States with slowest internet amid virus revealed
Exclusive: Australian researchers have worked out a way to track broadband delays worldwide as employees, businesses, and students rush to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic, creating unprecedented demand for connectivity.
And the new tool shows growing demand in Australia is already putting internet speeds under pressure - in some states more than others - but, if we follow Iran's lead, it could become a serious problem.
The broadband research also follows congestion issues on Australia's mobile phone network earlier this week due to a spike in Centrelink calls, though Telstra says greater capacity and changes to the network should keep Australians connected for the next trying six months.
Australia's new broadband-monitoring tool comes from three economists at Monash University, who initially created the KASPR DataHaus tool to predict human behaviour by looking at their data consumption habits.
Co-founder and economist Paul Raschky told News Corp the tool measured latency or delays on broadband networks worldwide and compared them to internet speeds taken in over three days in February before lockdowns and restrictions in most cities.
Results showed broadband speeds in Australia had already slowed during the pandemic by about two per cent.
"While the values may seem relatively small, such as three per cent or seven per cent, such a difference is far from normal and indicates that many users are probably experiencing bandwidth congestion," he said.
"More people at home means more people online, with big bandwidth appetites."
Some states were already faring worse than others, with the data revealing the biggest delays in the Northern Territory (3), Victoria (2.5), Queensland (1.4) and Western Australia (1.1) on Tuesday.
But Mr Raschky said some countries were showing significant delays over broadband, either due to high demand caused by mass COVID-19 infections or lockdowns, or poor underlying internet infrastructure.
"We found some countries, such as Iran and Malaysia, and countries in South America had a pretty significant increase in internet pressure," he said.
"Iran had an increase of 10 per cent."
Dr Klaus Ackerman, who also helped create the tool, said the researchers noticed a spike in internet delays in Malaysia before they could explain it.
They later discovered many Malaysians had been infected with coronavirus at a large religious festival, causing mass home quarantines.
"We've been in discussions with aid organisations about whether they could use this as a smoke signal to figure out where there are hidden cases but that's a hard assumption to back up yet," he said.
Telstra network engineering executive Channa Seneviratne said the company had seen broadband demand rise by 10 per cent over the last two weeks, with new demand outside usual peak hours.
"We do see an uplift in daytime (broadband) demand," he said.
"That's gone up by 20 to 30 per cent. People are making calls, they're interacting on video conferences, but we're absorbing that very well."
The internet provider had already used 32 per cent of the additional 40 per cent capacity provided by NBN Co last week, he said, but would be able to meet the needs of stay-at-home workers for now and had "more levers to pull" if needed in future.
These included discussions with games developers about product updates, like the upcoming Call of Duty download and software firms including Apple and Microsoft.
Mr Seneviratne said Telstra had also worked swiftly to increase the capacity of its mobile phone network after congestion caused by a spike in calls to Centrelink this week, which had been exacerbated by out-of-date hardware used by Optus, and would continue to prioritise voice calls.
"We've had our teams working 24/7 to boost our legacy circuits to optimise the traffic," he said.
"We will keep going until the problem is fixed. We absolutely don't want any Australians in the situations where they're trying to access Centrelink and cannot."
Optus regulatory vice-president Andrew Sheridan rejected Telstra's claim in what has become a passionate war of words, however, claiming congestion on the phone network was "compounded by legacy protocols" that Telstra only upgraded recently.
Originally published as States with slowest internet amid virus revealed