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Tuesday, 14 November 2017 18:26

NBN – it's not all bad news


I've just switched to the NBN, and I'm very happy.

The media industry has several rules of thumb, including "'Dog bites man' isn't news, but "man bites dog is news" and "if it bleeds, it leads."

In business, there's the idea that an unhappy customer will tell 10 people about their bad experience, but a happy customer will only tell one person. The advent of social media has probably changed that ratio by several orders of magnitude, but the principle remains.

So it's not really surprising that you've read about so many bad or at least unsatisfactiory NBN experiences, including that of my colleague Sam Varghese.

But mine has been remarkably good.

After doing my "due dilligence" (largely via Whirlpool, it must be said) into how well the various RSPs are performing, I decided to go with Aussie Broadband.

I signed up online on 30 October, and within minutes was notified that the first available installation appointment was exactly two weeks later on 13 November.

I'm in an HFC area, and the house is already cabled for Foxtel and Telstra Cable, so I accept that my job was about as easy as it gets for the installer.

He turned up, checked the signal level at the wall socket, fitted a splitter to the cable leading to the Foxtel iQ2, and plugged in the modem.

The most time-consuming part of the job was waiting for the modem to update its firmware, and then for NBN Co's remote testing to complete.

All told, the installer was in and out in about 40 minutes. As a bonus, he was pleasant and a tidy worker.

About half an hour later, I received a text from Aussie Broadband asking me to connect my router. I couldn't do it immediately, but everything worked first time when I did that simple job a couple of hours later. All it involved was switching the router off, moving the Ethernet cable from the Telstra Cable modem to the NBN modem, and switching the router back on. reported 49.5/18.6Mbps on a 50/20 plan, and that's close enough for me. I've retested several times since, and even during the evening peak the speed was 45Mbps.

There were a couple of anomalies when Speedtest made what appeared to be a strange choice of server, but repeating the tests after manually selecting a local server gave the expected results.

And that brings me to another point about speeds: you really do need to run the tests from a device connected by Ethernet. Over Wi-Fi, with the device less than three metres away from the router and a nominal connection speed of 217Mbps, Speedtest reported download speeds that were typically around 16Mbps. Switching from 2.4GHz to 5GHz helped a little: download speeds were around 19Mbps on a nominal 450Mbps Wi-Fi connection.

I clearly need to find the time to investigate the performance of my Wi-Fi network — perhaps over the holidays! — but I can easily imagine someone in this situation wondering why their new NBN connection was so slow if they didn't or couldn't conduct a test over Ethernet. They would probably blame the NBN or their RSP, even though their own equipment was the source of the problem.

Anyway, don't believe the doom and gloom merchants. A very good NBN connection experience is possible, even if you don't hear from many people who have had one.

For about the same monthly cost, I'm getting around 35% faster downloads, 18 times faster uploads, and a fivefold increase in the data allowance. What's not to like about that?

And because I was switching from Telstra Cable to an NBN RSP that wasn't Telstra, even if something had gone wrong with the NBN installation I wouldn't have been left high and dry because I still have the Telstra service for as long as I keep paying for it, at least until the 18-month cutoff deadline is reached. As part of my plan, I deliberately avoided RSPs that only offer 12- or 24-month contracts. By going month-by-month I'm free to take my business elsewhere if Aussie Broadband doesn't keep performing to my satisfaction.

But for now, I'm a happy camper.

Continued in part two.


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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.



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