How To Monitor Your Own NBN Speeds

How To Monitor Your Own NBN Speeds

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has pledged to get tough on any Internet Service Providers that mislead consumers about National Broadband Network speeds. But how do you know if you’re getting a good deal when you connect to the NBN? How do you know if you’ll be getting the high-speed connection you were promised?

NBN Co is building the infrastructure, with 5.7 million premises now able to connect to the network via fibre, hybrid cable, wireless or satellite. To make that connection though, you have to deal with one of almost 150 listed ISPs.

Customers are ‘confused’

The ACCC’s chairman Rod Sims says we should expect a healthy and competitive sector. But he also says many consumers are “confused about broadband speed advertising” and the industry has been “inconsistent in making clear, accurate information available”.

So it is crucial for the ACCC to ensure that companies do not mislead consumers about the speeds offered by their ISP.

The Australian market is different to that in the United Kingdom, where the regulator Ofcom actively provides accurate information to consumers to enable a comparison of services.

Australia takes a different approach, relying on protections available via consumer law, and encouraging industry self-regulation to provide the right information to the consumer.

The experience you get really depends on a range of factors relating to transmission quality, reflected as speed of connectivity and latency (delays) in exchanging information across the internet. Key factors include:

  • how you connect to the internet router in your house (such as by Wi-Fi or ethernet)
  • the transmission quality from home to the Point of Interconnect (where the ISP’s network connects to the NBN)
  • transmission quality within the ISP network
  • transmission quality of the content delivery network.

Measuring the speed of your internet connection

A basic speed test of any internet connection is a measure of the time it takes to transfer a fixed file from a server. The result is usually given in Mbps (Megabits per second).

Many ISPs, such as Telstra, Optus and iiNet, currently provide internet speed tests for their customers.

But speeds measured this way tend to reflect the connectivity from the ISP to the consumer. The speeds you experience in general use can be significantly lower than the “peak” speed advertised by the service provider.

To get a better idea of the real speed of your internet connection you should use another speed testing service, in addition to the one recommended by your ISP.

You should also repeat this measurement at various times of the day and keep detailed notes of any results. Some typical speed tests are:

Speeds can change over time for even the fastest NBN connection.

Currently most ISPs offer a higher speed for downloading and lower speed for uploading. As many users often download the same content, the network can be optimised to take advantage of this and offer higher speeds.

But users also upload unique content, such as photos to social media accounts or files to cloud storage. This does not have the advantage of scale and thus speed of access could be lower.

As cloud-based storage and content-delivery networks – such as Netflix, Foxtel and others – become more highly trafficked, our requirements are changing. Many users now prioritise more symmetrical internet connectivity, with similar download and upload speeds.

How fast should the internet be in Australia?

In Australia, premises with fibre connections to the NBN can theoretically get a peak rate of 100Mbps. In fact, in Australia there are 5 tiers of NBN connections, varying between Tier 1 (12Mbps download/1Mbps upload) to Tier 5 (100Mbps download/40Mbps upload).

But the measured speeds can often be slower than promised by your provider.

There are various reasons for this. It could be that there is a problem between the premises and the NBN network, or there could be delays or oversubscription within the ISP network.

There can be congestion and delays in national and international networks due to inadequate investment by various stakeholders to keep the capacity of the network in scale with the increasing number of customers.

Your experience can also vary across the day and from one service to another. As the number of users varies quite markedly over 24 hours, the state of the network (NBN, ISP network, Content Delivery Network) can change with various levels of congestion.

This leads to different speeds of connectivity at different times when accessing different types of services. For example, web access might be slower given the location of a server, compared with an internet video streaming service that might be optimised to deliver the most popular content within the region.

While many internet service providers advertise a typical speed, in Australia there is no expectation that they should indicate the variability (the range of minimum and maximum speeds).

When so slow is too slow

If you think your NBN connection is too slow and not what you were promised, you should raise the problem with your ISP. If they fail to resolve the issue you should report it to the ACCC.

To improve information about broadband speeds, the ACCC is currently running a A$7 million trial of NBN speed monitoring and it wants consumers to be part of it.

Australia could have anticipated these speed issues and established a broadband performance reporting framework as part of access to the NBN infrastructure by providers.

The Australian Communications Consumers Action Network (ACCAN) has been crying out for a scheme to monitor the performance of ISPs.

The ConversationBut this hasn’t happened yet. So for now it’s left to you as a consumer to monitor your NBN connection speeds, and report any ongoing problems to the ACCC which hopes to start publishing speed and performance data later this year.

