Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Lack of commute sees early evening throughput on NBN increase by 30%

Peak data during business hours is up by one-fifth and the 9 pm peak has increased by one-quarter.

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Image: NBN

The company responsible for deploying the National Broadband Network (NBN) across Australia has lifted the lid on how its network has been performing as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the planet.

On Thursday, NBN said it was starting a new weekly report to show the highest data throughput across three time periods. Over the last full week of March, they have been: Business hours from 8 am to 5 pm; early evening hours from 5 pm to 8 pm; and evening busy hours from 8 pm to 11 pm.

Over this period, NBN said it had seen peak increases of 21% to 9Tbps, 30% to 12.8Tbps, and 25% to 13.8Tbps, respectively. During business hours, data throughput had increased by 70%.

The government-owned wholesaler added that it had the capacity to handle the increased data.

This traffic profile is similar to that reported by New Zealand telco Spark earlier on Thursday.

The telco said its daytime broadband load had almost doubled, with peak broadband demand hitting 27% above normal levels, while mobile peak traffic was 22% higher. Spark said the traffic was now more like a 7-day weekend.

"Normally on a weekday there is a small peak during breakfast that drops back down as everyone heads out for the day. Traffic starts to rise again gradually throughout the day then more quickly as kids return from school. Then there is a dip during dinner time, before usage rises again until the typical evening peak of 9.00pm," Spark technology director Mark Beder said.

"Since we moved into lockdown, usage on weekdays now has a more rounded profile like the weekends -- rising fairly steadily throughout the day."

Last week, Aussie Broadband managing director Phil Britt said handling peak evening demand was still the main game for retailers.

"At no point do we expect daytime usage to exceed night-time usage, and all the information we're receiving from overseas is indicating similar," Britt told ZDNet at the time.

"We do expect evening peaks to increase, possibly up to 40% going on international data. Given we already have a customer base skewed towards heavy streaming, we believe we're reasonably well set-up to deal with increased evening load, and we've implemented the extra CVC provided by NBN in preparation."

Also on Thursday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced it would pause its NBN entry-level access pricing and wholesale service standards inquiries to allow the industry to deal with coronavirus.

The consumer watchdog also released a position paper on each inquiry, with the ACCC proposing a different entry-level plan to that offered by NBN in November.

Whereas NBN is currently offering 12/1Mbps with 1.1Mbps of capacity per connection at a price of AU$35, the ACCC wants the capacity upped to between 1.31Mbps or 1.42Mbps for the same cost. 

The ACCC said it had created this new plan based on bandwidth data from retailers.

In response, NBN said the telco market has been "functioning efficiently and effectively".

"The ACCC's foreshadowed regulatory intervention is not warranted and could drive unintended consequences," a spokesperson said.

"NBN Co's recent Wholesale Pricing Review has been well-received by internet retailers, and continues to deliver to tangible benefits with improved affordability and additional data capacity that is available to retailers and customers."

Updated at 12:18pm AEDT, 3 April 2020: Clarified headline to throughput.

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