Getting good speed data on NBN Fibre-enabled areas

Lately I have been pondering the data coming out of various outlets regarding internet speeds in Australia. Just the other day there was an article on ZDnet saying that average broadband download speeds have dropped 23% in the last year which I took surprise at. The source of this data was Akamai – a content-delivery network mostly used by large software companies like Apple to deliver updates and iTunes data, and also by the ABC as a part of their iView platform.

Upon reflection on this, it seems incorrect. We know that the total downloaded data by Australians has only been increasing at an amazing rate in recent times, backed up by the latest ABS figures which show fixed line downloads in Q4 2012 (Oct-Dec) grew by 35% over Q2 (April to June). Wireless data downloads grew 11% over the same period.

So what causes this drop in speed? Well, more connections running at slower speed of course! ABC iView in particular has been opened up on mobile devices recently, which is delivered by the Akamai network. ABC Managing Director, Mark Scott, tweeted in February that

“14.2 million program plays across all #iview platforms in Jan – highest for any month. More than half on phones and tablets.”

Most of these Tablets and Mobile Devices which would be either sharing a fixed-line connection via WiFi, or running on the heavily congested 3G network and the fast becoming congested G networks of Telstra and Optus. It is very popular, and would be used at peak times by most people which would explain much slower connections.

You then have companies like Ookla who use NetIndex as a statistical tool to process the wealth of data through their insanely popular SpeedTest.Net platform. This shows a relative climb in speeds over time, based upon both fixed line (ADSL, Cable, NBN) through the web browser testing, and Mobile Wireless (3G/4G) through the SpeedTest.Net apps on both iOS and Android. In the last couple of weeks alone, I have watched the Australian national download average increase from 12.91Mbps around 10 days ago to 13.13Mbps today.

So how do we get better data to measure the speed of internet connections in this country, and be able to show what areas have good speed or have many NBN-connections, versus those areas which have bad ADSL and congested 3G/4G?

The issue with SpeedTest.Net data is that while the mobile apps use the GPS to report back the location of the test for statistical purposes, the web browser test uses IP GeoLocation technology to work out where you are. Unfortunately, most ISPs will set the Geolocation data on their IP Address ranges to either their head office, or a particular ‘Point of Presence’ or POP. In most cases, these are in state capital cities and then these locations end up catching most of the speed tests done and consolidating all that data to one place, giving a quite ‘average’ average for that location.

So, how can you help fix this?

  • Firstly, download and install Google Chrome – a fast and extensible internet browser.
  • Secondly, install Manual Geolocation – an extension for Chrome which lets you override the ISP location.
  • Third, enable the Manual Geolocation extension by clicking on the ‘target’ on the far right hand side of the Address Bar in Chrome.
  • Fourth – create an account at SpeedTest.Net in order to manage your network locatons.
  • Then, go into the ‘Settings’ tab at and click on the ‘Refine Location’ button. This will dial down your location to the one you set in the Manual Geolocation extension.
  • Finally – run some speed tests! Make sure at the end you submit them into NetIndex so it counts against all the other suburbs, cities and countries in the world.

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