A lot of things stay the same when you cross the Tasman, but when it comes to internet speeds, Australia and New Zealand couldn't be further apart. While Australian politicians play the blame game over the failures of the National Broadband Network (NBN), New Zealand continues to expand its ultra-fast fibre-based broadband service across the country. There are many reasons for the striking disparity between the two countries, including the smaller population and surface area of New Zealand and the deep structural problems of the NBN.
According to worldwide rankings from broadband comparison service Cable.co.uk, New Zealand currently has a mean download speed of 16.6Mbps, compared to Australia with 7.7Mbps. This is all about to change, however, with New Zealand's fixed-line telco company Chorus recently announcing an extension to its 1Gbps fibre broadband service. Ultra-fast broadband has been operational in Dunedin for a couple of years, and will be made available across the entire Chorus Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) footprint from October. The current average download speed across the Chorus network is 30.5 megabits per second (Mbps), with the upgrade allowing users to achieve download speeds approaching 1000Mbps and uploads of up to 500Mbps.
According to Chorus CEO Mark Ratcliffe, the company will offer the “maximum speed the network electronics allows today to customers across the country... championing gigabit residential and business services” and allowing New Zealand to be “catapulted up the league tables of broadband speed rankings”. Broadband internet speeds in Dunedin jumped more than 250 percent to 75Mbps after it won the Gigatown competition in 2014, thanks mostly to new residential 1Gbps services made possible through fibre-to-the-premises installations. The little city of Dunedin soon had speeds more than twice as fast as Christchurch at 37Mbps, Wellington at 35Mbps, and Auckland at 25Mbps. In fact, the average download speed in Dunedin is roughly twice that of New York, Shanghai and London, and five times that of Sydney.
Internet speeds in Australia are a long way from the 1000Mbps download and 500Mbps upload speeds that will soon be available across New Zealand. To put things in perspective, Australians who have signed up to the NBN currently receive download speeds within the range of 25Mbps, up to a possible maximum of 100 Mbps. Very few customers have been able to access full speeds, which are still ten times slower than they are on the other side of the pond. The NBN is also behind schedule, with the current aim to have 8 million homes connected by 2020. While a growing number of smaller Australian service providers have moved into the high-speed market with products offering 1Gbps speeds, they are currently only available in specific areas.
By the time Chorus meets its expected completion date in 2019, at least three quarters of New Zealanders will have the chance to access ultra-fast broadband. The NZ government’s broadband project was already 57 percent complete at the end of last financial year, and will soon reach 75 percent of Kiwis who mostly occupy urban areas. While it doesn't have the mandate to provide services to people in rural areas, this is one of the reasons why it's being completed much faster than Australia's NBN. Rural areas in New Zealand will be covered by the government’s already completed rural broadband initiative (RBI), which provides speeds of 50Mbps. With New Zealand currently in 30th position worldwide for internet speeds and Australia in 55th, the gulf between the two neighbours only looks set to widen further.
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