NBN fibre to the node speeds still falling short, ACCC says

Average FTTN speeds dragged down by underperforming services

Network Networking Ethernet
Martyn Williams/IDGNS

The latest edition of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Measuring Broadband Australia report reveals that fibre to the node (FTTN) continues to trail other NBN fixed-line technologies when it comes to delivering the speeds households are paying for.

The report is prepared for the ACCC by UK company SamWare using hardware probes installed in volunteer households.

The report covering the period 1 November to 30 November 2019 reveals that, on average, FTTN connections delivered 80.8 per cent of the relevant maximum plan speed during periods of peak usage in the evening (and 81.9 per cent overall).

By contrast fibre to the premises delivered an average of 88.9 per cent of maximum plan speak during busy periods (90.5 per cent overall), fibre to the curb 90.3 per cent (91.4 per cent overall), and hybrid fibre-coaxial 90.2 per cent (and 91.6 per cent­).

The report states, however, that the culprit dragging down the FTTN average speed is so-called “underperforming” services: Those services that have proved incapable of achieving speeds that even approach the theoretical maximum speed of a broadband plan purchased by a household.

FTTN relies copper wiring to connect a household to a node. The length and condition of that copper can affect the speeds encountered by end users. (Other factors, such as the capacity provisioned by a telco, can have an impact on end user performance regardless of fixed-line technology.)

SamKnows categorises a service as underperforming if 5 per cent of less of the speed tests it conducts on a connection manage to achieve a speed above 75 per cent of the maximum for a particular plan. “This test effectively identifies those services with maximum attainable speeds that fall closer to the maximum speed of a lower speed tier than to the maximum speed of the consumer’s current plan,” the report explains.

Overall, of the 1212 NBN services tested for the report, 11 per cent were classed as underperforming. Ninety-five per cent of those services were FTTN services, mostly on 50/20Mbps or 100/40Mbps plans.

“We are pleased to see that speeds have generally improved, however we need more action from NBN Co and retail service providers so that all consumers can access their full NBN plan speeds,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said in a statement.

“This Measuring Broadband Australia data clearly shows that too many consumers with FTTN connections are not receiving the speeds they are paying for.”

Under rules issued by the Australian Communications and Media Authority in 2018, telcos are obliged to confirm the maximum attainable speed of a service.

If that speed falls short of the maximum plan speed a household is playing for, a consumer must be given the option of switching to a lower tier plan or exiting their contract without cost.

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