While the mainstream local media has been quick to report on the latest findings of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Communications Outlook 2007 report, industry experts don't think it tells the full story.
The report, conducted in October 2006, claimed Australia had the second lowest broadband speed in each of the industrialised countries it examined, concluding that locales including Poland and Mexico had better broadband services.
Broadband access and speeds remain hot topics for many Australians, especially in the lead-up the federal election. But Market Clarity founder and CEO, Shara Evans, said the OECD report had misled many people, particularly in its assertion that the fastest broadband available in Australia at October 2006 was Telstra's 1.5Mbps DSL service.
"Across the industry, people have been reading the OECD figures showing we had 1.5Mbps as a top speed and most recognised that it's not a reflection of where Australia was at that time," she said. "Yet some people - people who ought to know better - have chosen to ignore what they know and have reported the OECD figures as gospel."
Evans pointed out speeds of 20Mbps were available via cable and ADSL2+ services from multiple providers, including Telstra, when the OECD snapshot was taken. Also coming in for criticism was the OECD assertion that, while local Internet penetration per head of population was only behind Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland, overall broadband penetration was low.
"It really depends on how you split this one," Pacific Internet managing director, Dennis Muscat, said. "Our broadband barometer suggests more than 90 per cent of businesses [with Internet connections] have broadband."
Evans took up the cause for the home market.
"The OECD measure isn't a very good measure at all," she claimed. "To say we have 'x' number of population and 'x' number of connections and then compare the two is inaccurate. Homes don't have one ADSL connection, per person, for example."
But IDC analyst, David Cannon, said the OECD report was a timely reminder that the local broadband market still had some work to do.
"For a start, it's no secret Telstra has not opened up its DSL pipes to 8Mbps despite having the ability to do so for years now," he said. "And while there's ADSL2+ in dense metropolitan areas, I still think the overall speed and cost of broadband in Australia is pretty dismal."
Also lining up to comment on Telstra's involvement in the local market was Pacific's Muscat. "Australia got into the broadband arena very late because Telstra had a vested interest in not rolling it out until late in the 1990s because of the money it had already invested in ISDN," he claimed. "When you boil it down, it always comes back to the incumbent telco and its lack of competitive networks."