Thursday, 28 June 2012

Direct, not the kind that saves the trees

As I have stated in my first post on this blog, I am largely pro-NBN. I still have issues with some aspects, but I truly believe this FTTH NBN is the future Australia needs in broadband. And that it is the ONLY solution that can deliver that quickly, relatively affordably and reliably to the largest portion of Australians possible. There are other solutions, like FTTN or wireless that are cheaper and faster, but they don't have the overreaching aim of providing ALL Australians with access to cheap, reliable, fast broadband. They are stop gaps. They do not ensure our ability to continually innovate in a digital world and be part of it at large.

I've been getting more and more frustrated with the ineptitude of Labor promoting the NBN. And conversely, more and more angry with the ability of the media, at large, and the Coalition to almost outright lie about the NBN and get away with it.

As a result, I've decided to start a....Pro-NBN action group I suppose you can call it, called NBN4Oz.

At the moment, this site is a temporary setup, to gauge reaction and support for such a group. I hope, with support, to extend it to a dedicated website based around information about the NBN, discussions, promotions of services, portals and links to other relevant sites and an overall aim to "fight the FUD" coming from the mainstream media and the Coalition at large.

I know some of you reading will probably disregard this, seeing as my aim with THIS blog was to provide unbiased and factual information on the NBN. But I cannot deny what I believe, which is that the NBN is the way forward for Australian broadband. Also, I am NOT discounting that the Coalition could come up with a better way to provide >90% of homes with FTTP....I just think it unlikely. However, one of the primary goals of NBN4Oz will hopefully be to try and engage the Coalition directly on the issue of no details around their policy. After all, how can Australians fairly decide UNLESS they have all the information from BOTH sides, unlike the current situation?

I will continue to try and provide factual, evidence based writings here. After all, the point of the new site, will be to conglomerate pro-NBN sentiment to allow the maximum exposure of factual, evidence based support for the NBN to the public, allowing them to make the most informed choices possible in a media full of false reporting and dubious political connections.

I simply believe that with so many dozens of individual blogs "busting the myths" and "fighting the FUD" surrounding the NBN, the point is being missed in a sea of small players, while the mainstream media is firing artillery that receives no answering fire. It needs focus and it needs goals. Otherwise, come the elections, the public at large will believe....whatever they're told to believe.

If you disagree with this sentiment, even after reading my and other peoples blogs such as  http://nbnexplained.org or various tech sites like Delimiter and ZDNet, then you are entitled to your opinion and I hope that you will continue to read widely in the hope of believing what I believe. For those of you who agree, I would ask you visit NBN4Oz and, even if nothing else, just put a tick on "Yes, I support this" in the poll to help me gauge the idea. If you would like to help, the site has details on contacting me and any comments or support in any form would be appreciated.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Uploads- The silent destroyer of souls....

I realise my last post was, how do I put this..... RIDICULOUSLY long, so I figured we'd go for a (marginally) shorter one this time. This is a hazard of writing about the NBN though. The arguments are complex and often mired in both politics and marketing hype. This post, I'll be dealing with the issues of uploads in an NBN or non-NBN world. It's not exactly the most riveting subject, but, it is VITALLY important when it comes to business particularly and increasingly, personal use over the next few years. The NBN will give us ALL access to upload speeds starting at up to 40x what the majority of us on ADSL can get and 10-20x that of HFC. But why are uploads so important?

What's an Upload?...

Most of us, when we're hunting for the best deal in broadband, look at download speeds and quota. Downloads are the main way most of us interact with the web. It's the process of a server connecting to our computer and "downloading" the information to our browsers cache. There are varying degrees of downloading required depending on whether you're checking email, looking at Facebook, shopping in a virtual catalogue, watching a youTube clip, using HD Skype or streaming an HD movie. Download speeds are important. For many, the most importnat. But what about uploads?

