Demand was off the scale. Yet New Zealand’s fibre and copper broadband networks almost never skipped a beat during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown.
Both technologies did well enough to earn a tick from the Commerce Commission
To no-one’s surprise, fixed wireless broadband did not fare as well. It was never going to.
The Commerce Commission uses UK-based SamKnows to track broadband performance. The Measuring Broadband New Zealand Autumn Report, May 2020 shows there was no significant decrease in download speeds on fibre or copper networks.
Fixed wireless speed drops
SamKnows reports average fixed wireless download speeds fell by around 25 per cent.
There is a simple reason for the difference between the technologies. On a fibre network a customer has a direct line from their connection point back to the local roadside cabinet. In effect the same happens with copper.
Fixed wireless broadband users share their connection with others. That means speeds drop at busy times. During the lockdown the networks were busy for a lot more time than would otherwise be normal.
Latency important for video calls
On a similar note, the report found fibre responsiveness consistently outperformed all other technologies. Fibre latency came in at under 20ms 90 per cent of the time. This is important for applications like Zoom video calls and makes a huge difference to the online gaming experience.
The report says:
“Fixed Wireless connections will be more likely to experience issues with latency-sensitive applications such as online gaming or video calls. ”
SamKnows reports that games hosted in New Zealand had lower latency than games hosted overseas.
Fibre to the max
Telecommunications commissioner Dr Stephen Gale says: “Chorus and other providers reported record levels of online activity. But despite that increase, the latest report from our independent testing partner, SamKnows, shows that copper and Fibre 100 plans continued to perform well, with average download speeds unaffected.
“We’re pleased to see that Fibre Max speeds have again increased, but there is still a significant variation of results on these plans. We are working with the industry to understand the causes of this, which involves looking at hardware and the performance of individual networks.”
The report, published by the Commerce Commission, notes the average download speed of Fibre Max plans, that is gigabit wholesale fibre, increased by around 50Mbps since the earlier report. The jump is down to improved performance by a single service provider.