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Commerce Commission report reveals woeful home WiFi

A new report from the Commerce Commissions Measuring Broadband New Zealand shows home WiFI is a major bottleneck. Spark adds Waikato edge cloud services. Cyber security apathy remains high
Commerce Commission report reveals woeful home WiFi
Photo by Dreamlike Street / Unsplash

Commerce Commission report reveals woeful home WiFi

Most New Zealand households have poor WiFi networks that undermine the value for fast broadband connections.

The first RealSpeed report released by the Commerce Commission shows broadband speeds drop as much as 60 per cent in the link between a home router and a WiFi connected device.

RealSpeed has been added to the commission’s regular quarterly Measuring Broadband New Zealand reports. It measures home network performance when users connect to routers from devices including laptops, tablets and phones.

Speed drops

As you’d expect, the RealSpeed report found that speeds drop between a home router and the devices. It goes on to say that the speed drop is more significant for homes with fast broadband connections. In the case of fibre and HFC connections the speed drop can be up to 60 per cent.

As Telecommunications Commissioner, Tristan Gilbertson puts it: “WiFi performance can be responsible for much of the speed consumers are paying for being lost”.

He says: “It doesn’t matter how fast your connection is if your WiFi set up isn’t up to scratch or if you’re being slowed down by an older device. You don’t want to buy a Ferrari-level of broadband and find yourself stuck in second gear — so consider the location of your WiFi router or investing in a new mesh system to unlock the potential of your plan.”

Time for a router update

Most New Zealand homes use ISP-supplied WiFi routers. The devices can be relatively ancient, the majority use what is now known as WiFi 5 also known as the 802.11ac standard. This is now more than a decade old.

While WiFi 5 has a theoretical maximum speed of almost 700 Mbps, in practice it tops out at 200 to 300 Mbps depending on congestion and other factors.

Not only is the more recent WiFi 6 standard considerably faster than WiFi 5, but it is able to deal better with multiple connected devices and congestion. WiFi 5 was made for an era when a home might have a handful of connected devices, many of today’s homes will have dozens.

Typically you can expect speeds in the range of 300 to 500 Mbps with WiFi 6.

WiFi 6E the sweet spot for now

WiFi 6E is a refinement of WiFi 6 that adds the 6GHz radio band to The 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands used by WiFi 6. This means even faster speeds. Home networks with WiFi 6E can distribute data at fibre-like rates. Speeds of more than 800 Mbps are not uncommon.

The latest standard is WiFi 7 or 802.11be. The clue to its performance lies in its alternative name, Extremely High Throughput or EHT. Speeds are well in excess of 1 Gbps.

Each generation of WiFi router is backward compatible with earlier generations.

Your devices need to be equipped with the relevant standard to get all the benefit of a faster router, but any device purchased in the last five years is likely to support WiFi 6. A device needs to be less than three years old to support WiFi 6E. WiFi 7 devices are only coming on to the market this year.

Increasingly ISPs are either not supplying routers with new broadband connections or they charge for the devices. Some charge a monthly rental for indifferent WiFi routers. Prices for modern WiFi 6 routers start at around $120 and WiFi 6E routers cost from around $320.

I wrote this home network guide when New Zealand went into lockdown Working from home: Networks for beginners.

Measuring Broadband New Zealand updates with Fibre 50 plans

Aside from the issues arising from RealSpeed testing, there are few surprises in the latest Measuring Broadband New Zealand report. Download speeds, upload speeds and latency are, in effect, unchanged from the previous quarter’s report.

The data has been refined with the addition of information on the lower cost Fibre 50 plans and there is more LEO satellite data to make more meaningful comparisons with other broadband technologies.

MBNZ found almost every (over 99 per cent) household on standard fibre plans, Fibre Max plans and One New Zealand’s HFC network is able to support four simultaneous UHD Netflix Streams. Realistically this is about as demanding as typical households ever get.

The number drops to 60 per cent for households on Starlink, although 94 per cent of these can get three simultaneous streams.

Satellite gamers do better than those on VDSL connections, but not as well as those on fibre or fixed wireless broadband.

Spark spends $15 million on Waikato cloud and connectivity

Spark says it will take over the University of Waikato’s on campus data centre then make further upgrades developing it into an edge data centre for its business customers. The university will be an anchor customer.

The project will include a new fibre backbone connecting Otorohonga to Te Kauwhata and serving Hamilton East and Ruakura.

Mark Beder, Spark Customer Director for Enterprise and Government says, “We have a clear strategy at Spark to invest in data centre capacity for New Zealand, and building a network of regional data centres is an important part of these

University of Waikato chief information officer Eion Hall, says: “This partnership enables us to focus on our technology strategy.”

Spark’s broader data centre strategy includes plans to develop three large-scale data centre campuses in Auckland. One on the North Shore, the Aotea site in the central city and a third southern site in Takanini. There are metro sites in Wellington and Christchurch and edge data centre facilities in regional centres such as Hamilton, Tauranga, and Dunedin.

Cyber security apathy remains high

Cert NZ says more New Zealanders are taking action to deal with cybersecurity threats, but there is still a high level of apathy with one in five thinking they won’t be in the firing line.

The organisation’s 2024 Cyber Security Behaviour Tracker found adoption of nearly every type of cyber security action has increased.

Senior Threat and Incident Response coordinator, Sam Leggett says the survey shows 95 per cent of respondents know they need to take responsibility for themselves. However 18 per cent think they won’t be affected.

He says younger New Zealanders, aged 18 to 44, show even higher levels of apathy and place less importance on cyber security actions.

"We know young New Zealanders are confident online, but this can lead to over-confidence when faced with an actual threat”.

It could be overconfidence, but the higher level of apathy could also be interpreted as resignation to the inevitable.

In other news...

Commsday says Australia will be among the first markets where Amazon will offer its Project Kuiper LEO satellite service. The nation will host a demonstration site. The story also confirms what we have suspected for a while, that Project Kuiper will be tightly integrated with AWS’s cloud services.

The Dell'Oro Group says Private Wireless Radio Access Network revenues grew 40 per cent in 2023. The top suppliers are Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson. It says private wireless will continue to grow this year at a time demand for public wireless RAN technology is contracting.

NZTech used Spark’s Innovation Studio to launch Technology for Emissions Reduction: A framework for Aotearoa’s Climate Technology Roadmap. The report looks at how digital technology can help our response to climate change.

Google plans an updated 'Find My Device' service for Android mobiles. It’s similar to the service Apple offers on its devices. From May it will be available in the US and Canada. There’s no news on when New Zealand will get the service.

At Interest.co.nz Juha Saarinen writes about the Te Reo interface on Motorola’s new phone range.

There’s some scepticism about the hype surrounding AI PCs. Rob O’Neill covers the story at Reseller News. He writes:

ICT analyst firm Forrester is telling IT leaders to ignore pressure to buy first generation AI PCs in 2024, but to start preparing for 2025.
“AI PCs will remain a niche innovation opportunity in 2024 as IT leaders prepare for a widespread refresh in 2025,” the firm said in a new report.

The NZ Herald’s Chris Keall writes: Rocket Lab wins US$32m contract to help US military rapidly respond to threats in space.

Hugh Jeffreys uses YouTube to highlight the risks of closing 2G and 3G phone networks and says your 4G phone may soon stop working. This can affect relatively recent devices.

The Download Weekly is supported by Chorus New Zealand.