A recently released Commerce Commission report details measurements of New Zealand's internet performance during the nationwide COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
Despite the massive increase in usage, the country's internet remained remarkably reliable and speedy - depending on what type of service people were using.
Chorus network strategy manager Kurt Rodgers says the report makes it clear yet again that a fibre connection is the best way to get internet to your home.
"We saw about a 40 percent growth in daily usage due to COVID-19 and what the Commerce Commission report proves is the fibre network handled everyone in New Zealand being at home streaming, using Zoom, and playing games more than ever," says Rodgers.
"On every measure, whether it's gaming, download speeds, consistency - fibre comes out on top. The fibre network was almost perfect the whole way through the lockdown and is setting New Zealand up really well for the future."
A measure of download speeds over the lockdown for each type of internet connection in Aotearoa shows that fixed wireless connections suffered the most, dropping to 76 percent their usual speed by week four.
"You can see that copper broadband - ADSL and VDSL - and fibre broadband were really untouched by the extra load put on by the lockdown. The standout is fixed wireless, it's the odd one out in that its performance drops heavily when lots of people use it," says Rodgers.
"Fixed wireless is when the mobile network is used to provide broadband to your home and it just doesn't have the same capacity as fibre."
Given the ease and low cost with which one can get fibre set up in their home, it may sound unusual that someone would be using a mobile connection to get a whole household online - but it's probably more common than you'd imagine.
"Some people haven't experienced fibre and don't know how good it is. It's like until you get to experience driving a really nice car that's really comfortable, really quiet and has great acceleration, you just don't know how good it is," says Rodgers.
"What I find when I go to other people's house, or a bach, and it doesn't have fibre, it's like going back in time to dial-up days almost."
While moving from a fixed wireless connection to a fibre connection must be experienced to properly understand how much better it is, presenting the difference visually gives a clear idea of what to expect.
Beyond the measure of how impacted each type of broadband internet in Aotearoa was during the COVID-19 lockdown, the latest Commerce Commission report shows fibre plans can provide nearly 10 times the speed of other internet plans.
"The report makes obvious there's many types of broadband in New Zealand and there's a big difference in what their peak speed is. It's very clear that fibre is the fastest - if you look at figure 7 (above), you can see it's faster than anything else by a long way."
Online gamers are generally aware fast fibre connections give them the best competitive advantage, but the report also makes it clearer than ever just what a disadvantage playing on a fixed wireless connection is.
Kiwi gamers with fibre have to blame something other than "lag" for their losses. There's also a common misconception internet speeds in New Zealand are slow compared to other parts of the world - but that's an outdated idea.
"A lot has changed in the last 20 years. Nowadays, most content people access on the internet in New Zealand is actually cached in New Zealand," says Rodgers.
"All the big brands like Netflix, Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft - pretty much most things people do on the internet, an estimated 70 - 80 percent of it is cached or served out of New Zealand.
"So it's just not true the fact we're on an island in the South Pacific influences internet performance. That's only true if you're making a Skype call or directly communicating with someone on the other side of the planet."
The COVID-19 lockdown also gave a small glimpse at the future of New Zealand's internet usage - the dramatic increase will be the new normal at some point soon, and then surpassed after that.
The definition of photos and video is ever-increasing, as is the amount people want to access instantly. As a family grows in a home, so too does its internet usage as everyone wants to download and stream HD or 4K video content, play next-gen video games and conduct phone chats, all at the same time.
That all adds up to heaps more data being accessed over the internet by everyone in New Zealand.
"In 2011, the average daily household usage of internet in New Zealand was 10 gigabytes per month. During the COVID-19 lockdown, on fibre, that went up to 500 gigabytes per month. That's 50 times more data usage," says Rodgers.
"That sort of increase is going to happen again through the next decade - it's just one of the laws of the internet. Every year, everyone will use more and more, so to prepare for that why not get fibre max, get unlimited, then you don't have to worry about your broadband for a couple of years and by then hyperfibre will be the way to go."
The nationwide lockdown proved no matter what the world throws at us, a fibre broadband connection is the best way to stay connected to the internet in New Zealand.
To see if you can get fibre at your place, enter your address in the Chorus Broadband Checker at www.chorus.co.nz.
To find out how you can volunteer to be part of the testing for New Zealand’s leading study on internet performance click here.
This article was created for Chorus.