NBN Speed: What’s Good? Mbps, Download and Upload Speeds Explained
Paying for premium NBN speed? Here’s how to tell if you’re getting what you’ve paid for.
The rollout of the NBN promised a faster, more reliable Australian internet infrastructure but many that made the switch have been decidedly disappointed with the results. As with any broadband technology, there’s a laundry list of reasons you might be experiencing broadband speeds slower than what you signed up for. And by virtue of the speed choices offered, many Australians have been left scratching their heads over which NBN speed tier they need and what their internet speed should be once they’ve flicked the switch on NBN. But what is a good NBN speed? And what average NBN speed should you expect on your particular plan?
Generally, if you are on an NBN Plus plan, you should be achieving at least 40 Mbps, and if you’re on a Premium plan, at least 85 Mbps.
Let’s take a deeper look into what makes a fast NBN connection.
NBN speed jargon primer
With the introduction of the NBN, we’ve been forced to adopt an entirely new vocabulary of acronyms and technical jargon. Before we begin, let’s quickly explore some of the head-scratchers you’ll find in this article.
Not to be confused with megabytes (which is used to measure file size), Mbps or “megabits per second” is the metric used to measure the speed of data transfers across the internet. This standard measurement is used by internet service providers across the world. More Mbps allows you to transfer more data at once, which gives you faster downloads and more bandwidth between multiple devices.
That one’s easy. ISP stands for Internet Service Provider. Your ISP is the company that supplies your broadband connection, such as Telstra or Optus.
Typical evening speed: The ACCC has tasked ISPs with selling speeds based on real-world averages. If a network advertises 100 Mbps but can’t deliver that on average, they could land in hot water with the ACCC. This is why you will see ISPs advertise “typical evening speeds” – a more realistic expectation of what to expect when signing up to a plan.
When the NBN rolls out in a suburb, ISPs are required to purchase CVC or “connectivity virtual circuit” at that suburb’s POI or “Point of Interconnect”. CVC is essentially the bandwidth on the NBN that ISPs purchase to sell to you. The more CVC your provider purchases, the more homes it can connect in your suburb. ISPs estimate how many customers they will connect in a given area and purchase an equivalent amount CVC. If the provider underestimates the amount of CVC needed in your area, you may experience congested speeds.
How fast is NBN?
There are four NBN speed options broadband providers can sell:
- Basic Evening Speed: Typically less than 15 Mbps in busy hours
- Standard Evening Speed: Typically 15 Mbps minimum in busy hours
- Standard Evening Plus Speed: Typically 30 Mbps minimum
- Premium Evening Speed: Typically 60 Mbps minimum
As you can see from the list above, nbnco only advertises typical minimum speeds (to cover its butt if your NBN connection is slower than the average) but in reality, you can potentially reach much faster speeds on each tier:
- Basic Evening Speed: Potential 12 Mbps
- Standard Evening Speed: Potential 25 Mbps
- Standard Evening Plus Speed: Potential 50 Mbps
- Premium Evening Speed: Potential 100 Mbps
Then there’s the actual average speed delivered on each speed tier courtesy of ACCC’s broadband speed tracking program (updated May 2019):
- Standard Evening Speed: 22.7 Mbps
- Standard Evening Plus Speed: 41.2 Mbps
- Premium Evening Speed: 85.6 Mbps
NBN speed tier comparison
What is a good NBN speed?
Well, that depends on the speed tier you’ve selected. It’s rare you will hit the maximum potential speed for any NBN speed tier but if you’re paying for Premium and regularly hit 100 Mbps, we’d consider that a great NBN speed.
It’s more likely you will hit closer to the average of 85.6 Mbps during busy hours, which is still great but not quite as fast as your connection has the potential for. Each NBN speed tier has a maximum potential speed that looks pretty on paper but there many opposing forces that keep that maximum speed out of reach; the NBN technology used at your address, congestion on the network during busy hours and the available CVC at your POI all have an impact on your speed. Without these roadblocks in the way, your broadband could reach its maximum potential. This is why the ACCC has encouraged Australian ISPs to advertise their typical evening speeds for a more accurate figure.
