Broadband download speeds improve but upload speeds remain flat: ACCC

Australians who get their broadband through NBN fixed-line connections experienced slightly faster download speeds in May 2022 than they did in February 2022, according to the ACCC’s latest quarterly Measuring Broadband Australia report.

Fixed-line connections are those that have a physical line running to the property, such as fiber to the premises or fiber to the node.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s report shows that in May 2022, retail service providers’ average download speed performance was 99.3 per cent of plan speed during all hours (compared to 97.9 per cent in February), and 97.6 per cent of plan speed during the busy hours of 7-11pm (compared to 96.5 per cent in February).

The ACCC also reports that retailers’ average upload speed performance on NBN fixed-line connections in May 2022 was 85.6 per cent of plan speeds during all hours, compared to 84.7 per cent of plan speeds in February 2022.

“Download speeds have improved for many consumers over the last two years because NBN Co overprovisions the download component of some plans,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.

“Upload speeds are more substantially below maximum plan speeds because NBN Co doesn’t overprovision the upload link.”

The ACCC says it believes that NBN Co implementing overprovisioning of the upload component would be an efficient way to boost upload speeds.

“Upload speeds are important to consumers working or studying from home, or using cloud applications such as photo storage,” Brakey said.

The ACCC’s report showing there has been no significant improvement in upload speed performance since early 2020, and also shows that download speeds dropped almost three percentage points during the busiest hours of the day compared to the all-hours average – reflecting retailers rationing the network capacity that they acquire during these times of higher demand, which results in poorer speeds.

The ACCC says that as well as monitoring the performance of NBN plans, the MBA program also measures Uniti Group’s superfast networks that operate through Opticomm and LBNCo.

In May, average download speeds on Uniti’s fiber to the premises connections were 99 per cent of plan speed during the busy evening hours. In comparison, NBN’s fiber to the premises connections continued to experience slightly higher average download speeds of 102.8 per cent of plan speed during busy hours.

“NBN’s fiber to the premises services have slightly better download and upload performance than Uniti’s fiber to the premises services. But when you compare Uniti’s fiber to the premises services with all NBN fixed-line services, Uniti performs slightly better,” Brakey said.

“All Uniti fixed-line services are fiber to the premises, whereas NBN fixed-line also includes fiber to the node, fiber to the building, fiber to the curb and hybrid fiber coaxial.”

The ACCC reports that fixed wireless broadband performance improved: “NBN fixed wireless services also improved in May 2022, delivering 77.6 per cent of plan speed during busy hours compared to 74.7 per cent in February. During all hours, performance reached a record high of 101.5 per cent of plan speed, compared to 92 per cent in February. This was driven by a broad improvement in performance across NBN Fixed Wireless Plus services.”

On NBN ‘Ultrafast’ plans, the ACCC’s report shows a small drop in the performance of NBN very high speed services (known as NBN ‘Ultrafast’) in May 2022.

“Consumers on Ultrafast plans received average download speeds ranging between 820 Mbps during the day and 659 Mbps during the busy evening hours, compared to 823 Mbps and 694 Mbps in February,” the ACCC notes, adding that “home Ultrafast plans are those where the wholesale product sold by NBN Co to retailers has a download speed range of 500-990 Mbps.’

Noting that underperforming services decreased slightly, the ACCC reports that the proportion of underperforming services in the ACCC’s NBN fixed-line sample decreased from 7.1 per cent in February 2022 to 6 per cent in May 2022.


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