Vodafone has backed an idea floated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that would see NBN Co introducing a speed ‘buffer’ so that a household’s broadband connection more closely matches its wholesale speed tier.
The idea would be that instead capping, for example, an nbn25 connection at 25 megabits per second, NBN Co would allocate slightly more capacity to it. The ACCC used the release of its latest Measuring Broadband Australia report earlier this month to raise the idea.
Even outside of peak hours, end users did not achieve more than 95.5 per cent of their theoretical maximum plan speed, the ACCC noted, because of the overhead of packet headers.
The report, produced by SamKnows for the ACCC, noted that within each NBN speed tier, the highest observed speed for the hardware probes deployed at volunteer households was 95.5 per cent. “This suggests that around 4% to 5% of maximum plan speed is used up by protocol overhead,” the report stated.
SamKnows said that for the report it had “selected the highest observed speeds on each tier to control for services which may be affected by other factors which limit speeds, such as physical limitations or poor provisioning by RSPs.”
“The current capacity does not appear to allow for this extra data, preventing the communications from being sent at the maximum plan speed,” the ACCC said. “NBN Co could resolve this if it allowed services to run five percent faster before enforcing speed limits.”
In a submission to an ACCC inquiry that is examining NBN Co’s wholesale service standards, Vodafone said that the ACCC’s suggestion is a “worthy topic of discussion,” and suggested NBN Co should potentially introduce a 20 per cent buffer. The telco said it would “welcome the ACCC commencing an assessment of this issue as a matter of priority”.
Vodafone made the comments in the context of broader frustration with underperforming service speeds. NBN Co “currently does not commit to deliver a service with a minimum service level” and as a result retail service providers (RSPs) such as Vodafone “can be left paying for speeds that can’t be delivered”.
For NBN Co’s fixed line network, the issue arises with those technologies – such as fibre to the node (FTTN), fibre to the curb (FTTC) and fibre to the building (FTTB) – that rely on copper wiring for the final connection to a home or business. The condition and length of the copper can both affect the performance encountered by an end user.
NBN should be “responsible for the speed and performance of its wholesale products,” Vdoafone argued. The ACCC has already indicated it is planning to introduce minimum speed requirements that would see monthly rebates from NBN Co when FTTN, FTTB and FTTC connections are incapable of achieving half the theoretical peak information rate of the NBN product (so, for example, less than 25Mbps on an nbn50 service).
Vodafone said that it believed those minimum sped requirements are inadequate, however.
“Instead of a minimum speed requirement of 50 percent of the speed that a service is capable of achieving, NBN Co should meet a minimum speed requirement of at least 80 percent of the speed that a service is capable of achieving or be required to pay a rebate for each month this is not met,” Vodafone’s submission states.
However, it adds NBN Co adjusting its throttling to make sure that the “sticker” speed tier of a connection more closely matches the speeds encountered by an end user would be part of a “more sustainable solution”.