Another NBN rant

There are a couple of things that the NBN fanbois generally fail to note about Liberal Party Broadband Policy.
(and I don’t vote, so this is just a technical & economic discussion)

It is not about FTTN at all. FTTN is only a cheap and fast “filler” for areas of Australia that aren’t being done some other way.

  • Satellite remains.
  • Fixed wireless remains.
  • Greenfield FTTH remains.
  • FTTH On-demand (i.e. anyone who wants to have it) remains.
  • HFC (and we know that EuroDOCSIS can do 1Gb/s services, as needed) will be recovered and provide service for 2.6 million homes, immediately.

All that is changing is that the difficult brownfields services are being given a fast and cheap alternative to get some kind of service upgrade in the short term (say 5 to 8 years).

Fanbois bitch about the FTTN cabinets in the street. Yes they’re ugly. Essentially, they’re providing centralised networked power to drive the copper tail for all FTTN subscribers. Cabinets are ugly, but they’re very maintainable, and upgradable at low cost and with low impact for consumers. The current FTTH solution is putting an unmaintainable ugly lead acid battery IN MY LOUNGEROOM! (And, forcing me to pay for the power for their service too. I’m used to getting my POTS power for free.)

And, if (when) the FTTH battery is dead my lifeline services are affected. It is part of every NBNCo service agreement that it is not their liability, if your battery is dead, you can’t make a call, and therefore you die!

I’d rather have someone professional maintaining my (mother’s / great aunt’s / disabled friend’s) lifeline services battery and have it somewhere where it can be properly maintained to deliver a known grade of service, without interfering with my life.

Oh, and the famous diagram with 1Gb/s FTTH services on it, with everything else miles below. Nice picture. He could have added HFC services up there at 1Gb/s too, but he didn’t. But paying for these 1Gb/s services is another story.

The NBNCo has gazetted their 100Mb/s prices in a SAU with the ACCC, and their prices will be INCREASED annually by CPI (-1.5%) for 27 YEARS. That means in 27 years we’ll be paying much more than today (compound it up, I dare you) for the same service. They need to lock in this price to pay for their network. Don’t imagine that Moore’s law is going to apply here. 27 years ago was 1986, and then 9600 baud was looking pretty good. How will 100Mb/s look in 2040? Now, how much is then 1Gb/s going to cost, if 100Mb/s has a fixed price for the next 27 years? Good question. You got any unwanted children you can sell?

UPDATE: So just a day after this rant was written, NBNCo announced pricing for 1Gb/s services, conveniently only available after the next election in December 2013. Pricing is $150 wholesale. This is exactly twice the 100Mb/s price. An interesting price point, given this will cut the fan-out on the GPON network infrastructure from 32:1 down to 2:1. Also RSPs will need to upgrade their POI backhaul packages by a factor of 10x if they want to provide this service. Using the ACCC transmission pricing calculator, this looks like a recipe for a VERY expensive retail service.

The Labour NBN plan is unbuildable. There are not the fibre splicers in the country we need to achieve the required daily rate build rate. NBN Co contractors (to get their contracts in the first place) are paying lowest rates in the market. Anyone with any skills is working on the mines in WA, fly in fly out. Not camping in the truck, schlepping around the country digging trenches. This was apparent back in 2010. Blind Freddy could have predicted the situation the NBNCo is in now, with missed delivery targets.

In 15 years, Conroy might be remembered for the man who thought of NBN. But Turnbull will be remembered as the one who saved it, and delivered it.
(Actually, Conroy should be remembered as the man who killed NBN, when he axed its predecessor OPEL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OPEL_Networks, on April 2, 2008, when he entered office).

UPDATE: So on 12th July 2013, Mike Quigley resigned or retired from his role as CEO of NBN Co. Surely his efforts will not go unrewarded. My bet is that in the second half of 2014 or early 2015 Mr Quigley will be appointed to the Board of Alcatel Lucent. After all, getting your former employer an uncontested 1,500 million Dollar contract from the Australian Government for obsolete GPON equipment must be worth something, right?

