Now to the NBN chase

The ABC 7.30 Report wanted to present a balanced (as you do especially around election time) report on different types of users and their experiences. I have to say that the lowlight of the report (here) was Mitch Fifield’s politspeak that my colleague Thomas Bartlett had a go at here.

I was asked to go on the show due to my rant about Trials and Tribulations with Telstra and NBN – we agree to disagree.

In brief, I got FTTN in July 2017, it was good to July 2018 getting a constant 95/38Mbps then went downhill rapidly. Months of complaining to Telstra (my CSP) got nowhere so in November I lodged an official TIO complaint (which I suggest you all do). Ultimately Telstra said they could not fix it so could I go elsewhere – after 40 years as a customer! The matter is back with the TIO but do not hold your breath on an answer – around two months further delay is expected. So note: I am not bitching about speed but reliability and the ability to do real work on it – not just stream or surf.

Only 24% of FTTN Lines can get 100/40Mbps – mine can but reliability issues dog it.

So, begins four hours of interview and filming for a nine-minute 7.30 Report segment. GadgetGuy is used to this with our Channel 7 Sunrise and news appearances. You record as much footage as you can in case you need it and most ends up on the digital cutting room floor. My points were (and not all could fit into the time allocated)

Data is king – unless like Telstra Call Centres you don’t want to or can’t understand it

Bandwidth versus latency versus outages

Bandwidth is purely about how big your internet pipe is. If you pay for 100/40Mbps (or any other tier) download/upload, you should get that apart from peak periods when the ACCC insists CSPs advertise peak bandwidth, say, 80/30.

Latency is how fast a file moves through that internet pipe.

The higher the ping speed, the slower the data moves through the pipe. Telstra Call centres seem oblivious to this only quoting bandwidth as the indicator – absolute bloody rubbish. Yes, you may have a four-lane highway but if traffic is moving slowly due to congestion or a crash that is little consolation.

Outages mean two things.

First, the internet is down – nothing moving up or down the pipe at any speed. The impact of this is that Netflix/streaming stops, smart homes crash (lights, security cameras, appliances) and of course you don’t have an internet connection.

Second, you receive speeds so low and so laggy that it is unusable. Crafty Telstra has gotten around this by using a fall-back modem that invokes 4G during a fixed line outage. Put simply it swaps over to 4G usually in about 2-3 minutes (it is not instant) and gives you a maximum of 12/1Mbps.

I bought a Fingbox to monitor the internet. It presents a visual indicator – an orange flashing light – when the internet is down. It emails me and sends a monthly report.

Right: A good report from my HFC connection in Sydney and Left: a typically bad report from FTTN on the Central Coast.

When (March)                  Downtime

  • Sun 3 09:09               1 minute
  • Mon 4 12:42              2 minutes
  • Tue 5 16:20            2 minutes
  • Wed 6 09:47             1 minute
  • Thu 7 01:16              3 minutes
  • Fri 8 11:38              2 minutes
  • Sat 9 15:25               2 minutes
  • Sun 10 15:44         2 minutes
  • Mon 11 15:53            2 minutes
  • Tue 12 22:10            2 minutes
  • Wed 13 22:40            2 minutes
  • Thu 14 22:44             2 minutes
  • Fri 15 10:51               2 minutes
  • Sat 16 19 12:13         2 minutes
  • Sun 17 11:08             2 minutes
  • Mon 18 19:23             2 minutes
  • Tue 19 22 09:32         2 minutes
  • Wed 20 23:49            1 minute
  • Thur 21 23:59           2 minutes
  • Fri 22 09:42               2 minutes
  • Sat 23 10:31               1 minute

A total 39 minutes outages in March but there are three issues here.

First is fall-back time (cut over to 4G from landline). That 2-3-minute delay (shown above) means that a VPN (if you use one and you should) has dropped out and your remote WordPress website times-out and any work in your remote cloud is not saved. It also means that a lot of smart home IoT (internet of things) appliances must be manually reconnected (let’s hope future IoT gets smarter). While Google Assistant usually reconnects flawlessly (and that may take 5-10 minutes), many third-party devices do not, and it’s a laborious task to open each app and re-pair with Google – not Google’s fault.

Second, is bandwidth. Telstra says 4G is 12/1Mbps but as the Telstra speed test shows reconnection is typically 3.2/.04Mbps as the 4G signal strength is only weak to fair here due to tower placement and distance to my home.


Third is ping time. While the illustration shows 64ms that is the smallest ping time – most of the time it is over 100ms and high as 842ms as everyone affected by the outage accesses 4G.

All 4G fallback does is reduce Telstra’s outage statistics – it offers unworkable speeds and latency for me and many others.

If data is king how do you get the data?

Speed testing (bandwidth)

I developed a minute-by-minute batch file that uses the OOKLA SpeedTest command line interface   – that same engine as used by Telstra’s NBN speed test site. In other words, it is as accurate as Telstra’s own tools.

It measures the download/upload speeds and outages and whether they are within Telstra/NBN’s acceptable parameters. The Bat file is below, but you need to install Python first. More seasoned programmers could work out how to output to a .CSV (Excel) file – I just used Word to manipulate the data, and that was very time-consuming.