NBN Co chief executive Stephen Rue has argued Australias poor showing in global speed test rankings cannot be relied on because the data is unrepresentative of broadband available in the rest of the world.
Broadband speed reports released by companies such as Ookla, M-Lab and Akamai show how each country fares for broadband, with Australia lagging behind.
According to the latest Ookla report for September, Australia ranks at 61 in the world for fixed broadband.
The result is often seized upon by people unhappy with the speeds they can get on the Coalitions multi-technology mix NBN, but NBN Co said the results cannot be relied upon and has devised another measure to make the rankings a more fair representation of Australias broadband.
NBN Co commissioned research firm Alpha Beta to analyse the data behind speed tests and come up with a method of ranking broadband that is a more like-for-like comparison with other countries around the world. Rue launched the report at Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam on Wednesday.
Alpha Beta argues in its report that speed tests are not representative of the whole countrys internet access because they only account for people who use the speed tests.
For companies such as Ookla and M-Lab, the tests work by people testing the speed of their connection from their device to a server.
Alpha Beta said that, because the test is self-selecting, 38% of Australian households (or 3.5 million) have used the M-Lab speed test, while countries that rank higher in the speed test results are based on much smaller sample sizes.
The companys other concern with the data is that it doesnt account for access to broadband meaning countries without as much access to broadband such as Thailand, Panama and Paraguay rank higher than Australia.
Alpha Beta did not analyse Akamais data directly which is likely to be a much more accurate reading of broadband speeds because it measures speed of requests to its HTTP/S platform, and therefore has a larger sample size.
But the companys previous concern about not capturing those who do not have access to broadband in every country remains a concern in the Akamai data. It is a point the company made in 2017 when Akamai ranked Australia below Kenya in broadband speeds.
According to Alpha Beta, it is much more reliable to say Australia ranks 17 out of 37 countries using what Alpha Beta claims is representative data. It still puts Australia behind countries such as Singapore, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand and the United States, but ahead of countries such as Indonesia, Russia, China, France and Germany.
To achieve this ranking, however, the company has largely relied on subscription speeds the price people are paying for rather than actual achievable speeds, and weighted it down against the availability of broadband, where countries where fewer households have internet access are penalised. Alpha Beta has used this because it is something collated by governments and more easily verifiable.
This methodology is likely to be controversial, considering the biggest complaint facing the NBN as the rollout nears completion is that people arent able to achieve the speeds theyre paying for on weaker technologies such as fibre-to-the-node, or cable.
The ACCCs latest report on broadband speed in August found fibre-to-the-node users had the lowest percentage of hours where the speed they were paying for was available, at 80% compared to 90% for fibre-to-the-premises users.
Rue admitted in a statement that there was no perfect ranking of fixed broadband, but the popular speed tests were unrepresentative.
We hope this report can play a role to balance the way we talk about broadband and its contribution to our societies and economies, he said.
This report confirms that Australia ranks 17th in the world against comparable nations. This is a strong position and a great benchmark for us to continue our mission to improve.
The communications minister, Paul Fletcher, said he welcomed the insights provided by Alpha Beta.
Quite a few broadband surveys which are quoted in the media do not properly take account of the many factors that influence speed test rankings, such as broadband penetration rates, network capability, population density, market structure and so on, he said.
Today there are more than 6 million homes and businesses connected to the network and 65% are choosing broadband plans of 50 Mbps and above.
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