A US study has delivered an unwelcome finding about Australian internet speeds, finding that they are well behind the international pack.
One engineering expert said the nation would continue to tumble down in world rankings if the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) continues in its current form.
The State of the Internet Report from cloud service provider Akamai ranks Australia 44th for average connection speed.
The US-based company produces the quarterly report looking at connection speeds and broadband adoption around the world.
Dr Mark Gregory, a network engineering expert from RMIT University, said the Akamai report was a reputable review.
“In the latest report, Australia has dropped a couple of places down to the 44th position, which is a pretty big drop really over such a short period of time,” he said.
Dr Gregory said Australia’s relative decline was because many other countries were moving forward apace with new and upgraded networks.
“The drop is happening because a lot of other countries over this period are moving towards fiber-based access networks, or they’ve already completed rollouts of what we would call the multi-technology mixing/mixed networks,” he said.
“Whatever way you look at it, what it means is that the average speeds that Australians are enjoying are slowly becoming less than most of our competitors around the world.”
Copper-based network slowing Australia down: expert
Dr Gregory said the Federal Government’s decision to switch from fibre-to-the-home to a mixed fibre/copper network was part of the reason for the decline.
“One of the reasons is that we’re falling down the list [is] that we’re moving towards utilising a copper-based access network,” he said.
“Whereas previously, under the Labor government, we were moving towards an all cyber-based network, which is what most of our competitors are now doing.
Average connection speed by country
1. South Korea
2. Hong Kong
9. Czech Republic
Source: Akamai’s State of the Internet Report
“And we’re also seeing this drop because, as we keep changing direction with the NBN, we’re putting in large delays before the rollout is actually occurring.”
New Zealand is one of the nations now ranked ahead of Australia, with faster average internet speeds.
Dr Gregory said that was largely because it has stuck with a fibre-to-the-home network.
“The key difference between New Zealand and Australia is that New Zealand made the decision to do fibre-to-the-premise, they’ve stuck with that decision,” he said.
Even though Australia is much larger geographically, Dr Gregory said fibre-to-the-home should be financially viable for a network to cover the vast bulk of the population.
“Fibre-to-the-premise is viable in Australia, mainly because most Australians are clustered around the coast,” he said.
“If you look at the density of Australians, then really we don’t differ very much from most other countries in the world, we’re just a large country, but with the technologies that we’ve got today to actually roll out fibre systems, the cost is not that different from most other countries in the world.”
Quality of streamed video ‘much lower’ than overseas
Dr Gregory said many households will notice the deficiencies in Australia’s internet when they try to watch television over the internet, such as through the Netflix service coming to Australia this year, or its local rivals.
“Even though the suppliers say they are giving us high definition of 4K steaming, to actually be able to stream over Australia’s connection and our connections will be a lot slower than the rest of the world,” he said.
“What they will do is that they will increase the compression ratio on the video.
“Even though they are saying that we are getting high definition, or 4K TV, the actual compression will be far more in other countries and therefore the quality of the video that we are viewing at home will be much lower.”
Dr Gregory added that another development may push Australia even further down the rankings for internet speed.
“The most important change is occurring in the United States where the FCC chairman – and that’s their body that looks after telecommunications – has decided to redefine broadband to 25 megabits per second download speed,” he said.
“So what that means is that, in Australia, the Government has been saying that they’re going to provide every Australian with high-speed broadband.
“In the future they’ll be able to say that they’re providing Australians the bare minimum broadband under the new FCC determination on what broadband will be called.
“For many other countries around the world of course, they’re moving towards gigabit broadband now and that is super-fast broadband under the new definitions.”