How Fast Is The NBN In Its Current Form?

There has been a lot of talk about the National Broadband Network in its various guises under the Labor and now Liberal governments. But how fast really is it in its current form? How does it compare to today's ADSL and broadband internationally? And, crucially, how long will it take to download an episode of Parks and Recreation? You'll find the answers here.

NBN installation image from Shutterstock

Broadband before the NBN

ADSL2+ is the most common broadband technology used in Australia today. ADSL2+ speeds depend on the distance from the premises to the local telephone exchange.

This is because imperfections in the copper wires connecting the premises to the exchange can degrade the signal. So the longer the wire, the lower the speed.

A typical ADSL2+ download speed in Melbourne or Sydney is around 15 Mb/s, but many housholds have much lower speeds than this.


International comparison

The chart below shows the average peak download speeds (an indication of the upper range of speeds) reported by Akamai for a number of countries in 2015, when Australia's download speeds were ranked 49th in the world.

The graph also shows projected download speeds in those countries in 2020 and 2025, based on continuing exponential growth of download speeds.


Speed comparison

The wired part of the NBN will have three components:

  • Fibre-to-the-node (FTTN)
  • Fibre to the premises (FTTP) and
  • Hybrid fibre coax (HFC) networks, which are upgraded version of the existing Telstra and Optus services.

FTTN will provide download speeds of 50 Mb/s to 100 Mb/s, and like ASDL, the speed will depend on the distance between the premises and the nearest node in the street. It will not be possible to upgrade FTTN services to higher speeds.

Premises connected to the FTTP and HFC networks will be able to download at at least 100 Mb/s, upgradeable to 1,000 Mb/s (i.e. 1 gigabit per second or Gb/s) and even 10,000 Mb/s (i.e. 10 Gb/s) in the future.

This animation gives an idea of the different download speeds of ADSL, FTTN, and FTTP in 2016, 2021 and 2026, based on expected technology improvements.


Bandwidth capacity

The speed of a broadband connection is not just about download speeds, but also the capacity for multiple streams through a single connection.

For example, a typical ADSL2+ connection could handle up to three high-definition (HD, or 1,920 × 1,080) video streams simultaneously.

Faster connection will be able to handle more simultaneous streams and at higher resolutions.


What your future household will require

This graphic shows the download requirements of a typical household in 2020 and 2025.

By then, 4K ultra-high-definition (3,840 x 2,160) video streaming will be common, and 4K TVs will be readily available. By 2020, a typical Australian home will have two of these devices.

In 2025, 8K (7,680 x 4,320) TVs will be readily available and there could well be an 8k TV in every home as well as two or three 4k TVs.


Rod Tucker, Laureate Emeritus Professor, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

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Comments

    TLDR - 75% slower then it should be right now and 750% slower then it needs to be in 5 years

    The plan appeared to sacrifice long term potential for immediate gains, but even that has failed to eventuate.

    We're laughably behind now, and we'll be further behind in the future.

    Also, this article fails to mention our outstandingly dire upload speed; something which has dramatically hobbled Australian business potential for the last several years.

    Last edited 25/02/16 12:01 pm

      Yes, the upload speed is what really hurts business use, as well as the takeup of cloud based services for the home too.

      The upload speeds are basically useless at the moment, and not fantastic going forwards.

    FTTN will provide download speeds of 50 Mb/s to 100 Mb/s, and like ASDL, the speed will depend on the distance between the premises and the nearest node in the street. It will not be possible to upgrade FTTN services to higher speeds.
    Premises connected to the FTTP and HFC networks will be able to download at at least 100 Mb/s, upgradeable to 1,000 Mb/s (i.e. 1 gigabit per second or Gb/s) and even 10,000 Mb/s (i.e. 10 Gb/s) in the future.

    Except that:
    1) It is entirely possible to upgrade FTTN to FTTP with a user-pays or customer co-contribution model so only people who actually need greater than 100M/40M speeds can pay to get them (rather than the taxpayer).

    2) With bonding and vectoring, FTTN speed capability increases to 300Mbit/s, which requires no new equipment, just a change of policy by NBN Co. So even with no technical advances, in 10 years time it's entirely reasonable to expect that FTTN can easily accommodate 173Mbit/s.

    3) While the LNP has unequivocally messed up the NBN, it is worth remembering the Labour cost estimates were just a fictional and understated as the LNP ones were. NBN Co were hardly on schedule or with a country mile of their budget when the election was called. Sure, we would've been better off sticking to the Conroy's 'do it right the first time' plan, but Tony made it really clear last election they he was going to massacre the NBN and more than 50% of you voted for the vandal anyway. The blame for this lands squarely in at the feet of the average Australian voter.

