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

NBN service quality complaints on the rise

Complaints about service quality, connections and migrations involving Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) rose in the first six months of 2019, despite complaints relating to the country’s broader telecommunications services falling overall during the year ending June.

This is according to the latest figures by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). The TIO’s annual report for the financial year ending June 2019, released on 25 September, paints a picture of increasing complexity among the issues Australians are complaining about when it comes to their telecommunications services.

“Complaints about phone and internet services in Australia have continued their downward trend, and this is good news for consumers and the telecommunications industry, but this is only one part of the story,” said Ombudsman Judi Jones. “The volume of complaints coming back to us unresolved shows an emerging picture of complexity in technical and small business issues.

“Some measures we have taken to address this are the formation of specialist teams to handle these escalated complaints, and working closely with the phone and internet providers to better understand the barriers to resolving these issues,” she said.

According to the TIO, the 12 months from July 2018 to June 2019 saw 47 per cent of escalated complaints closed within 60 days, compared to 77 percent in FY2017-18.

The top five complaint issues about internet services were no action or delayed action by a service provider, with 13,976 complaints, service and equipment fees (13,509 complaints), slow data speed (8,668 complaints), intermittent service/dropouts (7,915) and delay establishing a service (7,431).

At the same time, the top five complaint issues about mobile services were service and equipment fees, with 12,905 complaints, no or delayed action by provider (11,675 complaints), resolution agreed but not met (4,263), misleading conduct when making a contract (3,656) and termination fees (2,975).

Altogether, the TIO received 132,387 complaints throughout the year, representing a year-on-year fall of 21 percent. However, for the first time, complaints relating to internet services exceeded those of mobile services, with 43,164 complaints – or 32.6 percent – and 40,103 complaints, respectively.

Complaints relating to services delivered via the NBN comprised a large portion of the total regarding internet services. According to the report, 23,362 complaints were recorded in FY2018-19 about service quality on the NBN. Complaints increased from 2.1 per 1,000 premises on the network in the first half of the year to 2.5 per 1,000 in the second half of the year.

Services delivered over the NBN were the subject of 48.2 percent of complaints about service quality during the 12-month period. By comparison, 40.4 percent of such complaints revolved around services delivered via other networks. Mobile networks accounted for 11.3 percent of complaints of this nature.

Meanwhile, 11,635 complaints were recorded in FY2018-19 about changing providers or establishing a connection to the NBN. Complaints increased from 6.7 per 1,000 premises added in the first half of the year, to 8.6 in the second half of the 12-month period.

Indeed, 56.4 percent of all complaints relating to connection and changing providers were about services delivered over the NBN. However, this comes as little surprise, given that, as the national broadband wholesaler draws closer to the completion of its rollout, more end consumers are being connected to the network.

“With transition to the NBN, providers offered a range of new products and services. As a result, we saw a new range of complaints and enquiries from consumers navigating the changed environment. The increase in complaints about internet services is one example of this,” the TIO report stated.

By comparison, such complaints involving services delivered via other networks accounted for 30.6 percent of the total, while mobile network services were at the centre of 13 percent of complaints about connection or changing providers.

Unsurprisingly, the country’s largest telecommunications player, Telstra, claimed the lion’s share of complaints, accounting for roughly 50.2 percent, although it should be noted that the company enjoyed a 19.5 percent fall in complaints from the previous year’s tally of 82,528.

Optus, as the country’s second largest telco, came in second, with 23.9 percent of the total. Like Telstra, Optus saw a fall in complaints against its name, enjoying a 22.2 decrease, year-on-year. Optus was followed by Vodafone, iiNet and TPG Internet, with 5.1 percent of the total, 4.3 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively. All experienced a year-on-year decrease.

“We are pleased to see that complaints decreased in every state, and for all of the providers listed in the report,” said John Stanton, CEO of telecommunications industry body, the Communications Alliance.

“There has been significant work over the past two years by Industry to improve the customer experience, including – but certainly not limited to – NBN Co and RSPs [retail service providers] achieving better communication and coordination for consumers and businesses as they migrate services to NBN-based networks,” he said.

NBN Co stretches break-even point to 2023

NBN Co has revealed that it does not expect to find itself in a cash flow positive state until at least Financial Year 2023, a year later than the National Broadband Network (NBN) builder’s previous estimates released last year.

According to NBN Co’s latest annual corporate plan, which outlines the company’s long-range plans, projections and estimates from 2020 to 2023, the national network builder expects to see about A$700 million in positive cash flow in FY23.