Uploads are what happen usually BEFORE you download. After all, when we type in "funny cat videos" into Google, how does Google know we want results about "funny cat videos", rather than "appallingly inappropriate stuffed cat helicopters...."? This is where uploads come in. Each time we request a webpage or element ON a webpage for information, our computer is uploading; ie asking a server somewhere for access to a file it hosts, such as a webpage or video, or in the case of Google, results of a database query (the database being EVERYTHING on the web Google indexes for search). Uploads, in these cases, make up a tiny portion of our web traffic. They're generally less than 1% of traffic, as they are usually short requests to a server, followed by a much more complex download to display information.

Why do I NEED better Uploads?

In recent years, uploads have become increasingly important. Obviously, they have always been important to web companies; they host the servers all OUR uploads request from, so their servers are CONSTANTLY uploading from our perspective (downloading to us). However, video streaming requires constant, reliable upload speeds to maintain a position in a stream of video. Without it, youTube, Netflix, Bigpond and iTunes type content providers would simply not be able to serve us with content. And Skype video wouldn't exist. Nor Facetime. Certainly, these speeds are usually still a fraction of download speeds, say 200-500Kbps, but get a bunch of them're gonna have a bad time.

Most people in Australia have ADSL as their main broadband connection. ADSL has VERY poor relative upload speeds. Try some time going to and checking your uploads. On ADSL? Don't expect over 1Mbps 90% of the time. On cable/HFC? Don't expect over 2Mbps. Wireless is better, on 3G, up to 4Mbps (HSPA-DC) and on 4G, up to 25Mbps...but HIDEOUSLY expensive for heavy day-to-day use. Satellite? Forget it. IF you're lucky enough to already be on fibre, you'll have considerably higher uploads depending on your speed tier. Why is this so? It's fairly complicated largely involving bandwidth allocation and frequency splitting, but essentially it's explained in the name; Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL). It is Asynchronous meaning it is faster in one direction than another. In this case, downloading is much faster. It is the way the technology is based and so it has physical limits to upload speeds. SDSL or more likely SHDSL (Synchronous OR Single-Pair High Speed DSL) are available in Australia, to give similar upload speeds to download. SDSL is not much use for consumers, as it cannot be used with an analog phone service. SHDSL can and can also provide up to 5Mbps at up to 3km from the exchange. But at what price? Type SHDSL into Google and you'll get ads that pop up to show SHDSL lines from as low as....$300 a month....mmm....

Besides, your average consumer doesn't NEED these speeds do they? they?? Well, many don' Most of our applications require much higher downloads than uploads. But have you ever tried to upload a photo? Or worse, a video, particularly if it's HD, to youTube? Takes a while doesn't it.... And this is only the beginning. Many SMB's host their own websites and these servers need upload capacity. If they're popular, upload capacity in the 10's of Mbps may be required. That's NOT cheap, even if you ARE on fibre (as most fibre is a specially provided service outside of Greenfields and selected networks such as TransACT and iinet trials). But the biggest hog of uploads is yet to computing.

Right now, you may or may not be using Dropbox, or gDrive or SkyDrive or any other "cloud" storage solutions. But give it a few years and you'll find it INVALUABLE to have your files wherever and whenever you need them. This is ONLY possible with uploads. And the larger the files, the longer the upload takes....Ever tried streaming your own videos or recorded TV to a computer at a friends house? Don't bother. Unless both of you have HFC as a MINIMUM, it is an exercise in artifacts and blurry half formed video, because your computer simply can't upload the quality of video needed with the bottleneck of speed it has.

So what, the NBN won't help, will it?

