The Australian competition watchdog has released the details of its proposed broadband monitoring program as it calls for potential suppliers to pitch their services.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) issued a request for tender on 30 May, outlining the terms and requirements for a contract with an initial three-year term, to be extended through two, one-year options.
The move comes almost two months after the Commission revealed it would finally push play on its plan to monitor the country’s broadband speeds, following an injection of funding by the Federal Government.
According to the regulator, the four-year national Broadband Performance Monitoring and Reporting (BPMR) program is expected to cost around $7 million to deliver over four years.
It is aimed at providing Australian consumers with accurate and independent information about broadband speeds offered by national Broadband Network (NBN) retail service providers (RSPs) and other broadband providers.
According to the tender documents, the winning testing provider will need to be able to source and distribute hardware testing devices, recruit and manage the volunteer testing pool and conduct testing, with an intensive testing period of at least 15 consecutive days per quarter.
The testing provider will also need to be able to use hardware-based testing devices that are capable of systematically collecting data about a number of broadband performance metrics, to perform remote testing of around 4,000 households by the fourth year of the program, to determine typical speeds on fixed-line NBN services at various times throughout the day.
The technology used needs to be compatible with testing all forms of fixed-line broadband technologies, including fibre-based technologies, such as fibre-to-the-premises (FttP), fibre-to-the-basement (FttB), fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), ADSL and hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC).
The technology infrastructure employed by the provider also needs to be able to provide accurate information for services with headline data transfer rates at a minimum of 100Mbps download/40Mbps upload.
Essentially, the system implemented for the program needs to be able to measure several performance metrics from the initial year of the program, including downstream throughout/download speed, upstream throughput/upload speed, webpage load time, latency, packet loss, VoIP emulation – or jitter – and domain name server (DNS) response times.
Under the terms of the tender documents, the services, technologies, entities and speed ‘plans’ that will be tested will be phased over four years. This will begin with a focus on NBN technologies.
“The types of services that will be tested will evolve and expand with the market, as more consumers migrate to next generation network (NGN) services over the four years,” the tender documents stated.
The initial phases of the program will focus on the testing of residential fixed-line broadband services, with potential to include testing of satellite and fixed-wireless broadband services in later years.
Currently, there are no plans to test mobile broadband performance.
Broadly, the program will collect data about the performance and reliability of fixed-line broadband services. The ACCC will use the data produced by the appointed testing provider to produce public reports for consumer end-users, industry and others.
"This information will assist consumers in comparing and shopping around, and checking that they receive what they are paying for,” ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, said in April.
"The program will also allow the ACCC to determine if issues are being caused by the performance of the NBN, or by internet service providers (ISPs) not buying sufficient capacity. It will also provide ISPs with independent performance information from which to draw when making speed claims,” he said.