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Measuring Broadband report helps fix gigabit fibre

Gigabit broadband plans showed much better speeds in the April 2021 Measuring Broadband report.

The Commerce Commission doesn’t like fast fibre described as gigabit. It prefers “Fibre Max”.

That’s because plan customers don’t see gigabit speeds. While the wholesale circuit runs at a gigabit, network overheads reduce the usable bandwidth seen by the user.

Fibre Max or Gigabit, either way it is fast broadband. The plans more than enough for all but the most demanding customers1.

The Commerce Commission publishes its Measuring Broadband monitoring reports four times a year.

Spotlight on Fibre Max performance

Ever since the UK-based SamKnows began monitoring broadband there has been an issue with Fibre Max performance. Customers see a wide range of speeds.

In cases the speed was close to half the nominal gigabit per second. At times it was even lower – see the chart. It was noticeable that performance was worse in the South Island than in the North Island. Hence the uneasiness with calling plans ‘gigabit’ fibre.

In December the Commerce Commission set up a working party to investigate the problems with Fibre Max. There was more than one issue to consider.

You can read the report for yourself, but the short version is that issues were identified and acted on.

Fibre max now 200Mbps faster

The April report clocks the average Fibre Max speed at 840Mbps. That’s more than 200Mbps higher than in earlier reports.

There is a performance range. Customers on the Spark and Vodafone networks see higher speeds than those on other networks. My Republic continues to lag its rivals.

The report says the differences are not statistically significant. There’s not enough going on to make anyone want to shop around for another service provider.

Customers on Fibre Max plans see a small, but noticeable performance dip during peak hours. The report goes on to say this is not enough to affect performance.

Upload speeds on Fibre Max plans average 500Mbps.

Measuring Broadband beyond Fibre Max

Vodafone’s HFC Max, that’s broadband based on the company’s hybrid fibre co-axial cable network, was measured for the first time. It comes in behind Fibre Max with an average download speed of 672Mbps. The average upload speed is 93Mbps.

When HFC Max was first introduced, remember FibreX?, speeds were behind the better fibre plans. It’s caught up. In practice customers will get much the same experience as they’d get on the UFB fibre network.

UFB customers buying 100Mbps fibre plans get exactly what it says on the label: connections running a tick over 100Mpbs.

VDSL performed better than fixed wireless broadband for downloads while fixed wireless was a little faster than VDSL for uploads. The average VDSL customer saw 41.9Mbps down while the fixed wireless average was 25.2Mbps. These speeds are in line with earlier reports.

Fixed wireless lottery

Fixed wireless broadband remains something of a lottery. It can be good. If you are in the right place you might get fibre-like speeds. But as the Measuring Broadband report says:

  • Fixed wireless has the highest latency of all technologies apart from satellite (not currently reported on by MBNZ).
  • Fixed wireless connections will be more likely to experience issues with latency-sensitive applications such as online gaming or video conferencing.
  • Fixed wireless connections can also be affected by congestion (for example average download speeds dropped by 25 per cent in the March 2020 Covid-19 lockdown because of increased congestion).

  1. Fibre Max isn’t the fastest plan you can buy. Hyperfibre is four times the speed. ↩︎