Australia's NBN project has been dogged by criticism of high costs, poor service and political interference. Despite that, many people do now have better services than a decade ago at lower costs - or at least for no more than they paid back then. But where do we rank globally when it comes to costs and performance? Let's look at some of the most recent data.
Where Do We Stand On Price?
According to a recent study from the UK by Cable - a UK-based pricing comparison site - found that the average cost for access to broadband in Australia is US$52.77. That's a decrease of from just over US$60 a year ago.
For comparison, the average prices in some comparable countries are (All are in US dollars):
- USA: $67.69
- Canada: $57.66
- New Zealand: $58.77
- United Kingdom: $39.58
It's worth noting that while we're ranked 84th in the world by price, that's an improvement of over 20 places according to Cable's data from last year.
What About Performance?
Measuring performance is challenging. Akamai used to publish regular data based on their network but they've stopped publishing data. The next best global survey we have is the Netflix Global Speed Index. But we need to be mindful that it is a limited view as it only represents connection speed to their services during peak periods. Performance to other services can vary.
If we look at the same group of five countries here's what we find for the average performance.
- Australia: 3.89Mbps
- USA: 4.13Mbps
- Canada: 3.52Mbps
- New Zealand: 3.85Mbps
- United Kingdom: 3.97Mbps
What's All That Mean
Over the last decade, access to broadband has become both an essential service and highly politicised. That's resulted in some strong views that come from technical experts, political ideologists and armchair experts getting strong coverage.
But the data doesn't lie. It's true that there are plenty of places in the world where you can access broadband for less. And there are lots of places where it's faster - particularly if you focus on fixed line services - we kick serious arse when it comes to cellular data services in global terms. When you look at places with similar populations and/or land masses (I know New Zealand is not like us by either measure but I included them as a regional reference) we don't fare too badly. Places like Singapore or South Korea are often, rightly, heralded as places where there are great broadband services. They enjoy dense coverage of fibre optic networks. But they are also smaller and far more densely populated.
I spend a lot of time travelling and, while the legacy of ADSL still drags our numbers down, there's little doubt that we are getting faster and cheaper services. But other parts of the world are dropping prices and improving performance faster than we are.