If your speed test results are anywhere between the average and the maximum potential speed, let’s say 85 to 100 Mbps for Premium, you’re getting your money’s worth.
Here’s a rough guide to give you an idea of whether your current speed tier is delivering the goods. Run a speed test while connected to your home Wi-Fi and compare the results with the table below.
Expected NBN speed quality
|Quality||Poor Speed||Good Speed||Great Speed|
|NBN Standard||0 – 15 Mbps||15 – 22 Mbps||22 – 25 Mbps|
|NBN Standard Plus||0 – 30 Mbps||35 – 40 Mbps||40 – 50 Mbps|
|NBN Premium||0 – 60 Mbps||60 – 85 Mbps||85 – 100 Mbps|
If your NBN plan is delivering speeds within the Poor range, get in touch with your provider and work through some basic troubleshooting. If your speeds don’t improve, it might be time to consider another provider.
It’s possible your current provider hasn’t purchased enough CVC in your area’s POI, causing congestion on the network.
NBN download speed
The ACCC captures real-world broadband performance data and reports those numbers to the public. We’ve used the ACCC’s broadband speed data for our averages above but it also tracks the performance of specific providers.
NBN download speeds vary between providers and are subject to change during busy hours. The ACCC reports a percentage for each provider that indicates how close on average ISPs get to delivering the maximum speed of its retail NBN plans.
For example, TPG delivers 88.3% of its maximum speeds during busy hours on average. If you’re signed up to a Premium 100 TPG plan, you might expect average speeds of around 88 Mbps. Of course, this percentage is an average based on a (relatively) small sample size. Average download speeds will differ from house to house.
|Provider||Download (busy hours)||Download (busiest hours)|
So there’s your particular provider’s average performance to consider but there’s one more factor that impacts your speed: the type of NBN technology you have. There are three technology types tracked by the ACCC, Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), Fibre to the Node (FTTN) and Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial.
We won’t go into too much detail around the difference here. Basically, FTTP connects your home directly to the POI over an optical network, whereas FTTN runs fibre from the POI to the existing Distribution Area (DA) pillar in your street, with copper replacing fibre in the last leg from the DA to your home. Then there’s HFC or “hybrid fibre-coaxial” which is a legacy technology the nbnco purchased from Telstra.
When it comes down to it, FTTP is the fastest NBN type because fibre is delivered to your doorstep, whereas data delivered through FTTN has a copper hill to climb between the street and your house.
The type of NBN technology you are connected with will impact your download speeds. The figures below give you an idea of the type of speeds you can expect on each technology.
|Avg. % of max speed||90.1%||79.5%||89.3%|
NBN upload speed
Unless you upload a lot of photos or videos to the internet, or you’re planning on kicking off a lucrative career as a Twitch streamer, upload speed won’t be as important to you.
However, if you are one of the former, it could be the most important aspect of your NBN connection.
Each of the NBN tiers we’ve outlined above has a typical and average upload speed:
- Basic Evening Speed: Up to 1 Mbps
- Standard Evening Speed: Up to 5 Mbps
- Standard Evening Plus Speed: Up to 20 Mbps
- Premium Evening Speed: Up to 40 Mbps
Unfortunately, the ACCC doesn’t offer real-world upload speed averages for each speed tier as it does for downloads. But it does offer data on average provider performance for NBN upload speeds.
|Provider||Upload (busy hours)|
The best NBN plan for fast uploads
Exetel takes the cake for most consistent upload speeds in busy hours. While the NBN 50 plan will give you perfectly reasonable uploads speeds around 20 Mbps, you will want faster uploads if you planning on uploading a fair amount of content to YouTube or live streaming video games.
Exetel’s 100 Plan will give you as close to 100 Mbps as you can get on an NBN plan.
Exetel not your cup of tea? Take a look at our top picks for the best NBN plans available in Australia.