back to article nbn™ says nobody needs gigabit internet, trumpets XG-Fast at 8Gbps anyway

nbn™, the organisation building and operating Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN), has announced trials of fibre-to-the-curb and broadband-over-copper technology XG-fast that hit 8Gbps on 30 metres of copper in lab trials. It's also done tests that produced “5Gbps peak aggregate speed being achieved over 70 metres of …

  1. Knoydart

    State of the copper?

    So guessing these lab trials have brand new copper between two nodes and with no cross talk, dodgy crimps and so on?

    I would love to see what speeds you get when deployed in the real world. I guess those on the west island will find out in about 5 years when it might get deployed.

    One would think that with that massive bill to remeditate the local copper loop, you should just put in some fiber instead?

    1. aberglas

      Re: State of the copper?

      It is only the last few metres, house to curb. Some of that copper is troublesome. But most works just fine.

      1. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: State of the copper?

        FWIW I have had three telstra copper problems in the last three years in my 100-year old inner city suburb with postmaster general signs on some pits. On each occasion my ADSL drops from its usual 15Mbps to about 4. My ISP makes me test my router with a different filter and then asks if I have a spare router (as if) and then warns that if I've called it in wrong I'll have to pay $400 to telstra for their call-out fee.

        In each case it takes telstra about an hour to locate and repair the fault. The copper on my street or into my home hasn't been touched. And I've never seen the copper dug up or out.

        1. Black Betty

          Re: State of the copper?

          For me: Missing twists in the pit at the front of the property meant that every time the pit filled with rainwater the capacitance of the line would change causing dropouts. An orphaned pairgain power feed from the next street over messed with the tech's test equipment, and my pair being only notionally wrapped about the connection posts, both in the bollard and at the green box, caused intermittent faults both when other people's lines were being worked on, or when the sun got a little too fierce.

          I once had another sun related problem way back when I was a part of the Optus cable modem trial, there was a fault which only turned up on sunny afternoons for half an hour or so, and which of course was never there by the time the techs checked the line. A ping script run over the course of a few days showed the fault beginning almost exactly 4 minutes earlier every day. Since 4 minutes is the difference between the lengths of the sidereal and solar days, locating the fault had the techs literally chasing shadows.

        2. Daniel Voyce

          Re: State of the copper?

          I watched a Telstra engineer outside my friends house open one of those little man hole covers on the street, pull out a standard grey supermarket plastic carrier bag with a complete mess of wires in it - connect up some kind of multi-meter (while on the phone) to each wire individually - I assume to locate the correct one, cut-recrimp and re-wrap in the bag and dump back in the hole.

          If this is the technology that is to run our future internet then I want nothing to do with it!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People don't pay for 100/40Mbps because the backhaul in the evening is overloaded and you can't get the benefit from it. Plus the cost difference is too high.

    Maybe the nbnites might like to ask why they think people will pay more for NBN rather than ADSL in their business plans, yet the evidence is people are dissatisfied with the NBN and their speeds/overcharging.

    1. P. Lee

      Nobody needs 1G - now

      The question is, will they need it later?

      Or more accurately, will they need something above what you can reasonably get with real-world, old copper?

      Sure you can get 8 mb/s with ADSL1 and 25mb/s with ADSL2, but I get 5mb/s. 10mb/s would be nice. I'll never get that with copper ADSL, but fibre would.

      It would be nice to at least have a mandate which says, "no new copper."

      Also, as mentioned, pricing by speed tiering is pretty dumb with fibre. I get it if it was fifteen years ago, and you are putting in more expensive ADSL2 vs ADSL1, but line length is the limiter. Fibre gets rid of that. Charge by data volumes with fibre and stop pretending faster is more expensive, at least up to 100mb/s.

    2. aberglas

      Why Nobody buys 100mbs

      Because it is not useful.

      Not many people have a dozen ultra high definition TVs at home that then need to run concurrently.

      25mbs is not very useful either. But it is priced only barely above the 12.5mbs, and 12.5mbs is not even available by Bigpond. If there was an option for 5mbs at half the price of 25mbs I reckon it would be taken up by half of all consumers.

