Netflix's Speed Ranking Shows Us How Broken Aussie Internet Really Is

After a long wait, Netflix has switched on its rankings for Australia's internet service providers, and the outcome is pretty bleak. The world's largest streaming video service's speed index for Aussie ISPs throw into sharp relief the abysmal quality of our country's internet.

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Here are the seven fastest ISPs in Australia when it comes to Netflix performance, ranked:

The top-ranked ISP in the list, TPG, reports an average Netflix streaming speed of 3.36Mbps. Optus is hot on its heels with 3.27Mbps, iiNet right behind with 3.24Mbps. But let's wait for a second. That TPG result again? Three point three six megabits per second. That is shockingly bad.

To put that in perspective, the bit-rate of a 480p DVD's audio-video stream (using MPEG-2 compression, less effective than the current H.264 standard) sits anywhere between 3 and 10-ish megabits per second -- a rough average of 6Mbps. A 1080p Blu-ray video stream (using the VC-1 codec, more comparable to H.264 in its age and compression) can be anything from 20 to 48 megabits per second, and around 30Mbps as an average.

This is for a high quality video file optimised for high-bandwidth physical media, true. But even Netflix's own recommendations suggest that average Aussie internet is, at its very best, only good enough to support standard definition video streaming. That is, 480p, DVD video quality, the kind we were enjoying back in 1997. That's pretty terrible.

Below are the Internet download speed recommendations per stream for playing movies and TV shows through Netflix. 

  • 0.5 Megabits per second - Required broadband connection speed
  • 1.5 Megabits per second - Recommended broadband connection speed
  • 3.0 Megabits per second - Recommended for SD quality
  • 5.0 Megabits per second - Recommended for HD quality
  • 25 Megabits per second - Recommended for Ultra HD quality

Also interesting is the fact that Telstra is a fair way down the list with an average connection speed of 2.23Mbps -- a full 50 per cent slower than TPG, Optus and iiNet, and not even up to snuff for SD. Given that it's Australia's largest Internet service provider, with the lion's share of network infrastructure and a robust cable broadband network, you'd expect that to be higher.

Maybe, one day, we'll get an average standard of internet around the country that allows us to all reliably stream video in HD quality? Hey, a guy can dream. [Netflix]



    It would be interesting to find out exactly how many netflix subscribers are on each ISP, ie, is the fact that Telstra is at the bottom a sign that they have the most netflix subscribers and in turn those subscribers are bringing their network speed down? Does TPG have relatively few netflix subscribers, thus leading to an overall higher speed for those that do actually subscribe on that network?

      That would actually give a better representation of how the networks are handling it too. Personally I wouldn't put it past Telstra to limit the Netflix connection given their connection to Foxtel and their own BigPond VOD services.

        Yeah there has to be some other explanation for Telstra being last. My understanding was that Telstra was usually the fastest and TPG was the slowest, however there is a huge price/value difference.

          TPG service densely populated areas with ADSL2+, Telstra are compelled to service regional areas with bigger distances to exchanges as well as legacy ADSL connections.

            This. These results aren't completely reflective of an ISP's performance, more the crappy line speeds many people have to deal with. Since telstra serves regional areas they're more likely to have customers slowed down by crummy line syncs.

            Telstra are not compelled to service regional areas, check your facts. The USO applies to phone services only not data or ADSL services. If Telstra provide ADSL lines that are not capable of providing decent performace they do it by choice, not because they have to. If their average is in fact taken down by this that's entirely of their own making.

      I'm a TPG Netflix user, and while I describe my internet as shitty (constant need to reboot router) my performance on Netflix is pretty damn reliable. I always put it down to magic buffering on the side of Netflix

        Get a new router.

      These figures paint a very distorted picture. Telstra's apparent "average" is pulled down by the fact that it has a much larger presence in regional Australia than other ISPs.

      If you were to compare like-for-like in major metro areas, Telstra would be on top. There are lies, damned lies, and then statistics like these.

    Did you actually read the Netflix blog??

    The Australian Netflix ISP index values are not that much different to those given for US ISPs e.g. US Netflix ISP range for April 2015 is between 1.11 - 3.55 Mbps on the Netflix blog.

    Also, these numbers are not an indication of the overall performance of ISP performance as stated in the below, also from the netflix blog:

    'The Netflix ISP Speed Index is a measure of prime time Netflix performance on a particular ISP and not a measure of overall performance for other services/data that may travel across the specific ISP network.'

      Um, yep, I did read the blog. And yes, I realise it's prime time Netflix performance. My point, all throughout the article, is that the 'net connections aren't even up to spec for HD streaming.

        How is that a relevant benchmark? The same was true of dial-up in 1995 but no-one expected it to be better. Maybe that's just how the internet is? After all, if speeds in the US are no better, why would we expect anything faster?

        If you want the article to have some meaning, show us how it compares to other parts of the world, not just for speed but also cost. Maybe we are simply getting the internet we are willing to pay for?

        What you missed is that these figures are the average streaming bitrate used. Which in no way accurately represents available bandwidth over 3 Mbps, which is the bitrate Netflix uses for HD (not 4K). I believe they use 15 or 20 for 4K but that's fairly irrelevant. This is why EVERY COUNTRY in their list is < 5Mbps, and are generally pretty close to 3, as few people have suitable equipment AND bandwidth for 4k. This (5 Mbps) is less than a third of the average downstream speed in Australia. (used,18/Australia/ but will happily be proven wrong if someone has better figures).