    Last edited 25/02/16 12:16 pm

      I didn't vote for him. So I'm not to blame. NBN isn't worth it. Mobile coverage is increasing. proving easier to implement...I mean has anyone had a headache over the implementation of 5G yet? Oh wait, the government isn't involved in that. I will admit, mobile coverage definitely has flaws...like the fact I can't get it anywhere outside a major city (with optus anyway). I mean here's telstra going for Gbps wirelessly in the near future and the government is struggling to implement 100Mbps flawlessly wired. wtf?

        Yeah, but look at the pricing of mobile data, and in my town, in the late afternoon, when everyone gets home and on the internet, the mobile network is reduced to near dialup speeds as everyone tries to use it

          Fair point...same thing happens on ADSL2...but I guess not nearly as bad...

        yes, the *current government is indeed struggling to implement 100Mbps - one of the (many) reasons they suck...

        I still find it interesting when I hear people say "blah blah the future is wireless blah blah" without taking into account the requirement for fibre backbone for all this 5G data and the fact that there's no way they could build enough capacity to have everyone trying to change over from ADSL to wireless...

      The problem with blaming the "average Australian voter" is that 45% of them didn't vote for the Coalition. Australian elections are almost always won on a pretty slim majority, but due to the way voting for the lower house works, the slim majority translates to a huge change in seat numbers.

      Bonding requires at least two copper lines per circuit (not an option in many cases). I've set up bonded ADSL2 before (iiNet used to offer it) but found it to be pretty flakey; to be fair, probably the fault of the equipment. The nbn page on vectoring mentions a bandwidth improvement but includes the effect of "shortening the distance between the home and the fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) cabinet" which clearly WOULD require new equipment.

      And of course the elephant in the room is uplink bandwidth (which almost never seems to get a mention in these debates) with VDSL having an inherently lower uplink capability, further diminished by nbn's decision to limit uplink fibre bandwidth to 2-4Gbps per node. Have you ever tried uploading a backup using ADSL2? I wouldn't advise it. VDSL is not currently much better.

      Labor's network may have been undercosted but at this point it's looking like the Coalition NBN will wind up costing about as much - and as the copper deteriorates, will almost certainly need to be upgraded to FTTP eventually anyway, so the long-term cost will be much higher. I'm sure I'm not the only one who noticed that when the NBN were asked recently about alternative costing for a FTTP solution, the current state of the network, including sunk costs for VDSL and copper licensing, were included in the FTTP alternative. That's fair enough (since we don't have a time machine) but doesn't really tell us which solution would have been cheaper had the Coalition left the NBN alone.

      The net result is that we are paying a similar amount - and definitely a larger amount in the long run - for an inferior network with higher maintenance costs, all because the Coalition wanted to save money in the short run and get somewhat faster speeds to some users, also in the short run. As for "funded by Australian taxpayers", the NBN was spun off into a separate corporation in part to ensure that that wouldn't happen - the extra costs would, in the long run, be funded by the improved capabilities of the NBN itself.

      Well. Not your fault; I appreciate you playing devil's advocate, with some actual decent arguments.

      (Incidental triva: "Labor party" uses American spelling for "Labo[u]r" for weird historical reasons.)

        "Labor's network may have been undercosted but at this point it's looking like the Coalition NBN will wind up costing about as much"

        What's the point of a price comparison to Labor's completely fictional number?

          So compare it to the Coalition's completely fictional number for Labor's network instead.

          Current estimates put deployment cost for the Coalition NBN at around $46-56B. The Labor estimate of $44B is now estimated by nbn as $74-84B - but that includes sunk costs for FTTN. There was also an anlysis from Monash University indicating an FTTP network would pay for the difference within nine years of deployment.

          More to the point, the copper in the ground is getting worse over time and WILL require upgrade to fibre at some point in time - whether than be ten years in the future or fifty. At some point the FTTN network will require upgrading - and so we will have paid for not one network, but two.

          Sadly we're stuck with the current botch-job so we'll be paying for that second network sooner or later.

      Please show me a form that allowed me to vote JUST on the fate of NBN.
      Hell, outside of his electorate the voting forms didn't even have Abbott's name.

      People voted OUT the Labor party, which is not the same as voting "for Abbott".

      Except that:
      1) Fibre on Demand is a myth perpetuated by Malcolm Turnbull to pretend that he isn't screwing 70% of Australian households. The nodes installed by NBN Co don't have enough room to hold active FTTH connections. Before the election Turnbull said that, he expected FoD to cost around $2250 for 500m of Fibre. Recently, NBN Co quoted a customer between $7,500 and $10,500 when he was only 300 metres from the exchange. Either they are deliberately quoting high numbers to dissuade people from utilising the service, or Turnbull lied about the costs by a very large margin.