      That was always the hole in the concept. There are no applications, real or imagined, that need high bandwidth in homes. You do not need a 25mbs to file a tax return or access health records etc.

      Meanwhile, people without any internet at all wait and wait in vain.

      The NBN does have a plan to ensure that people use their services though. Cut the copper, and give people no choice.

      1. notowenwilson

        Re: Why Nobody buys 100mbs

        "There are no applications, real or imagined, that need high bandwidth in homes. You do not need a 25mbs to file a tax return or access health records etc."

        Sure, but thus far this year I have filed zero tax returns from home and accessed zero health records. I have, however, watched a hundred plus TV shows and movies and streamed hundreds if not thousands of songs. Granted none of them require super high bandwidth connections, but all of them require more than your examples, and they regularly exceed what I can get on an ADSL connection (old copper, I struggle to hold a connection let alone actually do anything with it) or a 4G mobile connection (which is sub-dial-up speeds during the evening even with signal strength dealt with through a couple of high-gain antennas on the roof).

        1. rebekkap

          Re: Why Nobody buys 100mbs

          Plus think of the spectrum we could free up for the ever-increasing demand for mobile data if we switched free to air television to a completely streamed service across metropolitan areas - something we could easily do if we had an all-fibre NBN

      2. Shane 4

        Re: Why Nobody buys 100mbs

        You are thinking exactly like they are!

        You are only thinking short term, In 10+ years possibly even less looking at how affordable they are already, People will have UHD tv's and probably in more than one room.

        As people ditch cable tv and watch online content that they want to watch when they want to watch it, The access to more bandwidth will become even more relevant.

        Home health services / 24/7 health monitoring for older citizens, Online education, The list is endless.

        Copper doesn't cut it, It already struggles. There is no way it will handle a larger population who is consuming more data be it for entertainment/work/education/health it doesn't matter.

        It's no different than when roadworks makes a new freeway, Only to see they have just made 2 lanes each way when it should have been 3+ for growing suburbs that are right next to it. They always do the cheapest option but it ends up costing more later on to add another lane, Instead of just doing it when the freeway was built.

        Ripping up copper and replacing it with "new" copper is ridiculous, The trench is there future proof it by adding fibre optic cable from the start!

      3. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Why Nobody buys 100mbs

        Spot on Mr B - the many Australians without broadband are waiting and waiting. If you have rubbish broadband, I imagine the argument about which carriage medium is largely moot. I've written before that speed of rollout is what really matters. Once the nation has a better baseline, then we can see what services make a difference and if they need gigabit services.

        1. bep

          Re: Why Nobody buys 100mbs

          This is NOT a convincing argument in favour of Malcolm's Technology Muddle - the switch from all fibre slowed down the roll out by years in some suburbs. Now that Optus's hybrid network has been shown to be not fit for purpose the 'sooner' part of Malcolm's argument doesn't hold water. Discussions about foreign networks also muddies the waters. The purpose of the NBN was to give Australia a world-leading network to help us overcome the old Tyranny of Distance which has never gone away. You don't lead the world by simply following others at a discreet distance.

  3. Peter Drummond


    My copper connection was installed possibly as long as 50 years ago, already has shorts to earth in half of the incoming wires, and maxes out at 4-8MB/s with current tech, owing to noise on the line. Personally, I'd prefer to have fiber. The dodgy old copper will need to be replaced anyway, and fiber is much more likely to be a useful tech for the fifty years to come.

  4. BlackKnight(markb)

    Wheres baldrick

    Oh FFS, if your going to run it to the bloody curb, run it the house, this is getting insane. Why would you want to mainintain 5-10m of copper to the majority of houses in the country.....

    Would someone please instate baldrick as the CEO of NBN. even he could do a better job.

    1. aberglas

      Re: Wheres baldrick

      How much do you think it costs on average to dig up someone's lawn and put new cabling to an existing house without making a mess? Two men for a day? That is way over $1000.

      And for what benefit? If the copper works fine. And will likely continue to work for many decades to come.

