The latest Measuring Broadband New Zealand Report commissioned by the Commerce Commission has revealed a 10 per cent drop in the peak time broadband speeds of high-speed Fibre Max plans, compared to the previous report.
The Measuring Broadband New Zealand Autumn Report, from independent testing partner SamKnows, includes speed and performance comparisons across copper (ADSL and VDSL), fibre (Fibre 100 and Fibre Max) and fixed wireless technologies.
For Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson, the fall in performance of the top tier fibre offering is a concern.
“While Fibre Max plans are achieving the fastest download speeds of the plans we test, this deterioration is a concern given the premium price consumers pay for this service,” Gilbertson said. "The drop in performance is apparent across all retailers and wholesalers.
“Testing shows there is also significant variation in results for these plans. For example, Fibre Max plans are around 200 Mbps slower in the South Island than in the North Island,” he added.
According to Gilbertson, the Commerce Commission is continuing its work with SamKnows and industry stakeholders to understand the reasons for the variations and the drop in speed.
“We expect this will result in providers achieving average performance that is more in-line with advertised speeds,” he said.
It should be noted, however, that with the exception of Fibre Max, testing shows that overall internet performance has remained stable, despite changes in broadband use as a result of COVID-19.
The latest report also measured broadband video conferencing performance for free accounts for the first time.
“The tests show fibre is best at supporting uninterrupted video calling via increasingly popular platforms including Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Skype and Zoom. Meanwhile, copper and fixed wireless plans were more likely to experience delays during a call," Gilbertson said.
Telco industry member organisation the New Zealand Telecommunications Forum has downplayed the significance of the fall in performance of the Fibre Max plans.
The organisation’s chief executive Geoff Thorn suggested that, while that the latest report drew attention to some inconsistencies in speeds for the highest-specification “Fibre Max” fibre plans offered by many broadband retailers, users of such plans would not have noticed much difference in performance.
“Fibre Max speeds are still generally several times faster than for Fibre 100 (which are New Zealand’s most popular fibre plans). That said, these speed inconsistencies are clearly of a concern and the industry is working collaboratively to get the issue sorted as soon as possible,” he added.
However, the New Zealand Telecommunications Forum noted that the Commerce Commission and the telco industry have been aware of the issue in top tier performance for several months, and broadband networks and retailers have been working collaboratively with the Commission and SamKnows to investigate.
This work is ongoing and includes laboratory testing to ascertain potential underlying causes as well as intensive network and hardware analysis.
“For our part, the telecommunications sector continues to work hard to keep networks and services running well and to support customers as much as we can,” Thorn said.