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Is Coronavirus affecting internet speeds? 5 questions to ask your provider to get the best speed

Australia’s internet speed has, arguably, always been slow. Certainly, when compared with other countries it is underperforming.

In fact, Australia's internet infrastructure is ranked 54th out of 63 nations in communications technology and 38th for internet speeds, according to the World Digital Competitiveness rankings.

The impact on the network has been further put under pressure by the amount of people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There has been an 80 per cent increase in internet demand since lockdown, due mainly to the increase in tele-work including the requirement for video conferencing capacities and the need to share large data-sets within a short period of time.

Add the increase in use of streaming services, video chats, and online gaming, and bandwidth is being strained. Notably, while your streaming service only requires download, video conferencing tools such as Zoom or Skype do require upload capabilities putting further strain on the network.

Fortunately, it is not at breaking point.

Monash University-linked company KASPR Datahaus distributes technology scans, aggregates, analyses and visualises real-time information on Internet activity and quality by measuring hundreds of millions of connected fixed Internet devices at all over the world.

It has been conducting a global test of internet speeds during COVID-19 lockdown. The test period came between Thursday 13 Feb 2020 to Friday 14 Feb 2020 as a baseline, and then again during the Thursday 12 Mar 2020 to Friday 13 Mar 2020 period.

The focus was on regions within countries with at least 100 confirmed Covid-19 as of Friday March 13.

Results show the internet suffered signs of significant pressure in some regions.

In Australia, speeds varied from city to city, with Canberra and Melbourne the worst hit.

Despite this, the NBN which is now available in 95 per cent of Australian households says its network is holding up.

An NBN spokesperson said recently, “the NBN network processed about 5 terabits per second (Tbps) from 8am to 5pm. On Friday, March 27, data demand peaked at 9.2Tbps.

“It's a significant lift, [but] it still remains well below the evening busy hours when data consumption on the network is at its highest.

“Between 8pm and 10pm, it has increased by around 15 per cent to 12.4Tbps, as of 9pm on Friday.”

5 questions to ask your provider about internet speeds

Retailers’ network speeds play a significant role in how quickly your internet is operating.

Late last year, seven non-mainstream telcos were fined for not being up-front about how slow their internet speeds might be on the NBN.

This is important as regulations changed in 2018, forcing telcos to provide consumers with clearer information about their service, including internet performance.

100Mbps is the best speed possible on an NBN 100 (Premium) connection. However, not even a provider such as Telstra or Optus is able to guarantee maximum speed.

According the ACCC Optus is the fastest NBN provider.

So what should you be asking of your provider to ensure you can get the best service available whilst working at the desk at home, before heading to the couch in the evening to watch Netflix, Stan or Amazon?

The ACCC deems 82.93Mbps to be the average evening speed for a premium connection. That’s a great starting point

Question 1: What is your fastest internet speed?

If you find yourself using the internet more than usual, or if you just require fast speeds, ask your provider what their quickest available speed is.

Question 2: What are the speed options?

Internet usage determines which speed will be best for your home or business. You will need to factor in number of devices and the amount of streaming and downloading required to determine the speed you need. Netflix recommends an Internet download speed of at least 5 Mbps to stream HD videos.

Your internet provider should offer several different speeds.

Question 3: Is speed guaranteed?

Most internet providers can’t guarantee speed, but there’s no harm in asking and if one does consider changing providers.

Question 4: Are speeds throttled?

You don’t want to exceed your data limit only to have your speed slowed down. Make sure you have enough data for your needs, but if you do exceed it make sure you have a back-up plan with your provider with extra data.

Question 5: What is the contract?

Most providers will put a lock-in contract in place. If you don’t want to be locked down, shop around. You can do this through InfoChoice’s free internet comparison.

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