Enter the NBN. The NBN, even on it's lower tiers, such as 25(down)/5(up) has, obviously, higher uploads than 90% of premises now. 5Mbps is a 5 fold increase MINIMUM on ADSL2+ (I don't even get 750Kbps). And it's usually a 2 or 3 fold increase on HFC, at around 2Mbps. And it costs just as much, if not less, than you pay now for ADSL2+ or HFC. I've covered this in my previous posts. So, get the NBN and already things are looking up for your daily video making or photo taking, as well ensuring your cloud sync of files doesn't prove an exercise in futility trying to upload a 75mb presentation for work. Go up  a tier and you get 50/20. NOW you've got uploads that rival the downloads you are likely to have now (if you're that lucky). Certainly no problems with MULTIPLE users doing all these things now. Video streaming and HD teleconferencing/Skype (particularly heavy on uploads due to your computer needing to transmit high bit-rate video of you) will be a breeze, even for multiple users. We can even go to 100/

This is great for consumers. But there are many people who NEED it for business. Not necessarily because they don't have it now, many do. But because it may cost THOUSANDS of dollars a month to get 20 or 30Mbps uploads for a business server. Now, with the NBN? Well, the business plans on iinet can give you 1TB of quota (shared between up and downloads) on 100/40 speeds for $130....THAT's a saving. And there will be new 500/200 and 1000/400 plans later in the NBN build too for proportionally more money a month. Not only will it save current businesses alot of money, but new small businesses based around your own home servers can spring up, because you don't have to pay through the nose for uploads anymore. Anyone with a decent 50/20 or even 25/5 (if it's a site with few images or videos) plan can host their own website and not get hundreds of complaints about poor access times, without having to hand over hundreds of dollars a month for an external company to handle it. (in this case too, you have to remotely upload everything....time consuming and painful if you need to make changes regularly)

WARNING- Tech Speak coming!

Is it possible to get higher uploads WITHOUT the NBN? Yes, definitely. There are technologies for HFC AND ADSL that will enable higher uploads, although they have their problems. I've discussed some of them in my posts about "FTTN vs FTTH....Fight!". The ADSL equivalent, VDSL and VDSL2, have MAJOR range issues, dropping to ADSL speeds even before 2km from the exchange, which, as I've said before, is largely useless considering more than 60% of Australians are more than 2km from their exchange. This is primarily because VDSL works on MUCH higher frequencies than ADSL and they don't propagate as far without degradation. HFC technologies upload increase's largely rely on similar technologies to copper such as QAM and DMT, which I won't go into here. Or on node-splitting ; expensive, unsightly and not guaranteed, depending on demand at the time, as HFC and copper are both shared systems, unlike fibre. This is basically because in HFC and copper, one cable shares multiple connections until the fibre node, whereas FTTH has a single, multi-mode fibre going to each home and back to a fibre node, where either technology combines.

This diagram from Wikipedia illustrates the problem with both HFC and, to some extent, plain copper (although this is specifically an HFC diagram) seeing as multiple hundreds of houses share the same line back to a central hub. This is where node-splitting helps HFC and FTTN, because it reduces the number of shared connections on a line, making more nodes. In FTTH though, each house has its' own single fibre cable, and where they DO combine, like HFC and copper at the node, technologies such as wavelength division-multiplexing enable vastly superior speeds for the main line connection. WDM is available to fibre, because it uses light, which has multiple carrying possibilities in the form of different wavelengths. All wavelengths are distinguishable in light by a detector, as they can simply be amplified at the other end, with no appreciable difference in signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio (seeing as little to nothing can interfere with light in a sealed cable). Whereas in copper and coaxial (HFC), the frequencies are ALL carried electrically and the more noise on the cable, the harder it becomes to amplify, until eventually, the signal has a SNR so low, the signal quality is lost. This happens at a much smaller distance than on fibre. (5km compared to 50km)

Uploads are becoming more and more important in todays web. It allows all of us to share what WE'VE been doing and share our thoughts, ideas and services from our own locations, rather than paying large companies to host for us. It decentralises information, making it harder for hackers AND making it easier to retrieve lost or damaged data, seeing as it's always in the cloud. The NBN will provide these upload speeds for both big and small business at a GREATLY reduced cost. And it will, for the first time, provide access to cheap, fast uploads for the majority of consumers, giving us more freedom in our digital lives.

Monday, 4 June 2012

A Coalition Broadband plan...maybe and FTTN vs FTTH....FIGHT!

