Monday, 18 January 2021 14:46

Chilling news: Finder says 'one in three streamers experience buffering issues regularly'


Turning the phrase "Netflix and Chill" on its head, Finder says that buffering issues experienced by those watching streaming media services are suffering from "Netflix and freeze".

When I was the Best Man at a friend's wedding, I remembered something I heard at a different wedding years ago where I was just a guest, and it was about the three rings of marriage.

Those rings were the engagement ring, the wedding ring, with the big joke being the third ring - the suffering.

When I was putting together my best man speech, I knew I had to update this to the modern era, which I did by adding a fourth ring of marriage. Naturally, the first three rings are there - but my fourth ring took into account the well publicised issues with the NBN, thus leading to the fourth ring being buffering - whether Netflix or other streaming media buffering.

Now, I wasn't prescient - buffering is the bane of any Internet user, but in the age of the NBN, it wasn't still supposed to be an issue. That said, it depends on how fast your NBN connection is, how many people are using that connection at the same time, the quality of your Wi-Fi network, the age of your devices and more, so yes - buffering is still an issue!

So, what did Finder find in its findings on streaming issues in the age of the still non-fibre connectivity to homes across Australia at still what are mostly sub-100Mbps speeds?

Finder, which bills itself as the "most visited" comparison site in Australia, says streaming speeds are a major issue for many Australians, and points to its "nationally representative survey of 12,208 respondents" which found that "85% of respondents stream content online – that’s equivalent to 16.5 million Australians using streaming services such as Netflix and Stan.

"The research also found that more than one in three Australians (36%) experience buffering issues at least once a week, 16% of which experience dropouts daily".

Angus Kidman, Finder's tech expert and a well known Australian technology journalist, explains that "with more Australians likely tuning in for a streaming binge over the school holiday period we could see these issues increase."

Kidman isn't kidding when he states: “With more people home for school holidays the chances of an uninterrupted streaming session goes down.

“As family time increases, so does internet usage and congestion.”

Finder then points to its "Consumer Sentiment Tracker" which "also reveals 14% of Australians are dissatisfied with their home broadband speed, a slight decrease since April, where nearly one in five (19%) Australians indicated their Internet speed was less than ideal.

"This drop in Internet dissatisfaction could be a result of the pandemic, as Aussies made the switch to faster plans and NBN Co and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) worked to keep up with consumer demand.

"Earlier in the year, the NBN faced a 45% spike in network load as office workers scrambled to set up home offices and demand for home internet surged.

"Despite an initial network slowdown, NBN plans are now faster than ever, regularly delivering 95% to over 100% of their maximum speed. Meanwhile the cost of broadband this year fell by 2%."

Kidman added: “The pandemic made many of us work from home in 2020, which meant NBN needed to up bandwidth.

“Despite the increase in bandwidth, many Aussies' experience remains far from ideal.

“If you regularly experience dropouts, check your Internet speeds, record it, and let your provider know to see if they can help fix the problem.”

Other stats include streamers from New South Wales encountering "the highest amount of lagging, with 45% saying they face buffering issues at least weekly, followed by those from Victoria (43%)".

Kidman concluded, stating: “If you haven’t switched plans or providers in a while it’s time to compare your options. Your households’ needs may have changed during 2020 and you could find a better broadband deal elsewhere."

Naturally, Finder hopes you'll use its comparison service to check out which NBN provider might be better suited to your needs.

Finder also offers this advice on "How to speed up your Internet connection":

  • Check your hardware. Cheap and faulty equipment can often be the cause of slower Internet speeds. Make sure you purchase your devices, such as your modem, from a reputable source such as your ISP, to avoid it breaking or becoming the cause of your Internet issues in the future.
  • ake the switch. If you haven’t yet switched to the NBN now is the time. In June 2020 the rollout was 99% complete, jump online to check if your household is NBN-ready and compare available plans. If you are on the NBN but you haven’t switched plans in a while it’s a good idea to take a look at what’s out there. There are a number of smaller and competitively priced NBN providers in the market that are offering great deals.
  • Free up some bandwidth. If you live in a household of streamers and gamers you’re likely to have experienced issues with your streaming sessions before. If you can, pause all other downloads or disconnect any other devices that aren’t in use but might be drawing on your Internet.

The NBN Co has advice on optimising your home Internet set-up here, your Wi-Fi here, and your office Internet set-up here

Here's the methodology of Finder's survey::

  • This study was designed by Finder and conducted by Qualtrics, a SAP company.
  • The online survey was conducted using a nationally representative survey sample of 12,208 Australian respondents from January - December 2020.
  • Data on the portion of Australians who experience buffering issues excludes respondents who indicated they do not stream videos.
  • Data on the portion of Australians who are dissatisfied with their home broadband speed includes those who indicated they were “somewhat dissatisfied” or “extremely dissatisfied”.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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