      1. MrDamage

        Re: Wheres baldrick

        When I've had cable TV installed at the numerous houses I've rented in the past, it did not take 2 men and $1000 to dig up the lawn to run the HFC cable from the kerb to the house.

        1 man, half an hour outside, half hour inside, and job was done.

      2. Black Betty

        Re: digging up lawns

        Put a "winged keel" on a modified whacker packer and you have a machine (featured on The New Inventors a good ten years ago) which pulls cables or pipes through the soil with no need for any trenching at all. You could quite literally run a line beneath a bowling green, run a roller over it and be playing on it within the hour. IIRC it would also work beneath concrete through a slot not much wider than an expansion joint.

        For the average suburban property, it would be two hours or less to change over from copper to glass.

        1. joneda1

          Re: digging up lawns

          "For the average suburban property, it would be two hours or less to change over from copper to glass."

          "Winged keels" are great until you dig up the first electrical conduit somebody forgot to bury deep, hit the first gas line or run into lumps of concrete and bricks which have been buried in the front lawn as fill. Running under concrete requires the concrete to be sawn and then repaired - reo-mesh is there for a reason, not to simply be cut through at will.

          The easy houses are lucky to take 2 hours.or less:

          - Drive to site, say 1/2 hour between jobs.

          - Greet owner, open pit, set up gear, say 1/2 hour.

          - Locate inside termination point of conduit (can you even get to it without removing walls?), say 10 minutes

          - Mount NTD and install extended conduit, say 1/2 hour.

          - Pull fibre cable, terminate both ends, say 1/2 hour.

          - Log job completion, pack up, say 20 minutes.

          That's 2.5 hours with all conduits intact before you even strike any complications. Talk to a few installers who actually do this for a living and you'll find that it's a much harder and more time-consuming job than you imagine.

          FTTC avoids all this complication of premises work and delivers speeds comparable to fibre. If the infrastructure cost is OK then it's a potentially great solution.

    2. joneda1

      Re: Wheres baldrick

      "Oh FFS, if your going to run it to the bloody curb, run it the house, this is getting insane. Why would you want to mainintain 5-10m of copper to the majority of houses in the country....."

      There is actually a good reason for this. Running fibre in public streets is not especially expensive and the cost is reasonably predictable for the quality of service gained. There are variations for sure but overall it is a manageable exercise requiring mostly just public land access with predictable outcomes.

      Running fibre from the curb into the premises, however, is a very different prospect. Cost and scale of the work are both highly variable and it is difficult and expensive to manage because of the variability and the need to arrange access individually to every premises.

      FTTC allows for the best compromise on many fronts:

      - the expensive part of the fibre rollout (curb to premises) is avoided.

      - speeds are still high. Even VDSL over such short distances can generally deliver 100Mbps.

      - GFast should be able to deliver even higher (perhaps Gbps+) speeds without curb to premises fibre.

      - For those who absolutely have to have fibre, the conversion cost should be comparatively low.

      All politics aside, FTTP would have been a great result but nobody is promising a return to a full FTTP rollout. FTTC offers a solid alternative with many upsides and few downsides.

      As for the politics, FTTC is probably the best outcome we can ask for. LNP can do it without losing face and Labour (if they regain power) can still roll it out with performance that matches fibre for all but the most extreme users.

  5. antiquam bombulum

    They never address pricing in this context

    Given how much more they charge for speeds above what you get on ADSL2, it's hardly surprising that punters are choosing to pay about what they were before. If they lowered the price of higher speeds, they'd get the uptake. They could have chosen to offer higher speeds at the current prices at the same cost to themselves.

  6. JJKing

    Gigabit not needed, what a load of crap!

    I know of over 50 businesses that would kill for a gigabit connection and become serial killers for it to have that speed in BOTH directions. Ok, I over exaggerate the extremes they would go to but they have multi hundred MB files to transfer and the faster the connection the quicker they can get the modified images returned for printing.

    Guess the liberal lacky morrow is just spruiking how great it will be to have 25mbps FTTN speeds guaranteed for 1 second every day and the poor old Kiwis will only have 1000/500 speed to 70% of the country. Seems the jokes on them since gigabit is not necessary.

