MyBroadband shows what's wrong with our broadband

MyBroadband shows what's wrong with our broadband

Summary: The government's audit of broadband availability may be riddled with errors and optimistic proclamations, but it lays the groundwork for the massive task ahead of the NBN's builders – even if it includes handing large swathes of Australia to HFC monopolists on a silver platter.


Like many who rushed to check their address against the government's long-awaited survey of broadband speeds, I was unsurprised by its findings: my area of suburban Melbourne, it has now apparently been confirmed as fact, scores an A grade in terms of ADSL availability but an E grade in terms of ADSL quality.

In other words, we can get broadband, but it's terrible. And I don't mean sort-of bad. Mine is one of 191 premises within the nearby area in the same position, which the myBroadband site readily informed us could expect a median ADSL speed of... wait for it... 3.79Mbps.

Monash Uni may be one of the country's largest and most high-tech, but nearby residents have C-grade HFC and D-grade ADSL services. Screenshot: David Braue

Of course, I knew this already – and documented it several years ago. MyBroadband describes this kind of speed thusly: "This is the lowest quality ADSL rating as the average speed of ADSL services delivered over the copper network in your area are low when compared to ADSL services available in other areas."

You don't say. Not only are ADSL services in my area now officially one-eighth as fast as the 25Mbps mooted by our new government, but my home, and 190 others, are apparently in the worst corner of the worst area of my suburb.

Things aren't much better elsewhere nearby: the 128 other E-grade ADSL victims in the area are given an estimated speed of 5Mbps, while nearby D-grade ADSL services are estimated at 6.59Mbps-plus. It's only when you get close enough for ADSL services to earn a C grade – homes that are about half as far from the local exchange – that you start getting double-digit speed predictions.

To get a B-grade score of around 19.56Mbps, you must live close enough to hit a cricket ball through the Telstra exchange's window; to get an A grade, you might as well be living in the lobby.

Since there is no overlap in Telstra exchange coverage, each home has exactly zero alternatives, except where HFC is available. Yet the numbers of poor-service homes are significant: in every suburb where large numbers of homes are radially connected to a central exchange – in other words, all of them – the area receiving D and E-grade services is far, far larger than the size of the area receiving A-grade services. Blame pi.

Fixing this issue is, of course, the basis for the Coalition's plan to install what is estimated as being around 60,000 to 80,000 FTTN nodes on every third street corner across the country, then complete the link over Telstra services that, despite pleas by the industry, it appears the government is determined to lease in accordance with last year's advice from NBN Co.

Given that my area has now been confirmed to be getting the worst ADSL Telstra has to offer, I'd like to think that it would be among the first areas prioritised for an upgrade under the new government's fibre-to-the-node policy.

Realistically, however, I know it will not – for the simple reason that there is HFC available in the area. It's pretty good HFC, too, supposedly: as MyBroadband cheerfully tells me, "The area surrounding your address has very good access to high quality services available on hybrid fibre coaxial cable networks."

If your myBroadband entry shows that there's HFC available in your neighbourhood, you can give up on getting alternative NBN infrastructure now. Never mind HFC's current inconsistencies – or the fact that the government actually has no claim on Optus or Telstra HFC networks.

This high rating allows my Overall Fixed Broadband Quality rating to be given as a B – the same as was given to another area where there was A HFC quality and B ADSL quality. In other words, as long as you've got good HFC, you're pretty much set in the government's mind; even terrible DSL doesn't affect your overall access to broadband. That's because NBN Co certainly isn't going go to the effort of fixing Telstra's copper and rolling out FTTN in areas where there's an HFC alternative; it was warned off of doing this last year.

Indeed, if your MyBroadband entry shows that there's HFC available in your neighbourhood, you can give up on getting alternative NBN infrastructure now. Never mind HFC's current inconsistencies – or the fact that the government actually has no claim on Optus or Telstra HFC networks and so, in the lack of necessary pro-competition controls that communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has so far refused to discuss – is basically handing a large chunk of the NBN to monopoly infrastructure operators.

