How close is the NBN to meeting Australia’s connectivity needs?

How close is the NBN to meeting Australia’s connectivity needs?

The NBN is almost halfway to completion, but will it meet Australia’s connectivity needs?

The deal, under Turnbull’s MTM rollout, was that Australia would get the network finished faster, at a lower cost, than the previous model would allow. Rudd’s original plan, which was aimed at delivering the service to 93 per cent of Australian premises by 2021, put the total build cost at around $43 billion.

Although nbn later revised the capital cost of the build down to about $37.4 billion, in its latest annual corporate plan, the company placed its top end peak funding range between $46 and $54 billion. At the same time, the company is confident it will complete the rollout by 2020.

Forecasted costs and funding aside, the ongoing politicisation of the network’s rollout has polarised many Australians, with some accepting the government’s rationale for its MTM approach, others settling for nothing less than a mostly-fibre network, and the rest simply eager to have a new option for their internet connection.

Malcolm Turnbull - Prime Minister of Australia and former Minister for Communications
Malcolm Turnbull - Prime Minister of Australia and former Minister for Communications

Laurie Patton, CEO of Internet Australia, a not-for-profit peak body that aims to represent all Australian internet users, seems to fall into the middle category, taking the government to task over its current approach to the NBN rollout.

In a statement released on January 18, Patton blasted Morrow over nbn's warnings of civil works disruption in cities during the company's proposed metropolitan rollout push this year.

"The sad thing is that much of the disruption Mr Morrow is talking about would be avoided if they [nbn] immediately abandoned the rollout of their inferior copper wire FttN network," Patton said.

“Among other things, FttN requires electrical power to the nodes…This is presenting problems that contribute to the overall speed of the rollout and the level of local disruption.

"These nodes will be redundant and will have to be pulled out when the government inevitably bites the bullet and moves to fibre-to-the-driveway, or fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FttDP)".

"Our highly qualified technical experts believe that the copper wire network will need to be replaced in 10 to 15 years or sooner. On current modelling around a third of the NBN, perhaps more, will need to be replaced - meaning more disruption in times to come,” he said.

Patton is not alone in his criticism of the current rollout model, yet others take a more moderate view of the government’s approach.

Intelligent Business Research Services advisor and former Gartner analyst, Geoff Johnson, suggests that the technology nbn has been trialling to help it push more data through copper wire is likely to take care of any speed issues over the coming years that the move away from a mostly fibre network might present.

While both the FttP and the MTM network approaches are aimed at delivering a network that offers download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, it was expected that a mostly fibre network would be upgradable to gigabit-level speeds further down the track.

Given the perceived constraints of the existing copper network, nbn has, understandably, made a big show of demonstrating various technologies aimed at pushing ever more data through the metal cables.

In October last year, nbn successfully clocked up speeds of 8Gbps over 30 metres of copper cable in an XG-FAST technology lab trial conducted with technology partner, Nokia.

According to nbn, XG-FAST can be used to deliver services to multi-dwelling units in a Fibre-to-the-Building (FttB) scenario, or via FttDP. The XG-FAST protocol is just one of a number of emerging technologies that nbn could tap into if it wants to pump up the speed capabilities of the existing infrastructure on which it has to rely under the government’s MTM approach.

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Tags broadbandNBNMalcolm Turnbullnational broadband networkAustralian GovernmentBill Morrow

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