    Now we just have to wait for mathew42 to come and paste his usual slow speed tripe.

    1. aberglas

      Re: Gigabit not needed, what a load of crap!

      Sure, some businesses would love it.

      But most homes, and SOHOs just don't need a dozen ultra high definition TVs to all run concurently.

      1. Spotswood

        Re: Gigabit not needed, what a load of crap!

        Rubbish. High bandwidth applications open up more possibilities. And it allows us to get stuff done faster. Which saves precious time. If that isn't reason enough, then I don't know what is. And it's not just TV's. What about streaming games? Streaming VR? Backing up/downloading/syncing your insane amount of photos and personal videos of your family and loved ones you've taken over the years? What about UHD video calling, interactive learning, and other forms of interactivity we haven't even thought of yet? Not having loads of bandwidth shuts you out of some of those things entirely, and makes other things paInfully slow. It also puts our country at a disadvantage to other countries that have it. Speeds of 25Mbps will just not cut it!

      2. Black Betty

        Re: Gigabit not needed, what a load of crap!

        Really? 15 Mbits/sec will just barely see out one DVD quality video, with enough bandwidth left over for a couple of browser connections. The only way to get 4K video down existing pipes is massive compression which makes a mockery of the format. 8K (already a thing) will be worse still.

        And while few would fully utilise a gigabit pipe 24/7, games and their patches are constantly growing in size. I've already run into one 20 GByte, day zero game patch (4 hours+ over ADSL2).

    2. Knoydart

      Re: Gigabit not needed, what a load of crap!

      Minor correction on those Kiwi UFB numbers. UFB 1 - due by 2020 aims to reach 75% and UFB 2 is looking to push that to at least 80%. The contractors can't keep up with demand right now but we should have a glut of fibre jointers available in around 2022 just when the west island suddenly works out the correct technology mix.

      Furthermore the RBI project (they have split the urban / rural broadband rollouts here) has rolled out FTTN to a significant number of rural cabinets and built some open access cell phone towers. RBI 2 is aiming to get to 97ish % of the country in the next. In theory, the kiwi rural speeds should be around the same at the nbn MTM solution for the urban areas in the lucky country.

      1. Mikey 1
        Thumb Up

        Re: Gigabit not needed, what a load of crap!

        And while Gig may not be necessary, with our fibre to the premises over here, it's just a matter of turning the tap.

        Which some ISPs are already doing.

        Which is nice.

    3. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Gigabit not needed, what a load of crap!

      nbn says Gigabit is not needed in homes. Yes, plenty of businesses need it. And they can go buy it today from carriers other than NBN. Why don't they? Price, probably. But at least nbn will eventually have a universal service.

      1. mathew42

        Re: Gigabit not needed, what a load of crap!

        In an alternate reality if Labor had chosen to use CVC as the principal source of revenue then today everyone on FTTP would have a 1Gbps capable connection. For most people this would be meaningless because almost nothing except the link between the PoI and their home would be capable of sustaining that speed, but the potential would be there. Over time, all the various parts would be upgraded and at off-peak times people could experience the full speed. New services would be developed and the potential of the NBN reached.

        Sadly, the reality of Labor's policy is that 82% are connected at 25Mbps. Many on faster plans would be questioning the value because of the congestion issues principally caused by RSPs offering unlimited plans. FTTN & HFC are politically justifiable technologies becaues they deliver what 82% of Australians are asking for. More people are choosing wireless because for low usage it is significantly cheaper. The 1Gbps speeds that Labor announced just prior to the 2010 election aren't available because RSPs cannot sell them at a price that people will pay.

    4. mathew42

      Re: Gigabit not needed, what a load of crap!

      > Now we just have to wait for mathew42 to come and paste his usual slow speed tripe.

      By writing 'low speed tripe' it is clear that you've never attempted to understand what I've written, most likely because it is too disruptive to your world view.

      The reason I've been pointing out for the past 8 years that Labor's speed tiers are a bad idea and highlighting Labor's prediction that 50% would be on 12Mbps or less on a 1Gbps capable network is because the outcome of that would be bad for the country.

