NBN download speeds improve while uploads remain stagnant

If you noticed slightly faster internet over the past few months, you’re not just imagining things. A recent report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found that download speeds for retail NBN fixed-line connections are on the rise.

Average download speeds across fixed-line connections from retail service providers (RSPs) sat at 99.3% of the advertised plan speed in May 2022, up from the previous quarter. For example, it means users on an NBN 100 plan averaged a download speed of 99.3Mbps, and the equivalent for other tiers. Back in February, this figure was 97.9%. This is according to the quarterly Measuring Broadband Australia report published by the ACCC.

In the context of the report, fixed-line connections refer to NBN internet plans connected via a physical cable, whether it be fibre to the premises or fibre to the node. The 99.3% figure encompasses average download speeds during all hours, including the peak usage period between 7-11 pm. Isolating the busy hours brings the average download speed down to 97.6% of the plan speed.

Exetel, based in Sydney, led the way for retailers during busy hours with a download average of 102.3% during the testing period. Meanwhile, the Singapore-founded telco MyRepublic lagged behind, slowing down to an 88.8% average download speed during peak hours.

However, average upload speeds remain reasonably below what RSPs are selling. In the same May 2022 period, uploads averaged out at 85.6% of total plan speeds during all hours. While this is still an increase over February’s 84.7% figure, it’s 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 last two years because NBN Co overprovisions the download component of some plans,” Brakey said in a media release.” Upload speeds are more substantially below maximum plan speeds because NBN Co doesn’t overprovision the upload link.”

In fact, the ACCC noted that its reports indicate that upload speeds have not improved significantly since the start of 2020. The watchdog mentioned that this could change should NBN Co decide to overprovision upload components similar to what is already done for downloads.

Also included in the ACCC’s reporting were figures showing improvements to NBN fixed wireless connections. Across all hours, average download speeds hit 101.5% of plan speeds in May 2022, up from 92% in February. In busy hours, this dropped to 77.6%, which is still better than the total upload average of 65.9% or the peak period upload average of 51.3%.

It’s good to see download speeds increase to the point we’re getting what we pay for. Conversely, it’s disappointing to see the upload discrepancy continue. With hybrid and remote working a normal part of many Australians’ lives, being able to quickly upload and send files is more important than ever. Let’s hope this is addressed before potential price increases are put back on the table.

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