Australia has slipped further in global broadband speed rankings, underlining the challenges facing the National Broadband Network and the future of high-speed internet access.
While speeds improved slightly, Australia dropped three places to 62nd for fixed broadband in the latest Ookla Speedtest Global Index, putting the country far behind many comparable economies and a handful of developing nations. The Australian download speed of 35.11 Mbps recorded for March is far below the global average of 57.91 Mbps.
Labor has seized on the updated ranking, blaming the Coalition government's "multi-technology mix" rollout of the National Broadband Network. The opposition recently ruled out a rapid, large-scale fibre upgrade of the network, opting for $185 million of targeted improvements and a review of the $50 billion project.
"Only Labor has presented a credible strategy to steadily improve speeds and reliability on the NBN," Labor communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said in a statement.
Ms Rowland noted Ookla measured New Zealand's average speed as 2.5 times higher than Australia's. New Zealand has built a network of fibre to the home connections, as Labor was proposing under its original NBN rollout.
A spokesman for Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said Ookla didn't measure the speeds the of which the NBN is capable.
"It measures the speed packages that households purchase - which is the main determinant of speeds received. For example, the average potential speed of the NBN's fibre to the node network is 70 Mbps - twice the average download speeds reported for Australia in the survey," the spokesman said.
The spokesman said around half of the 5.1 million people connected to the NBN had chosen 25 Mbps or lower plans, eschewing the faster options available.
"The survey speed results are skewed downward by survey participants that are not connected to the NBN network but are on ADSL, which averages about 8 Mbps. The survey doesn't take into account that in many developing countries, while those who have broadband may achieve good speeds, there are not many of them"
The spokesman said that in Kazakhstan, which sits above Australia at 61st, only a small number of people enjoy the speed recorded in Ookla while 86 per cent had no fixed broadband access.
NBN Co has recently reported significant increases in active users and premises ready to connect and the rollout is scheduled to be complete by next year under the Coalition's policy.
Recent figures show increased appetite for the higher speed tiers of the network as 56 per cent of premises opt for plans of 50 Mbps or higher.
NBN Co recently divulged that 183,000 active fibre-to-the-node connections of the total 2.4 million are not achieving required speeds of more than 25 Mbps.
- SMH/The Age