NBN limitations blamed for poor performance on some services

NBN limitations blamed for poor performance on some services

Up to five per cent of NBN services could be affected by NBN access network limitations

Limitations in the National Broadband Network (NBN) access infrastructure are likely to be behind poor performance on up to five per cent of services, according to the initial results from the Australian consumer watchdog’s broadband speed testing program.  

In its efforts to root out misleading NBN speed claims by telcos and resellers of the network, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) initiated a program last year to monitor the country’s broadband speeds.  

Now, the first set of results has arrived, with the ACCC revealing that over 61,000 download speed tests were performed across monitoring “Whiteboxes” connected to the NBN.  

The first monitoring report by the ACCC shows that NBN broadband services from iiNet, Optus, Telstra and TPG are now delivering between 80 per cent and just over 90 per cent of the maximum plan speeds in the evening busy hours.  

The report, part of the ACCC’s Measuring Broadband Australia program, found that these busy hour speeds -- between 7 and 11pm -- are now only marginally below typical speeds at other times.  

Broadly, over 70 per cent of tests achieving over 90 per cent of maximum plan speeds, with the results based on tests conducted throughout the day and across ISPs.  

However, the report revealed that five per cent failed to reach at least 50 per cent of maximum plan speeds.  

According to the ACCC, the poorer performance on services not meeting 50 per cent of the maximum plan speed is likely being caused by limitations in the access network, rather than congestion during the busy hours and ISPs’ provisioning of their networks.  

The ACCC said it would likely explore this particular factor further in future reports.

The watchdog also pointed out that the NBN's fibre-to-the-node (FttN) connections that could not support the maximum plan speeds were a factor that brought down the average speeds overall.

The results are somewhat illuminating, given that one of the main objectives of the monitoring program was to pin down whether peak time speed issues were arising from problems with ISPs’ capacity provisioning or from issues stemming from the NBN itself.

On the whole, however, the ACCC is fairly upbeat about ISPs’ efforts to boost their provisioning of NBN capacity in order to deliver speeds that match, or are close to, what is promised in the products they have sold end customers.  

“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,” the ACCC chairman, 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.

“Our results reflect significant and recent changes in the market, particularly the recent discounting by NBN Co of capacity charges and consequent take up of more CVC by retailers. They likely also reflect the effect of our speed advertising guidance and anticipation that our testing was soon to begin,” he said.

For its part, the company behind the NBN, NBN Co, said it is pleased to see the results from the ACCC broadband speed testing program reflect the initiatives it has implemented to improve customer experience, such as its changes to the wholesale pricing of its upper-tier services.

"The report reiterates the positive impact of our new wholesale pricing model, which has relieved bandwidth congestion on the network from an average of around four hours to 12 minutes per week," a spokesperson for NBN Co said. "The ACCC findings also confirm the majority of retail services over the NBN...are delivering maximum speeds during the busy hours."

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Tags broadbandNBNTelstranational broadband networkiiNetoptusacccTPGRod Sims

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