5 Factors You Need To Know About The Current State Of The NBN


January 17, 2022

Back in 2019, we reported on the problems Australians were experiencing with the NBN. Specifically, the fact that people just weren’t getting the speeds they were promised. At the time, performance testing revealed that the modems provided by Australian internet retailers weren’t capable of delivering the advertised 100 Mbps download speeds over the average fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) connection. 

Poor Wi-Fi performance also contributed to the slow NBN problem. An independent modem/router performance testing report commissioned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority examined 43 modems/routers from 11 hardware manufacturers and 10 internet providers. This report revealed that none could achieve 100/40 Mbps broadband speeds over a 450-meter copper run (the average length of copper in an NBN FTTN connection). In reality, download speeds varied from 60 to 94 Mbps and upload speeds from 10 to 29 Mbps.

Though the NBN rollout was technically finished in 2020, some suburbs in Australia still hadn’t been connected. Throughout 2021, additional rollouts were announced, along with a revelation that the NBN plans to provide full-fibre access to some people currently connected via FTTN. With these changes in the works and 5G in the mix, now is the ideal time to dive into the current state of the NBN. The following five factors cover the main points you need to know.

Slow NBN: The reason for broadband speed issues

Most of the people experiencing NBN problems were set up with FTTN connections. If you relied on more than 400 metres of copper, you could expect slower speeds. At the 450-metre mark, another significant drop occurred, and if you were connected via 1,050 metres of copper or more, your connection would be slowed by additional line noise and other electrical interference. Compounded by less-than-satisfactory installation work, download speeds for the worst-affected customers varied between 10 and 20 Mbps, and uploads were even more dismal at 6 to 9 Mbps. Modems could only do so much to compensate for the poor copper connection. 

How to boost your internet speed with the NBN

While there certainly have been problems with the NBN, it’s also important to check your tech for viruses and malware before assuming the issue is with the network. Harmful software can run in the background on your phone or computer, slowing your internet speed. For this reason, it’s essential to avoid clicking links in emails and text messages unless you’re 100% certain that you know and can trust the source. Ensure your operating system is up-to-date, install virus protection software if you don’t already have it, and run a scan to check for any malicious files that may be contributing to your slow internet connection.

Newer smartphones, PCs, laptops, modems, and routers also tend to perform better in terms of internet speed. So, if your hardware is long overdue for an update, it may be a contributing factor to any issues you’re facing with internet speed. You can enjoy Wi-Fi performance and improved 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.

Another factor to consider is the positioning of your modem or router. The closer it is to your devices, the better. Every metre the signal has to travel and every obstacle it has to go through makes it weaker. Other nearby WiFi networks can also interfere with your connection. This can be particularly problematic in apartment buildings. To combat this, you may wish to switch between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz to see if that makes a difference. Selecting a different wireless channel may also help. 

The NBN rollout is finished but not finished

In 2021, NBN Co announced plans for a $3.5 billion project designed to upgrade the existing network. The main focus of this project, set for completion by 2023, is to improve the experience of customers with FTTN connections. 

These fibre-to-the-node connections rely on the existing wires from old internet connections and even older phone lines to cover the distance between the local node and their property. As you can imagine, this style of connection is more likely to have problems than fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) set-ups which, as the name suggests, connect users directly to the NBN.

Other NBN projects are in various stages of completion, including the Business Fibre Initiative. Announced in 2020, the plan aims to offer businesses the fastest and most reliable connections through the creation of “business fibre zones.” Both rural and metro areas are being covered in every one of Australia’s states and territories.

NBN vs 5G: The fight for the fastest internet

In 2021, we saw the rise of 5G, with Telstra, Optus, TPG, and even Vodafone rolling out 5G internet plans to customers. While they all advertised their plans differently, there were promises of download speeds as high as 600Mbps. Does this mean 5G is about to make the NBN redundant? 

Not exactly. 

While 5G does offer far higher speeds, there are a few catches. Two of the biggest factors are that you need to be in an area with excellent coverage to achieve anything close to the top advertised speeds, and even then, your internet speed can be patchy. It will also vary depending on how many other customers are using the network. By contrast, the NBN offers set tiers that deliver a consistent speed. For some customers, this level of certainty is essential. 

Ultimately, competition is good as it provides consumers with more choices. Since 5G and the NBN aren’t mutually exclusive, it’s likely that the technologies will co-exist, with each business and household selecting the plan that best suits their location and their needs. 

NBN vs LBN: The lesser-known broadband competitor

If you’ve never heard of the LBN, you’re not alone. Most people only encounter it when they move into a new apartment building or office space that uses it. However, the LBN (Local Broadband Network) has actually been around for longer than the NBN. 

While the NBN is operated by a Government Business Enterprise, the LBN is an independent, privately-owned company and you can gain access via a number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs). As you might have guessed by the “Local” part of the acronym, the LBN is not as widespread as the NBN. Taking this private fibre network route also tends to be a choice made by the developers of new apartment and office buildings, so as a tenant, you generally don’t get a choice about whether you’re connected to it. Still, it’s worth knowing that it’s out there. 

With the above five factors covered, you now have a clear picture of the current state of the NBN. Keep an eye on the Invotec blog for any important updates, and if you have any burning IT questions, feel free to contact Invotec or fill out the form below to arrange a free consultation. 

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