back to article NBN zealotry in the ultra-high definition age

Australia’s Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently declared the IT media includes a number of “zealots” who won’t, such is their/my fanaticism, report fairly on his alternative National Broadband Network (NBN) plans. One of his chief beefs was that the press corps are collectively ignoring the fact that fibre …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    The NBN is a great idea... long as you're one of the 93% that will get the full fat version.

    Having had various conversations with the NBN folk it seems our location is going to get either the possibly flaky 12 Mb/s satellite service at some point in the next five years or the main 100 Mb/s service around 10 years from now. The former would be at the expense of our current rock solid 8 Mb/s.

    I'd be happy with ADSL2+ in the next year or two but that's never going to happen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The NBN is a great idea...

      Only 93% satisfaction rate? Oh, the humanity.

      I live <8km from the GPO in Brisbane. My Telstra provided ADSL2+ connection has a hard time stabilising above 4 Mb/s. I once managed to get it to connect at 5 Mb/s, for about10 minutes. Given the age and state of the copper in my area (the pit at the end of my street has PMG on the lid) the *only* way I'll ever see +100 Mb/s is with FTTP. Roll on the NBN, can't be soon enough for me. The current infrastructure is a sad joke.

  2. Concrete Gannet
    Thumb Up

    Don't forget *upstream*

    While you can sort of download video over ADSL2+, upstream speeds are hopeless.

    Businesses will leap at the ability to send digital content to clients, to have feasible remote backup, to update their web site in a reasonable time, to remote desktop into their systems, to have videoconferencing, ... in short, to create bits as well as consume bits. The NBN's wholesale price for 100Mbps down and 40Mbps up will be $38 per month. That is revolutionary. Any digitally aware smaller business will get this the moment it becomes available.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't forget *upstream*

      And that's great for the 93% but like I said, that ain't me. Satellite NBN is no real improvement in upload speed over my current ADSL but will be less reliable* in poor weather. The much-vaunted advances in tele-medicine for the bush ain't going to happen in the remote areas of Aus either and those are precisely the places that would benefit more than the cities.

      *Not my words but that of NBN staff.

      1. Stephen 10

        Re: Don't forget *upstream*

        What you're saying is all true - but it's still a huge improvement over the current model and there's no real better alternative.

        Surely serving 93% excellently and the 7% adequately is a huge improvement. I'm not sure what your argument is beyond some kind of innuendo that everyone should receive the same regardless of individual cost.

      2. mathew42

        Re: Don't forget *upstream*

        If it makes you feel any better 50% of premises connected by fibre are predicted to connect at 12/1Mbps in the most recent NBNCo Corporate Plan. It is plausible that the only reason we have such slow speeds on fibre is to make wireless, satellite and fibre comparable.

        In other countries, speed tiers make sense because they have unlimited quotas. In Australia on the NBN we are going to suffer with speed tiers and quotas.

        1. c1phertxt

          Re: Don't forget *upstream*

          Not really mate. The prediction is to perform monetary planning for the future. It is the "most likely case", customers substitute their 12Mbps ADSL with 12Mbps NBN plans, rather than upgrade (a rather pessimistic assessment).

          In Australia, with the NBN you may have such restrictions (as this is the parochial charging model used by Aussie ISPs) but it is definitely nothing new. This cupidity will be fixed (hopefully) when some ISP realises that if they have uncapped plans, they have a market advantage.

    2. c1phertxt
      Thumb Up

      Re: Don't forget *upstream*

      .. and sadly the uneducated/anti-NBN luddites do not realise that IT IS NOT EXPENSIVE! I have a 16Mbps ADSL 2+ connection and I pay around $50 a month. I wouldn't mind paying upto $150/month for a fat pipe that allows me to ditch the monopoly that is Foxtel and solely use IPTV. If Aus providers don't step up their game, I can always work around the system using VPNs based in US to access Netflix and Hulu. Aside from entertainment, I can easily work from home and use VPN to leverage my organisation's thick pipe to perform work related activities that consume significant bandwidth (eg. vulnerability assessments, pen-tests etc)

  3. andro

    "As someone who started online life in 1993 with a 2400kbit/s modem" Really? Thats pretty advanced! In 1993 I only had a 2400 bits/s modem. Running telix and getting 240CPS (characters per second) with zmodem downloads. Hehe :) Sorry someone had to say it!

    But with the NBN, it is very true that FTTP NBN does have a long life span and that more applications will come along. It will be fantastic for remote access, offline backups, access to high quality digital data in many fields - engineering, mass media etc, and office work between remote sites. FTTP is still a lot of money for a plan which is too short sighted.