3 thoughts on “Another NBN rant

  1. “FTTH On-Demand” is not actually likely, and certainly won’t be reasonably priced for home users.

    HFC *can’t* do 1Gb “today”, as has been detailed by some of the people who actually work on DOCSIS the work needed to upgrade it to that level is significant, and as is true to today there’s no way the current rollout could handle anything like 100% without being unstably slow. To handle that the head ends would need to be split which would end up being similar to adding new FTTN nodes.

    FTTN cabinets are not maintainable compared to passive optical boxes (consider how often the Telstra pillars need work for something other than being driven into).

    I don’t know why you’re complaining about the battery situation. Telstra *today* don’t need to provide backup batteries for home circuits (in general). I agree this may be worse off for a small amount of the population.

    And Hackett’s graph could easily have shown 10g, dedicated, per user using GPON optical splitters, certainly 1g, completely unshared is what’s being installed by several carriers globally using the same basic optical components.

    As long as the price is required to compound by *less* than CPI it (essentially, and relatively) gets cheaper over time, that’s basic Finance.

  2. Julien,

    Actually several companies are already providing EuroDOCSIS 8×4 modems, which carry 400 Mb/s / 108 Mb/s on EACH channel bundle on the HFC service. I’m sure you’re aware that there are more than 8 channels on a HFC network, so capacity this is further scaleable.

    The work necessary to upgrade Optus HFC in Australia is completely manageable and inexpensive ($millions) compared to an overbuild of FTTH ($billions) of the same scale. Send me your email, and I’m prepared to discuss. Can’t do it in a public forum. But, Telstra HFC already offers 100Mb/s services in Melbourne, and has for some years now.

    Comparing this fact to the 1990’s technology GPON, which the NBNCo is currently rolling out, we have a MAXIMUM of 2.488 gigabits per second (Gbit/s) of shared downstream bandwidth, and 1.244 Gbit/s of shared upstream bandwidth. The current GPON solution that NBNCo is using can’t even support native IPv6 !!! The technology IS that OLD!

    It was simply disingenuous of Hackett and Quigley to put 1Gb/s as the service rate of the NBN. There are no NBNCo consumer services at 1Gb/s. And in the foreseeable future (using GPON as the delivery mechanism), there will not be.

    Quigley’s reasons for announcing 1Gb/s services just before the last Federal Election are quite clear. It was to help his employer to keep his job. Nothing more, nothing less.

    UPDATE: OMG. He’s done it again. Quigley’s done it again. Conveniently, just after the next election, these fabled 1Gb/s services are to be launched. But they’re being discussed now, right after the Liberal Policy launch, in time for Conroy to own the discussion. Conroy clearly owns the political ring.

    Additionally, if Hackett was fair, he WOULD have put 10Gb/s Ethernet services onto the page, and questioned why the NBNCo were not planning for this eventuality. As we know with Moore’s law, 10Gb/s services are what we’ll be requiring within the next 27 years.

    To be clear, the only reason why anyone would implement FTTN or upgrade HFC networks is to create a window of opportunity for cost effective solutions that can deliver 10Gb/s to be developed, proven, and installed. The window needed, based on imminent experience with direct fibre solutions (such as those used by Google in the USA), may be as short as 3 to 5 years.

    The issue of having (potentially) 8 million lead acid batteries in homes to provide lifeline services, wired in by normal 240V sockets that cleaners, children, and the energy saving uninformed can simply switch off, is a great unknown.

    As is the issue of battery life of these consumer grade lead acid batteries, which will end up unmanaged in rubbish dumps around the country within 5 years. In an exchange or in a cabinet the batteries are monitored, and are maintained by the operator. This simply can’t be done in the home.

    NBNCo has simply pushed battery maintenance and power supply costs on to the consumer.

    Anyway. just my point of view, on issues that people shouldn’t get emotional about. Politicising engineering is a waste of energy.

  3. Yes – there are a few fanbois out there – heaven forbid if we pull them up on something – prepare for their wrath!
    Here is some light entertainment that portrays them quite well!

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