Commerce Commission ramps up new broadband testing regime

Releases paper on broadband performance testing

The Commerce Commission has published a paper on broadband performance testing ahead of the first round of information on consumer broadband service performance being released by UK based broadband performance tester, SamKnows.

In May 2018, the Commission named SamKnows to provide a broadband testing programme via probes in 3000 households that would volunteer to take part in the program.

The Telecommunications (New Regulatory Framework) Amendment Bill that is currently before Parliament imposes greater monitoring requirements on the commission.

Amendments to Part 1 of the Act specify that retail service quality should be interpreted to include “service performance, speed and availability”. Section 9A(1)(e) will then require the commission to “make available …information about retail service quality in a way that better informs consumer choice.”

The Commerce Commission’s move followed that of its Australian counterpart, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which awarded SamKnows a $A6.5m contact in December 2017 to monitor 2000 Australian broadband services.

SamKnows runs testing in over 40 countries on behalf of telecommunications regulators and retail service providers, and claims these services cover almost half of the world’s Internet population.

The Commerce Commission said more than 2,600 volunteers had already signed up to its testing program, via, and the first results would be made available in October at The commission says it also exploring other options and communication channels “to get broadband performance information to as many consumers as possible.”

Participants get a Whitebox that connects to their home Internet service and reports performance at different times of the day. “It will not record any personal information or browsing history, and does not interfere with your Internet service,” the commission said. Volunteers also get access to their own personal Internet performance information.

Telecommunications Commissioner Dr Stephen Gale said the paper explained how and why the commission undertook performance testing and reflected some of the benefits of testing over the past decade.

“Notable events include Netflix’ arrival in New Zealand in 2015 which saw providers’ having to manage network congestion caused by large increases in video traffic over broadband networks, and increasing broadband speeds around the country mirroring the Government’s rollout of Ultra-Fast Broadband and rural broadband initiatives,” he said.

The SamKnows approach will provide more widespread testing than the previous technologies employed by the commission. It started residential fixed-line broadband performance testing in 2007 when it selected Epitiro to provide a broadband testing service. Epitiro used a rack of PCs at 11 test sites across five cities to run various tests on premium broadband plans. The results were converted into an index score to compare retailers.

In March 2012 the commission selected TrueNet to test broadband performance in a way that, it says, was more oriented towards measuring the performance experienced in consumers’ homes. TrueNet used around 400 test devices deployed in the homes of volunteers to measure broadband performance of the main retail service providers.

Initially only ADSL broadband services were tested but as new technologies became available, TrueNet started testing VDSL, cable, fibre and fixed wireless broadband.