NBN update: Consumers pay more for stagnant service standards, ACCC finds

The ACCC's update on the NBN has fresh insights about speeds, service standards and the 5G rollout.

The ACCC's update on the NBN has fresh insights about speeds, service standards and the 5G rollout. Photo: TND

Australians are paying more for their NBN plans while service standards have not improved, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has revealed.

In a report on Friday, the consumer watchdog published new insights into how the NBN market is changing, and what consumers get for their monthly internet bills.

Figures show consumers on entry level NBN plans paid 3.6 per cent more in 2021-22, while those on middle speed plans paid an extra 4.7 per cent, and customers on high speed plans saw prices rise 9 per cent.

But despite all that, NBN Co’s service standards remained “largely unchanged”, the ACCC said.

“More than eight million households and small businesses rely on the NBN for their internet, so the trade-off between the price and service quality of NBN plans affects most Australians,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said on Friday.

Source: ACCC (click to enlarge).

The ACCC said service quality complaints continue to dominate consumer gripes with the NBN, with a fix to its appointment scheduling system being the only improved service metric last year.

Telecommunications consultant Paul Budde said the figures show “an enormously large number of people” aren’t happy with their NBN.

He said prices are rising without significant gains in service standards because the NBN has been desperate to recoup its investment in the network and returns that have fallen far short of expectations.

“It has been rather easy for NBN to cover up their financial troubles by simply raising prices,” Mr Budde said.

“Because of the second rate network that we got under the previous government, an enormously large number of people are not happy with their NBN. They’re not happy with the price, quality or the speeds.”

Australians flock to 5G

Mr Budde said stagnating service standards under the NBN are pushing Australians to consider alternatives, such as the growing 5G network.

ACCC figures published on Friday show 5G is becoming a “focal point” for competition between the major telcos as the technology rolls out across the country.

Virtual networks, which allow smaller independent retailers to sell their own 5G services, are now also emerging, meaning consumers can look beyond the big telcos like Telstra.

And with both Telstra and Optus increasing prices for their 5G services earlier this year, the ACCC is advising consumers to check and make sure they’re getting value for their money.

For example, while data allowances across 5G plans increased between 7 and 20 per cent in 2021, all of these increases were for plans that now exceed 12 gigabytes of monthly usage.

ACCC data shows the average customer uses just 10.2 GB of data per month, meaning many people are paying for data they’re not regularly using.

“While higher-value plans provide consumers with the ability to download more, consumers should continue to ensure their plans offer the right level of value-for-money according to their needs,” the ACCC said in its report.

Source: ACCC (click to enlarge).

Upload speeds fail to keep up

The ACCC’s latest report also shows NBN internet download speeds have marginally improved over the 2021-22 year, although the regulator says benchmarking with super-fast internet in New Zealand shows further improvements are possible.

However, upload speeds have not improved significantly since early 2020, the ACCC said.

“Upload speed metrics remain substantially below both the observed download speed metrics and the specified wholesale speed tier,” the regulator said in its report.

“This is due to NBN Co not over-provisioning the upload link as it does for the download link.”

Topics: NBN
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