So, we've covered some fairly broad information about the alternatives to the current FTTH NBN. But in this post, I want to discuss a little more in-depth, the differences of the major section of the network that may or may not get built, depending on currently, how the elections turn out in 2013. While wireless is likely to play an increasingly important role in our everyday lives, it will not do the heavy lifting required of businesses, Video-On-Demand (VOD) and Cloud storage. For these applications, we need fixed-line systems, such as we currently have with Telstra's CAN (predominantly copper), HFC networks (Optus and Telstra) and backhaul network (predominantly Telstra fibre).

The argument is, with a fixed-line network made up of FTTN, HFC and copper, as in the Coalition's current plan, we will have enough bandwidth to serve the majority of Australians for several years to come at a cheaper price. Whereas the FTTH network of NBNCo. and Labor will give us a network that is more expensive, but provide us with bandwidth to spare and to grow into. Note here I'm saying Coalition and Labor; unfortunately, this is where politics and the NBN clash directly. When I refer to "The Coalition" or "Labor" in this post, it is not an attempt to belittle or persuade, politically. It is simply a matter of fact that, as it stands right now, we have 2 competing ideas for a network, that span the 2 political ideals of our country. The NBN SHOULD be politically agnostic....but it isn't.

So, let's have a look a little more closely at FTTN.

FTTN and VDSL- Partners in crime

FTTN is a network architecture choice that many countries around the world have made- There are several in the US, including the big one AT&T's U-Verse (although we have to be careful, because some of it IS FTTH, but the majority is FTTN). Germany's Deutsche Telecom, under the subsidiary of T-Home (also offered in different countries). Bell Telecom Canada also, which offers its' services under the Fibe moniker and several others around the world. Finally, New Zealand, which has recently stalled its' FTTN rollout by TelecomNZ, the NZ incumbent. There is good reason they've stalled, and in fact decided to go with FTTH to 75% of premises, which will become clear. You'll note I've linked to Wikipedia's sites for these companies; it is significantly difficult to get information directly related to the FTTN architecture of a company, if you're not directly in the industry. It is usually sold under a moniker, such as in Australia, where HFC is sold under Telstra as Bigpond "Elite" Cable or BigPond "Ultimate" Cable, depending on your preference for speeds/price. For this reason I've linked to Wikipedia to give an overview, not a detailed analysis via this source.

These networks, depending on country, usually offer services on a "triple-play" basis; Voice, Internet, IPTV, all over one cable. The TV options vary (PayTV or VOD) as do Voice ("Analog" normal phone services or VOIP), but the Internet speeds can range from as low as 13 Mbps to as high as 200 Mbps. Now that is quite a range and, you might ask, why on earth is it such a big range? Is this speed tiered information? No, this is real-world data that has been received, such as this letter from the CEO of TelecomNZ, regardless of tier break down. So why then, if people are asking for 100Mbps, are they getting 13 in some cases? Such is the physics behind VDSL, the technology used to bring FTTN to the majority of premises.

VDSL (or Very-high-bit-rate Digital Subscriber Line) is a technology behind FTTN architecture. It is, essentially, running on a mix of copper to the premises, running back to a cabinet, where the signal is converted to fibre and sent on to the backhaul of the network. VDSL is HIGHLY dependent on premises' geography for its' speed:

This graphic, from Boundless, a "Rural Broadband company" in Britain, gives a good idea of the unfortunate reality of VDSL. If you live within, say, 300m of your fibre cabinet VDSL2 (the newest iteration) will give you better speeds than ADSL2+. Within 1km, VDSL1 will STILL give you better speeds than ADSL2+, but after that, you're better off sticking with good old copper all the way to your exchange (Note: other graphs go higher to 300Mbps for VDSL2; this is not possible for most Australians, as I will explain). Now, in a country like the US or UK, where there are small, densely populated areas and even the "rural" areas are only a couple of tens of km's away, VDSL can make a difference. But, as I've shown before, 60% of Australians are more than 2km from their exchange. Alcatel-Lucent are boosting that, to enable people within 2km to received higher than 24Mbps, but it drops below that after 2km....again, no good for the majority of Australians. Let's face it, we're a spread out country, even in the suburbs. Boundless themselves actually have a novel idea of "Wireless Fibre" or "Fi-Wi" (WARNING Copyright infringement likely over the "Wi-Fi" brand....) where the cabinets have high power, fixed wireless that enable MUCH faster connections to those beyond 2km, up to 100Mbps. But this is not currently what we're discussing, as I'll talk about below.

