Broadband provides high speed access to the internet. It is different from the formerly used ‘dial-up connection,’ and covers a range of technologies discussed below.
This section covers details on the types of fixed broadband technology in Australia and detailed information on broadband speed, how it varies, and the speed needs of certain applications in addition to other topics. If you are looking for less detailed technical information, the next section on “Choosing a Broadband Service” may be for you.
A note on the nbn™ network
The nbn™ network is a government-owned network being rolled out to provide more Australians with access to broadband. It uses a combination of FTTH/P, FTTN, FTTB, FTTC, HFC, Fixed Wireless, and Satellite.
It is one of the networks providing next generation broadband.
nbn (the company building the network) provides wholesale broadband services of varying line speed tiers to Retail Service Providers (RSPs). nbn’s wholesale services cannot be purchased directly by consumers.
RSPs use these wholesale access services in combination with their own networks and services to offer retail broadband service to their residential and business customers.
By visiting the nbn™ website you can find out more about the nbn™ network, including:
How is it delivered?
Depending on where you live, you may have access to next generation broadband networks via different types of delivery technologies.
Fibre to the Home/Premise (FTTH/P)
These services typically deliver high and predictable speed with minimal impairments.
A number of next generation broadband networks, including the nbn™ network, utilise FTTP technology. The nbn™ network offers FTTH/P download line speed tiers to Retail Service Providers (RSPs) at 12Mbps, 25Mbps, 50Mbps and 100Mbps. The actual speed you experience will be influenced by several factors, including your RSP and the plan you choose.
Fibre to the Node (FTTN)
Uses a combination of new and existing technology (including VDSL) to deliver next generation broadband. FTTN can deliver high access line speeds but those speeds are variable depending on the distance your home is from the node and may change through the day as interference levels in the home and environment vary.
Fibre to the Building (FTTB)
A variant of FTTN commonly used to connect to an apartment block or similar type of building. In this scenario a fibre optic line connects into the building communications room and then uses the existing telephone lines in the building.
In addition to the nbn™ network, there are other network operators utilising FTTB technology to service apartment buildings in Australia’s capital cities and urban centres.
Fibre to the Curb (FTTC)
Another variant of FTTN, works by delivering fibre all the way to the telecom pit outside a premise where it connects into a DPU that then uses the existing copper line from the pit to the home. This saves the time, cost and complexity and brings the fibre closer than Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN).
Hybrid Fibre/Co-axial (HFC)
Also known as “cable.” Uses the existing ‘pay TV’ network to deliver the broadband connection to the home. Currently HFC networks in Australia are typically capable of delivering download speeds above 30Mbps, however, speed outcomes can also vary from region to region as service providers continue to develop and upgrade network links on an ongoing basis.
The nbn™ network will incorporate a significant portion of Australia’s existing HFC networks. Where this is the case nbn will undertake significant network upgrades to enable the delivery of 100Mbps download speeds in all areas served by its HFC infrastructure.
ADSL and ADSL2+
ADSL2+ can provide download speeds of up to 24Mbps. ADSL can provide download speeds of up to 8Mbps. However, speeds will vary depending on the distance from your home to the nearest telephone exchange or node. The performance of these services can also vary due to interference from other services or devices, the nature of the cabling and equipment in your home and the condition of the copper telephone cable leading into the property.
As the nbn™ network is rolled out most ADSL and ADSL2+ services will be withdrawn from sale and eventually switched-off.
This technology is delivered from a tower to a receiver on the outside of the house. It is typically used in circumstances where the distances between premises can be many kilometres. The fixed wireless service offered via the nbn™ network is capable of delivering download speeds of up to 50 Mbps, although performance can vary according to location and other factors.
This technology is delivered from the nbn™ Sky Muster™ satellite to a small satellite dish on the outside of the house. It is used to connect some rural and remote locations. The Sky Muster™ service offered via the nbn™ network is capable of delivering download speeds of up to 25 Mbps, although actual performance will depend on a range of factors, including the number of customers using the service within a specific satellite beam. To ensure that all satellite users can access the service, consumers may be affected by fair use policies, used to manage the capacity of the service.
Broadband speed is the rate at which data is transported, measured in megabits per second (Mbps). The higher the broadband speed a service offers, the more data can be transferred per second. Broadband speed applies to both the rate at which that data passes through to your device from the internet or server (‘download’) and the rate at which data passes from your device to the internet or server (‘upload’).
