Most NBN speed promises actually being delivered: ACCC

The consumer watchdog has found that NBN speeds are now only 'marginally' dropping off during peak periods, with telcos delivering between 80 and 90 percent of maximum speeds at all times.

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National Broadband Network (NBN) retailers are delivering up to 90 percent of their speed tier promises during peak hours, the fixed-line broadband speed monitoring report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has found.

The first Measuring Broadband Australia report [PDF] showed Telstra, Optus, TPG, and iiNet delivering between 80 and 90 percent of their speeds at all times, including the busy hours of between 7pm and 11pm.

On download speeds, Optus scored lowest, providing its customers with 80.7 percent of their maximum speeds during busy hours and 81.8 percent overall; Telstra came in third, delivering 88.1 percent of maximum speeds during peak hours and 88.6 percent in total; iiNet placed second, delivering 88.6 percent of maximum speeds in busy hours and 89.1 percent overall; and TPG scored highest, delivering 90.7 percent of the maximum download speeds to its customers in busy hours and 91.5 percent the rest of the time.

The percentages equate to retail service providers (RSPs) delivering download speeds of around 90Mbps on the 100Mbps tier; 45Mbps on the 50Mbps tier; and 22.5Mbps on the 25Mbps tier.

Despite scoring lowest in download speeds, Optus came first in upload speeds, delivering 98.1 percent of maximum speeds during busy hours and 98.3 percent overall; TPG came in second, delivering 97.9 percent of maximum upload speeds during busy hours and 98.1 percent overall; iiNet came third, providing its NBN customers with 91.9 percent of their maximum upload speed during busy hours and 92.1 percent the rest of the time; and Telstra came last, delivering 86.7 percent in peak hours and 86.8 percent overall.

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"These first test results are better than expected, and indicate the majority of internet service providers are now delivering very close to their maximum plan speeds," ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

"The relatively high average speeds during peak periods indicate to us that retailers are now providing enough network capacity to meet demand in peak usage periods, including on the top speed plans."

According to Sims, the results "reflect significant and recent changes in the market", including NBN's connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) discounts and the ACCC's own speed advertising guidance.

"It is highly likely that just a few months ago, these results would not have been anywhere near as good," he argued.

"The results for some types of services are still lower than we would like, but the overall results go against the current wisdom that the majority of consumers and businesses are having issues with NBN speeds," he added, referring to the 5 percent of services tested that operated at less than half of their maximum speeds.

These underperforming services were more likely to have been impacted by "limitations" in the network, the ACCC said, rather than by congestion or a lack of provisioning by RSPs.

Tests were undertaken across 10 retail service providers and 400 services on 25, 50, and 100Mbps plans along with ADSL services between February and March, involving around 61,000 speed tests.

The ACCC also noted that NBN's 25Mbps plan "significantly outperformed" legacy ADSL services; ADSL speeds averaged 8Mbps down, while NBN's 25 plans clocked between 22Mbps and 23Mbps.

Industry has welcomed the report, with the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) calling it "generally positive" but suggesting that it should be expanded to regional NBN services of satellite and fixed-wireless.

"Complaints about broadband speeds are at a record high. There is an obvious need for clear and accurate consumer information on what to expect from broadband services," ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin said.

"With this information, consumers in NBN's fixed technology footprint can have more confidence in choosing NBN services provided by these top four retailers ... however, we are concerned that about 5 percent of monitored connections are delivering lower than 50 percent of the advertised speed."

Comms Alliance CEO John Stanton added that while the report shows the efforts by the ACCC, RSPs, and NBN are "bearing fruit", "it is important not to read too much into this first set of results".

"NBN and internet service providers have been working hard and cooperatively on a range of fronts -- technical, operational, customer care, and financial -- to deliver a high-quality broadband experience to Australian consumers," Stanton said.

"We understand that customer concerns remain in relation to some services, and that more challenges will need to be met, but we are pleased to see this evidence-based report showing excellent delivery of speeds across the largest ISPs."

The ACCC speed monitoring report follows the consumer watchdog forcing Telstra, Optus, TPG, iiNet, Internode, Dodo, iPrimus, and Commander to compensate tens of thousands of customers for not providing them with the NBN speeds they were paying for.

The ACCC is still seeking volunteers for the broadband speed monitoring program in order to increase the pool of data, and will be providing its next report in the second half of this year.

The AU$6.5 million speed-monitoring program will take place across 4,000 premises over the next four years, with SamKnows appointed in December to monitor speeds. The government is providing AU$7 million in funding over four years from July 1, 2017.

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