At the same time, NBN Co’s latest estimates forecast negative cash flows of roughly A$200 million in FY22. This stands in stark contrast with the company’s Corporate Plan 2019-22, released in 2018, which forecast positive cash flows of around A$100 million in FY22.

One of the reasons for the new break-even point comes down to a reduction in activation figures in FY20, FY21 and FY22. Indeed, the latest report’s expected activation tally in FY23 stands at 8.6 million, which is 100,000 less than the expected 8.7 million in FY22 that was estimated in the 2019-22 corporate plan last year.

In FY20, the company now anticipates 500,000 fewer activations than it expected in the 2019-22 corporate plan, reducing its target from 7.5 million total activations to 7.0 million premises that year.

“Given the complexity of build expected through FY20, there has been a shift in phasing  for activations in FY20 and through FY21. The Company expects to connect 8.1 million customers by 30 June 2021,” the latest corporate plan stated.

NBN Co said in its report that this reduction is “purely a timing issue” around deployment and activations, with the Ready to Connect footprint coming later during FY20 than originally forecast in the previous year’s plan. The company added that there is no expected material change to the underlying performance of the business and revenue is forecast to recover to expected levels in subsequent years.

Another contributing factor for the delayed break-even point for the network builder is an increase in expected capital expenditure (capex) in FY20, FY21 and FY22, compared to the previous year’s figures. For example, NBN Co’s latest report puts expected capex in FY20 at A$4.3 billion. In last year’s report, the figure for FY20 was closer to A$3.6 billion.

These changes, of course, are reflected in the company’s all-important average revenue per user (ARPU) figures which, in the latest plan, indicate it expects to see residential ARPU rise from A$44 in FY19 to A$49 in FY23.

download (5)In last year’s plan, the company put its ARPU expectation at A$51 by FY22 – a figure that included business customers as well as residential customers. The decision to take the business contingent out of the ARPU equation in this year’s report was, according to NBN Co CEO Stephen Rue, to provide a more meaningful and transparent number.

The change in ARPU expectations is reflected in the company’s latest total revenue estimates, which are forecast to reach A$5.9 billion in FY23. While the total revenue figure for FY22 remains unchanged from last year’s estimates, the expected A$5.2 billion in FY21 and A$3.9 billion in FY20 have been downgraded in the latest plan to A$4.9 billion and A$3.7 billion, respectively.

Revenue is forecast to grow from A$2.8 billion in FY19 to A$3.7 billion in FY20 with the expected delay – or “rephasing” as NBN Co puts it – in network activations. Meanwhile, the plan continues to support a peak funding forecast of A$51 billion.

Despite tacking on an additional year until it expects to see positive cash flow and the reduction of anticipated activations in FY20, NBN Co remains upbeat about the rollout and ultimately meeting its stated goals.

In its report, NBN Co said that by the end of FY20, 11.5 million homes and businesses will be on track to be able to order a service on the network, fulfilling the commitment to complete the build in 2020. Currently, around 86 percent of premises throughout Australia are able to order an NBN service.

“To date, NBN Co and its delivery partners have rolled out more than 280,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cable, repurposed and upgraded existing HFC [Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial] and copper technologies, built a Fixed Wireless network comprising some 2,200 towers and approximately 13,000 cells, and launched two satellites,” said Rue.

“With completion of the network well in sight, now is the time to focus on how Australians in homes and businesses across the nation can get the most out of the NBN access network.

“Improving customer experience and satisfaction will remain the key driver in coming years as we complete the transition to become a full-scale service delivery organisation – and we will put customers at the centre of everything we do.” he said.

Verizon strikes NBN Enterprise Ethernet reseller deal

The local arm of US telco giant Verizon has signed a reseller deal with NBN Co to supply the National Broadband Network (NBN) builder’s Enterprise Ethernet offering to its local customer base. 

The move gives Verizon Australia’s local customers, the bulk of which are government entities and private sector enterprises, the ability to combine NBN Co’s business-oriented broadband product with Verizon’s own services, such as Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Virtual Network Services (VNS).

“This agreement provides choice and competition that hasn’t existed on this scale before. Businesses, particularly those outside of the major cities, deserve access to the globally recognised, best in class services and capabilities that Verizon offers,” Robert Le Busque, Verizon’s regional managing director in Australia, said. 

