Spectrum internet tests failed to provide an accurate snapshot of internet usage in Australia this week, as it was criticised by regulators and ISPs as a “sham” that left consumers unprotected.
The tests were part of the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Australia, which aims to bring fibre broadband to 1.4 million premises by the end of the decade.
Spectrum internet accounts for about a quarter of the total Australian broadband internet footprint, according to industry research firm Ovum.
While Spectrum internet testing is designed to measure network performance, it also allows for “social and mobile internet” applications to be tested, as well as data-driven testing, which can provide information about network usage.
However, a report from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in July highlighted a “serious and significant lack of transparency” about how the tests work and called for them to be discontinued.
It said “significant delays in the rollout” and “significant flaws” were discovered in the tests.
“The results of these tests are not accurate,” ACMA chair Michael Thiessen said in the report.
“These are tests that have a limited scope and scope is subject to change and they have to be updated on a regular basis to reflect any changes to the network.”
Spectrum internet is designed for “mobile internet” apps like social media and games, but can also be used to “broadcast and send data across a network”, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
While it is difficult to say exactly how much data is being transmitted in a test, it is widely believed that it is “at least in the order of 20 gigabits per second” (Gb/s).
The ACMA has also said it found “significant” “serious flaws” in the “social network” test, and that the “network reliability” of the tests was “poor”.
It is believed that the networks were being tested by a company called G3 Communications, which is owned by the company that owns Australian telco Telstra.
The results of the social network test “may be significantly inaccurate” because the internet is not being monitored, said the ACMA.
“Although the test may provide a snapshot of the network, it should not be used as a measure of network performance,” the ACAC said.
The ACAC also said that while “the network reliability of the test has improved significantly since the test’s inception”, it is still “not acceptable for consumers to rely on the results of this test as an indicator of network reliability.”
In an emailed statement, Spectrum said that the test results “have improved substantially over time”.
“Spectrum provides services to broadband customers that are widely accepted across the telecommunications industry, including the testing of social network services,” it said.
“Spectra is committed to delivering services in accordance with industry standards, including testing protocols and the testing framework used by the ACCC.”