Business Analysis

More fibre connections but users stick to lower speeds

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(Images via Wikimedia Commons, Rawpixel)

While improvements have been made to Australia's fibre broadband network, a study has revealed that users are still relying on slower download speeds. Paul Budde reports.

THE GOVERNMENT'S initiative to enhance the National Broadband Network (NBN) has expanded eligibility for full-fibre broadband upgrades to over 3 million Australians. An additional 400,000 homes and businesses are set to benefit from this plan, as the latest list of eligible suburbs and towns has been unveiled.

These newly eligible premises were previously serviced by the infamous Multi-Technology Mix, based on copper cable connections, a system concocted by the former Coalition Government. The copper network is known for its slower speeds, lower reliability, higher maintenance costs and increased likelihood of prolonged faults.

In contrast, the full-fibre broadband – as it was already envisaged nearly 20 years ago – offers world-class performance, ensuring faster upload and download speeds, as well as a more reliable connection for both residents and small businesses.

The transition to full fibre has contributed to increased productivity savings; this can be translated to NBN users saving over 100 hours and $2,580 annually by utilising higher-speed broadband. According to NBN research, the network has generated a substantial economic uplift of $122 billion by 2022, leading to the creation of approximately 169,000 additional jobs — a 1.3% increase in Australia's labour force.

By the end of December 2023, 75% of premises in the NBN fixed-line network will have the opportunity to access fibre directly to their homes, enjoying download speeds of nearly one Gbps through NBN's fastest residential plan. Upgrades will be available on-demand for eligible households or businesses opting for higher-speed plans, with no upfront installation costs.

The Government's commitment to invest $2.4 billion, as outlined in the October 2022 Budget, has facilitated these upgrades, aiming to extend full-fibre access to an additional 1.5 million premises by the end of 2025.

Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland emphasised the crucial role of affordable, reliable and high-speed broadband, stating that it is no longer a luxury but an essential requirement for work, learning, transactions, government services and telehealth. She highlighted the significant progress in delivering a better NBN, enabling millions of Australians to order full fibre and emphasising the economic benefits of quality broadband, including support for local manufacturing and job creation.

Other interesting internet data was published by Cloudflare. Its analysis of internet download speeds in Australia reveals that 50 Mbps and 100 Mbps are dominant connection speeds, with over one-third of connections falling within these ranges. The overall average download speed for Australian users using Cloudflare's speed test tool is 68Mbps.

Cloudflare measures the real speeds that users experience, not the speed package that they purchase. The most common speed used is between 50 and 55 Mbps (close to 10% of users). A relatively low number – just above 5% – use speeds of between 90 and 95 Mbps.

Other interesting findings of this study indicate that the measurements taken could indicate that alternative access methods, such as mobile broadband or fixed wireless, are used as well; this is reflected in the fact that 11.24% of results fall between 60 and 90 Mbps. Another conclusion that the study revealed was that legacy connections below 40 Mbps account for 22.33% and that 6.29% of Australian speed tests were below 10 Mbps in 2023.

Less than 1% of measurements indicated people using speeds above 100Mbps and less than 0.03% use speeds above one Gbps. Interestingly, globally, Iceland leads Cloudflare's speed test rankings with an average speed of 282.5 Mbps.

In terms of mobile usage, 35.67% of traffic from Australia to Cloudflare's platform comes from mobile devices, while 64.33% is from desktops, aligning with global trends.

Paul Budde is an Independent Australia columnist and managing director of Paul Budde Consulting, an independent telecommunications research and consultancy organisation. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBudde.

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