“A robust network is the backbone of any business, and particularly today, where digital business is the norm, and organisations are increasingly looking for scalable, flexible network capacity to support global growth. 

“Verizon is pleased to be able to present a compelling alternative to Australian enterprise and government businesses,” he added. 

For Verizon, the deal marks a new milestone in its 20-plus year history in Australia, which has seen the company named among the panellists on the australian Federal Government’s Whole-of-Government Telecommunications Services Panel. 

The move sees Verizon join a handful of existing NBN resellers, including Telstra, Vocus and TPG, already offering the Enterprise Ethernet product, which is aimed squarely at the high-margin business market. 

NBN Co launched the wholesale enterprise product, which offers symmetrical speeds of up to 1Gbps and premium customer service, in October last year. At the time, the network builder said that its Enterprise Ethernet connections are designed to be built on request and feature a point-to-point fibre connection.

“This wholesale product has been developed with the specific needs of global enterprise and government organisations in mind. It is capable of delivering the service required by businesses that use data-intensive applications such enterprise network systems and cloud-based solutions,” NBN Co chief customer officer for business Paul Tyler said at the time. 

At launch, the product was touted as being packaged with a premium service-level agreement between NBN Co and retail service providers (RSPs) to provide faster resolution of faults as well as to encourage RSPs to offer an increased service experience for mission-critical applications. 

Risk of competing goals ‘negatively impacting’ NBN quality, affordability: Infrastructure Australia

If the National Broadband Network (NBN) can’t meet all of its stated goals and obligations once the rollout is complete, the ability for Australians to access affordable and high-quality services over the network may be “negatively affected”.

This is according to the Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019, published on 13 August by the nation’s independent infrastructure advisor, Infrastructure Australia, the independent advisory body tasked with strategically auditing the nation’s key infrastructure.

The audit report, which covered areas such as transport, energy and water, delivered a mixed report card for the country’s telecommunication landscape, identifying several challenges relating to Australia’s fixed-line broadband offering, rural and regional availability, pricing and the NBN’s technology mix, among other things.

Unsurprisingly, the report’s telecommunications section focused heavily on the NBN, as one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects. One of the challenges highlighted in the audit report was an “inherent tension between the NBN’s strategic goals”.

It suggested that this tension will ultimately require potential trade-offs between the NBN achieving user outcomes and delivering a return on the capital investment made by taxpayers.

“If all goals cannot be achieved, the ability for Australians to access affordable and high-quality NBN services may be negatively affected,” the report authors said.

Moreover, the report suggested that these tensions raise the question as to whether or not the network will be sold and, if so, how exactly the assets would be divested and therefore how the market will be structured.

“A proposed eventual sale of the NBN to the private sector raises challenges in striking the right balance between realising its value for shareholders and achieving long-term goals for users,” Infrastructure Australia noted. “Decisions about restructuring and sale can affect both short- and long-term service delivery and outcomes for users.”

Another challenge relating to the NBN noted centred on its technology mix having been diversified, meaning that different users will receive different types of connections.

“This change will deliver varied outcomes for users, and some may shoulder higher costs or receive lower-quality services,” the report authors added.

As such, according to Infrastructure Australia, a range of NBN process and performance issues have arisen as the rollout has proceeded and users have migrated to the network, some of which are being dealt with by the company behind the rollout, NBN Co.

In addition, the independent infrastructure advisor flagged the risks that 5G network rollouts in Australia might present to the long-term competitive position of the NBN.

“Looking forward, risks for the NBN include competition from ongoing fixed line services and 5G fixed wireless substitution,” it said. “There is also the possibility of competition in remote locations from emerging low Earth orbit satellite technologies and other satellite technologies.”

However, the report also pointed out a potential silver lining, noting an opportunity for the NBN to leverage these technologies to deliver better services in its existing fixed wireless and satellite coverage areas.

Rural and regional Australians still missing out

Infrastructure Australia’s examination of the services offered to people in rural and regional areas was somewhat tempered by the existing limitations of the various technologies available, even with the NBN rollout underway.

“NBN’s use of fixed wireless and satellite technologies limits the choice of available broadband speeds and download quotas, particularly for remote areas,” it said. “However, these services are often the only option for regional Australian consumers and businesses.

“Although NBN is launching business-grade NBN services, these do not currently extend to [its] fixed wireless and satellite access technologies,” it said, noting NBN Co’s plans to deliver a business-grade satellite service this year.