Broadband speed is determined by the network access type (i.e. you may have an internet connection using ADSL, hybrid fibre cable, FTTN, etc), and a range of other factors as outlined below. Because of variations within the retail service provider’s broadband network (including access provided by nbn or another wholesale access provider) you may not always get the same speed all the time.
Broadband services are often marketed according to the access line connection speed, the theoretical speed which should be achieved (or very close to achieved) in ideal circumstances. The speed of your broadband service will not exceed the ‘access line connection speed, and will often be less. This is because consumer-grade broadband services available for sale in Australia are not a dedicated connection between your home and the internet. They are a shared connection offering variable broadband speeds subject to contention by multiple users, the speed experienced by an individual user can be reduced when there is high demand from these other users.
This diagram from nbn provides a background on the various factors that affect broadband speeds delivered over next-generation networks.
This diagram is for illustrative purposes only. It does not and is not intended to capture all network configurations or all possible elements affecting network performance or speeds.
What impacts broadband speed?
Computers communicate with each other across a network by sending blocks of information, called packets. When packets get disrupted or lost, it can affect the performance of your internet connection and therefore your browsing or viewing experience.
There are many factors that affect the actual speed you experience. Examples of these include your location in relation to the broadband node, the gateway software being used, whether the site you are trying to access is based in Australia or overseas, your home wiring, your home network set-up (e.g. modem location/quality, Wi-Fi) and internet traffic congestion.
When you download data from a server, the overall broadband speed and performance you experience depends on the overall network path all the way to your device in the home. This includes the host server’s capabilities, particularly if multiple users are trying to download from that server at the same time. These factors are common to all broadband technologies.
Other factors that can influence broadband performance include the capacity of your service provider’s network, the type of technology being used to provide your broadband service, the broader internet infrastructure and content provider networks. The length and or quality of your ADSL or FTTN line may also impact the broadband access connection speed. Speed outcomes can also vary from region to region as service providers continue to develop and upgrade network links on an ongoing basis.
Busy, or peak hours are the times when slower or more variable speeds are most common, and typically fall between 7.00 pm to10.00pm. Peak hours are the periods when the largest demands are being placed on the internet networks and servers that provide content and services. During the busiest hours, an individual’s upload and download speed tests may vary from the maximum access connection speed down to significantly slower speeds. During the busiest hours, for example, typical off-peak average speed of 10Mbps may slow significantly.
In some cases, congestion may be the key determining factor for speed outcomes during peak hours. Those outcomes may differ widely across different RSPs. Some consumers are very cost conscious and will prefer to pay for a lower-priced, more congested service, even if the average performance is not as strong as that of higher priced offerings.
Technology (Access Type):
All broadband networks will be impacted by constraints relating to shared capacity – that is, multiple consumers sharing access to the infrastructure. Next generation networks – such as the nbn™ network – are typically capable of achieving high data speeds but these networks are also impacted by shared capacity. The access types recommended by your RSP will depend on what is available where you live.
Factors related to access technology which could impact broadband speed include:
- Access connection speed on an ADSL, FTTN, or FTTC service will depend on distance from the exchange or street cabinet to your home. The further away, the slower your connection speed. ADSL, FTTN, and FTTC services may also slow in busy hours (i.e. 7.00 to 10.00 pm) due to congestion.
- HFC and FTTP services can download content at close to the full-service speed in non-busy times, but may experience lower average speed in busy hours due to congestion.
- In some cases an apartment building may be served by two competing FTTB networks. Where this is the case, the customer may experience a lower quality of service due to network interference between the two networks.
In-household set up
The number of users accessing the internet within a single household may have a noticeable impact on service performance. This is more likely when that household has a relatively low maximum access speed. For example, ADSL services in premises that are more than 4km from an exchange are likely to have relatively low maximum access speeds (i.e. less than 5Mbps). For such premises, where the access line is the bottleneck, speeds experienced by multiple users uploading, downloading or streaming at the same time will be significantly slower than for a single user.
Speed will also be impacted by the modem you use. If you think your modem may be a factor in not getting the speed you think you should be getting, speak to your RSP or follow the troubleshooting tips available from your modem manufacturer.
There is further information in our FAQs on what to consider for your in-household set up.
What do different applications need?
End-user experience with high bit-rate activities such as downloading/uploading will be improved by a high-speed service. Streaming high definition video can also require moderately high bit-rates - more so if multiple householders stream simultaneously. However, speeds higher than that required to avoid buffering will not improve the user experience of streaming video.
