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COVID has shown Australian broadband can handle working from home: Dept of Comms

Factors beyond telecommunications will determine if remote working remains after the pandemic, departmental officials have said.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The performance of Australia's networks during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly the National Broadband Network, has shown the network itself is not the issue for remote working to continue once pandemic restrictions are lifted, a departmental official said on Friday.

"The networks in Australia are capable of coping with a very significant increase in overall capacity and in the type of, and shape of, use of the network. And therefore, it has demonstrated that remote work is a possibility," deputy secretary of communications at the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications Richard Windeyer told the Joint Standing Committee On The National Broadband Network on Friday.

"Now, I think how that plays out across the Australian economy ... depends on factors that are unrelated to telecommunications ... our view would be we've seen, and quite pleased to see, that the networks are capable of supporting people choosing to work remotely, and as COVID has shown, in significant numbers."

Windeyer said the question waiting to be answered is how many of the habits developed in the past few months would endure.

"There's no reason to believe that people will go back, will necessarily stop taking telehealth consultations and ... there will be an increase in people's ability to, and interest in being able to, work remotely."

During the early days of the pandemic, departmental officials said NBN saw an increase in uptake rate in regional areas. Currently, the uptake is sitting around 50% on the fixed wireless network, and between 20% and 25% in areas served by satellite. Users in these areas are not forced onto the NBN and maintain the ability to connect via ADSL thanks to their copper lines remaining in place.

Speaking on Thursday to the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19, Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone said the spike in telehealth usage seen during the pandemic was a long time coming.

"Telehealth -- it was clearly one of the great revelations of COVID-19. It did show that telehealth does have a place in Australia's modern 21st century health system," he said.

"We've been an advocate of telehealth for an enormously long period of time. It is one of the things that we will continue to advocate should remain as part of our access, especially in a country like Australia, to supplement good quality face-to-face care."

On Thursday, NBN released its weekly data throughput statistics reporting peak download throughput of 13.4Tbps, and peak upload throughput of 0.93Tbps.

Last week, AWS said it mitigated a DDOS attack almost two and a half times larger than the peak upload throughout NBN has handled.

NBN peak download rate of 14.5Tbps was recorded on May 19, and was due to a Call of Duty update.

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