Customers lose as NBN fails to hit speed targets
TENS of thousands of Australian households will miss out on bare minimum NBN speeds, with new figures revealing the multibillion-dollar infrastructure project is short-changing internet users across most states and territories.
Internet users in Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia will be among those hardest hit by the shortfall, as thousands will be unable to access download speeds of 50 megabits per second as mandated by the Federal Government.
One expert dubbed the figures "a strong indication that the project has failed" yesterday, coming after Australia fell to 60th place in the world for broadband speed - below connections in nine developing nations.
NBN Co published the new figures in response to a question on notice from the Joint Standing Committee on the project yesterday, revealing it would miss minimum broadband speed standards in five out of eight states and territories.
The firm had been instructed to deliver "at least 50 megabits per second to 90 per cent of fixed-line premises as soon as possible" in a Statement of Expectations issued by the Federal Government in August 2016.
But it revealed the network was forecast to miss its target by six per cent in the ACT, five per cent in Western Australia, and three per cent in Tasmania.
In Queensland, the NBN was expected to fall short of its speed target by one per cent, which would disadvantage about 20,000 homes and businesses.
NBN Co chief executive Stephen Rue said the company had only considered delivering 50Mbps fixed-line broadband to "90 per cent of the nation rather than go on the basis of state by state".
But RMIT network engineering associate professor Mark Gregory described the explanation as "misleading" and "weasel words," saying the figures proved some Australians would not receive basic broadband services the NBN had promised to deliver.
"These figures are devastating in terms of spending $51 billion and still not getting as much as 50Mbps," Mr Gregory said.
"They are a strong indication the project has failed. It's not only failed to meet targets, but it's failing the nation. We're seeing the nation's broadband ranking fall and we're seeing our competitors doing much better in the global economy as a result of wise investments in infrastructure."
Ookla's Speedtest Global Index on Tuesday put Australia at 60th place for broadband speeds worldwide, down five places on last year, and below nations including New Zealand, Kosovo, and Thailand.
Labor's communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said it was "astonishing" the NBN Co could not meet its "low-ball speed mandate" despite cost blowouts and a "rollout delay of four years".
The network was originally designed to deliver one gigabit download speeds to 93 per cent of the population until it was redesigned in 2013. It's now due for completion in 2020.
Despite state differences, Federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield stressed the NBN was on track to meet the 50Mbps requirement nationally, and said it would be completed sooner and cheaper under the Coalition's multi-technology mix plan.
"Most premises will have access to much higher speeds (than 50Mbps)," he said. "Almost half of the network will offer speeds of one gigabit per second, and almost three-quarters of the network will have access to 100Mbps."
But telecommunications analyst Paul Budde said the NBN would most likely need to be upgraded to address these shortfalls "after the official rollout is completed".
"We will have to wait till after the election before sufficient info will become available to provide a clearer picture of the situation," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if that is indeed even bleaker than what we know now."
NBN FORECAST FOR 50MBPS FIXED LINE CONNECTIONS