Bogan broadband: How fast is the internet in Nyngan?
"The internet's crap here," says the tradie discussing his life loudly outside my Nyngan motel room at 6:30am. "I've got to go up the top - it's really good up there."
Yep, fast internet access is a real issue all over Australia. That includes Nyngan, a town of 2,000-odd folks located 2 hours west of Dubbo and more or less in the dead centre of NSW.
Nyngan's chief tourism claim to fame is the Big Bogan, a 6-metre-tall statue named after the local river (and not, as you might nastily think, the local residents).
The road signs remind us we're essentially in Shannon Noll country here. And as Nollsy often asks, and as the tradie might also lament: What about me?
So Nygan's a useful place to examine the current state of internet access in Australia. I came here to test out satellite Wi-Fi on a regional coach service, and Nyngan itself is something of a microcosm of the current state of play for the National Broadband Network (NBN) and 5G.
If you live in the main part of town, chances are you're on a fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) service right now.
That's the cheaper-to-deploy but not-as-good-as-fibre option which still relies on copper to connect to your house, and hence doesn't offer the highest possible speeds. A few also have fibre to the curb, which has similar limitations but is a little faster.
The good news is that Nyganites are on the list to see their FTTN connections upgraded to full fibre, with potential for much faster services (if you're willing to pay for them).
The bad news? That won't be happening until December 2025, according to NBN's connection tracker when I threw a handful of Nyngan residential addresses into it.
And that assumes you're in the right part of town.
If you live on the western side of the Bogan river, just 5 minutes walk from my motel room, you're stuck on a Sky Muster satellite NBN plan.
While improvements have been made, satellite remains the slowest option.
Some rural folks have given up on the NBN altogether and now pay a premium for the Elon Musk-owned Skylink instead.
But let's return to our unhappy tradie.
The motel's Wi-Fi is perfectly fine, seemingly running off an NBN 50 FTTN plan. A quick speed test shows a download speed of 37.44Mbps.
That's not super-fast, but plenty enough for streaming (I was happily binge viewing last night).
The fact our noisy worker plans to head "up the top" suggests he's using his phone, not the Wi-Fi.
My own mobile plan has access to Telstra's 5G network, and I'm seeing a strong connection while he's nattering outside.
5G rollout is patchier in rural locations, and regional residents are concerned about an impending switch-off for the older 3G network, which will happen by the end of 2024.
With that acknowledged, I can't fault the Telstra availability where I'm staying in Nyngan.
I run another speed test and record a download speed of 151Mbps - better than what I'm getting with the Wi-Fi. That lines up with broader testing of 5G networks across the country.
So my best guess is that the tradie is either on a different network altogether, or has an older phone that can't pick up 5G.
The big lesson here? Experience really counts.
I've had no issues using the internet in Nyngan, but I'd feel different if I had an older phone, or if I was staying in the caravan park on the other side of the Bogan.
The speed you're actually getting is what matters to you, not the potential for it to maybe improve in 2 years time. That's how you pass judgement.
Short of moving house, there's not much you can do to change the type of NBN connection available where you live.
But prices do vary hugely, so it's always worth comparing broadband plans to make sure you're not paying too much - or being forced to go "up top".
In Nyngan, that's definitely a no-brainer.
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- Nyngan speed tests 31 October 2023
- NBN address checks 31 October 2023