The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released its latest report under the Measuring Broadband Australia program, highlighting the strong support that National Broadband Network (NBN) broadband services offer to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the country.
The report, while primarily focusing on typical speed and performance of home and small business internet plans, also delved into the effectiveness of these plans in supporting popular business applications.
SMBs in Australia rely heavily on a range of online applications, including video conferencing, email, accounting, e-commerce, and customer relationship management platforms. The report found that NBN broadband services generally provide good connectivity for these applications, particularly those hosted within Australia. This is attributed to the shorter distance between the hosting server and the end-user, minimizing latency and ensuring a smoother user experience.
ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey emphasized the importance of server location in determining the quality of accessing web-based platforms. Most of the tested applications being hosted locally ensures that SMBs receive a good experience irrespective of their internet connection type or plan speed.
The report also compared connection speeds for paid and free video conferencing services, revealing that all but one of the free services recorded speeds similar to the paid versions. The outlier was a free video conferencing platform hosted outside of Australia, resulting in significantly higher latency, which can negatively impact the video conferencing experience.
While fixed wireless connections exhibited slightly higher latency on average, the report suggests that this difference is unlikely to affect the overall user experience significantly.
However, the report noted that factors beyond broadband connectivity, such as security, ease of use, and application functionality, also play crucial roles in user experience.
Webpage loading times for frequently used websites by SMBs, such as accounting and other online business platforms, were also examined. The report found that webpage loading times were not significantly affected by the fixed-line access technology or plan download speed. Various factors, including hosting location and webpage complexity, influence webpage loading times.
The report concludes that while all connection types provide good access to applications critical for SMBs, higher-speed connections could benefit businesses using multiple online applications or transferring large files simultaneously.
In terms of broadband service availability, the study revealed that outages on NBN fixed-line connections had little impact on end-user experience. Approximately 95 percent of connections experienced fewer than one outage per day, with 57 percent of outages lasting less than 3 minutes.
The report also highlighted positive trends in NBN fixed-line services, with the highest ever download speeds recorded during peak hours, representing 98.5 percent of plan speed. Smaller providers continued to deliver strong results, maintaining their competitive edge in the market for busy hour download speeds.
Other superfast networks also performed well, with average busy hour download speeds at 105 percent of plan speed. Fixed-wireless plans showed a slight improvement in download and upload speeds compared to the previous quarter.
The ACCC will continue to monitor underperforming services to ensure consumers receive the speeds they are paying for, contributing to a competitive and efficient broadband market in Australia.