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ACCC urges NBN Co, RSPs to act on remaining underperforming broadband plans

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is calling on the NBN Co and RSPs to take action on the 12.4% of Australian broadband subscribers who are still facing underperforming broadband services.

The ACCC’s Measuring Broadband Australia report found that, while broadband speeds slowed slightly across busy evening hours with overall results continuing to be good, 12.4 per cent of consumers still experience underperforming services that rarely come close to reaching their maximum plan speed.

These are services that achieve less than 75 per cent of their advertised speeds in almost all speed tests, the regulator said, noting that most affected consumers paid for NBN50 or NBN100 plans over Fibre to the Node (FTTN) connections.

It added that these slower download and upload speeds were likely to be impacting consumers’ use of streaming, telecommuting, online gaming and using cloud services, for example to store or share photos and videos.

“We now want to see more action from both NBN Co and retail service providers (RSPs) to help the more than one in ten connections that simply do not perform to their plan speed,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said. “In many cases, these limited speeds are caused by in-home wiring issues that can be fixed with a visit from a technician.”

If these services were able to reach close to their advertised plan speed, RSPs’ download and upload speed results would improve by 2.0 to 6.8 percentage points in the busy hours, and their average upload speeds by 1.5 to 10.7 percentage points, the ACCC found.

The report included, for the first time, download speed results for Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) connections, which reached 88.9 per cent of maximum plan download speeds, or 91.5 per cent when underperforming services were excluded.

These results were broadly in line with results for Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) connections and HFC, and significantly above results for FTTN.

The report also tracks the rate of outages experienced by consumers, showing that program volunteers, on average, experienced an outage of more than 30 seconds every one to two days, a similar rate to the previous report.

Optus has investigated and addressed a technical problem that caused its customers to experience a much higher rate of outages, an average of 2.6 a day. This issue was uncovered and highlighted by Measuring Broadband Australia’s two most recent rounds of testing.

Recent additional tests suggests Optus’ level of outages is now comparable to other RSPs.

“Measuring Broadband Australia continues to make a vital contribution to fostering competition and improving consumer outcomes by bringing much-needed transparency to the broadband market,” Sims said.

The ACCC is encouraging more Australians to sign up as volunteers for the Measuring Broadband Australia program, to broaden the coverage of the program and to ensure it continues to reflect experiences of consumers around the country as the NBN roll-out continues.

“This program would not be possible without the support of our volunteers Australia-wide who have agreed to host a whitebox on their home broadband connection,”  Sims said. “Consumers whose service provider is not currently included in our reports are particularly encouraged to sign up.”

NBN fixed line residential services provided the following average download speeds in busy hours:

100/40 services, 85.3 Mbps
50/20 services, 41.3 Mbps
25/5 services, 22.4 Mbps
12/1 services, 10.7 Mbps
In comparison the average busy hour speeds from legacy ADSL services were 7.8 Mbps.

“It is very important that those consumers not yet wanting to pay for faster speeds can still gain access to a 12/1 plan at prices that had been available for ADSL services”,  Sims said.

State-by-state results

The latest report also contained download speed results by state and territory.

Results range from between 80.7 per cent to 87.8 per cent of maximum plan speeds during the busy hours. Tasmania had the highest download speeds, while the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Western Australia (WA) had the highest rates of underperforming services and, therefore, the slowest average busy hour download speeds.

Busy hours speeds slow slightly

Most RSPs’ download and upload speeds decreased slightly during the busy hours compared to the previous quarter. The exceptions were MyRepublic and Optus, which improved their download and upload speeds during all hours as well as the busy evening hours.

RSPs delivered average download speeds of between 80.4 and 86.7 per cent of maximum plan speeds during the busy hours of 7pm to 11pm.

They delivered between 82.2 and 87.6 per cent of maximum plans speeds in all hours.

TPG achieved the highest percentage of its maximum download speed and Exetel posted the highest percentage of its maximum upload speed during all hours.

While most RSPs met their advertised speed claims during busy hours, Dodo, iPrimus and Exetel often did not. “We will be discussing these results with Dodo/iPrimus and Exetel, including whether their advertised speed claims should be immediately revised in light of these results,” said Sims.

The report shows the speeds data for NBN fixed-line services of eight major RSPs. Testing took place in May 2019 using a sample of 1095 volunteers.



Categories: NBN, Regulation, telco

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