Where We Stand
Every month, the popular site Speedtest.net puts together a list ranking each country based on their average broadband speed – a number that comes from actual real-world speed tests run by customers. While it doesn’t give a picture of exactly what’s available – the numbers will, of course, be affected by people subscribed to plans with lower speeds than they could actually achieve – it’s a pretty good snapshot of just where we rank in the world for our broadband.
And as of May 2018, Australia ranks… 56th. No, that’s not a typo – with an average speed of just 30.5 Mbps, Australia comes in 56th place – behind countries like Russia, Estonia, and even Reunion (a French island in the Indian Ocean that averages nearly double Australia’s speed).
New Zealand, meanwhile, is rocketing up the rankings as their fibre roll-out continues, now in 19th place with 75.71 Mbps (they’ve dropped a couple of ranks despite substantially increasing in average speed since February), while the USA sits in the top 10 with 92.66 Mbps. Singapore and Iceland are the unlikely pair battling it out for the top spot, with Singapore currently just ahead with 170.99 Mbps – beating the famously broadband-friendly South Korea by a hefty margin.
Australia, meanwhile, ranks barely higher than Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
Will It Improve?
We’re likely to see Australia start to gain a few places thanks to a combination of the continued NBN rollout coupled with NBN’s plan to encourage as many people as possible to take up 50 Mbps connections. But the tech being used for a big chunk of the NBN simply isn’t capable of delivering the sort of speeds that are seen in the high-ranked countries. The switch to Fibre to the Curb (FttC) for a large amount of current and upcoming installations is our best hope in the speed department.
Does it matter? Well, it depends. There’s obviously the fact that the rank tells a story about how far behind the curve we are in broadband speeds. And being seen as a broadband backwater could have unintended consequences – for example, a company deciding not to set up operations here because the Internet is too slow for their needs.
More than anything, though, it’s a continuing reminder of what could have been if the fibre NBN rollout had been allowed to continue. Not everyone needs blazingly fast broadband – not yet, anyway. But knowing that in the future Australia is likely to fall further and further behind in one of the most important infrastructure areas, that’s a real shame. Because there’s a lot more than national pride at stake.