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NZ's copper and fibre networks held up despite increased demand during lockdown


New Zealand's copper and fibre broadband connections held up well during the Covid-19 lockdown, despite increased levels of demand on the networks.

The Commerce Commission's latest Measuring Broadband New Zealand report shows that on average, copper and fibre broadband connections experienced no significant decrease in download speeds during lockdown, despite unprecedented demand on broadband networks.

"A huge increase in the number of New Zealanders staying connected, working and learning from home caused heavy demand on broadband networks during the lockdown period," says telecommunications commissioner, Dr Stephen Gale.

Gale says Chorus and other providers reported record levels of online activity. 

"But despite that increase, the latest report from our independent testing partner, SamKnows, shows that copper and Fibre 100 plans continued to perform well, with average download speeds unaffected," he says.

Average download speeds for Fixed Wireless decreased by around 25%. Average download speeds for the fastest plan that was tested, Fibre Max, decreased by about 4%, which most consumers would not notice given the high speeds on these plans. 

The report also includes tests of popular social media and gaming services for the first time, to gain insight to their performance. The results show that pictures on Facebook and Instagram would likely load much faster than on Snapchat, due to the lower latency to Facebook and Instagram, and gamers can expect the best Fortnite experience on Fibre plans, the report shows.

The average download speed of Fibre Max plans has increased by around 50 Mbps since the last report. This 8% jump is largely due to an increase in the average measured speed for one provider. 

"We're pleased to see that Fibre Max speeds have again increased, but there is still a significant variation of results on these plans. We are working with the industry to understand the causes of this, which involves looking at hardware and the performance of individual networks," says Gale.  

The Measuring Broadband New Zealand programme is delivered by independent testing partner SamKnows and is designed to provide consumers with independent information on broadband performance across different providers, plans, and technologies, to help them choose the best broadband for their homes. 

"Shining a light on actual broadband performance also encourages providers to compete on performance and not just price," says Gale.

"We're still on the lookout for volunteers on Orcon, Slingshot and Trustpower plans. We also need more volunteers on Vodafone's Cable and Fixed Wireless plans.

"The more volunteers using different broadband services that sign up to the programme, the more detailed we can make the reports," he adds.

The latest Measuring Broadband New Zealand Autumn 2020 report is now on the Commerce Commissions website.