NBN speeds pick up as more households wanted for extended program

Fixed-line NBN broadband services reached a new performance high in February 2021, the ACCC’s thirteenth quarterly Measuring Broadband Australia report reveals.

Retail service providers achieved between 86.8 and 99.1 per cent of plan speeds across the major NBN fixed-line plans during the busy evening hours of 7pm to 11pm, the latest report shows. This is the highest result since the ACCC started the Measuring Broadband Australia program in 2018.

The difference in download speeds between retail service providers also narrowed slightly since December 2020. Overall, average download speeds were 95.7 per cent of plan speed during the busy evening hours, and 96.7 per cent during all hours of the day, marginally higher than in the December 2020 report.

“These latest results suggest the NBN is performing well and retail service providers are largely delivering what consumers expect and have paid for,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.

The performance gap between larger and smaller telcos narrowed in February 2021. Internet service provider Exetel improved the most, as its download speeds reached 98.7 per cent of plan speed during the busy evening hours, up 8.8 percentage points since the last report.

Exetel is a reseller that acquires NBN services from another provider, rather than buying directly from NBN. Exetel is now achieving results that are comparable with providers that directly connect to the NBN.

“These results suggest that a broader range of retailers, not just those that directly connect to the NBN, are able to achieve close to full plan speeds, which is good news for consumers and competition. This points to a further maturing of the broadband market,” Ms Brakey said.

In February 2021, consumers on NBN fixed wireless connections experienced average download speeds of 81.2 per cent of maximum plan speed across the day, declining to about 70.8 per cent during the busy hours of 7-11pm. This represents a small improvement since December 2020.

“Despite the decline during busy hours, consumers on the fixed wireless network are experiencing sufficient speeds to access a range of internet applications,” Ms Brakey said.

The report also provides a first indicative view on the performance of very high speed NBN plans called ‘Home Ultrafast’. These are plans where the underlying wholesale product sold by NBN Co has a download speed range of 500-990 Mbps.

In February, consumers on Home Ultrafast NBN plans experienced average speeds between 608 and 745 Mbps. Between 7-11pm, performance fell by 23 per cent on average compared with the day’s maximum.

“We encourage consumers who are weighing up whether to upgrade to a very high speed tier to consider the value of these services relative to their normal daily usage,” Ms Brakey said.

“Most Australians have 50 Mbps speed plans which are capable of meeting the needs of a typical household, even when multiple devices are online at the same time.”

Figure 1. Average hourly download speed for very high speed plans

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