More generally, however, Infrastructure Australia identified a range of issues with the current telecommunications services available for consumers in rural and regional areas, and for some minorities.

“The specific needs of rural and remote users are often overlooked in upgrades to national telecommunications infrastructure,” the report authors said. “Income, age, disability, education and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status are all factors that influence levels of digital inclusion.”

“Geography also matters,” it said. “In rural and remote settings, the cost of providing telecommunications infrastructure increases and the returns reduce as population densities decline. In some cases, this limits the scope for universal coverage by commercially-focused private sector operators, without government intervention.”

“While Australia’s mobile footprint includes over 99 percent of the population, it covers only one-third of total landmass, meaning there is limited service in particular rural and remote areas, for example along transport corridors,” it added.

However, the audit report also cautiously identified opportunities to improve the telecommunications services for the digitally disadvantaged, and for rural and remote communities and businesses.

“5G mobile technology provides a potential step change in mobile telecommunications infrastructure for Australia, offering huge benefits including faster mobile data, minimal delays and the ability to separate services on the same network. However, the cost of rolling out 5G is high, and without a change in prioritisation, existing issues may be exacerbated in rural and remote areas,” the report authors said.

Fletcher cites rule of law after dousing Telstra’s NBN ambitions

Australia’s Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher has doubled down on comments he made rejecting the idea that a sale of the National Broadband Network (NBN) to Telstra, or indeed any telecommunications retailer, would be possible under current legislation

In an exclusive interview with The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) and The Age, Fletcher said that he did not see any scenario in which the “very clear legislative restriction on the NBN being owned by a company which is also a retailer of telecommunications services is changed”.

This definition, of course, captures Telstra, along with the other primary telcos in the country. Moreover, Fletcher indicated that he believes any sale of the network, the rollout of which is set to be finished next year, would still be “quite some time away”.

Fletcher’s comments come roughly a month after Telstra CEO Andy Penn told The Australian Financial Review that when NBN Co does eventually become privatised, he’d like Telstra to be in a position to participate, with the telco’s standalone infrastructure business unit, InfraCo, “giving us that optionality”.

In a subsequent statement to Telecom Times, Fletcher said that his comments regarding the sale of NBN Co were simply stating the law, as set out in the National Broadband Network Companies Act 2011, that the NBN as a wholesale network cannot be owned by a company that also provides retail services.

“Clearly any such future sale of NBN Co at the appropriate time would be structured in a way that is in the public interest and mindful among other things of the operation and the competitiveness of the broader market,” Fletcher said.

“It is way too premature to speculate on how any such sale would be structured and who may participate in that process.

“The government’s priority is to complete the NBN rollout as quickly as possible and at least cost to taxpayers,” he said.

Fletcher’s reiteration of the legislative restraints on the eventual sale of NBN Co have unsurprisingly been met with enthusiasm by some in the industry. Commpete, an alliance of challenger digital communications providers, lauded Fletcher’s perceived rejection of any prospect of Telstra buying the NBN.

“NBN was created in large part to separate the monopoly access network from Telstra’s retail business to stop anti-competitive market manipulation that had made Australia one of the least competitive telecommunications markets in the world,” Commpete said in a statement.

“Recent speculation that Telstra would buy the NBN would signal the end of this commitment to competition, and Minister Fletcher has done the right thing by ruling it out,” the alliance added.

While Fletcher’s comments regarding NBN Co’s privatisation have quelled concerns in the industry that may have emerged amid speculation that Telstra would vie for the network builder, his comments about NBN wholesale pricing have been met with discord.

In his interview with the SMH and The Age, Fletcher effectively ruled out Government intervention in wholesale pricing for services on the network, instead suggesting that “the sensible approach is for the board and management of NBN Co to make pricing decisions”, within regulatory bounds.

Again, Fletcher has subsequently doubled down on his comments, pointing to existing arrangements with the country’s competition watchdog and an ongoing industry consultation process with regard to pricing.

“NBN wholesale pricing decisions are a matter for the NBN Co board and management,” the Communications Minister told Telecom Times, noting that NBN Co’s wholesale prices are set in accordance with the caps specified in its Special Access Undertaking (SAU) with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

“In turn, retail service providers need to make their own commercial decisions when setting their retail prices,” Fletcher said. “NBN Co commenced a consultation process with industry on 20 June 2019 to review its wholesale products and prices.

“This process will continue over the coming months so NBN Co’s wholesale offerings meet the needs of both retail service providers and consumers,” he said.

