Up to speed: Australians want it faster, sooner

Up to speed: Australians want it faster, sooner

Summary: The latest ZDNet Australia speedtest results show that our appetite for speed is insatiable.

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TOPICS: Broadband, Telcos, NBN
9

The anti-NBN argument that we don't need faster internet has always been spurious. The latest ZDNet Australia speedtest results show that our appetite for speed is insatiable.

Between May and June last year, 28 per cent of tests on the ZDNet Australia broadband speedtest recorded speeds in excess of 8Mbps. In the last two months of the year this had risen to 32 per cent.

(Credit: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet Australia)

Telstra and Optus are driving a lot of this growth — clearly there's a push to drive traffic onto their hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks. Between May and October of 2011, 36 per cent of Telstra BigPond tests reported speeds exceeding 8Mbps. In December that figure had risen to 41 per cent. For Optus, 42 per cent of tests showed speeds of over 8Mbps between May and October; that rose to 45 per cent in December. Both sets of figures are based on home, fixed-line connections only. They negate the argument that people don't want faster speeds — there's a sizeable chunk of the online community that seem to be leaping on the broadbandwagon.

It's not just cable that's driving this growth either. Our speedtest results show that other providers are also seeing their customer bases moving up to higher speeds.

TPG, for example, has seen speeds between 8 and 20Mbps increasing from 23 per cent between May and October to 25 per cent in December 2011. Almost a third of all tests by Dodo customers were below 1.5Mbps earlier in 2011, but that figure had fallen to less than a quarter by December.

(Credit: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet Australia)

This reduction in the number of "slowpokes" experiencing speeds less than 1.5Mbps has seen Dodo catch up when we look at the average speed recorded for all the major internet service providers (ISPs). Clearly, these figures are influenced by Telstra and Optus' HFC advantage, but we can see that all providers are seeing incremental speed growth over a very short time frame.

Imagine if all ISPs had access to the same infrastructure as Telstra and Optus. Wouldn't we expect to see average speeds of around 10Mbps, rather than the December average of 8.4Mbps? Do we really believe that this month-on-month growth will suddenly reach a ceiling?

For now, the need for speed is showing no sign of slowing. The big difference between providers demonstrates that it's infrastructure that is the constraint, not consumer choice.

Topics: Broadband, Telcos, NBN

About

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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9 comments
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  • That's an extremely long bow to draw... The speeds are increasing on speed test because of demand? Could you also look at it as networks are getting better or even Optus and Telstra HFC networks are CHEAPER then adsl so they are pushing people on to them. Would you make the inverse comment if you find out that speeds go down this month? Some other reasons arey... Could this be in part because people upgraded to keep their kids entertained during the holidays or could it have been that business were not doing back ups so those testing got better throughput. There are so many better explanations then the one you have given for this increase. and one month trend is NOT a trend. Make the trend run over the last year and I will give this article some kind of credit.
    schneider82
    • @ChrisS9:

      The first graph shows an 8 months worth of data, not one month.

      HFC is $10 more expensive than ADSL2+ on Bigpond. Optus doesn't make the distinction. So price does not appear to be an issue.

      As for "people upgraded to keep their kids entertained during the holidays", aside from the fact that the trend is over eight month, which rules this out, changing Internet plans is not something people just do on a temporary basis (as many are on contract). And it wouldn't normally help with speed anyway, since speed tiers are no longer widely used by ISPs - most people just get the maximum speed their line supports, and there's nothing they can do to "upgrade" it, other than changing from say ADSL2+ to HFC or to the NBN (not something you'd do "just for the holidays", and still supports the article's contention that people are opting for speed).

      And if businesses doing enough backups to actually cause congestion all over Australia (which is what the data represents geographically), then they most likely wouldn't stop doing it over the holidays as that would be a pretty poor data security policy (and again the 8 month trend denies this "theory").

      What would make a difference though is that HFC networks are being upgraded to support higher speeds, and people will automatically get upgraded to higher speeds (eg. from 20 Mbps to 100 Mbps) when the upgrades are finished - but then again, these people had to choose HFC first, and you would normally only do that if you wanted superior speed to ADSL2+. Also, most of the upgrades to the major cities should have already been completed by time the data used in this article was accumulated, although upgrades on ongoing in other areas.

      Another factor could be improvement in the mobile broadband network and the hardware used to access the network (eg. faster 3G phones, 4G).

      And an important factor which may give the results bias is that people who run speed tests (which is where I assume these data comes from, the ZDNet speed test tool) are very likely people who care about speed, maybe even care about it a lot.

      The best way to find out if people are choosing speed over everything else is to actually look at plans that do have speed tiers, and see what people are choosing. Data from Telstra's fibre based Velocity estates, and early data from the NBN, suggest that highest speed tier (100 Mbps) is actually the most popular speed choice at the moment, despite people having to pay more to access these higher speeds (especially in Telstra Velocity estates).
      DVDGuy
      • Thanks DVDGuy - couldn't have put it better myself. It is a trend. Mobile broadband has nothing to do with it though - I should have stated these are fixed connections only. We will soon be gathering data on connection type, which will help split DSL from fibre from HFC. We'll also be asking postcode so I can see the extent of the regional divide.
        phildobbie
  • The first graph shows two month increments for 8 months. That looks like a trend.
    phildobbie
  • I think you're miscalculating the statistics as it shows people 'wanting' faster speeds but negate the data that they will 'pay' for it.
    100Mbps services are already available but I'm afraid the subscribers list does not reflect this data.
    cootified
  • Really? Everyone I know has a speed between 1.5 - 5.0 mbp/s mostly in the 2.5 mb/s. We really need the fibre
    sanny-7826b
    • As the graph shows, the vast majority are still below 8Mbps, but it is changing.
      phildobbie
    • I dont think everyone around you constitutes for the entire Australian population
      deteego
  • Sigh, I just wish my sole ADSL1 option here was even capable of providing a paltry 1.5 mb/s
    grump-a1eeb