NBN outages can be incredibly annoying. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to do some work, jump on a video call or stream a movie and finding your internet connection is dead – with nothing you can do but wait for it to be restored. A first world problem, yes, but a problem nonetheless.
Broadband outages are an unfortunate fact of life, but some providers do fare better than others. As such, if uptime is important to you, doing a bit of research on the reliability of an NBN provider can pay off when searching for the best NBN plans. While the monthly cost is going to be the most important factor for many, it’s no good spending as little as possible and not getting a decent service in return. You may find you could get a significantly more reliable service just by spending a little bit more each month.
So how do you go about finding out if an ISP is prone to outages? While you can read customer reviews on sites such as Product Review, or on forums such as Whirlpool to get a good understanding of how a particular internet service provider performs, there is some more official data courtesy of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The ACCC releases a broadband performance report roughly each quarter, revealing the current state of the broadband landscape in Australia, with detailed information for a number of metrics. This data is collected from volunteers who agree to have their broadband connection monitored over the course of a month.
Down, down, outages are down
To figure out who the winners and losers in the uptime game are, we pored over the ACCC’s data relating to the average number of daily NBN outages from all reports released in the past year — five in total — and noticed a few trends. Firstly, year-on-year Australia’s NBN providers have generally — save for a couple of rogue spikes — done a good job in reducing the average number of daily outages. The actual number differs a fair bit between providers, but on the whole, each has seen a decrease.
Secondly, three providers in particular have managed to maintain a low average number of daily outages, or have continued to see a decrease in outages over the previous 12 months, meaning it’s fairly safe to consider them to be genuinely reliable.
Those providers? Optus, iiNet and Superloop.
In the graph below, you can see the average number of daily outages suffered by the 10 NBN providers that the ACCC monitors during each quarter. From this, you can see that Optus has generally seen a decline — other than a small spike between August and December 2022 — to the point where it recorded the lowest number of daily outages in the most recent report (0.07), which took data from May 2023.
Similarly, Superloop did see a couple of increases in 2022, before topping out in December. Since then, the telco seems to have drastically improved its service. Superloop recorded the second lowest score in the most recent report with 0.11 daily outages on average.
Perhaps more impressive in its performance is iiNet. While the telco hasn’t experienced quite the same declining trend as Optus and Superloop, it has managed to keep its number of daily outages below 0.2 over the course of the previous 12 months. No other telco monitored by the ACCC can lay claim to a similar feat.
Need more proof?
The ACCC also provides data relating to the frequency of outages by service providers across all hours. Once again, in the May 2023 report Optus and Superloop performed very well, with both being the only two to record a 0% score against the ‘outages at least once a day’ metric. They also scored the best two results for the ‘no outages’ metric, with 39% of Optus and 42% of Superloop customers reporting no downtime during the May 2023 test period.
Not quite the full story
While these results can’t necessarily be applied to all customers of each provider, they do provide the clearest indication of how each one performs for a wide range of users. The ACCC’s report also doesn’t include data from all NBN providers in Australia. There are some notable omissions that we’d be interested to see data for, such as some of our favourite providers Flip and Tangerine.
However, from the data we do have access to, we can surmise that Optus, iiNet and Superloop are currently the country’s three most reliable NBN providers. Superloop is currently our current top pick for the best NBN provider too, thanks to it offering competitively priced NBN plans across all speed tiers.
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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.