OPINION: We need a ‘FTTH’ NBN

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Image: m0php/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Well lately on Delimiter, there has been a lot of talk about the NBN and what will form this National Broadband Network. Now yes, I am a NBN supporter, for obvious reasons. We all know Australia isn’t renowned for its internet access and this can be accredited to many things, but something needs to be done about it.

Telstra’s network. Certain aspects of it have been in existence for several decades. It works, for the most part. It is used every day for everything from calling family to sharing files, with strangers, on the other side of the continent.

To liken it to something which we all have experience with, cars. They age, and as they age, they need more maintenance. This can lead to them being increasingly prone to breaking down, and because of this, becoming more expensive to run. In many ways, this is true of Telstra’s network.

Something needs to be done about it…

Aspects of this network need to be upgraded, repaired, and expanded upon in order to accommodate Australia’s growing population and our hunger for a better connection. At the moment, Telstra are only just keeping up with everything.

I myself only have access to ADSL 1. Yet I live in one of the larger suburbs of eastern Melbourne. It was only in February of this year that Telstra upgraded the horribly congested back-haul to my exchange, allowing me to now get speeds of around 450kB/s. Pathetic for this day and age.

Distance: Because we Aussies have so much land, any infrastructure that is going to be installed here is going to be expensive and take time. That is just the nature of things. There is nothing we can do about it.

The NBN: There is quite of a lot debating/arguing in our government, as per usual. One topic of dialogue between Labor and Liberal is the NBN. They are both yet to agree on what they classify the NBN. Rudd and Gillard, with the help of that idiot, Conroy, have come up with what is known as a Fibre to the Home (FTTH) network. In this plan, the majority of houses in Australia will have a fibre optical connection to the rest of the internet. Through this connection, Australian residents will have access to speeds of 100Mbps downstream and 40Mbps upstream initially. There was talk, when details for this network were first released, of these speeds being upgradable to 1Gbps or even faster with relative ease.

Evidence time. Now Verizon have come out and stated that with FTTH networks, there will be reductions of up to 80-90% in the cost of maintaining said network compared to a copper network. Analysys Mason have also done some calculations and concluded that the on-going costs of a FTTH network will be “in the region of 30% lower than the costs of operating the current copper network”. Although there is a large discrepancy between the two estimations, they both still show that running a FTTH network will end up being cheaper in the long run.

The other plan, which Liberal are pushing, is the Fibre to the Node (FTTN) network. Effectively, this is what we already have in the majority of places, via Telstra’s network. The back-haul to the majority of exchanges in Australia is fibre. This connection is then shared across the hundreds, if not thousands of customers connected to that exchange. That is basically what a FTTN network entails.

Malcolm Turnbull said this week that the cost of maintaining Telstra’s current copper network is cheaper than alternative solutions. Sure it may be cheaper, but hell, Aussies are already behind in the internet connectivity department and by the looks of it, some who should care, really don’t.

At the moment, maintaining our current copper/cable network is all well and dandy but we don’t even know what this cost Turnbull mentioned is or what it is based on. If we want to continue to use our current network for the next decade, there will need to be some major upgrades happen.

Aussies are already behind in the internet connectivity department and by the looks of it, some who should care, really don’t

Peter Cochrane, a well-known UK telecommunications expert and ex BT (British Telecom) CTO has expressed his thoughts on FTTN networks, saying they are a “mistake”. He outlined that they end up limiting the bandwidth available to the customer as well risking the reliability of the network.

The FTTN network which BT are currently rolling out, can achieve speeds up to 80Mbps down and 20Mbps up. We already have faster cable internet available in Australia! Yet, despite this, Turnbull is using BT’s FTTN network as an example of his version of the NBN. This type of network is little, if not, no improvement over Telstra’s current network. (What an idiot!)

We need the NBN. And not what Liberal is calling the NBN. We need the FTTH NBN. There is no denying it. If Australia wants to keep up with the times, something needs to be done and as with anything, there is always an initial cost. But it is not as if the end result is not going to match that cost, which shouldn’t be a problem once the network is fully installed.

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  • Grumpigeek

    Couldn’t agree more Tom.
    We need more articles like yours to put to bed the misinformation being spread by Malcolm Turnbull and others.
    The ongoing costs of maintaining the very old, deteriorating copper network is one thing the Liberals conveniently ignore.