There's always wireless, of course: the site happily informs me that I have "very good availability" of 3G and 4G mobile broadband that "may include 4G services providing 2-50 Mbps downstream and 1-10 Mbps upstream, but 3G services will be more widespread providing 1-20 Mbps downstream and up to 3Mbps upstream."

As if. If ever there were a noncommittal and inaccurate statement about mobile broadband, this would have to be it. I know from experience that real 4G services are at 1 bar in my area and are definitely on the low end of the 2-50 range, while 3G data is... less than magnificent.

By confirming that Telstra's network is just as bad as everyone has been saying – and positioning HFC as a natural alternative based on optimistic performance numbers – the MyBroadband site has provided a road map for a new NBN policy that will, in our most populous areas at least, be used by the government to justify rolling back telecommunications competition protections and, in many areas, handing a broadband monopoly to HFC operators.

The government may have intended myBroadband to give a clear indication of just how good we already have it, but – judging by the torrent of complaints and claims of inaccuracies on Whirlpool, Twitter and elsewhere – its main result has been to highlight how far we still have to go.

How did you go? Were your MyBroadband figures a surprise? Do they resemble your actual broadband experiences in any way? And, what are you expecting from the new NBN given your MyBroadband results?

Topics: NBN, 4G, Broadband, Government AU, Telcos, Optus, Telstra, Australia


Australia’s first-world economy relies on first-rate IT and telecommunications innovation. David Braue, an award-winning IT journalist and former Macworld editor, covers its challenges, successes and lessons learned as it uses ICT to assert its leadership in the developing Asia-Pacific region – and strengthen its reputation on the world stage.

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  • Clayton

    In my experience seeking the provision of services for customers, the Clayton area - (generally speaking) - has been difficult for many years, dating right back to the start of xDSL services in Australia in 2000.

    In fact, we used to groan when we'd see orders for Clayton pop-up, because you could almost be assured that you'd strike trouble. It has *improved*, but as your article suggests, it's still a problem area.

    Williamstown in Melbourne's west is in a similar boat. Much of the suburb is fine, but the western side of the suburb as you move towards Altona - (mostly in the industrial pockets) - is almost as bad as Clayton.
    • Funny thing is...

      There's no excuse for Clayton (or its surrounds) to be like that. Both Telstra's Global Operations Centre, and one of Telstra's major Australian data centres are located in Clayton. They are some of the most connected facilities in the whole country.

      But maybe I guess the problem is that both facilities are serviced mostly by fibre only, because that's the medium that telecommunication companies use to make sure data goes places with reliability and speed. Funny about how the current Minister for Communications thinks he knows better :p
  • Mine's better

    Actually, mine's significantly better than the site would suggest. "D" grade, 6 MBit, according to the site. But with my good quality FritzBox DSL router and newly rewired house I get a consistent and pretty stable 10-12 MBit to iiNet DSLAMs in the Maddington exchange across the river.

    That said, it's awfully optimistic about the 3G, which is usually one-bar service with several dead zones in the area. I had better, faster mobile broadband for 60 rupees per 300MB (about $1) on Vodafone India's network using only 2.5G EDGE when I was in the Himalayan foothills in the absolute middle of nowhere (Mukteshwar) last week. Australian telcos make some pretty dodgy claims about their network coverage and capabilities.
  • Assumptions

    The biggest problem with the MyBroadband website is the number of assumptions they make.

    Apparently I get a "D" for ADSL quality, that only seems to take into account the distance from the exchange. It doesn't care about the rotten copper cabling that can barely sustain a phone call, let alone high speed internet.

    HFC is "available", except if you live in an apartment, or are renting. Or worse, renting an apartment. Also, doesn't take into account congestion on the HFC network. Again, just assumes that everything must be A-OK because you've got a cable run down your street.

