COMMENT:

The Commerce Commission has analysed broadband performance monitoring data collected since 2007, and Dunedin appears to lead the country for fast internet connections.

Thanks to the Gigatown initiative that saw Chorus release fibre-optic Ultrafast Broadband service with speeds of almost one gigabit per second at entry level pricing, Dunedinites enjoy average connection speeds of 265 megabits per second (Mbps).

This is well ahead of Auckland's North Shore where the average connection speed is 81Mbps.

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Predictably enough, rural areas such as Waimate, Central Hawke's Bay and Otorohanga were the slowest with just 19Mbps. The data used by the Commerce Commission was collected from Chorus, which operates most of the government part-funded UFB network.

Average speeds could be higher or lower on other UFB wholesalers such as Enable and Northpower, the Commission said.

Despite the fast fibre optic to the premises UFB connections, New Zealand internet speeds are still lower than the average for Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

Content delivery network provider Akamai tests and compiles data on worldwide connection speeds, with the OECD average being 15Mbps, and countries like Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Finland all reaching over 20Mbps.

New Zealand connections manage just below 15Mbps, but we are catching up rapidly with developed nations, thanks to the UFB and moving away from slow ADSL copper connections to the faster VDSL for areas that don't yet have fibre.

Fibre connections are substantially faster than copper: on Chorus network, the average speed for UFB fibre is 142Mbps, whereas copper only manages 29Mbps.

Networks groan under Netflix load

Video streaming over the internet has been a tough challenge for internet providers, which have had to cope with sudden and massive increases in data traffic when Netflix and NEON arrived.

Vodafone's Wellington cable network saw a thirty per cent increase in data traffic in just a month in July 2015.

The bump in data usage saw Vodafone's cable service slow down substantially, with customers complaining of slow speeds on the overloaded network.

Off-peak speeds on Vodafone's cable network dropped from around 80-140Mbps to as low as below 20Mpbs during peak hours.

At the time, Vodafone said that around 60 per cent of data on its network was streaming video. During school holidays, it reached as high as 83 per cent.

Vodafone was forced to move forward network upgrades to handle the increased data load on its network.

Help test New Zealand's broadband

After first using UK company Epitiro and then Wellington-based Truenet until January this year, the Commission has contracted SamKnows to help out with its legally mandated broadband monitoring.

London-based SamKnows works with regulators in UK and Europe, the United States, Brazil, Canada and Singapore.

The Commission and SamKnows now wants 3000 volunteers to take part in its enhanced broadband monitoring programme, scheduled to start in October this year.

Each participant will have a "Whitebox" device, similar to a modem, installed in their household. The Whitebox will perform automated tests on the internet connection during different times of the day.

Participants can see the results of the testing on their broadband connections and no personal information or browsing histories are recorded. The testing is also designed not to interfere with volunteers' internet activities, the Commission promised.

More details about the programme and how to join it are available at www.measuringbroadbandnewzealand.com.