ACCC’s NBN report proves gamers paying for top speeds are wasting money

A frustrated looking girl playing a video game
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Dean Drobot)

If you’re paying top dollar for one of the best NBN plans in hopes of getting faster online gaming performance, a new report by Australia’s consumer watchdog has found you could be wasting your money.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) quarterly broadband report for April 2023 found that switching to one of the fastest NBN plans isn’t guaranteed to improve your gaming experience.

Instead, the ACCC’s findings confirm what some online gamers may have already suspected for a while – that what really impacts online gaming is latency. This element, which can be determined by physical distance from a game’s server, is an external factor that a faster or more expensive NBN plan won’t fix.

So, what’s latency, and why does it matter?

Latency biggest factor for online gamers, not internet speed

Latency is an element that is measured in milliseconds and determines how much time it takes for data to travel from one point to another and back again. For online gaming, latency refers to how long it takes for data to be sent from a game’s server to your device, with lower latency meaning faster performance.

Latency levels are important in online games where response times are crucial to a player’s success, such as in Fortnite or Call of Duty. So if you’ve experienced lag while playing online, leading to your character’s untimely and avoidable death, you can understand why high latency can act as a huge detriment to online gamers.

Findings from the ACCC’s latest report confirm that the further away a player is from a game’s server, the higher the latency will be. As you’ll see in the bar graph below, some servers for popular games such as Among Us, Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm aren’t located in Australia, so latency is significantly higher.

A bar graph showing average latency to various online gaming servers

(Image credit: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission)

Latency consistent across NBN plan speeds

The ACCC’s data, which was collected in December 2022, found that latency was consistent across all NBN speed tiers. That means that whether you’ve got a cheap NBN plan with a download speed of 25Mbps, or a much more expensive plan with peak downloads of 250Mbps, it’s probable you’ll still experience similar levels of lag.

The bar graph below shows the average latency to Australian gaming servers, split by NBN download speed. NBN 250 plans were found to have an average latency of 20ms, while the more affordable NBN 50 plans were only slightly higher with a latency of 24ms on average.

A bar graph showing average latency to Australian gaming servers, split by NBN download plan speed

(Image credit: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission)

NSW has lowest lag in the country

The report also gathered average latency data by state and territory, and the findings paint a clearer picture of how a person’s physical distance from a game’s server plays a major part in performance.

Most game servers located in Australia are housed in Sydney, leading to players in NSW and the ACT experiencing much lower latency on average compared to the rest of the country. 

And it’s particularly bad news if you live in Western Australia, as WA experienced an average latency of 56ms compared to NSW’s minuscule measurement of 13ms.

A bar graph showing average latency to Australian gaming servers, split by Australian state or territory

(Image credit: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission)

While your physical location and distance from the game’s server is a crucial factor, you’ll also be better off if you have a fixed-line NBN connection. The report found that Aussies with fixed wireless NBN experienced a latency of 62ms on average, which was starkly higher than what was recorded for fixed-line connections.

For Aussies with fixed-line NBN, the fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) connection type proved the fastest, reporting an average latency of 17ms. Those slugged with fibre-to-the-node experienced much more lag on average, with a latency of 27ms.

A bar graph showing average latency to Australian gaming servers, split by NBN connection type

(Image credit: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission)

Overall, the ACCC’s report proves you don’t need to fork out for an expensive NBN plan to get better online gaming performance. So if you feel you’re spending too much, consider moving down to a cheaper option. We have an in-depth guide to the best NBN plans, or you can compare NBN 50 plans below for an idea on price.

Jasmine Gearie
Ecommerce Editor

Jasmine Gearie was previously an Ecommerce Editor at TechRadar Australia, with a primary focus on helping readers find the best mobile and NBN plans. During her time with TechRadar, she also reported on important telco news in Australia, and helped track down tech deals to help readers save money.