    @Mahatma Coat: That is unfortunate for you. You may need to consider moving. While everyone wants FTTP for the entire country, the size of the country makes that unfeasable. Hopefully future technology can fill in the gaps, but in the mean time if it works for 93% of the population, I consider that a win.

    1. Simon_Sharwood_Reg_APAC_Editor (Written by Reg staff)


      You're right. It was 2400b/s, not kb/s. I shall amend, hang my head in shame and promise never again to write when horridly jetlagged.

      As if that's an excuse anyway.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      You're joking, I assume

      That is unfortunate for you. You may need to consider moving.

      Seriously? The NBN should be available for a far larger group of people (aka taxpayers) without them having to relocate.

      Just to be clear, I'm not anti-NBN. A truly national broadband network would be wonderful but what we're getting - and when I say "we're" I mean the 93% that live and work in the cities - is an IBN, a incomplete broadband network. And just to be doubly clear about rural taxpayers, think how much the the bush industries like the mining and agricultural sectors contribute to the national kitty. How does a farmer or miner relocate?

  4. scottf007


    So you want me to pay $40 billion dollars so you can watch UHDTV???

    That does not boost productivity or help small businesses.......

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: UHDTV

      It helps the UHDTV business!

      (And face it, 'content' 'creation' is a huge pare of modern 'developed' economies).

    2. c1phertxt
      Thumb Down

      Re: UHDTV

      Those were examples cited. The Internet exists because of "content". Content is getting progressively heavier with the passing years. The world is not going to wait for bumfvck Australia to play catch up(and we're already technologically behind most developed countries).

      Exaggerating an argument till it seems ridiculous does not make it untrue. I'm sure some NBN detractors would be happy with a glossy poster of sheep/goat/<any other farm animal> but most of us have stuff to do. ;)

      There's a ton of scenarios that justify a fast internet connection with low latency. Just within multi-user households, what if a dad is working from home using VNC while the mum's listening to music on via a streaming service... daughter is working on an assignment while downloading the latest OS updates and the son is video chatting with his girlfriend in France.

      Try doing that over ADSL 2+.

  5. LaeMing

    The pits.

    Ah yes, the ever-flooding pits.

    The internet really is a bunch of tubes. That fill with water when it rains.

  6. Veldan


    The NBN has and always will be a complete farce.

    It is just an elaborate scheme to nationalise our internet services. There was no call to do this.

    If you chart internet speeds, availability and prices for the last 5 years you'd notice that the private industry was doing perfectly well by itself. Making it more available, faster and cheaper at a reliable and increasing pace.

    So some farmers in the sticks won't get access to hi-def porn, so what? I'm not willing to fork out $40 billion for their pleasure and that sum WILL go up as sure as the sun will rise, it is an Australian government project after all.

    The conclusions that this article draw are ludicrous as well, FTTP requires first implementing FTTN then actually laying fiber to individual premises. This will take substantially more time no matter how you cut it. It will also cost exponentially more.

    Most of the countries considering the even faster networks have much higher population densities meaning that they need to have faster networks in smaller areas than Australia does. To give 1Gb/s to 10000 people in a square kilometer requires much more powerful networks than to give 1Gb/s to 100 people in a square kilometer.

    We are not South Korea, The United States or Japan. We can't be compared to their usage and distribution.

    1. VoodooForce

      Re: NBN

      Hi Your a clown. The old system was a state created monopoly. How did you miss the 800 pound gorillia in your fantasy "private industry" assestment?? The cost for FTTP is in the cost for NBN so is the time taken to deploy - its not exponentially more its already factored in

      1. mathew42

        Re: NBN

        Guess what, NBNCo is a 1600 pound gorilla. The innovations in the past decade have come from competitors being able to install their own DSLAMs in exchanges. If Telstra had their way we would probably still be on ADSL tiered plans topping out at 1.5Mbps, instead we have ADSL2+ as fast as the copper will go.

        AVC Speed tiers on the NBN mean that it really will be a rich man's toy and that the poor will be stuck on 12/1Mbps. The latest NBNCo Corporate Plan predicts that 50% will connect at 12/1Mbps.

        1. Abel Adamski

          Re: NBN


          The take up rates so far show that over 80% choose better than ADSL2+ (25/5 is better than 24/2), NBN has always been conservative in their take up predictions and don't forget that the 7% in wireless and satellite at this time are limited to 12/1.

          Rich mans toy, you gotta be joking, for what I am paying for line rental and ADSL2+ that maxes at 6Mb I can get 50/20 with more download and save money. I could choose to go 25/5 and save even more money. and have a better, more stable and reliable service.