However, wholesale pricing has been a matter of concern for many retailers, with the country’s largest telecommunications provider, Telstra, being among the most vocal.

“…as we migrate to the NBN, with the current wholesale pricing, the margins will – the EBITDA margins – will trend towards zero,” Telstra’s then CFO Robyn Denholm said in the company’s HY19 financial results briefing. “And that is because of the wholesale pricing aspect. We’re working like crazy to reduce our cost to connect and our cost to serve for NBN.”

Optus, meanwhile, has also flagged wholesale pricing as an issue that needs to be addressed for NBN services to be provided to end customers in a way that is sustainable in the long-term.

“Optus supports the view that a further assessment of NBN’s pricing structure is a priority. This will help to ensure NBN retailers such as Optus can continue to deliver great value to customers on a more sustainable basis,” an Optus spokesperson told Telecom Times. 

“We also encourage NBN remove the CVC component in their pricing, which is an ineffective way to charge for this infrastructure and is out of step with retail markets,” the spokesperson said.

TELCO PRICES DOWN, DATA UP BUT SCRUTINY NEEDED SAYS ACCC

Falling telco prices and increased data allowances haven’t been enough to allay the ACCC’s concerns over the Australian broadband and telecommunications market, with the consumer watchdog warning that continued scrutiny is needed.

The just released Communications Market Report 2017-18 highlights falling prices – and the potential threat of wireless to the NBN.

The report, mandated under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, shows the average consumer renewing their fixed broadband plan would have paid 1.5 parent less in real terms and 8.3 percent less when renewing their mobile phone plan, compared with a year earlier.

Mobile broadband pricing was also down 7.5 percent, with the declines taking into account improvements such as data allowances and other inclusions.

The ACCC says NBN prices reduced four percent, while non-NBN fixed broadband prices increased 0.5 percent.

The price drops came as unlimited data plans jumped from five percent in 2013-2014 to account for 40 percent of all plans in 2017-18, while on the mobile side, there has been a 172 percent increase in data allowance.

Rod Sims, ACCC chair says consumers are benefiting from the falling prices and increased data allowances.

“The growth in data inclusions in fixed and mobile plans supports, and is potentially driving, the increased consumption of data by consumers,” Sims says.

“We do have concerns, however, that not all consumers have experienced improvements or will continue to do so in the future, which is why we are continuing our review of NBN appointment, connection and repair commitments,” he adds.

“We will also continue to closely follow developments in NBN retail markets, where competition for entry-level plans in particular appears to be lessening as retailers adapt to NBN Co’s new wholesale pricing arrangements.”

The 2017-18 time period saw NBN eclipse the legacy DSL network as the largest fixed line access network in Australia, the ACCC notes, providing more consumers with the option of acquiring ‘a much higher broadband service than is available with ADSL which on average is around 8Mbps’.

“Providers are continuing to invest in network capacity, including the next major steps which are the deployment of 5G and completion of the NBN rollout,” Sims says.

The ACCC’s quarterly Wholesale Market Indicators Report, released last month, shows more than half of the Australians connected to the NBN are subscribed to higher speed plans of 50Mbps or more.

Unsurprisingly, the annual report shows data consumption has continued its inexorable rise, with the total volume downloaded increasing by 29 percent over 2017-18. That’s most likely dues to increased use of content streaming services, social media and other content-rich applications, the report notes.

The increase was higher for data downloaded by mobile handsets, which increased 45 percent, versus fixed broadband at 27 percent.

The move away from fixed voice minutes continued, and for the first time the decrease in fixed line voice calls wasn’t offset by an increase in mobile voice minutes.

“It’s notable that, for the first time in recent years, the amount of minutes Australians spent talking on their mobiles remained steady,” Sims says.

“We’re increasingly using social media and over-the-top services like Messenger, WhatsApp and Viber to communicate with each other.”

The report also signals a warning for NBN, noting that it faces a potential challenge from wireless, particularly at the lower end, as compulsory migrations to the NBN result in key decision points for end-users.

“At this stage there remains uncertainty as to the level of fixed to mobile substitution that will occur, with the ACCC’s communication sector market study finding up to 30 percent of households will consider mobile alternatives for choosing their broadband plan.

“The communications industry and public sector are meeting the requirement for increased connectivity through ongoing investment including in 5G and most significantly with the deployment of the national broadband network (NBN), the completion of which will significantly enhance fixed line connectivity in Australia.”