      * Low end users will migrate to mobile for a cheaper & faster experience (10GB 4G plans with unlimited calls are cheaper that 12/1Mbps on NBN and this trend will continue)

      * Many people will be denied the benefits of NBN (100Mbps+ are required for the benefits Labor outlined in 2010 Corporate Plan)

      * 1Gbps would be only for the elite rich (Labor predicted <1% on 1Gbps in 2026)

      * Australia's speed ranking would continue to fall as others in the world implement 1Gbps networks without speed tiers

      The reality today is worse than what I feared. All of the above have occurred and:

      * 82% are on 25Mbps or slower

      * 14% have selected 100Mbps and many would be doubting the choice due to congestion

      * FTTN network is being built because when 82% (and rising) of voters are opting for speeds that FTTN easily support it is politically justifiable.

      * Elite don't care because $10,000 for FoD is less than a cheap kitchen or bathroom renovation, tax deductible and their business will pay

      * Zero RSPs are offering plans faster than 100Mbps 3 years after NBNCo made the plans available.

      I've outlined a consistent solution for the past 8 years. All you've done is whine.

      > I know of over 50 businesses that would kill for a gigabit connection and become serial killers for it to have that speed in BOTH directions.

      I've called this statement bullshit in the past and will do so again. If it was that important to the businesses they would either install their own fibre or move to a location that provided 1Gbps fibre. If there was real demand, RSPs would be providing the plans. I'd be very excited to own a Tesla with ludicrous mode, but at $200k I struggle to justify it. The businesses might be interested, but when they look at the cost they have decided not to proceed.

      It is the fault of the IT community (including journalists) for not pointing out the short-comings of Labor's FTTP plan that we are in the current situation.

  7. marxman

    All you have to do is look at NBN's own figures from their 2015/16 report to see the truth of the situation. FTTP has about a 40% take up rate, while FTTN sits at around 22%. While FTTP cost more to install, it results in more customers.There is little point to FTTN if only one in four people are actually buying into it,it somewhat ironically-because it was meant to save money- wastes money. To install it all all these premises, only to have a quarter of them use it! What kind of self defeating business plan is that? It's completely moronic!

    Even worse, to bring back Ziggy, the man who almost destroyed Telstra, to work on the project. It's just jobs for the boys, knowing that the boys will blindly kowtow to any decision made by the current government as long as they get their paycheck! The whole Optus debacle is a complete farce, how the hell are they keeping their jobs? $700 million basically throw away an no one gets sacked? I would have been lopping off heads left. right, and centre on the back of that situation. I would have been screaming so hard I would have wound up in hospital from a heart attack, and then prison from cracking so many skulls together!

    What is going on at NBN?

    1. Diogenes

      FTTP has about a 40% take up rate, while FTTN sits at around 22%.

      Do you think that turning off copper networks 6 months after RFS in FTTP areas might contribute to the higher uptake ?

      I took a straw poll @ work yesterday - and compared results a year ago. A year ago 50% of my students had NO broadband at all due to the exchange being full -literally (and 2 large containers holding kit as well) short of a massive construction project this could not be easily rectified. This area was a natural choice for one of the first rollouts of FTTN (it was not on the first 3 or 5 FTTP year plans) , yesterday only one student did not have at least a 25mb plan that exception will have it by Christmas (financial reasons).

  8. Mark Simon

    Not getting it

    “nbn™ says nobody needs gigabit internet …”

    — no, 640K should be enough for anybody

    How hard can it be to understand that we should be building for the future as well as the present? This is the same logic that build two-lane highways because that’s enough for now. The logic that paves foot paths, then digs them up to lay cable, then digs them up again to lay plumbing.

    If they don’t want to finish the job, just say so. Don’t try to tell us that we don’t want it done properly.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What happens when they run out of money?

    My home (in suburban Perth) still has a status of: "The rollout of the nbn™ network has not started in this area". If the government funding runs out next year, what happens to those unlucky souls who are still waiting for a connection?

    I can't see many takers from the private sector wanting to fund the rest of the network. Does this mean that I might be stuck with a 5MB connection in good weather and about 512kb when we get rain?

