NBN Co claims doubling of average Australian broadband download speed since 2014

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. 

jj“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 highspeed 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 businessesby 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.”

TRue 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 highspeed 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

‘5G is not a mobile technology; it’s a convergent tech’ says ETNO’s Lise Fuhr

5G should be regarded as a convergent technology first and foremost rather than merely a mobile capability, according to Lise Fuhr, Director General at the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association.

Addressing a global gathering of telecom professionals at Informa Tech’s Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam, Fuhr said for the most part European telcos considered 5G to be a “mix of fixed networks, it’s a mix of mobile technology” – but did highlight the need for an overhaul of the typical operators’ business model in the face of the imminent 5G rollout.

“And I think it’s, first and foremost, also about putting intelligence into networks,’ Fuhr added. “5G and broadband are changing our lives, so these are really important for Europe; and they’re important for the European competition, for years to come.  That’s why I think the political environment is important for what we do and how we see connectivity here in Europe.”

Fuhr also emphasised the need for operators and stakeholders to clearly chart the challenges as well as the drivers involved with the actual delivery of 5G. “If we are to deliver broadband to all of Europe, and also to actually meet the gigabyte society targets set by the Commission, we need to look into what the challenges are [and] we need to look into the enablers.”

In addition, she advocated a three-pronged 5G strategy for Europe-based operators looking to capitalise on opportunities as part of the rollout, detailing an approach that included more than developing perspectives on investment and policy or regulation.

“And that is, our business models are changing,” Fuhr explained. “We also need to look into how 5G is changing the way we actually have our business models.”

“We are, with 5G, creating a platform for connectivity. We are going to be able to deliver more tailored services to the end users, but also to the industry,” Fuhr said, adding that the traditional siloed outlook on the part of some Europe-focused telcos had been rendered obsolete.

“In Europe we see 5G mostly as an industrial network, and as an industrial business space, and that’s why we need to refocus on how we work. Because now we’re not only telcos; now we need to reach out to other industries,” she said.

Referring to the automotive industry, where connected and automated cars are poised to become important offerings, Fuhr argued that specifical industries will require tailored networks.  “They know that they need a specific network to fulfil their requirements, and actually to deliver on automated cars,” she said, noting also that companies like Bosch and Siemens for instance will have varying needs in terms of what possibilities 5G can provide.

“They will need to have networks that are tailored to their industrial manufacturing” said Fuhr. “And that’s why we, as an industry, need to look into how we combine our forces. How we actually work together. Because if we don’t create a relationship, and include these stakeholders in what we do, they might lose trust in us.”

Raising the spectre of some disenchanted stakeholders potentially approaching regulators to apply for spectrum licences to enable them to devise their own mobile networks, Fuhr warned, “And then we’re in another ballgame than we are today. Because we need to be the one delivering on the infrastructure. I think we’re best placed to do so, and we’re experts in it.”

“But, in doing so, we need to accommodate the requirements. We need to accommodate what the consumers, what the industries, want from us,” she said.


Richard van der Draay was in Amsterdam as a guest of Informa Tech