Why is my NBN connection so slow? /rant

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Jacob Curulli
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Jacob Curulli

CIO at Flaktest Gaming
Jacob is a IT specialist, Nerd, and Co-Founder of Flaktest Gaming.
Jacob Curulli
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This is an opinion piece from a disgruntled gamer

So you’ve finally got yourself on the National Broadband Network (NBN). Maybe you’ve lucked out and have the gold standard FTTP or you have the lesser FTTN. Great, it’s still better than ADSL2+ right! You set up to play your favourite game one evening, it’s 6pm and BAMN lag. WTF? This is worse than my old ADSL connection? You’re on NBN! Why the lag?

It comes down to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) not purchasing enough bandwidth for your connection. In a nutshell (and this is really simplified, so tech nerds just settle down) your ISP has to purchase bandwidth on the connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) from NBNCo. The more an ISP purchases, the bigger the ‘pipe’ is they have for their customers data. Think of it like a straw, the larger the straw the more liquid (data) can flow through it. You always want a bigger straw.

The current CVC price is (as of December 2016) $15.75 per Mbps, per month. See the problem yet? Let’s do some math based on a 100Mbps NBN plan.
ISP Pays per month for 100Mbps pipe
$15.75 x 100 = $1,575.00
You pay per month for 100Mbps plan

That’s a difference of $1,455.00 – so how does that work? Well the ISP has to oversell the connection, this isn’t a big deal because you don’t need 100% of the bandwidth 24/7 so it just works. The ISP might sell 60 x 100Mbps plans using that single 100Mbps pipe. That means there is a contention of 60:1 – for every 100Mbps pipe the ISP buys they sign up 60 people before buying more bandwidth. This is how they make money. The issue arises when during peak times (6pm to 10pm) when everyone is home and watching streaming services like Netflix or Stan and suddenly there isn’t enough bandwidth to go around.

Who is to blame? Well your ISP is trying to make money, in a pretty awful relationship with NBNCo, so they have to oversell the connection to cover their costs. There is however a solution; pick the ISP with lower overheads who don’t oversell their connections.

The internet forum whirlpool.net.au is filled with threads of people complaining about their brand new NBN connection. We trawled through and had a look at who people said were good and who they complained about the most.

Steer clear of the budget ISP’s.. Remember the maths above? The cheaper your plan the less the ISP makes and the more they have to oversell your connection to make any money. We found that people had great things to say about smaller ISP’s like Aussie Broadband and Skymesh. They aren’t the cheapest but they also don’t suffer from the peak time lag anywhere near as bad as other ISPs.

What about the big players like Telstra, Optus, and iiNet (TPG)? Well the results are pretty mixed (during peak times), some people report great speeds while others say they have worse speeds that ADSL2+. This comes down to how each of the big ISPs manage your node/area, sometimes they get the contention formula right and other times they don’t and you suffer.

Bottom line: Do your research and try out a smaller ISP. Aussie Broadband and Skymesh offer month to month plans with no connection or disconnection fees. If your current speeds are dismal then you have nothing to lose.


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