One of the problems when talking about FTTN arguments in this country is we don't actually have fine detail about the Coalition's plan for FTTN. For example, will FTTN cover...40%, 50%, 60%, higher? Lower? We don't know. We were only told "97 percent of premises are able to be served by high speed networks capable of delivering from 100 Mbps down to a minimum of 12 Mbps peak speed" and this comes from the Coalition policy on Broadband from 2010- it is NOT the idea of SPECIFICALLY FTTN that Turnbull has launched since mid last year and which Tony Abbott FINALLY mentioned in his Reply to the Budget speech a few weeks ago. It is in fact the original broadband policy that contributed to them losing the 2010 election, which was a mix of subsidies to increase HFC rollout by Optus and Telstra, wireless in the rural and regional areas and other "undisclosed" subsidies for improving FTTH rollout in Greenfields. I have explained this policy and its' disadvantages in my "What about the Alternatives" post. The Coalition seems to have realised this isn't a decent policy now and have gone to FTTN; but we still have no information about it.

So, in actual fact, we have NO details about FTTN in terms of how much of the Australian populace it would cover. There is good reason for that, as I will demonstrate. Note: I know I'm wading into politics here, but unfortunately, the Coalition are basing much of their policy around politics, not good ideas. Such is life, we now have to wade through the muck to get to the gold about the realities of the FTTN in Australia.

The Telstra Dog and Pony Show

Telstra offered up its' 2 cents several years ago in 2006 about FTTN to 60% of the population, although it was shown later that, in fact, it would be to 40% of Australians, in the most profitable areas....and it wouldn't really be available to competitors thanks to the non-ability of the cabinets required in FTTN to allow competitors DSLAMs (the hardware that connects a competitors fibre backhaul with the customer line) to fit in and use ULL's (Unbundled Local Loops), essentially re-establishing a full Telstra monopoly to these areas. Needless to say, the ACCC threw this one out.

Next was Labor's original NBN, or NBN-1.0 as some people like to call it, that would provide "broadband speeds of up to 12Mbps to 98% of the population".  Seeing as almost 50% of Australians can (with some reliability) already access these speeds, it was considered by many a waste of time and money, as it wouldn't actually substantially increase the speeds the majority of Australians could receive. And for those it wouldn't be by much (another 20% can get speeds up to 10Mbps). But this was not the worst of this plan; oh not by a long shot.

See, this "12Mbps to 98%" could only be achieved using FTTN. This, of course, meant rolling fibre to, presumably, 98% of exchanges, whereby cabinets would be installed to "splice" the last mile copper into the fibre network. These cabinets would be large, powered and managed by Telstra. The copper, was to remain an integral part and therefore, Telstra must be compensated for it, as it was essentially actually selling the copper, as it would now be in the FTTN system. Well, that's not something Telstra, particularly then with Sol Triullo at the head at the time, would've parted with lightly. This was THEIR infrastructure, bought by shareholders, they would want fair recompense. The government was told, confidentially, according to experts at the time, Telstra would accept nothing less than $15-20 BILLION dollars for the copper CAN. That would put the total spend, at the time believed to be around $5 Billion, to around $20 Billion MINIMUM, for essentially the same service the majority of Australians had already. Oh, and it got even worse- Telstra, who would be out for competition of this new network, would simply build over it with FTTH in profitable areas and wipe its' usefulness out entirely if their were no laws to prevent it (as there are in the NBN). Telstra's own advisor to Sol at the time admitted as much.

