Saturday 16 April 2022

NBN Speeds - what about upload?

So, when the NBN was introduced to Australia, each of the tiers was generally named after the maximum theoretical speed you might get in a "perfect world" scenario... but then marketing got a hold of things...

In the beginning, the plans had speeds listed in maximum downlink and uplink values, based upon the size of the pipe provisioned to an end user over the NBN.


  1. 12/1 - 12 Megabits per second down, 1 Megabit per second up
  2. 25/4 - 25 down, 4 up (and I think for awhile this was the max for fixed wireless)
  3. 50/20 - 50 down, 20 up
  4. 100/40 - 100 down, 40 up

Then, various market pressures (the requirement by government that NBNco be a profitable commercial enterprise rather than a common public good and therefore have an increasing ARPU, as well as COVID lockdown teleworking revolution) drove a need for change.

Many ISPs were pinged by the ACCC for advertising plans that stated the maximum theoretical speed, but very rarely achieved that, and they were fined. Average expected speeds started to be advertised, and numerical names that made sense, but had caveats, were ditched for a word salad of superlatives, akin to the way that USB revisions have been named - ISPs couldn't be accused of selling a specific number (besides the average they list) and the marketing types had something more sexy sounding to stamp on their services.

During COVID, with the massive uptick in teleworking, lots more people were getting online, and the amount of data consumption increased significantly. The techs figured out that the majority of people download well in excess of what they upload, so they sacrificed uplink capacity in return for downlink. Goodbye to 100/40, hello 100/20.. sorry.. "Home Fast".

I looked high and low for a mapping of the speed tiers in maximum megabits per second high and low. Lots of ISPs don't list uploads anymore. Often not even in their critical information summaries! After a bit of googling, I finally came across this press release from NBNco (PDF).

If you want to know what each of the new tiers actually represents in maximum megabits per second (line conditions etc. permitting, perfect world numbers, YMMV, batteries not included, etc. etc.), here it is, from the above PDF..

Speed tierMax downMax upLast mile
Home Fast10020Fibre and HFC
Home Fast25-1005-20FTTB, FTTN and FTTC
Home Superfast25025Fibre and HFC
Home Ultrafast500~100050Fibre and HFC

Basically all plans with:

  • "Fast" are capped at up to 20Mbps max uplink
  • "Superfast" at 25Mbps max uplink
  • "Ultrafast" at 50Mbps max uplink

That said, not all ISPs sell plans with the maximum possible downlink enabled. For example, at the time of writing, one ISP was offering "Superfast" and "Ultrafast" plans with only 200Mbps downlink. This is likely to balance the bandwidth requirements.

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