NBN typical evening speed explained: what it means and why it matters

NBN logo positioned over image of light trail passing Sydney Harbour Bridge
(Image credit: NBN / ARDC)

When you’re searching for the best internet plans, the main piece of information you’ll be looking out for is the speed of the service. When it comes to NBN plans in particular, the main figure you'll be looking out for is the typical evening speed figure quoted by each retail service provider (RSP). 

This will be a separate figure to the one reflected by the NBN speed tier you’re looking at, and gives a clearer indication of how fast you can expect your connection to be during peak periods.

What does ‘typical evening speed’ mean?

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The typical evening speed figure refers to the download speed you can expect from your NBN connection during the typical busy evening hours of 7pm – 11pm. This four hour window has long been identified as the period within which the majority of users are using the internet. 

Because of the increase in user traffic, your network connection may experience some congestion which could result in slow down. Some NBN providers are able to deliver the full speed of whichever NBN plan you’re on, while some others will quote a lower typical evening speed compared to the speed you can achieve during off-peak hours.

Why does ‘typical evening speed’ matter?

To be completely honest, the typical evening speed no longer matters as much as it once did. This is because many NBN providers are able to deliver the full speed you expect from your NBN plan (or come incredibly close to it), despite the increase in user traffic. 

However, it is still something worth looking out for, as you may find that one NBN plan delivering the full speed will be more expensive than another that falls just short. In this case, you’ll want to weigh up which is more important to you, outright speed or saving some money. 

Are NBN plan speeds guaranteed?

In a word, no. But to help provide greater transparency, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) publishes a quarterly report revealing the performance of the major telcos in Australia. 

The ACCC’s most recent report was published in December 2022 and had a dedicated section to show how well various telcos performed during the busy hours of 7pm - 11pm. 

The ACCC found that Tasmania-based retail service provider (RSP) Launtel performed the best in the observed quarter, achieving an average of 103.3% of its advertised plan download speeds. 

The number one spot was held by Exetel in the ACCC’s previous report, but in the December edition, was bumped down to third place, achieving an average download speed of 101.5%

Optus, one of the ‘big 3’ telcos in Australia (alongside Telstra and TPG) came in second, with 101.7%. 

These figures indicate that you could actually achieve greater evening speeds than those advertised on your plan, but in most cases, telcos fall slightly short. The ACCC’s report also found that all other RSPs that were monitored fell short of delivering their advertised download speeds during the busy hours, with the ‘worst’ performing being Aussie Broadband at 96%. 

However, while this may not quite be 100%, you may not even notice a difference in the real world. 96% of the supposed 50Mbps download speed of an NBN 50 plan, for example, would be 48Mbps. The likelihood of you missing just 2Mbps is going to be slim.

What if the ‘typical evening speed’ isn’t advertised?

Screenshot of three Tangerine NBN plans

(Image credit: Screenshot / Future)

All NBN providers are required to publish typical evening speed figures. If you don’t see one next to a particular NBN speed tier, then it is likely because the RSP doesn’t yet have enough data to formulate an answer.

Tangerine, for example, doesn’t display a typical evening speed figure for its Ultrafast Speed tier (equivalent to NBN 1000). The telco says “the Home Ultrafast Speed is a new plan. We therefore currently don’t have enough data to provide an average sampling speed.”

You may be able to use published information for other speed tiers as an indicator of what to expect. It’s worth noting that with this particular example, no telco currently delivers the full 1000Mbps speed. Telstra is currently the best provider on this tier, with a claimed 700Mbps download speed.

Which NBN providers have the best evening speeds?

Perhaps surprisingly, of all the main NBN providers in Australia, only four consistently claim to deliver their plan’s speed during the typical evening period: Telstra, Optus, Spintel and Exetel. However, this is only the case for plans from NBN 25 through to NBN 100, and only Telstra promises to deliver the full 250Mbps on an NBN 250 plan. 

Max Langridge
Senior Editor, Tom's Guide AU

Max is a digital content writer for Tom’s Guide in Australia, where he covers all things internet-related, including NBN and the emerging alternatives, along with audio and visual products such as headphones and TVs. Max started his career in his homeland of England, where he spent time working for What Hi-Fi? and Pocket-lint, before moving to Australia in 2018.