Australian broadband speeds inconsistent, patchy: study

More than a third of the Australian premises with access to fixed broadband never get more than moderate speeds of 9 megabits per second (Mbps), according to a summary of broadband availability and quality released by the government.

However, about 65 per cent of 9.9 million premises with access to DSL technology could theoretically get up to 21 Mbps, and about 28 per cent of Australian premises already have access to high speeds of more than 25 Mbps, including those connected to the national broadband network (NBN).

The study was one of four promised by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull into broadband and the NBN during the election. A five-page summary was released on December 23 to meet the minister’s 90-day deadline, but the full report will not be available for some weeks.

A spokesperson for the Communications Department said it would release the full report early in the new year with more information, "including at a localised level".

The department compiled information provided by fixed and mobile network owners in Australia.

"Overall the analysis found that there are areas of inadequate access to infrastructure across the country. Approximately 1.4 million premises [13 per cent] are in areas where fewer than 40 per cent of premises can access a fixed broadband service," the department’s report noted.

The survey looked at what kind of infrastructure was already in place and assessed quality by "the possible speeds achievable over that infrastructure". However, broadband speeds can be reduced by several people using a network at once or by poorly kept infrastructure.

The report confirmed broadband was easier to get in cities than in regional and remote areas, but noted there were "many small urban areas where there is limited availability of fixed broadband services" and where households could not get more than 9 Mbps. However, about 80 per cent of Australian premises have access to mobile broadband services.

The Bureau of Statistics identifies "broadband" speeds as anything more than 256 kilobits per second.

Mr Turnbull has previously said this report would help prioritise which neighbourhoods get broadband upgrades first. It was one of four reports the Coalition promised into NBN Co, along with a strategic review, a cost benefit analysis and a review of NBN Co’s governance.

The strategic review was released on December 2. It outlined six ways to finish the broadband rollout started by the Labor government in 2009, ultimately recommending a mixed technology network that uses existing infrastructure. The government has not responded to that recommendation.

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