With so many people needing to work from home during COVID-19 lockdowns, often while simultaneously homeschooling and entertaining children, a strong internet connection has become a crucial requirement.
But few have a good enough connection to cope with such demand without paying top dollar. Even then your bandwidth may sometimes be questionable, depending on what type of NBN connection you have.
Curtin University Internet Studies Professor Tama Leaver said people are far more conscious than ever about having as high an internet speed as possible.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean they will get it.
“Melbourne and Sydney have been a test case in a way they would have never expected,” Professor Leaver said.
“If you potentially have two parents doing all of their work from home and perhaps a number of kids trying to interact with schools or play games, suddenly the demands on your system are higher than they’ve ever been.
“We’ve seen the reality that it’s not just home entertainment in the evening anymore – it’s your entire life now that has to travel down whatever pipes you have to your house.
“It’s a tricky balancing act.”
Australians are ever-more reliant on the internet for streaming platforms for music, entertainment at home and increasingly fast speeds for gaming, as well as making up for those social and work interactions lost in lockdown.
But ultimately, it still depends on what you pay for, with differences in strength and speeds varying from property and type of NBN.
“Even if your connection is good enough, you still have to pay to fill it effectively,” Leaver said.
“For a lot of people who might previously have asked, ‘do we really need to spend that?’, suddenly it’s an absolute essential.”
In August 2021, NBN confirmed 8.3 million homes had been connected to NBN, with 12 million homes and businesses ready to connect.
As a result of restrictions and an even greater reliance on the internet, internet quality has become almost the first question property buyers ask. Real estate agents and industry professionals say buyers and renters are consistently asking about net speeds and types of NBN connections in homes.
REIA President Adrian Kelly said COVID-19 lockdowns and the changes in people’s day-to-day interactions and connections that see them rely heavily on the internet has sparked more interest. He said strong, quality internet was a major selling point for buyers and renters alike.
“It’s in the top five of the questions we get asked every single time,” Kelly said.
“That really started — the NBN was important but then the pandemic came along and then lockdowns started about March last year — then, all of a sudden, people started moving around and that was exactly when we realised just how important it was for us.
“With so many more people working from home now, NBN is a key criteria and selling feature.”
Co-founder and managing director of Melbourne Rental Research Jade Costello echoed Kelly’s assessment, saying there has been a “massive” spike in questions about property internet speeds.
“If you are working from home there’s absolutely no chance that you’re able to get any work done without reliable internet. It’s a huge one,” Costello said.
“Especially now that we are moving to a whole different kind of era … Advertising good internet can be, just as good water pressure can be, a good selling point.”
LJ Hooker Real Estate Agent Sanjeev Kumar said most buyers will ask if there is NBN at a property, and he recommended buyers ask this question.
To have a strong internet speed in Australia, you need the best NBN connection possible.
The NBN runs through fibre-optic cable to connect to the property or through existing copper cables, which impacts the internet strength. The closer the fibre-optic cable runs to your premise, and the less old copper cables are used, the less your network signal starts to degrade.
That requires a property having Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) to meet Leaver’s standards of good internet.
There are three main types of NBN connection: FTTP, Fibre to the Curb (FTTC), and Fibre to the Node (FTTN), each progressively worse than the other.
FTTC is a common form of NBN, bridging the gap between the house or business and the street with older technology to access the NBN.
FTTN is the most cost-efficient form of NBN, running existing copper wiring for landline phone networks and connecting to scattered nodes in streets and neighbourhoods.
Fibre to the Building (FTTB) is another common NBN wiring for apartment buildings, which means your bandwidth will be influenced by everyone else in the building.
“If you have fibre optic all the way to your premise, then you are running fibre-optic cable in your house then you will have the strongest speed the network can give you,” Leaver said.
“There’s all sorts of clever technology to try and get more capacity up and down copper, but at the end of the day, it’s a fudge.
“It’s trying to make that cable do more work than it was ever imagined to do, and there is a finite capacity to what you can do and we’ve very much reached it.”
Professionals recommended using speedtest.net to monitor a property’s internet speed and to speak with NBN Co on any queries about your type of NBN connection.