  10. poopypants

    "A year before, those tiers were at 18 per cent, 42 per cent and 35 per cent, indicating waning interest in 100Mbps plans but rising interest in the 25/5 plans."

    Could it be that people are discovering that 100Mbps plans are not delivering reliable 100Mbps connections?

    1. sbd

      Exactly, the numbers stated are meaningless, nothing new from the nbn there.

      It might be... 85% of connections capable of up to 100mbs are connected at the top tier.

      It could be the overall number of 100mbps connections has increased, with the percentage of the total falling due to recent FTTN additions which are incapable of that speed.

      That's before addressing questions of the backhaul provisioned being capable of making the tiers actually usable.

      Just more useless statistics, there's not enough information given to mean anything at all.

    2. Rattus Rattus

      Re: 100Mbps plans are not delivering reliable 100Mbps connections

      I have a 50Mbps plan on FTTP (not nbn though, Telstra's own fibre) and when all my neighbours turn on Netflix in the evenings I'm lucky to get 5Mbps with massive latency. There's absolutely no point to paying for higher speed tiers until ISPs put their hands in their pockets and upgrade their backhaul to where it should be.

  11. JJKing

    Faster uploads.

    I might not be able to fully utilise 100mbps at present but I could sure take a big bite out of the 40mbps up speed. People go so hard about the lack of need for the download bandwidth but forget it is the upload bandwidth that has the possibly greatest potential at present. Say I have an operating system ISO that a colleague needs. With a 100/40mbps connection I can upload it to him four times FASTER than I can presently download it.

    Watched a TV doco a few years back about the potential of fibre in the outback towns. A small hospital has a patient arrive in the middle of the night when all the specialists are off duty. High speed fibre would allow a specialist in a large city hospital or even the other side of the globe to download hi-res scans and diagnose what is wrong. With the advance in "remote robot" technology, this outback patient may even be operated on by a surgeon 2,000km or more away from them. The problem then was the fibre connection the hospital/medical centres in the outback were fully utilised and they had issues even sending a hi-res x-ray due to bandwidth limitations.

    Sky Muster I and II are going to bring the remote and very remote regions into the modern world and not have to educate their children via HF radios. Why do people have so much trouble seeing the massive potential of high speed fibre and consistently run with the line of 25/5 is more than I will ever need. Guess they also only need a non STD telephone and not require any sort of smartphone either if this is they way they think.

  12. Lord Snooty

    Aside from home entertainment and leisure activities needing higher speeds, one way of overcoming the 'tyranny of distance' is what used to be called telecommuting. In other words, working from home but having enough speed / bandwidth to run video conferences with the rest of your team. Having run dev teams simultaneously spread across the UK, Ukraine, Thailand and Malaysia, access to good video conferencing made a real difference. Repeat that but substitute with Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth and you get the idea. And, of course, it's all very green with fewer commuter journeys, less pollution, fewer cars on the road etc etc

    Not putting in fibre all the way is the most short sighted policy imaginable.

  13. Tim Roberts 1

    nice to see ....

    that NBN (Telstra in another coat) is deciding who needs what - the reality is that the current LNP government hobbled the NBN for political purposes ( note I did not say political gain, as I believe there will be none for them).

    Thanks Scabbot, Turdball for sending Aus down an inferior internet path. No I won't be fucking voting for you in the future.

    1. mathew42

      Re: nice to see ....

      > Thanks Scabbot, Turdball for sending Aus down an inferior internet path. No I won't be fucking voting for you in the future.

      You should be thanking Wong & Conroy for develoiping an artificial pricing model for the NBN witih speed tiers and data based charging. It is abundantly clear that consumers care about quotas more than speed, as RSPs advertise unlimited and 82% of Australians have opted for 25Mbps or slower. Even if the network was still 100% FTTP, it is doubtful that the selection of speed tiers would have changed.

      You should also take a good look in the mirror, because if you chose to ignore the issues of speed tiers, then you should share some responsibility.

  14. Kiwi_MarkLFC

    Yeah Right

    They clearly haven't tried to watch the EPL streamed via Optus then have they

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