Australia has fallen to 68th in global internet speed rankings, making it the fourth slowest country for broadband in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The nation has been falling in the Speedtest Global Index rankings for the past year despite the continuing rollout of the $51 billion National Broadband Network (NBN), which is due to be completed within six months.
Australia slipped three places to 68 out of 177 countries in December 2019.
In December, the global average download speed was 73.58Mbps (megabits per second) and the average upload speed was 40.39Mbps.
Australia’s average download speed was pegged at nearly half the global average at just 41.78Mbps.
The upload speed was less than half the global average at just 18.77Mbps.
The index is run by speedtest firm Ookla, and ranks countries according to their average download speed on a monthly basis, which is calculated using real “consumer-initiated tests” by broadband users testing the speeds of their individual connections.
Australian Parliamentary Library analysis of the December results obtained by The New Daily shows that Australia has some of the slowest broadband in the OECD – a group of 36 nations with comparable economies.
Australia placed 32 out of the 35 OECD nations (excluding Iceland, which is not included in Ookla’s speedtest rankings), just ahead of Mexico, Turkey and Greece.
RMIT telecommunications and network engineering academic Mark Gregory said the results show that the Coalition government’s NBN has failed to deliver for the nation.
After taking power in 2013, the Coalition government scuppered Labor’s plans for an NBN with 93 per cent fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) coverage, and has instead rolled out a network comprising a hotchpotch of old and new technologies of varying quality, raising concerns that a “digital divide” is being created between those with access to fast and reliable internet and those without.
“[The government’s] argument is that because we’re trying to provide broadband to everyone this is justification for accepting a poorer overall outcome across the board,” Dr Gregory said.
The government is wrong. We have ample evidence now from other countries that the cost of rolling out fibre-to-the-premises would have continued to drop, in line with projections.
“And it is only by providing fibre-to-the-premises that you’re going to meet future demand.”
Australia’s drop in global broadband speed rankings follows the October release of a controversial report commissioned by the NBN Co and conducted by “strategy and economic advisory business” AlphaBeta that claimed Australia’s broadband network was among the world’s best.
The report, which was slammed by independent experts as “self-serving” and “disingenuous”, claimed that Australia ranked 17th for broadband speed among comparable economies, a ranking that it projected would rise to 13th once the NBN rollout is completed in June.
When asked to explain Australia’s lacklustre performance in global broadband speed rankings, a spokesperson for the NBN Co dismissed the results as “misleading” and pointed instead to the AlphaBeta report.
“The positive impact that the NBN is having on Australian broadband services is clear with download speeds having more than doubled from an average speed of 16Mbps in 2014 – when the rollout picked up pace – to more than 40Mbps today,” the spokesperson said.
However, Curtin University associate professor of internet studies Tama Leaver said that while the Ookla speedtest results do not provide “an accurate average for Australia as such (the service is used the most either when setting up a connection, or when a problem has occurred), it is useful as a comparison point with other countries”.
“Australia ranking so poorly in their results does clearly show that Australia’s broadband speeds are significantly behind most countries with comparable wealth, and most countries in our region,” Dr Leaver said.
Australian internet speeds are embarrassingly slow, and reveal just how poorly the NBN rollout has been managed.’’
The NBN was “supposed to future-proof Australian internet speeds and capacity and has, instead, failed to meet even the current speed and capacity requirements”, Dr Leaver said.
“The NBN should have included fibre to every home to ensure the expectation of working remotely, connecting remotely, and participating fully in the digital economy was possible,” he said.
Instead, the NBN is a Frankenstein’s monster of old and new parts, and the ultimate speeds rely on the oldest and weakest parts of the network.
“That’s why Australians have such poor speeds, and that’s a problem that was understood long before the NBN rollout began.”
Labor’s communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland told The New Daily the Morrison government “has delivered an inferior NBN that not only costs more than the original fibre plan, but is slower, less reliable and less resilient”.
“Whether it is climate change, energy policy or world-class broadband, the Liberals simply have no plan for this country,” she said.
A spokesman for the Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said it was “misleading” to compare Australia’s broadband rollout to other international rollouts “due to our size and low population density”.
“Using global broadband speed test surveys to compare the broadband performance among different countries has significant shortcomings,” he said.
“Today we know that 65 per cent of premises connected to the NBN are on a wholesale plan offering 50Mbps or more.”