ComCom: Fixed wireless speeds dropped 25 per cent during lockdown

ComCom: Fixed wireless speeds dropped 25 per cent during lockdown

Annual spotlight report shows both fixed wireless broadband and fibre growing

Tristan Gilbertson (Telecommunications Commissioner)

Tristan Gilbertson (Telecommunications Commissioner)

Credit: Supplied

The Commerce Commission’s Annual Telecommunications Monitoring Report shows that while fixed wireless broadband adoption is surging, performance is variable.

Major telcos are pushing fixed wireless hard as an alternative to fibre because it saves them paying wholesale fibre charges to Chorus and other local fibre network operators.

Indeed, last week Vodafone pushed the envelope further, offering an $40 a month 4G-based broadband service capped capped at 60 GB of data.

Such offers appear to be succeeding with fixed wireless connection numbers increasing to 221,000 up 16 per cent for the year to 30 June 2020 from 191,000 in 2019. 

Over the same period, Ultrafast Broadband connections also increased strongly, from 821,000 to a shade over a million.

"As at 30 June 2020, New Zealand ranked third highest out of the OECD countries for fixed wireless broadband connections with 4.5 subscriptions per 100 of population, behind the Czech Republic at 14.9 and the Slovak Republic at 7.9," the report said.

However, while copper (ADSL and VDSL) and Fibre 100 plans continued to perform well under pressure as the first COVID-19 lockdown helped drive a 37 per cent increase in fixed broadband data usage, the average download speed for fixed wireless services decreased by around 25 per cent.

The Commerce Commission said this reflected the susceptibility of performance of these services to loads on the mobile networks over which they were provided.

The performance data presented came from monitoring up to May 2020.

The Commission also noted that the performance of superfast Fibre Max plans varied greatly with 22.2 per cent if users getting speeds in excess of 900 Mbit/s and 5.6 per cent getting less than 100 Mbit/s.

The plans are supposed to deliver in excess of 750 Mbit/s.

In December 2020, a Fibre Max Status Update Report was published that outlined the conclusions from an investigation into the Fibre Max performance issues.

"Multiple factors were discovered during the investigation and the resulting network changes implemented are helping to lift the performance of Fibre Max plans," the monitoring report said.

"Two retailers have already seen their average download speeds improve by 150-250 Mbit/s. There are further changes planned to enhance the performance of Fibre Max plans including improvements to wholesale equipment."

For the year ending 30 June, average fixed broadband usage increased from 207 GB per month to 284GB.

Kiwis were continuing to move off copper connections onto fibre and other new technologies, with copper connections dropping to 28 per cent of total broadband connections. 

Residential landlines are also continuing to decline in popularity, with more than half of household fixed line connections now purchased with no voice service, said telecommunications commissioner Tristan Gilbertson.

Smaller telecommunications providers continued to increase their market share in the fixed-broadband market during the year, from 11 per cent to 13 per cent.

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