A Non-Sensationalist Look At Australian Internet Speeds

Australia dropped down to 48th place in a global average broadband connection speed rankings list published by Akamai Technologies. Naturally, people have come out to deride Australia's broadband situation and criticise the colossal mess that is the National Broadband Network (NBN), but let's all put down our pitchforks, take a collective deep breath and look at the results more closely.

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Content delivery network (CDN) and cloud services provider, Akamai, regularly releases quarterly State Of The Internet reports that analyse the 810 million unique IPv4 addresses from 243 countries connected to its Intelligence Platform, which representing over 1 billion web users. The company then tries to work out internet penetration rates and, more importantly here, broadband connection speeds in each country.

According to the report, the average broadband speed for Australia in the fourth quarter of 2015 was 8.2Mbps, putting it in 48th spot, down from 46th, compared to the rest of the world. In terms of average peak internet speeds, at 39.3Mbps, Australia fared far worse. Australia plummeting to 60th position, down from 46th, that quarter.

Drilling down into the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea took the top spot in average connection speeds (26.7Mbps), followed by Japan (17.4Mbps), Hong Kong (16.8) and Singapore. Australia was 8th in the region, behind New Zealand, which ranked 6th with an average speed of 9.3Mbps.

When you look at the rankings, Australia does seem to be trailing behind significantly, which add fuel to the flames in the NBN debate; we missed out on the opportunity to have fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) and now we're stuck with a Frankenstein network that is a mishmash of fibre and unsustainable copper.

But let's step back and look at the Akamai results. Australia's average and peak internet speeds have increased by 11 per cent and 6.4 per cent year-on-year, respectively. Sure, we dropped down in rankings this quarter but anomalies in quarterly results aren't uncommon, according to Akamai senior director for industry and data intelligence, David Belson, who authored the report.

"The year-on-year measurement gives a better perspective as to what's going on and long-term trend," he told Lifehacker Australia. "We do see quarterly declines at times for a variety of reasons, but looking at the country overall, Australia has seen strong increases in speeds; it's not massive, but still positive."

The connection speeds are sufficient for the average user who wants to stream videos, surf the web and play online games, Belson said. But what about for organisations that require faster broadband for daily operations?

"Business-class connections are generally faster as business are willing to pay for them," he said. "For the most part, business connections speeds are less of an issue. That is, for metropolitan areas like Sydney, you have access to multiple providers and high speed connections; it's just a matter of paying for it."

Belson noted that while people are obsessed with seeing their country to be the best in terms of internet speeds, it's never an apples-to-apples comparison.

Take the top ranking countries in Asia-Pacific; South Korea, which also has the faster average internet connections speeds in the world, is consistently touted a shining example of what our broadband network should be like. However, the country's broadband is subjected to censorship.

According to the OpenNet Initiative:

Despite the fact that South Korea has one of the most advanced information communication technology sectors in the world, online expression remains under the strict legal and technological control of the central government. The country is the global leader in Internet connectivity and speed, but its restrictions on what Internet users can access are substantial.

Singapore, which has the fastest average peak internet speed in Asia-Pacific this quarter, also "employs a combination of licensing controls and legal pressures to regulate Internet access and to limit the presence of objectionable content and conduct online".

I'm not saying Australia's broadband doesn't need improvement (it definitely does) and I do think the NBN is in a sad state right now. Australia's broadband is in no means perfect and neither are the Akamai report results, which obviously can't reflect the situation of every user in the country. Before we jump the gun and Hulk rage over internet speed rankings, just remember to step back and consider the bigger picture. It's not just connection speeds that we have to factor in to build a better broadband network.


    Naturally, people have come out to deride Australia’s broadband situation and criticise the colossal mess that is the National Broadband Network (NBN), but let’s all put down our pitchforks, take a collective deep breath and look at the results more closely.

    Nononono, I'm gonna have to stop you there; this simply won't do. If we do as you suggest, we might see something we don't want to see: reasons to put the pitchforks down.

      Well it's not like he's telling us where we have to put them down...

    All I want is to watch a twitch stream while someone else in the house is watching a standard def netflix show in my suburban capital city house Nope. cant even watch a twitch stream with our connection all to myself.

      i feel your pain, i struggle to watch it on mobile quality during peak times :(

      Who is to say the blockage is at your end? I find my download speeds are very dependant on where the source material is coming from? Does Twitch stream from local servers? I'm just asking because two people complaining about the same service seems like too much of a coincidence.

    How can it possibly be sensationalist to comment on Australia falling to 60th in terms of global average peak Internet speeds? If we fell to 60th in the Olympics medal tally there'd be a national outcry. We are supposed to become an innovation nation. Fat chance of that without competitive broadband services. Within our region we came 8th (even NZ is two places ahead of us). Singapore, with whom we are destined to be in significant competition as an innovation hub, already has Internet speeds 100 times faster than us. #FibreToTheFuture

      Are you really a CEO? If so, you need to improve your reading and comprehension skills because we fell from 46th to 48th in average speeds. We are in 60th for peak speeds. When you get simple facts wrong, nothing else you have to say has any impact.

    "The connection speeds are sufficient for the average user who wants to stream videos, surf the web and play online games, Belson said. But what about for organisations that require faster broadband for daily operations?"

    21km from the Brisbane CBD and I can't even stream Youtube or Vimeo! NBN isn't even on the NBN schedule and I can't get cable!

      7ks from Perth cbd in affluent area. Can't even get 64kbps ADSL 1 due to pair gain copper. Can only get internet via wireless broadband at 1-3mbps at best. Surf web yes, stream video is choppy at best, on gaming ha! And don't get me started on bush ADSL speeds. Its a complete joke. We need leadership at a govt level to naje the necessary critical investment in the right fttp NBN fo ours and future generations sake in the digital world

        No, we need the government to butt out and let businesses get on with it. We have a very competitive telecommunications industry here and we should leave Telstra, Optus and Vodafone to get on with it.

        By the time the NBN rolls out nationwide, 5G will be providing similar or better speeds and the NBN will become the white elephant they should have realised it would be from the start. Technology moves too fast for this kind of massive infrastructure spending.

    The speed that I have is the fastest available in my area. Short or running a fibre to the exchange myself, that's it (I assume that's not what you meant when you said "you can always pay more for it"?

    I'm called on to look at the Internet speeds of many friends and family as well; connection speeds are terrible and nothing quicker is available in many, many suburbs.

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