The state of Australia’s broadband connections, and what’s actually needed by everyday Australians remains a contentious political subject. But how bad are the services we’ve got right now? Would I be better off just packing it all up and heading overseas, and what would that mean?
I get frustrated by my home office connection. Not just because I do know some folks who have better connections (a big wave to everyone in Armidale reading this, for example), but moreso because I find it a massive limiting factor, not just in the classic derisory terms used around broadband (“oh, it’s just for games and movies”, that kind of thing) but to actually do my job.
It’s why I’m passionate about the National Broadband Network, because I can see not just what it could do for me, but for the country as a whole. The more people there are connected to the network, the greater its power, and you don’t have to look very far to see evidence of that. In the space of a decade, far more of us do far more online than we ever did before, and it fundamentally changes the way we interact with the world.
In my case, it allows me to work out of a home office… sort of. I reckon that’s a huge win in all sorts of senses. I’m not part of the daily commuter clog, which is preferable for me, but also a benefit to those who do have to travel, as it’s one less vehicle on the road or seat taken on a train or bus. One small reduction in pollution as well. But there’s no doubting that I need an Internet connection in order to be able to work.
In order to appreciate what needs to happen in speed terms, though, it’s well worth getting a baseline. So that’s what I did, using Ookla’s Speedtest.net application to get a few baselines for my own home office connection. There’s nothing much going on with the connection at the times I’ve taken these tests, and they’re quite representative of the kinds of connection speeds I regularly get.
Here’s one test run just after I’d waited an age to upload a 30 Seconds Of Tech video. The uploading has finished… finally… and it’s clear to see why it took so long.
Here’s a better result, not far off the best I can hope to achieve. Seriously. I live in Australia’s largest city, and this is the quality of connection available on the copper. I am a solid distance from the exchange, it should be noted, but still within ADSL2+ range.
Now, obviously speed tests can vary quite a bit depending on your proximity to the exchange, quality of the connection and so forth. I’m just a single blip of anecdotal data amongst the masses. But what happens when you grab that data en masse and compare it worldwide?
That’s what Ookla does with its Net Index, taking the results of test results from Speedtest.net and working out average upload and download speeds based on country rankings. As I write this, Australia ranks 95th on the world for upload speeds (average: 2.08 Mbps) and 45th in the world for download speeds (average 13.09). Although I note going into the actual stats that there’s a few outliers in the upper tiers; as I write this the top download speed is 61.98Mbps in Terrey Hills, dropping a hefty 20+Mbps to the 2nd place at 40.19Mbps.
On the upload side it’s even more stark; that same Terrey Hills location (I presume it’s the exact same result and test) yields an upload speed of 51.77Mbps, but that then drops off a cliff; the next highest is 15.72Mbps. Even Armidale, an early NBN test site with good NBN saturation only manages a 14.89Mbps. In any case, over the mass of results that should all average out… but where does it put Australia in download and upload terms?
In download terms, we’re closest to Poland and Curacao, so if you fancied similar download speeds, emigrating there might be feasible. On the plus side, both score well with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; here’s Poland’s entry.
Curacao, as part of the Netherlands doesn’t get its own advice, although nearby Venezuela does… and it’s not advisable to travel there, let alone set up shop on the basis of similar Internet speeds.
What about on the upload side, where I’d so much like a little more speed? Australia’s average of 2.08Mbps is way down the charts; for comparable purposes you’d have to travel to Bahrain or Honduras. Bahrain scores a “reconsider your need to travel” from DFAT, so that seems unwise. Honduras still sits in “Exercise a high degree of caution”, so perhaps not.
That’s just off the Australian average, though; in essence we’re doing well enough in download terms that travel to comparable countries probably wouldn’t get us killed, but in upload terms things are far less certain.
Then there’s my own particular circumstances. It’s anecdotal, but from speaking to plenty of other people, I don’t think I’m alone in sitting at the end of a crappy connection. Where should I travel to get the same kinds of speeds?
In upload terms, the closest partner is… Venezuela. Yeah, I don’t think that would be wise.
In download terms off that same poor speed test, I’m actually below the average in Malawi, which means I’m not even on the charts. DFAT reckons Malawi is safe enough to travel, but notes that
Demonstrations in Malawi may be spontaneous and can attract large numbers. You should avoid all demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may become violent. If you are in an area where demonstrations are occurring you should leave if it is safe to do so.
Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
Shortages of petrol and diesel have occurred in Malawi, resulting in long queues at fuel stations. Travellers to Malawi should be aware of these difficulties when planning to hire vehicles or travel by road to and from Malawi.
Hmm. I don’t think so. Roll on NBN, in whatever form you’re going to take. I may bitch and moan about it — and I’d pay real money for a better service, for what that’s worth — but I’ll be sticking put for the time being.
Sources: Ookla, DFAT
Image: Gavin St. Ours