A new report by economic analytics firm AlphaBet which NBN Co says offers a more accurate reading of a nation’s broadband speed ranking, has found that the average Australian broadband download speed has more than doubled over the last five years as the national broadband network rollout picked up pace.
During his keynote address at Informa Tech’s Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam, NBN Co CEO Stephen Rue lambasted some online ranking tools, including that of Ookla, which had previously ranked Australia below Thailand, Panama, Paraguay, “where almost half of households in those countries don’t have access to broadband.”
Rue said AlphaBeta – to which the national network builder “has turned” for a more accurate reading of a nation’s broadband speed ranking – had developed its own ranking system taking into account key factors such as availability, population, and geography.
“This model differs from on-line tests in two fundamental ways,” he said. “First, this model uses government validated, subscription speed data, as well as data from the OECD to consistently represent broadband availability to all broadband users within each country – and so just accounting for particular speed-test website.”
“And second, it accounts for the vast differences in broadband availability across countries,” said Rue, adding that by these measures AlphaBeta found the average Australian broadband download speed had increased from 16 megabits per second in 2014 to 37 megabytes per second in 2019.
Rue said by taking these factors of speed and availability into account, Australia’s average broadband speed actually ranked 17th out of 37 major economies. “We’re ahead of comparable nations such as Germany, France, and China, and a far cry from Ookla’s suggested world ranking of 59th,” he added.
Rue told Telecom Times on the sidelines of the #bbwf summit that any credible comparison methodology would consider the percentage of the population that actually has access to that network.
“I think that when you do that, that’s important to put countries in context with each other – comparing countries of a particular size is important as well. So that we can actually see what you’ve created, and how that network stands up against international comparison,” he said.
“Importantly, the research forecasts that Australia will continue to climb these ranks, and after completion of the NBN rollout, when more than 50 percent of our network will be capable of delivering gigabit speeds, Australia’s rank could rise to 13th amongst comparable countries,” Rue continued.
In addition to the vexed issue of average broadband speed rankings, Rue also touched on NBN Co’s brief in terms of the network’s accessibility and affordability. “This role that NBN plays in helping to uphold the nation’s social contract that no matter where you live, you’re entitled to access critical services, have job opportunities, and connect with loved ones is a commitment that we’re proud of and we take very seriously'” he said.
“I believe accessibility is a crucial factor in determining the success or otherwise of broadband networks. And key to providing accessibility, is affordability, because if consumers cannot afford, or are unwilling to pay for high–speed broadband, then nations will miss out on the benefits of rolling out this critical infrastructure,” Rue said.
He added that in Australia there had been a clear correlation between the rollout of the network and the cost of telecommunication services declining in real terms.
“Earlier this year we commissioned AlphaBeta again for another piece of research to compare retail pricing, in real terms, and found that in that study of 4,600 broadband plans across 22 countries, Australia was the 7th most affordable market,” he said.
According to Rue, that report also found that since 2000, while Australia’s cost of living increased by 63%, telecommunication prices fell by 6%.
“We’ve seen a steep fall in telecommunication prices, particularly in the last five years since the rollout of NBN gathered pace, and compared against the 224% increase in electricity prices, and 134% percent increase in the price of healthcare,” he said.
Rue said that the approach he favoured would ideally combine the needs of the individuals with the needs of the nation. “To meet those needs, you need to strike a balance between speed, access, and affordability. We passionately care about achieving this balance, because better access to affordable, high-speed broadband, is what powers the benefits that NBN can deliver to each individual, each business, each industry, in Australia.”
Rue said in NBN connected areas, the rate of growth in digital economy jobs is outpacing the national average by a factor of five, and that the number of self-employed women in these regions had been growing at a rate of 20 times faster than the NBN non-connected areas.
“In fact, it’s estimated that there could be up to 93,000 additional self-employed people by 2021, thanks to NBN,” he said, adding “NBN is also helping to grow more businesses, estimated at up to 80,000 more businesses, by 2021.”
“It’s helping a new generation of entrepreneurs launch new services and new businesses. And in terms of fulfilling a promise made when NBN was first introduced, I’m pleased to say that we provide specific products and services – offerings – for businesses of all sizes, from your start-up to your enterprise business,’ Rue said.
Rue said this was already delivering economic and community benefits in terms of increasing choice and competition in the market, as well as ensuring that business customers get the support they need to run and to grow. “This is essential as we’re assisting those who choose to start their own business to create jobs, which is the backbone of our economy.”
Rue said these socio-economic benefits were set to increase in coming decades as the full potential of a completed NBN is unleashed on our nation.
“Although we know too well the challenges of rolling out universal high–speed connectivity to a nation, we also know that the socio-economic returns it enables are worth it.
Richard van der Draay was in Amsterdam as a guest of Informa Tech