      2) FTTH can deliver it's speeds without dropoff out to about 10km or more. 300 Mbit/s speeds are only theoretically achievable at the node on Vectored VDSL2. At 500 metres it is less than 200 Mbit/s and at 1km it's only theoretically capable of delivering around 50Mbit/s. This all assumes that your local copper is in perfect condition to actually deliver those speeds, which it clearly ISN'T. Telstra themselves have been saying for years that the copper network is "5 minutes to midnight"

      Good luck ever getting those speeds over FTTN.

      3) This one is absolutely true and I hate each and every Australian who made that choice.

      Last edited 25/02/16 11:50 pm

      tax payers do NOT pay for any of the nbn install it is paid for by "bonds", if the money is not spent on the nbn it can't be spent elsewhere eg. schools or roads. the nbn must make enough money to pay these bonds back with interest, then Aussies will have a new network that hopefully get rid of the antique 1950 s copper network. go FTTP all the way!

    If wireless was affordable it would be a nice solution for people who dont need the most out of their connection.

    But you will never be able to get 4G/5G data close to Wired solutions.

    What this analysis ignores is cost. The majority won't pay for these speeds, but will get saddled with higher costs and no alternatives. The people who read this blog are not doubt happy to pay for fast internet, and the majority will just put up with it, but many are going to face real hardship as a result.

      Actually a CBA done on the NBNCo data shows that FttP is actually more cost effective than FttN. Giz did an article on it - and NBNCo's tragic response - http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2016/01/nbn-responds-to-claims-fttp-is-better-value-than-fttn/

    Im all for FTTP NBN (primarily for upload speeds), but seriously i have a hard time believing in 4 years even 25% of households would have a usage pattern like

    1 tablet and 1 PC using 10mbs combined
    4 smartphones using 8mbs combined
    2x HD Streams
    1x 4k stream

    All simultaniously, IF you happened to have 4 smartphone users simultaniously on the net, 2mb each pretty specious, unless they are streaming video as well, in which case how many people watch independent video sources in the typical house certainly not 7 (8 including the tablet, the PC might be doing something else).

    BY 2025 perhaps the typical household will have 4k capable TVs but im not sure the majority of content will be 4k, assuming people even have large enough TVs and sit close enough to notice the difference to make it worth the bandwidth/quota.

    I disagree and would even go so far as to say who the heck is using the 2 HD streams if there is 4k avaliable :). I often flick through my phone occasionally hitting an embedded video while watching TV, it would be netflix baring my dodgy ADSL. A four person household could easily hit those requirements. Also 2mb is not what I would call spacious for a phone anymore (on wifi) cloud services are syncing photo/video all the time and there is a constant stream of app updates always growing in size.

    I also think streaming VR and cloud based gaming will take off as soon as the infrastructure can handle it. There is already plenty we cant/won't be able to do on the FTTN NBN we just don't know what were missing out on because it won't exist until there is infrastructure to allow it to work.

    Our area had nbn switched on last Friday with good ole Wyatt Roy sprucing the superior theoretical download speeds now available to residents of 25mb/s max. Seems like the magical 50mb/s has already been halved as the copper in out shire is well worse then expected

    The NBN is still giving me 0Mb/s down and 0Mb/s up, just like it will continue to do for the three to five years. As a bonus, no-one is investing in non-NBN equipment either, so I'm stuck with the technology and speed that I have right now. I'm better off than most, however, which means I shouldn't really complain.

    1) @roughly $10000 for a 300metre drop...yep, makes economic sense...how about an area switch program that derives benefits from economies of scale? Like the roll out that WILL have to be done within the decade after the MTM is completed...oh look, the price of TWO rollouts for the benefit of one.....
    2) Bonding requires extra copper lines to be drawn to the premises, it also requires that extra nodes be placed because of the capacity issues...

    For all the noise, I've been on FTTN for the past 6 months. I'm 250m away from the node, which - in my area is on the upper limits of distance as there's a node every few blocks.

    I'm getting the full 100Mbit downlink, 40Mbit uplink. In fact I don't know a single person in our area who doesn't get above 80Mbit sync rates.

    Of course, most people in our area only pay for a 25Mbit plan or less, because they simply don't need the speed.

    Complain about it all you want, but FTTN is darn good in my experience, and we're in for even higher speeds in a year or two when they switch off the co-existence of ADSL2 on our lines and allow full vectoring speeds.

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