Is my NBN Connection Slow?

Does your internet seem slow? Are you paying your internet provider for a particular NBN speed but you’re not sure if that is what you are getting? Do you wonder what you should be able to do with that speed? Would it be better if it was faster or is what you have now faster than what you need?
Well, read below to find out how to test your NBN speed and, with results in hand, see what you should be able to do.

What to be aware of before testing

First off, its important to make sure you test under the best possible conditions otherwise the results you get will be lower than they really are. So, to improve the accuracy of the test, there are 3 main things you need to be aware of:

  1. You will get the most accurate result when testing from a device that is connected to your modem with an Ethernet (network) cable. Windows desktop computers and Apple iMacs are usually (but not always) connected this way.
    Mobile computers such as Windows laptops and Apple MacBooks are usually connected to your modem via WiFi and the further away they are from your modem, the weaker the WiFi signal will be. The weaker the WiFi signal, the lower the result will be on the test. So, if you are testing from a computer connected via WiFi, move it as close to your modem as possible (no need to get closer than 1 metre).
    It is best to avoid testing with your mobile phone or iPad/tablet because unless you know what you are looking for, you may not be able to tell if they are getting their internet connection from the mobile phone network or via a WiFi connection to your modem (no, the mobile phone network is not the same thing as WiFi). The test will still run, but its possible you will just be seeing the speed of your mobile phone connection, not your NBN.
  2. If other people are using your internet connection while you are running the speed test, you will likely get an artificially low result. Sending emails or looking at web pages won’t have much impact, but downloading a big file or watching shows via a video streaming service (YouTube, Netflix, etc) definitely will.
    It’s very similar to household water pressure – you’re having a nice warm shower, someone turns on the hot water in the kitchen and all of a sudden you’re having a cold shower because the hot water pressure dropped so much.
  3. At peak periods, the internet speed typically drops to around 60% of its off-peak speed. This is because so many of your neighbours will be using the internet at the same time. Peak periods are typically quoted as being evenings from 7pm to 11pm but there are also minor peaks (with lower impact on speed) at lunchtime, the first hour kids typically get home from school and the first hour adults typically get home from work.
    This means, where I live in Perth, the speed yoyos from 3pm to 11pm on weekdays:
  • 3pm – Kids start arriving home from school – speed goes down.
  • 4pm – Kids suddenly remember they’re supposed to do their homework/chores before Mum and/or Dad gets home from work – speed goes up.
  • 5pm – Mum and/or Dad start getting home and jump on to Facebook or taste.com.au to follow dinner recipes – speed goes down.
  • 6pm – Dinner’s ready and everyone is eating – speed goes up.
  • 7pm – Dinner is finished, time to start watching Netflix – speed goes down.
  • 11pm – Bed time – speed goes up.

Testing Instructions

So, with the above considerations in mind, we’re ready to test your NBN speed. Here is what you are going to do.

  1. Click the red “What is my NBN Speed?” button below.
  2. This will take you to another tab in your browser and you will click on the red Go in the red circle.
  3. The test begins by measuring the Download speed and then automatically follows on with an Upload speed test. Once this completes, take note of your Download and Upload speeds and then switch back to this tab to compare the results with the info in the table below.

Checking your results

Ok, so now you have a pretty good idea of what your NBN speed is so you can find out what you should be doing with it and if your internet provider is giving you what you are paying for.

The table below shows the six Speed Tiers that the NBN can provide. The two highest speed tiers are only possible if the NBN connection to your premises is via Fibre to the Premises (FttP) or Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC). These two connection types make up roughly 50% of NBN connections across Australia.

You’re not given a choice of what NBN connection is used and everyone in the same street will usually have the same connection type – in fact, very often everyone in your suburb/town will have the same connection type.

But be aware that while you can’t choose your connection type, you do get to choose which speed you want out of the ones available for your connection type. And considering that the higher the speed you choose, the more your internet provider charges, it is a good idea to check that you’re getting what you pay for.
The names of the Speed Tiers I’ve used in the table below are actually the names that NBN Co uses when selling these connections to your internet provider. Unfortunately, your internet provider is under no obligation to use the same name when they resell the connection to you and their marketing material often has a habit of avoiding specifying any exact numbers, too. Having said that, many providers do use similar, if not the same, names as NBN but if yours is not one of them, you will often find the details after a bit of digging around on their website. Failing that, give their sales department a call and ask them what speed you should get from the plan you are on.

NBN Speed Tiers and Capabilities

NBN SPEED TIERHome Basic IHome Basic 2Home StandardHome FastHome SuperfastHome Ultrafast
Max Download Speed12 Mbps25 Mbps50 Mbps100 Mbps250 Mbps1000 Mbps
Max Upload Speed1Mbps5 Mbps 20 Mbps 20 Mbps 25 Mbps 50 Mbps
WHAT IS POSSIBLE?
Send emails?Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Browse the web?Slow Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Phone calls? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Time to download 1GB file?12 mins6 mins3 mins90 secs35 secs9 secs
Online gaming?Will lagWill lag Yes Yes Yes Yes
Stream music?Stop/start playing Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Stream video?Low res (360p or lower)SD (480p)HD (720p & 1080p)UHD (4K)UHD (4K & 8K at same time)UHD (multiple 8K at same time)
Video meetings, Webinars, Live streaming?Freezes and video drops outFreezes and video drops out Yes Yes Yes Yes
How many people can use at the same time?123 to 45 plus5 plus with multiple devices each5 plus with provision for emerging technologies
NBN Speed Tiers and Capabilities

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