NBN Copper Connections

Broadband internet service isn’t providing the speeds advertised. Modems provided by Australian internet retailers aren’t capable of delivering 100 Mbps download speeds over the average fibre-to-the-node connection, according to the consumer watchdog’s own performance testing. Other problems include poor Wi-Fi performance stopping Australians from getting the NBN promised speeds. In fact, testing of 43 modems/routers from eleven different hardware manufacturers and ten separate internet providers shows that none could achieve the 100/40 Mbps broadband speeds over a 450-meter copper run (the average length of copper in an NBN FTTN connection.

What are the Actual Broadband Speeds?

Independent modem/router performance testing report, commissioned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, noted that at the distance from the node, download speeds varied from 60 to 94 Mbps and upload speeds from 10 to 29 Mbps.

What is Causing the Broadband Speed Issues?

The problem is caused by the FTTN NBN connections that rely on more than 400 metres of copper as is the case for a third of them. However, the report found that another significant drop of speed occurs at the 450-metre mark. Modems vary on how well they can compensate for a poor copper connection. Once the 1050-metre mark is reached, with additional line noise added to simulate poor-quality copper line and other electrical interference combined with less-than-satisfactory installation work, download speeds vary between 10 and 20 Mbps, and uploads are really poor at 6 to 9 Mbps.

Ultimately, the quality of the copper connection and variable modem performance means that speeds are falling far short of the 50/20 Mbps speeds which NBN is advertising as standard.

What Other Tests Were Run?

Tests were also run on the Wi-Fi performance specifically for providing internet access to wireless devices in and around a home. Performance varied significantly when Wi-Fi was tested on a range of devices. Tests were run on both the 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi bands over short and longer distances, as well as how interference and obstructions changed the signal. The results showed that even if the more expensive WiFi-enabled modems are used, users don’t necessarily receive greater speeds and range.

Additionally, while 5 GHz offers faster speeds than the 2.4 GHz band, 5 GHz performance is more affected by distance and obstacles (like walls). Even with this issue, the report found that most 5 GHz Wi-Fi devices tested provided better performance through obstacles, and at a farther distance when compared with their 2.4 GHz equivalents.

How Did Devices Perform at the 2.4 GHz Band?

The performance of all devices when operating on the 2.4 GHZ band had wide variations. While some devices could barely reach the 50 Mbps mark, others achieved close to 160 Mbps when transferring files from a network storage drive.

This large performance gap was most likely due to issues with compatibility between a user’s modem/router and their Wi-Fi devices. This was especially true with older computers, phones and laptops. However, the end result is that some Australians won’t be able to achieve optimal performance of their FTTN NBN service.

What Were the Conclusions of the Report?

Consumers will get better Wi-Fi performance as well as better NBN performance by selecting a device using the 802.11ac standard (or next-generation 802.11ax, also named Wi-Fi 6) when operating in the 5 GHz band.

This modem/router performance testing report may be behind a push by the ACMA to require Australian internet providers and modem manufacturers to declare the real-world modem/router performance rates, since they are obligated to report the real-world performance of NBN connections to individual homes. According to the report, “the outcomes of the study have informed the preparation of practical consumer information and guidance to assist consumers in making well-formed decisions in purchasing, setting up and using Wi-Fi modems.