          The 12/1 basic service is cheaper than the alternative non NBN when line rental is considered. That is why tiered, true user pays but even then not that much more for far better than otherwise available.

          When the 1Gb is SWITCHED ON in 2014 the business user will lift ARPU resulting in reduced wholesale pricing

          1. mathew42

            Re: NBN

            NBNCo adjusted the higher speeds in the latest corporate plan, but didn't adjust the take-up of 12/1Mbps. What it points to is an increasingly divided society.

            What you have failed to appreciate or are ignoring is that the current wholesale pricing is discounted. To meet financial targets NBNCo need to significantly increase ARPU. Their strategy for this is to decrease prices at a much slower rate than demand increases. For example when average network speed is 250Mbps, a 1Gbps connection will still cost $80/month. The 150Mbps of free CVC currently being provided by NBNCo further compounds the issue. This is all in the Corporate Plan if you read it.

            Power users will find themselves paying higher prices each year just to stay in the same relative spot. UDHTV is a good example. Data prices fall from $20/Mbps to $8/Mbps, while usage grows from 30GB/month to 540GB/month. UHDTV is a prime example of how you will pay more just to maintain still relative to increased data requirements..

            1. Abel Adamski

              Re: NBN

              Well and good.

              1) What alternative would be superior ?, a few comparable examples would be great. Oh that's right p[rivate sector provided like in the US where they are largely vertically integrated increasing prices and capping their plans also ( have to pay their shareholders and have an ROI with 5-7 years ), or maybe the Coalition FTTN which will never be truly ubiquitous or deliver anything like the NBN will.

              2) Those business services will lift ARPU massively, Comm Bank is waiting for it, Macquarie is hanging in for it for many of their clients, just a scratch of the surface. The FTTN network will not do it, even the partial this and that won't do it.

              3) I doubt many private users will want the 1Gb, however at that pricing the Corporate and Business sector will be getting a steal compared with what they are now paying with improved flexibility and Australia wide access as a bonus. Their volume will really boost the ARPU. Massively reducing wholesale costs to the private consumer who will end up with far cheaper than current ADSL2+ and the Coalitions FTTN patchwork quilt as they won't have that Business capability to anywhere within the 93% fibre footprint.

              So it will pay for itself, return a profit and once paid for the pricing will continue to fall (Mandated return) , in 20 years time it will be so cheap and is built for the next 50 years

    2. FrancisYoung

      Re: NBN - Veldan

      Veldan, the flawed decision to sell 100% of the taxpayer-built copper to Telstra Ltd is the reason FTTN is uneconomic in Australia. John Howard recognised this in 2004 when he tried to circumvent Telstra's monopoly with his first national broadband extension proposal.

      But it was the tax-funded nation-building work of laying copper to country towns, hamlets and farms in the 1960s and 1970s which first enabled basic communications for everyone. Much of that copper now needs replacing before it can deliver FTTN. Copper maintenance alone costs Telstra $1 billion per year and costs households and businesses a lot of downtime. Oncea decision is made to build national infrastructure, it inevitably means that government must run the project.

      The past five years saw stagnant HFC numbers, Telstra bullying competitors by waiting for them to install a DSLAM before activating their own to reduce the profitability, and a third of Australians still unable to get ADSL at all, with the median spedd in June 2011 only 3 Mbps despite the price paid for 24.

      You are not forking out anything for FTTP, which is built with project borrowings it will repay from wholesale revenue. Takeup of higher than expected speeds (only 16% are buying 12/1) proves the cost recovery will come even faster. It is Turnbull's FTTN which will cost you, firstly at least $11 billion, handed to telcos, to build massive cabinets and lay fibre to them, then at least $15 billion compo for the copper, much of which we will need to replace with new copper!

      FTTP does not require FTTN. In fact, FTTN must be bypassed by new fibre starting at the exchange and running to the premises. The cabinets will remain as a stark reminder of the money wasted in building them only to be decommissioned before they even had time to rust.

      The population density of the fibre footprint in Australia is quite similar to that in other countries with FTTP. Half the area of Greater Sydney comprises water and parkland which does not get fibre. Laying fibre right to the building in a suburban street here is no different from any town in Japan or South Korea, in fact the proportion of multiple dwellings is smaller here, reducing the work needed to get it to the individual premises. And our income per capita was double that of South Koreans when they built 100 Mbps FTTP last decade, though it has subsequently risen a bit. The USA doesn't bear comparison, as everyone there complains about the geographic turf wars of the big providers, who not only charge like a wounded bull, but have now moved to cap data as video now comprises 49% of internet traffic there.

