ACCC takes first step in broadband monitoring program

A scheme to monitor the performance of the retail service providers (RSPs) that provide services on the National Broadband Network is one step closer, with the organisation coordinating the program formally seeking tenders to deliver it.

Australia’s communications minister, Senator Mitch Fifield, last month announced that the government would fund a four-year broadband performance monitoring program run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The $7 million Broadband Performance Monitoring and Reporting (BPMR) program is based on a 2015 pilot the ACCC ran in Melbourne.

The ACCC yesterday issued an approach the market for a testing provider to run the scheme, which will at first focus on the performance of fixed-line NBN connections.

“The ACCC will begin publishing data later this year as a large number of consumers move to the NBN, and as consumer demand for high-data speeds and data-intensive services continues to grow,” tender documents state.

The ACCC said that the technologies, RSPs and plans tested will be ‘phased’ over the four-year life of the program. Initially the focus will be on NBN services, along with some legacy services that will be monitored for the purposes of benchmarking.

“The types of services that will be tested will evolve and expand with the market, as more consumers migrate to next generation network (NGN) services over the four year,” tender documents state.

Although the focus will initially be on fixed-line residential services, potentially the scheme will be expanded to cover fixed-wireless and satellite services. The ACCC currently has no intention of testing mobile broadband performance.

In addition to recruiting a test pool of households mdash; beginning with 2500 in the first year and growing to at least 4000 by year four mdash; the organisation selected to deliver the program will have to source and distribute appropriate monitoring hardware capable of automatically running performance tests.

Some eight to 10 RSPs will be covered in the first year, growing to 11-13 by year four. At least two retail speed plans will be tested. The program will also assess the performance of plans delivered via wholesale aggregators.

There will be a 1:1 split between metro and regional areas. In addition to NBN services, one to three other superfast broadband networks (which could include offerings such as TPG’s fibre to the building services) will be tested.

Beyond download and upload speeds, metrics will include webpage load time, latency, packet loss, jitter (via VOIP emulation) and DNS response times.

Earlier this year the ACCC released guidelines for RSPs on making broadband performance claims, warning telcos not to market plans purely on the theoretical maximum delivered by a particular access technology.

Telstra recently revealed that a small number of its customers with NBN services were on plans with maximum speeds that were not achievable. The telco is reimbursing the affected customers.


Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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