        "Maybe, one day, we’ll get an average standard of internet around the country that allows us to all reliably stream video in HD quality? Hey, a guy can dream."

        The results confirm that in fact almost every provider IS capable of providing Netflix HD. I have a 4.5 Mbps DSL connection and can watch Netflix in HD and browse perfectly fine. 5 Mbps is a very generous overhead for HD.

        "My point, all throughout the article, is that the 'net connections aren't even up to spec for HD streaming."

        Then your point, all throughout the article is completely wrong. If the average is above 3 Mbps, the connections are up to spec.

          Not in the slightest. Netflix streaming of HD recommends 5mbps. That's for 720p, too, not their 1080p "Super HD". I'm certain that a lot of devices streaming Netflix in Oz are capable of displaying that resolution or higher -- they're not the bottleneck.

          Given that the average streaming speed reported by Netflix is barely above 3mbps, that tells me the majority of connections can only sustain SD streaming. And not HD.

    These numbers make sense considering the fact that the vast majority of Australians live far enough away from their telephone exchange that high speeds are just impossible. I remain unconvinced that the Mixed Medium NBN will solve this problem.
    Thankfully I'm in the minority with a fairly steady sync speed of around 19mbps. So HD Netflix streams come in perfectly for me.

    The fastest FTTP provider (FIOS) in the U.S. scores about the same. Check the US rankings. AT&T DSL is around 2.5Mbps

    Before you bash how horrible our speeds are, make some reasonable comparisons.

      The US has a way larger population than we do. The strain on Netflix during peak time will be grater than it is here. You should look between the lines and you will see how bad our piss poor inter really is.

        With a larger population comes more infrastructure, making your point irrelevant.

    Another reason why piracy is rampant. If you cannot smoothly stream at HD/UHD bitrates, isn't pre-loading the entire media (via downloading as a video file) a better alternative from a user experience standpoint? Does Netflix allow local caching of an entire episode before you start watching?

      Not that I am aware of. I thought Netflix might have introduced this in its Australian launch and IMO is one of their failings. If I start watching a TV series, I should be able to be cache the whole series at whatever bitrate I want. I should be able to bookmark & cache movies for later viewing. It wouldn't be hard to limit it to a certain allocation of your disk space and set it to run during only certain hours allowing peak time demand to be more evenly spread.

      I can't see it being a licensing thing as you still need to view it within your Netflix client, similar to how Spotify allows you to take music offline.

    I got excited to actually have a movie jump up to 720p for about 10mins on the weekend.

    Cheers were heard, beers were drunk and all was good...for those 10mins anyway.

      Was the difference worth it? i.e. If somebody came along with a product that would guarantee you 720p all the time, how much extra would you pay for it? This is what worries me with net neutrality - it discourages anyone from doing better.

    I can often watch 720p streamed from the UK (BBC iPlayer) over my 3Mbps with no interruptions, but struggle to watch SD streamed from ABC iView (pauses, jumps etc.). There seems to be more than just download speed that determines the picture quality of what you watch.

    I use to rent a house half a km for the the exchange which had pretty awesome internet speeds then I bought a house over 5 kms from the exchange so no HD streaming for me until someone waves a magic wand and gives me higher speeds. Considering most people in Australia still watch DVDs and most TV channel aren't in HD I'm guessing no one will notice that Netflix is steaming in SD. LOL!

    Last edited 12/05/15 6:18 pm

    Is there any reason they haven't included smaller ISP's? Would it just be due to lack of data? I'm with Fastel on NBN, and have never had any problem with my Netflix, smooth as anything in 1080p all the time

    This doesn't surprise me at all, and is one of the many reasons i won't subscribe to streaming services. Heck i even dl youtube videos (720p) to ensure smooth uninterrupted playback!

    I went back to my motherland Scotland in 2011, I stayed in a barn cottage in the middle of nowhere, there were cows and fields in the backgarden, the wifi they had their was faster than what I get here via Ethernet (living 50km from Sydney)...

    Australia's internet is SUPERBAD, it just is.

    Would be nice if they could expanded that data to include regions of Australia, ie each City and Major Towns across Australia. The problem with Australia that Telstra is alluding to, but obviously hiding behind as well, is Australia is a huge complicated mess of and large distances.

    Comparing Sydney Inner Suburbs with the latest exchange hardware compared to Telstra back of Woop Woop with 20 kiliometre copper line that was planted in the ground in the 1960s is obviously different.

    This is a pointless discussion for some people (like me), where I am the only option is to connect through Telstra copper, doesn't matter who we pay the bill too it is still Telstra's lines. No cable and NBN isn't on the consideration map for us, so it looks like my 1.2Mbs is here to stay for a while.

    The international space center has faster average internet speed than Australia's average internet streaming speed. My family home in the American suburbs has an average speed of 30Mbs and my parents pay less than $100 a month. I only know this because my brother is an IT guy and he pays for 60Mps as a college student. Since moving here to Australia permanently I've gotten used to it now..but man do I remember the good ole' days.

    My Romanian friends give me a lot of grief about this.

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