      In short, yes, we need the government to get adequate services beyond three cities; no, the track record of market delivery is poor in regional Australia; no, you are not forking out $40 billion, but you will fork out $25 billion for a white elephant under Turnbull's plan; and no, our population density in the FTTP urban footprint is perfectly comparable to our go-ahead Asian neighbours.

      FTTP is the right answer, and the off budget funding model protects budget areas from losing funds, while guaranteeing no delays to the project in the event of changed budget priorities. The coalition must adopt it, or it will struggle to retain or win regional seats in 2013, as it did to most peoples' dismay in 2010.

  7. P. Lee

    There is an advantage to FTTP

    It gets fibre kit into homes.

    The downside of any mega-corp infrastructure is that it cuts out local access. However, if everyone has fibre switches in their homes, its a very small leap to string a bit of extra fibre to the house next door on either side and put together a high-bandwidth street network. You can't do that with copper as electricity-conducting cables are dangerous to run outside.

    Brings a whole new level of meaning to "p2p." If you want to offload traffic from the internet, that's the way to do it. Encourage small networks, make sure its legal to record and share FTA TV as long as the adverts are left intact.

    I'm slightly surprised that FTTP is more expensive. I was always taught that its the "last mile" with all the conversions from high-speed fibre backbone to rubbish copper which are the expensive bits. Gradually clearing out the old kit is going to free up space at the exchange, so that's good too. Yes the fibre will cost to roll out, but I suspect much of the copper needs renewing anyway.

    Given that a Panasonic dect phone at harvey norman is $180, that hp 24g/e + 2sfp switch is looking like a bargain.

    I'm not sure UHDTV will take off any time soon. Its' just far too much data to be worthwhile. If you look at pirated material, you'll see what people are happy to live with. On the premise that pirated films are "free" why are they nearly always compressed with lossy compression? There aren't that many people going for the raw blue-ray rips - presumably the data requirements exceed desire for high-quality, even when data is close to free.

  8. mikeinnc

    FTTN Speed

    In your article you suggest that ... "FTTN and wireless are both touted as capable of delivering around 100 Mbits/s to each end user as soon as or faster than it will be possible to install near-universal FTTP."

    I think you grossly misunderstand the speeds that FTTN - and wireless - are capable of. FTTN is more likely to offer a top download speed of about 75Mbps - and that only if the copper tails from the cabinet are less than 500m long AND the VDSL is used. However, VDSL requires two pairs of wires - most all premises in Australia only have one, and do you seriously believe we should be laying new copper cables in 2012? So, given the NIMBY situation of where the fridge sized, air-conditioned cabinets will be placed as well as the dire shortage of acceptable copper pairs, top speeds of some 30Mbps are more likely. In fact, many subscribers would only see a 20% increase on current ADSL2+ speeds. The other issue that is NEVER discussed - because it just knocks FTTN into the outfield is upload speed. Currently, the HUGE limitation on cloud computing is the paltry upload speed - often well below 1Mbps on ADSL. On FTTN, this might rise to 5Mbps if you are VERY lucky. FTTP has no such physical limitation. The upload speed may be limited by the ISP for marketing or financial reasons, but there isn't any physical limitation. Most consumers would die for a 25Mbps upload! Wireless is another issue. Unless you were next to the transmitter, with a point to point link, you will be lucky to see 25Mbps! No, sorry - given the small incremental cost of installing FTTP now instead of FTTN now and FTTP within ten years, and given the ubiquitous and certain nature of the resulting network speeds, all the FTTN arguments fade into obscurity.

  9. david 12 Silver badge


    Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. Does anyone else remember why the NBN was so critical as part of our nations infrastructure?

    Education, Health, Commerce.

    6 months ago, people were still going berserk when I asserted that the NBN was the new TV network, and would have the same Educational, Medical, and Commercial benefit as TV and Cinema, both of which where expected and claimed to have the same major Education, Health and Commerce affect as was being touted for the NBN.

    Go back and read the public statements and the parlimentary debates where the NBN was justified. See if you can find the place where the proponents claimed it would be neccessary for HDTV.

    Nobody ever lost an election by giving entertainment to the masses -- or by owning the means of communication. I'm on record as saying I've personally wanted fibre for the last 20 years, and I'll sign up when I get the chance.

    I laugh at your gullability and ignorance.

    1. Abel Adamski

      Re: FUD


      The NBN is the ubiquitous National Communications platform that will cater for those aspects such as health education commerce and business AND Joe publics entertainment.

      For just a hint

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