    You can see form the quality of this analysis, what we're going to get more of from NBN Co. from now on. We'll end up with FTTN, then a 1Mbs VDSL connection because the copper between the node and your house is submerged in water and rat carcasses. HFC will remain exactly the same, except maybe not owned by Optus/Telstra any more. People in apartments will just be forgotten about, and renters will get whatever the landlord can be bothered paying for (like normal, and will probably be nothing).
  • MyBroadband proves Telstra copper is too costly to remediate

    MAIT DA 73 scores a peak median connection speed of 3.79 Mbps. Except that of the many people I have canvassed in DA 73, not one has ever seen even 3 Mbps, more likely 1.8 like us. Even worse, despite a high-end Fritzbox router and Telstra technicians having tried every available copper pair, even tracing back into the next street, the connection fails repeatedly throughout the day and normally hits 108 Kbps daily.

    Mr Turnbull's tool has proven the opposite to his intention, namely, that the copper performs so badly that all talk of using it for FTTN is going to be too expensive. Thankfully, HFC cherrypicking in the 1990s missed us, so the only cost effective solution will be FTTP.

    FTTP will therefore be cheaper than FTTN to build, and we know it cost-recovers faster owing to customers choosing higher speeds to reduce other household expenses by using fibre-delivered services, and will break Telstra's monopoly in regional Australia, another policy objective of the project.

    The coalition will probably still insist on copper despite the evidence. And it will keep costing them elections.
    • I think that estimates given by the Telcos are overoptimistic

      "... based on the services likely to be available..."

      Although there were some speed tests, it seems like MyBroadband is mostly an estimate made using the distance to the exchange. In my area, everyone gets around 13-14 Mbps but the site is stating that the estimated median speed is 18.04 Mbps. Nobody can achieve that "median" speed which makes no sense. A median speed must be achievable by at least 50% of the customers.
      • That is not median speed

        Median is the mid point value of the sample. So if there are 101 values for speed in your area, it takes the 51st value as the median value, as there are 50 values above and below it. If there are a 100 values then it take the average of the 49th and 50th values.
  • I hope NBN fix the issues

    I hope these issues can be fixed by NBNCo as soon as possible, we can't afford to have this type of services long term. When it comes to ensuring optimal internet speed, FTTP is better than going copper in many ways. It is much faster than copper due to its light weight composition. It is also not conducting and not powered at a high voltage, unlike copper wires which are open faced. Also, it is more secure . Copper wires radiate signals, but fibre optic cables are more secure. Cost might be the setback, but in the longrun, FTTP would still cheaper.
  • This government is full of false information

    I currently live in the Noarlunga Downs Area near river road, SA, which is seperates my area from the majority of Noarlunga Downs and lops my house in with Seaford and Moana who have a ADSL grade of service A. The issue is that over 100 houses are in the area I live in and no one can get ADSL, we have to have AdamMax and we are no where near the Seaford Exchange.

    How can the government get away with misleading people and providing false information they obtained from Telstra. The rest of Noarlunga has a grade of service E.
    • Because

      "How can the government get away with misleading people and providing false information"

      It is their normal modus operandi and their media mates are no better
      Abel Adamski
    • Re: This government is full of false information

      Better for you to ask why the Murdoch media don't hold them to account like they did Labor and ponder that for a while...
  • To answer

    "what are you expecting from the new NBN given your MyBroadband results?"

    Nothing much. I know so much of the copper in my area is R.S even though they replaced the copper in my court as it was unuseable.

    No way would I pay more than the minimum service as it would be too unreliable and not worth it, besides without the exchange voltage and occasional phone call to my unused number to wet the joints it will be even more unreliable.

    Poor Fella Australia. Tony and Rupert have truly screwed us
    Abel Adamski
  • "prioritised for an upgrade"

    I think you may be expecting a bit much with your statement, you would expect you to be "prioritised for an upgrade under the new government's fibre-to-the-node policy".
    You are still in a area with "A grade in terms of Fixed line availability". Areas with no internet, then areas with no fixed line internet, would both be higher priority than areas with just slow fixed line connections.
  • Everybody's to blame.