This section includes some technical information. For an overview of broadband uses and potentially relevant speeds, please see our section on Speed under “Choosing a Broadband Service.”
Does not require much speed or capacity and will typically work the same regardless of broadband speed. If you receive big attachments these may take additional time to download.
Does not require much speed or capacity and the consumer experience is unlikely to benefit from increases in download speeds beyond about 10 Mbps. Upload speed is relatively unimportant, however if the latency, e.g. when visiting a site hosted a long way away or on some satellite broadband connections.
Audio or video streaming
The coded video rate depends on the quality of the content being streamed (e.g. standard definition video or high definition video) and the compression technology (codec) being used by the content provider. Standard definition video typically operates optimally at 3 Mbps, while high definition video typically operates at 6Mbps. Audio content requires much lower speeds, typically 100-300 kilobits per second (i.e. 0.1-0.3 Mbps).
Audio and video streaming employ “buffering” whereby a small amount of content (e.g. from a few seconds to minutes) is downloaded to your device and stored in advance of its playback. This delays the playback of the video by that interval, but means it can tolerate short pauses or decreases in speed without interrupting playback, as long as the download speed exceeds the content streaming rate for most of the time. If the available download rate is below the video rate the buffer gradually empties and when it empties the video stops. Most streaming services can adjust their video speed down to avoid interrupting the video when download speeds reduce, and the user may notice lower picture quality at those times.
The requirements to maintain acceptable streaming video quality are therefore:
- Access line speed which is significantly higher (by 30% to 50%) than the video streaming rate to allow the buffer to refill when depleted.
- An uncongested network path from the video server that can download on average at twice the video streaming rate or faster.
- Low packet loss
- Minimal or no dropouts.
Packet loss can also result in slower downloading that can result in video quality degradation or stops in a similar manner to congestion.
Dropouts that commonly occur on ADSL and FTTN (VDSL2) access lines can cause video to stop if the duration of the dropout exceeds the video buffer size. Long buffers (e.g. Netflix) can tolerate ADSL dropouts of 20 to 40 seconds but not VDSL2 dropouts lasting 2-3 minutes.
Downloading video to hard drive and playing while downloading
This is the same as streaming video (see above), except that instead of using a temporary buffer, a copy of the downloaded video is retained permanently. As with streaming video, the average download speed needs to exceed the bit-rate of the content.
Voice over IP (VoIP)
Only requires a low speed –i.e. greater than 0.1 Mbps is normally acceptable. However, packet loss and latency can have a high impact on VoIP user experience if conversations are delayed. VOIP may suffer during peak hours if the broadband access line to the house is being used for multiple applications / by multiple users at the same time.
12Mbps is sufficient for playing most online games. However, packet loss, dropouts and delays can significantly affect user experience.
Wholesale network speed information
nbn and other wholesale network operators do not sell directly to consumers. They sell to Retail Service Providers (RSPs), which then manage your connection to the internet, using the nbn™ network and other network infrastructure.
It is important to recognise the wholesale service provides the upper limit of attainable speeds under ideal conditions. For example, nbn offers FTTH/P download access line speed tiers to Retail Service Providers (RSP) at 12 Mbps, 25 Mbps, 50 Mbps and 100 Mbps. These tiers do not describe the speed of a broadband service delivered over nbn access lines. RSPs are free to choose which wholesale services they buy from nbn and how these are offered as retail services to customers.
The speed of any broadband service delivered over nbn access lines is also determined by the amount of Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC) capacity purchased by an RSP. For example, a customer on a 25/5 plan with an RSP that doesn’t purchase enough CVC capacity may experience speeds far below the maximum access line speed during busy hours (i.e. 7.00 pm to 10.00 pm), whereas a customer with an RSP that purchases enough capacity may experience speeds closer to the nbn access line speed in busy hours.
However, the actual speed that can be experienced will be determined by the customer’s access technology, plan speed, local conditions e.g. distance from the node or exchange for DSL, external interference for DSL, and in home customer equipment.
Broadband speed and the broadband data allowance will be shown in your monthly plan.
The broadband data allowance - measured in Megabytes (MB) or Gigabytes (GB) – is the amount of data you can download and upload as part of your plan before incurring additional charges or having your connection slowed down. This should not be confused with file download speeds, which are measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Different plans will have different limits on this amount of data. Some plans offer an unlimited data allowance meaning that your plan has no limit on the amount of data you can upload or download.
Broadband speed is the highest rate at which the data you use as part of your data allowance may be downloaded and uploaded.