The NBN Co has backpedalled on comments made by its CEO earlier this week that suggested online gamers were contributing to Australia’s broadband despair and that a fair use policy could be required for the fixed wireless network.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the NBN Co clarified the context in which CEO Bill Morrow said, “gamers predominantly” made up the “extreme” users of the NBN.
“Mr Morrow said that to prevent the heavy users from impacting the majority, their usage could potentially be shaped in the busy period and they could download as much as they want at other times,” the statement read.
“He was asked who these users were that might be affected and he responded, “it’s gamers predominantly”.
“So, Mr Morrow has said that gamers could be affected by a fair use policy, if one was introduced.”
The statement also went on to point out the “limitations” of fixed wireless technology and that rolling upgrades were in place to address recent congestion issues.
How much data does gaming really use?
Despite the clarification, the NBN Co’s statement still seems to suggest that online gamers are “heavy users” of the service.
But how much data does gaming really chew up – and how does that compare to some more ‘everyday’ use cases?
In a blog post released at the end of 2016, the NBN Co itself stated, “Believe it or not, some of the biggest online games use very little data while you’re playing compared to streaming HD video or even high-fidelity audio.”
When streaming video content in 4K – which is available on streaming services such as Netflix, iTunes, Stan and Youtube – data usage can reach 7GB per hour, according to the NBN’s figures from January this year.
Considering the NBN’s current fair use policy on its satellite service only allows users to use 150GB of data between the peak period of 7am and 1am per four weeks, binge-watching Netflix in 4K may become problematic.
Even at a lower quality, such as what TENplay, 9Now and Foxtel Now stream at, it is still common for usage to be between 1 and 3GB per hour.
As for gaming, the NBN Co pointed out the great variance in the data used by different games.
Popular multiplayer online role-playing game, World of Warcraft can reach 40MB/h when playing with others, but sits at around 10MB/h when playing alone.
At the higher end of usage, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, uses around 250MB/h in certain conditions, still significantly less than most video streaming.
It was also added that the voice chatting features sometimes used added extra data – between 13 and 45MB/h.
The most demanding data use in gaming comes from downloading digital copies of games, which can reach 54GB, and also requires further patching after the initial download.