    Including the tech community, with it's columnists that pressured NBN Co and Conroy for daily updates on numbers of connections and endless criticism with every missed target.
    Everybody wanted NBN in their house tomorrow when that was clearly impossible.
    It's quite clear that the whole process was gong to start slowly, from building an extensive backbone and support infrastructure and then the build up and training of staff for the cable layouts.
    It was always clear that is was going to take between 10-15 years to complete, those not posted on the queues just got out of hand with their selfishness.
    Some in the tech community thought that Malcolm Turnbull was Jesus and was going to save us all, combined with the "hatred and mistrust of Conroy" over the internet filter (the filter was proposed by Conroy purely to secure the vote of Fielding in the senate to allow the NBN to proceed, Conroy being a friend of Fielding and of similar religious persuasion). Conroy never had the intention of proceeding with the filter once the backlash started, he never attempted to rush it in or attempt to expedite it's implementation.
    Mr Fraudband isn't Jesus, he's Judas, a slick conman that led people to believe he was going to deliver a desperately needed improvement in delivery of better services (just not a very high quality service). He took advantage of peoples ignorance, with his techno speak and to give the impression he was an expert when he wasn't.
    Labor's cost estimates were on the very low side, but the people were always prepared to back the higher costs, it's because the low side estimates were used Fraudband was able to lie about costs.
    It would have been a lot better if Rudd when deposed, jumped from the roof of parliament house or had a bad accident on the way home. A less tight parliamentary margin would have allowed Gillard to dump Thompson instantly and never hire Slipper.
    The chickens are coming home to roost for Mr Fraudband, now the non delivery of an inferior system is his problem especially with a possible cost cutting approach by "I'm no tech head Kerry" in the upcoming budget. Politicians aren't engineers, that's the problem largely lawyers (ignorant, uneducated assholes who'd primary aim in life is to screw people), when seriously educated people are really needed in government.
    Kevin Cobley
  • slow ADSL

    I'm on the edge of the Lonsdale exchange and on a good day get 3Mbps/0.8Mbps. During a thunderstorm it's nothing.
    No HFC and poor 3G, no 4G.
    No luck of anything better for years.
  • Situation NORMAL..

    Tu*dbull is just your average con artist and a poor one at best.

    All Australian Telco's and ISP's (Telstra is the worst!), are only interested is their bottom line profit. They don't give a sh*t about the country or the fact it's on a par with a country outhouse, caused by a government & dumb politicians who's only interest is staying in power, (with one or two exceptions). Most don't have a clue, & worse, no communications engineering expertise.

    We might have been the lucky country in the 20th century, but that dream has long gone. Our communications & technological expertise has degraded to 3rd world levels. Many 3rd world countries are in better shape & our status won't improve as long as we have birdbrain politicians running the country.

    Wake up MT. We need FTTP, not your dumbed down FTTN & worse. Pull your head out of your ar*e.
  • Turnbull's lack of credibility.

    "What a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive."

    3.79Mbps..I wish!
    O.68Mbps here & 1 bar Telstra mobile a few spots out in the yard.
    But according to myBroadband it's 7.3Mbps Average & Good mobile coverage, lol. No mention of no ports for anyone else in our street so Neighbours using dongles & rooftop aerials.
  • No Ports ?

    It will only get worse.
    No ISP, including Telstra & Optus, will install additional DSLAM ports, assuming of course, Telstra will give the ISP's space, or more space, in their exchanges to house the DSLAM equipment.
    Why you may ask ?

    The answer is simple.... No profit (in their opinion) because the NBN is coming !

    REALLY !

    A joke since MT is still dithering over what to do & want's to install FTTN, for god's sake !

    If ! when ! we ever get a fibre network, and MT has his way, it will be a mess of the 1st order.

    He doesn't have a clue.
    • Actually he does have a clue.

      Turnbull long ago started investing his own cash in FTTH networks in France & Spain but Murdoch doesn't want his main cash cow in Foxtel's massive profit margins eroded by competition from the popular & much cheaper overseas services offering far superior high definition content that requires a national FTTH network for market viability.

      So we now spend $41Billion+ to upgrade & maintain privately owned HFC & "10 minutes to midnight copper" for a few more years on expensive FTTN life support before junking the lot in order to catch up with the rest of the planet already on fibre.
  • I blame r^2

    not pi