were already accessible, and it was only the text that needed updating. However, sending multi-gig customer files was beyond a joke, and if my customer file sizes keep growing while net-speeds remain static, it will once again become viable to pray that AusPost can deliver a hard drive or memory card without damaging it.

    Yes, Australian Internet is slow and mostly because we have the wrong infrastructure. We do not have true "inter-net". Because of the corporate hash that runs the 'net we have "tree-net". You data has to go through your retail IAP to the wholesale IAP (maybe a few more levels) and, then, because the big wigs won't talk to each other at a respectable cost, your data probably also has to hop the ocean and back again before trickling down through the branches back to your machine. If a "limb" is damaged, everyone below that damage point is offline until further notice.

    As an example, why cannot iiNet and Dodo talk directly to each other, without having to go uplines and down again through Telstra/Optus/Whomever? The NBN whether FttP or FttN will suffer the same infrastructure problems. I said above, I'm no fan of wi-fi, but there's a comparatively new project out there called Mesh-Net (q.v.). With properly configured wi-fi and a gentleman's handshake with your neighbor, it is quite possible that your data can jump from one household to the next (assuming you're sending a message in your local town), eventually finding its way to the target without ever having passed through an IAP. Further, that data is encrypted so that even friendly participants are handing on a closed parcel rather than felt-tip postcard.

    We have known for a long time that Australia is over-priced and under-resourced in the data distribution field. My home is already Gigabit-ready, and by the time the NBN rolls past the door it will probably be Terabit-ready (although I doubt the service will be).

    Remember too, that when your network is inactive but your modem remains connected, you and your IAP are constantly exchanging Zeroes just to verify that the connection is still vaild which begs the question, why do we pay for "data"? Those billions of transistors are doing the same amount of work whether it's data or "Here I am! Here I am!", just like SCSI hardware spent 50% of its time figuring out whether it was a hard drive or a scanner.

    Once zero-maintenance (accidents and Acts of God [which God?] permitting) optical fibre is in the ground, the cost should be a standard amount for connection, and the speed should only be restricted by the level of technology at the time. Data costs should be thrown out the window.
  • Available speed and choice?

    100 Mbit speeds are available to a lot of Australians.

    Both Optus and Telstra cable are 100 Mbit or better. The only major impediment to speed is slow upload speeds.

    A lot of the uptake of slow internet in Australia is driven by marketing.

    Most people choosing these slow services never realise that a fast service is affordable.

    If we simply switched more people to these faster services our average speed would would improve and so would our ranking.

    Price is not always the issue... as the cheapest cable plans are often similar in price to ADSL... but unlimited downloads offered with many ADSL plans are often a deciding factor... so slightly more generous cable plans might do a lot to swing usage to cable?

    • Re: Available speed and choice?

      "100 Mbit speeds are available to a lot of Australians. Both Optus and Telstra cable are 100 Mbit or better. The only major impediment to speed is slow upload speeds."
      Well what in your definition is "a lot"? Newcastle, the largest non-capital city in the country has zero percent cable. Big fat zero. It has a handful of suburbs with FTTP in the entire Hunter region.

      Haves vs have nots. If you want fast internet in the next 10-20 years, you need to buy a home in an area with infrastructure or next to an exchange. There are practically no nodes yet so you can't really move next to a node yet.
    • What Choice?

      Only choice here is ADSL 1 or 2 subject to port availability (none at our exchange).
      So we paid extra to 'upgrade to ADSL2'.
      Exactly the same crap speed as we had on ADSL1 at well below 0.6Mbps thanks to the length & state of the copper Malcolm conveniently insists is our salvation now without waiting for his CBA.
    • Ha Ha Ha

      You are joking aren't you. I live within pushbike commuting distance cbd Sydney. My ADSL2+ has never achieved a download speed in excess of 1.5Mbps. My upload speed are so slow that I wait and go to cafés to send emails if I have attachments.
      Telstra refuse to address the issue. The party line is that my performance is within specification.
      But I'll bet I'm one of the 9.7% that Telstra claim is connected to a > 10Mbps link.
      Astro Bot
  • Speed might be available but you might not get it.

    Yes telstra and Optus offer 100mbps service but it is an only upto service and a lot of those people are not getting even half that speed because of congestion. There is a reason only 900,000 people are only using cable out of the 3mil footprint MT wants to use because it can't handle the amount of users on it already.
  • Speed might be available but you might not get it.

    Yes telstra and Optus offer 100mbps service but it is an only upto service and a lot of those people are not getting even half that speed because of congestion. There is a reason only 900,000 people are only using cable out of the 3mil footprint MT wants to use because it can't handle the amount of users on it already.
  • Even the Chinese have better

    than we have !

    I Skype with my son in Hong Kong.
    My upload speed is 2.4Mbps (ADSL2+M), download is 16Mbps. My son (in HK) makes me so envious. He is Skyp'ing to me @ over 350Mbps, UP & DOWN. My link speed screws the video definition.

    We are worse than a 3rd world country, all thanks to the mess of old 19th century technology & NO prospect of it improving for 20 years,..if we're lucky, AND ! the likes of our manipulative Comms Sen. Tu*dbull pulls his head out of his A*se ! and stops playing funny buggers with us.

    He is just another politician who's only interest is enhancing his own ego!