Initially budgeted at 29.5 billion Australian dollars, the NBN’s cost and completion date have been moving targets for over half a decade. In 2020, the budget had reached 51 billion Australian dollars and the initial 2016 completion date had been moved by four years to mid-2020. However, despite criticism of the cost and timeline, NBN Co has performed well in recent years. In 2020, the revenue of NBN Co exceeded 3.8 billion Australian dollars. The network is also growing rapidly as it nears the finish line, with almost 12 million ready to connect (RTC) premises at the end of the 2020 financial year and NBN Co announcing that the initial build was complete in September 2020.
As the monopoly wholesaler of broadband internet in Australia, NBN Co is closely regulated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). As such, NBN Co is unable to provide internet connections as an ISP in its own right. Instead, they manage the wholesale contracts for Retail Service Providers (RSP) and the RSPs sell retail broadband internet connections to their customers. TPG, Optus, Vocus group, and the formally public-owned Telstra, all hold considerable portions of the retail broadband market. While wholesale prices are regulated at a fixed price, there is still some variation in retail pricing from RSP to RSP, depending on the wholesale speed tier, and how it is bundled.
With almost 90 percent of the population actively using the internet, Australians rely on their internet connections for both work and leisure. However, even with the completion of the NBN, Australia ranks relatively poorly in terms of internet speeds compared to other countries. In 2020, average download speeds for fixed broadband were around 45 Mbps whereas world internet speed leaders, Singapore and Hong Kong, left Australia in the dust with speeds of around four times that of Australia. These lower speeds may be partially due to the NBN’s use of mixed technologies and pre-existing copper connections to complete the network, but it is also important to take into account the scope of the NBN given Australia’s size and low population density.