Australia has a long and dubious history of slow Internet speeds against the expectations for a modern, advanced nation. In September of this year, the Worldwide Broadband Speed League, which looked at the Internet speeds available to the population, placed Australia at 62 in the rankings. Our nearest neighbor, New Zealand, ranked at 23.
The rankings tend to favor smaller countries, where nation-wide infrastructure projects are much easier to achieve. The top five countries in the rankings, for example, were Lichtenstein, Jersey, Andorra, Gibraltar, and Luxembourg. The highest rating in Asia was Hong Kong and Singapore — single city nations.
Australia is geographically huge and has a dispersed population, making the national broadband strategy — the nbn™ — a problematic one, both politically in terms of budget, and logistically. Nonetheless, Australian organisations do have access to broadband Internet, nation-wide, so it’s important that enterprises find the right ISP for their needs — it could be the difference between a competitive, future-ready enterprise, and one that struggles to participate in the increasingly global economy.
What makes a good ISP?
The nbn™ does mean that Internet speeds are pretty consistent across Australia. Some of the cheaper ISPs will suffer from a decline in Internet speed during peak hour — the so-called “evening speeds” drop because the ISP hasn’t purchased enough bandwidth from NBN Co, meaning that there’s not enough to go to all customers, so all customers experience a decline in speeds. In most cases, however, that decline won’t be enough to affect business performance. Particularly since peak hours are generally after work and therefore there will be fewer people in the office.
With that being said, if a business is a high performance one, then chances are it will be running a higher-speed nbn™ plan, and a service slowdown will subsequently affect its business. With that being the case, the ISPs that offer the best evening speeds are best placed to assist those organisations, even if it’s at a higher cost.
The real point of difference for most businesses will be in terms of customer service, however. With so many businesses being reliant on the Internet for operation, an unreliable Internet connection can be catastrophic. Research shows that a small business can lose over $8,500 per hour for an outage, and a medium-sized business could be set back as much as $74,000/hour.
There are a couple of things businesses can do to minimize the risk of this happening to them. The first is to invest in redundancy within the business. A 4G or 5G mobile broadband service is expensive in terms of data consumption, but in the event of an outage, will give organisations a “backup” to keep the business rolling.
Secondly, a business should consider an enterprise plan with their ISP. Not only do enterprise plans provide critical technical features that are important for any business bigger than the smallest of small (such as static IP addresses), but they can also come with service level agreements — SLAs — built into them.
An SLA is an agreement that the organisation will not experience more than a few minutes of downtime per month and puts the cost of damages on to the ISP if it’s more than that. That SLA also means that if the business needs support from the ISP, it will be prioritised.
Under Australian law, ISPs are obliged to offer a “best-effort” resolution to Internet outages, which can mean downtime for hours, or even days, as technicians are available (and, in the case of weekend outages, not), however, enterprise plans have provisions for response times for technical issues and, often, 24/7 support.
Australian businesses do need to contend with an Internet infrastructure that is fundamentally uncompetitive on a global scale. This will change for many businesses, with recent announcements that NBN Co will be running a $3 billion upgrade for around half of the network. However, the roadmap for this will take some years, and many businesses will also miss out. Organisations will need to find their own solutions.
Finding the right ISP, and then making sure that there are the right SLAs in place to deliver stability and the healthiest possible speeds at all times, are critical to the ongoing ability for Australian organisations to innovate and deliver world-class products and solutions going forward.