NBN download speeds improve while uploads stagnate

If you’ve noticed slightly faster internet over the past few months, don’t just imagine it. A recent report from Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found that download speeds for NBN fixed line connections are increasing in retail outlets.

Average fixed-line download speeds for Retail Service Providers (RSPs) were 99.3% of advertised rate speeds in May 2022, ahead of the previous quarter. This means, for example, that users with an NBN 100 plan achieved an average download speed of 99.3 Mbit/s and the equivalent for other tiers. As recently as February, that figure was 97.9%. This is according to the quarterly report “Measuring Broadband Australia” published by the ACCC.

In the context of the report, fixed lines refer to NBN internet plans that are connected via a physical cable, be it fiber to the building or fiber to the node. The 99.3% figure includes average download speeds during all hours, including the peak hours between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. Isolating rush hours brings average download speeds down to 97.6% of plan speeds.

Sydney-based Exetel led for retailers during peak hours with a download average of 102.3% during the test period. Meanwhile, Singapore-based telecoms company MyRepublic lagged, slowing to an average download speed of 88.8% during peak periods.

However, average upload speeds remain well below what RSPs are selling. During the same period of May 2022, uploads averaged 85.6% of the plan’s overall speed during all hours. While this is still an increase from February’s 84.7%, it is comparatively well below downloads. According to ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey, this discrepancy is due to how NBN Co allocates capacity.

“Download speeds have improved for many consumers over the past two years because NBN Co is over-provisioning the download component of some plans,” Brakey said in a press release. Upload speeds are significantly slower than the maximum plan speeds as NBN Co does not over-provision the upload link.”

In fact, the ACCC noted that its reports indicate upload speeds haven’t improved much since early 2020. The watchdog mentioned that this could change should NBN Co decide to provide upload components similar to what it already does for downloads.

Also included in the ACCC coverage were numbers showing improvements in NBN fixed wireless links. Across all hours, average download speeds reached 101.5% of plan speeds in May 2022, up from 92% in February. During peak hours, that dropped to 77.6%, which is still better than the overall upload average of 65.9% or the peak upload average of 51.3%.

It’s good to see download speeds increasing enough to give us what we pay for. Conversely, it’s disappointing to see the upload discrepancy persist. With hybrid and remote work becoming a normal part of many Australians’ lives, being able to upload and send files quickly is more important than ever. Let’s hope this gets addressed before potential price hikes are put back on the table.

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