Up to speed: Telstra and Optus race ahead

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.


By providers

Another interesting bit of information our test collects is the service provider being used by the tester. We all know that Telstra has a clear lead when it comes to broadband subscribers. What's surprising is that in the six months from May to October, TPG beat OptusNet to place second (fourth-place iiNet scored roughly half the tests of TPG). Providers such as Netspace, People Telecom and Unwired accounted for a fraction of 1 per cent of total tests.

Now it's dangerous to assume that these figures are truly representative of market share. For a start, 19 per cent of tests could not be allocated to a specific provider (due to changes in IP addresses). We should also be aware that some service providers attract a more "techie" crowd — a crowd more predisposed to periodic speed testing of their connections. There could also be a bias if a provider were to offer a lower standard of service, drawing more people to perform periodic speed checks.

That said, tracking such a large amount of data should be able to provide an indication of shifts in the share of each provider. BigPond's dominance, for example, has slipped slightly — falling from 36.1 per cent of tests in May to 35.3 per cent in October. Optus suffered a 2 per cent drop, from 13.5 per cent to 11.5 per cent. TPG and Internode also fell around 1 per cent, while iiNet and Dodo picked up a similar amount of share. We can't be entirely sure that this is indicative of the market, but it seems to hint that the big players aren't necessarily just getting bigger.

By performance

So here's the crux of the Speedtest: what speeds are users actually getting? There are, of course, several caveats. Results could depend on what plans people are on and the quality of their connection. For example, if one provider averages a higher speed than another, it could be because the first provider doesn't offer lower speeds.

The upshot is: we can't equate fast speed results with a better-quality network. That said, if we look at the results recorded, there's no denying that Optus and Telstra are way out in the lead. They are offering average speeds of 9.6Mbps and 8.8Mbps, respectively. That's a fair way ahead of Internode, TPG and iiNet who are struggling to average 6Mbps.

While Optus might be the winner in the average speed stakes, let's remember that Telstra has many more customers. As the graph shows, we're not just seeing variations in speed — performance (or Time To First Byte) results also differ enormously. NetSpeed offers the lowest TTFB at an average of 492 milliseconds (based on 671 speed tests) whereas Unwired lags (so to speak) well behind the rest at 1872 milliseconds (based on 638 tests). The good news is: if you are with one of the larger providers you will enjoy comparatively low TTFB — Optus, BigPond, Internode, iiNet and TPG all fall below an average of 700 milliseconds. Primus is slightly above that level (721 milliseconds) and Dodo lets the side down with 1119 milliseconds (based on 18,457 tests).

* Initially, in the performance charts on this and the following 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: Broadband, Telcos, Optus, Telstra, 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.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Telstra is so awesome that 12km from Canberra CBD I am on a RIM service where I can regularly get speeds of up to 500kbps and because of the eventual NBN roll out they do not plan on upgrading it. Thanks guys.
    • Weej, I assume from your comment that you live in the northern part of Canberra, you should try TransACT's point to point wireless product which is available in the RIM fed area, providing you can see the hill with our tower (most houses can), you should be able to get 5mbps download 1 mbps upload.

      Ivan Slavich
      Ivan Slavich
    • weej

      A victim of comercial realites. Some may have to wait years due to NBN snail pace. whilst the watch dog is having a self fame ball.
      Vasso Massonic
      • To be fair Telstra were not interested in upgrading the service in our area before the NBN was announced either. It has been something the local residents have been trying to get fixed for years without success, but guess what. Telstra don't care.
  • 900 ms average latency? Congratulations to ZDNet for putting the test-node in orbit. Latency of a geosynchronous satellite link is ~ 500ms, and round trip to the moon and back is ~2560ms, so the test node must be about half-way to the moon!!
    • Hi P,
      Very good point! After talking with the tech guys here (who created the test), I have added a footnote that I hope will clarify things. (We will work on rewording the actual graphs today and reposting them. Please note that they still accurately show relative performance!) Thank you. -Brian
    • I can vouch for the 900ms, that was the standard ping my parents used to get to google on satelite