Thas Ampalavanapillai Nirmalathas, Director – Melbourne Networked Society Institute, Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Co-Founder/Academic Director – Melbourne Accelerator Program, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation.


  • I’m not on NBN, but a 100mb/s cable plan with Optus. While I can get speed tests in the 90s. In the evening it’s about 5mb/s. Often as low as 3mps. What is worse after upgrading to the speed pack my peak speeds decreased.

    The ACCC needs to get on this stuff. All Optus support does is tells you to get up early in the morning and do a speed test then. Which is useless to actually having high speed internet.

    • I’m on the same kind of connection with optus cable. Whilst i agree it’s really shitty that it costs $20 or whatever for a “speed boost” to 100mbit granted is one of the best speeds most consumers can get in aus but it’s not all the time. It is shitty but I knew going in that it was a shared medium and occasionally at night 6-10, dubbed “netflix hour” you can get terrible speeds! i think for the people with the speed boost you should get minimum 30mbit all the time and capable of 100 “most of the time” And yes i have considered many times cutting my neighbours cable just so i can have all the bandwidths. Didn’t the ACC recently crack down on this speed advertising stuff?

      • I have a mate who works for Optus, and he lives < 1km from the Hub in Rochedale in QLD. He was on 100mbit cable prior to getting nbn, and he found the same thing. 90+Mbps downloads all day, but come netflix hour, his speed tests would drop to 5kbps. Was ridiculous. He logged internal query’s to find out why this was the case, and essentially it was just far too over utilized. The provisioning of services was just massively overloaded, and there were not enough cards to cope with the workloads they were pushing.
        Soon as he switched to NBN (HFC) all was fine (apparently HFC isn’t using Optus cable networks.) Which is lucky for me, cos I live not too far from him, and I was worried that it would when I found out I was getting HFC too. I’ve had no speed issues with mine since day one though!

    • I wake up at 4-6 every morning and I’m on Optus 100 plan and you get the same speed no matter the time of day (average of 10 down 10 up)

    • This is 100% the fault of Optus. Ive had NBN for about 4 months now and have had a SHOCKING experience with every single company using the optus network to provide HFC (Cable essentially) NBN internet. Peak hour speeds are pretty much unusable.

      Now Im with Aussie Broadband and it rarely drops below 80mbs download. They have there own network that they can manage.

  • Reading this, it seems that the ISPs are going to have plenty of excuses to get out of actually providing speeds that they advertise.

    And really, what recourse does the consumer have? Threaten to go elsewhere? That won’t likely do anything for you.

  • I got NBN a few months ago. 1 week after connection I raised a tech support ticket for not getting anything close to the advertised speeds. I raised it based on the sync speed on the modem (FTTN) but it turns out NBNCo won’t investigate until the CVC is “adequate”. Since I raised the concern I’ve been made to jump through multiple hoops, wait, then jump through some more. As of yesterday my complaint became a Level 2 TIO complaint.

    It’s certainly going to be interesting to see what my RSP will bring to the mediation table given how badly they’ve handled my connection.

  • K, we can monitor speeds. Now what?

    I’ve found only 2 ISP’s with speed guarantee clauses. One is Skymesh, which is on a monthly contract. Everyone else says “up to xxx”. Well, dialup is “up to”.

    NBNco also doesn’t care as long as you hit 25Mbps at least once every 24hrs, which you pretty much will.

    So, again – wat do? Everyone knows AU has shit internet, lot of people know NBN was a scam and fraud and a shitshow, but what do we do about it? No one gives a damn.

  • all that needs to happen is the overpriced CVC needs to be removed… thats why all other fibre places have 1gbs for next to nothing.

    Once thats removed/drastically discounted the majority of NBN speed issues will be gone!

  • If you don’t switch to the NBN (within 18months of its availability) your existing ADSL and Phone service will be cut off. (great law that)

    When you are connected to the NBN and the service is worse than the ADSL you had before:
    – the ISP will try to blame you,
    – then, if that doesn’t work, the ISP blames the NBN,
    – the NBN blames the ISP,
    – the ACCC is as useless as it always is – all talk – no action (just google ACCC NBN for some fun articles)
    – the consumer just keeps paying.

    And as a added bonus, your landline phone will be dead if the power goes off.

    But the government is happy – soon the entire country’s data will run thru the NBN’s systems and that will sure make surveillance of the entire population a lot easier.

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