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NBN Co drops tiers, talks speed without mentioning speeds

NBN Co used to talk about the various tiers of service it offered. Now, presumably due to the shortcomings of the multi-technology mix, it refers to "speeds" and "plans" instead of "tiers" – but studiously avoids quantifying the speeds delivered.

Until recently, NBN service tiers were described in terms such as 12/1Mbps (12Mbps download, 1Mbps upload) and 100/40Mbps. These were wholesale speeds, and the company made it clear that the actual speeds seen by a customer were affected by a range of factors including the capacity of their chosen retail service provider.

But that's been quietly dropped, and NBN Co now refers to three "superfast speeds" it labels NBN 25, NBN 50 and NBN 100, plus the non-superfast NBN 12.

While there's an implication that the numbers indicate the download speed, there's no mention of megabits per second, except that downloading at "25Mbps or above is considered a superfast broadband speed... as defined by the ACCC."

What's the highest download speed you can expect on a given plan? NBN Co's not saying, but it'll let you read between the lines.

What's the highest upload speed speed you can expect on a given plan? Deathly silence...

We've got some sympathy for NBN Co. As it keeps telling us, the actual speed achieved is dependent on factors beyond its control.

And the variations between the different technologies now being used for fixed lines (FttP, FttN, FttDP and HFC) means we're in a very different environment to the original all-FttP plan.

But how can customers and their advocates hold the blowtorch of accountability to retail service providers that provide a substandard service if NBN Co no longer specifies in megabits per second the actual upload and download speeds that could — should? — be delivered by a particular tier, sorry, speed?

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.