NBN Download Speeds Held up Over Lockdown, but Upload Speeds Didn’t Quite Deliver

NBN Download Speeds Held up Over Lockdown, but Upload Speeds Didn’t Quite Deliver
Image: The Simpsons

According to the ACCC’s latest Measuring Broadband Australia report, during August, September and October, NBN download speeds were performing relatively OK, but upload speeds weren’t quite hitting the mark during lockdown.

The ACCC has been releasing its Measuring Broadband Australia report since 2017. This latest instalment tells us essentially the same thing as previous reports: that download speeds are nearly hitting target, but upload speeds aren’t.

Consumers on NBN fixed-line plans experienced download speeds averaging 97.2 per cent of plan speed and upload speeds of 84.9 per cent during the busy evening hours of 7-11pm in September 2021, the ACCC said. (This report expresses results relating to download and upload speeds as a percentage of the service’s plan speed.)

Although the findings are consistent with the last ACCC report, this time, there was a huge chunk of Aussies in lockdown.

During the August to October 2021 period, COVID-19 lockdowns continued to drive traffic growth over the NBN network.

NSW entered lockdowns in June, extending into October 2021. Victoria and the ACT entered lockdowns from August which also extended into October 2021. Queensland experienced a week-long lockdown in July/August, the NT also headed inside in August for a little while, as did Tasmania, but in October.

According to the ACCC, download speeds held up during lockdown. Overall, it said retailers continued to provide consumers with good fixed-line NBN download speeds during the busy evening hours, and even through lockdown when there was a spike in demand.

For the first time, the Measuring Broadband Australia report highlighted retailers’ performance during the ‘busiest hour’ (which the ACCC said is a proxy for when networks are under peak levels of stress).

Retailers’ busiest hour speeds varied between 88.4 per cent and 99 per cent of plan speed in September 2021.

nbn lockdown
This chart shows results from major NBN fixed-line plans, from NBN12 to NBN250. Image: ACCC

Optus and Exetel performed the best when it comes to ‘all hours’. (The busiest hour speed is the fifth-lowest average hourly download speed across each busy hour within the month. The measurement period had a total of 30 days with four busy hours each, totalling 120 busy hours in the month.)

In September 2021, NBN fixed wireless services achieved an average upload performance of 56.2 per cent of plan speeds during all hours. NBN fixed wireless upload speeds varied significantly during the day and decreased to 44.8 per cent of plan speed during the busy hours.

During busy hours between August and October, average upload speeds for the Fixed Wireless Plus plan reached a maximum of 4.7 Mbps. For the 25/5 Mbps NBN fixed wireless plan, average upload speeds reach a maximum of 4 Mbps during these busy hours.

“Consumers on the NBN Fixed Wireless Plus plan are experiencing relatively low upload speeds. A typical video conference will require 2 Mbps of available upload, which means some consumers might have trouble achieving high quality while video conferencing, particularly if there are multiple conferences occurring,” ACCC commissioner Anna Brakey said.

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