So, Labor came up with the new plan of FTTH to 93%- NBN-2.0. And then we have this unknown % rollout of FTTN by the Coalition. But WHY is it unknown? Is it because the Coalition have simply not fleshed out the policy being this far from the Election? Quite possibly. There is no reason to believe otherwise....but there is a reason to suspect why they MIGHT want to hold back on fleshing it out at all.

The FTTN Australian Dillema

Assuming the Coalition are serious about FTTN, and assuming they will stay with their mantra of fixed wireless/satellite to a large portion of remote, rural and remote regional areas, then it would follow then that approx. 40% of premises would be passed by this FTTN network (seeing as 35% are classed semi-urban (unprofitable for new networks) or regional/rural, ~25% are serviced by current HFC and rounded out 5% remote). So at 40% of premises passed (my assumption isn't bad, considering that's what Quigley has assumed too, once you take into account HFC networks), what would this cost? The Coalition are saying $7.6 Billion. We'll work on $8 Billion. So, $8 Billion to provide 40% of premises with....what? Again, we don't know. 12Mbps? 50Mbps? 100Mbps? More? Again, we're going to assume around 50Mbps. The explanation for this is that, because FTTN speed, using VDSL, is HIGHLY dependent on proximity of its' cabinets to a premises (ie. length of the copper between the premises and fibre splicing point) there has to be a point of economic efficiency. Let's face it, if you roll the fibre to within 100m of each premises to give maximum speeds to all, you're getting AWFULLY close to a FTTH network and most of the cost OF the FTTH network is fibre laying. So, shortening the fibre run by increasing the distance from premises to cabinet is cheaper, at the cost of speed. Hence, the middle ground of 50Mbps.

So, that's $8 Billion to provide 40% of Australians with average 50Mbps. Wait a minute "average"? Yes, that's right, average. Depending on copper line quality, whether you have a physical pair gain system (shared copper line between 2 houses, which to be fair, would probably be upgraded) AND, most importantly, if you have 2 copper lines run to your house, of which the majority of people, don't. Telstra's CAN, in many places, has a single bonded pair of copper running to homes, with no spares available. But for VDSL2 to work, requires 2 bonded that won't work unless you lay more copper....and that's getting a bit silly. Already that FTTN is on shaky ground for the majority then. Also, as I've pointed out before, the majority (60%) of Australians live more than 2km from their exchange, which means, seeing as only 40% of Australians are classed as semi-urban or regional/rural, there must be some portion of this 40% getting FTTN that will require cabinets considerably closer than their exchange.

This, then, means several hundred, if not a thousand or more cabinets will have to be installed for these 40% to get ANY benefit whatsoever above the 24 Mbps available via ADSL2+ to most premises. Also, to make it a reasonable investment, even those inside the 2km limit, will likely need that cut in half to achieve 50Mbps, partly, because without adding a bonded copper pair, VDSL2 speeds aren't available, so VDSL1 is all we have. Hence, likely, several thousand cabinets. All these will, possibly, be administered and installed by NBNCo., as the Coaliton have recently stated they will keep working with NBNCo. if elected and not scrap the company. (this seems logical, now they've realised, because it cost nearly $300 Million just to set everything up (see the Corporate Plan)).

So, the FTTN has become a FTTC (Fibre-to-the-Curb) network, running to approx. 40% of premises, mainly in city suburbs and large regional hubs. We've fleshed this out ourselves, because, as I've said, we have no details of the Coalition's actual policy, but this is in agreeance with most experts and it seems,  at least some of the Coalition now.(read the comments section). There will be ~25% of Australians covered by HFC networks (subsidised to increase competition). And that leaves 40% covered by the copper CAN, or, wireless. The Coalition have not yet said what % of this 40% will get wireless. Obviously, if wireless can only provide 12Mbps (as under the NBN) and some of that 40% can already get 8-10Mbps on copper, they're unlikely to get wireless. Let's say 10% of the last 40% would get wireless, at up to 12Mbps.

A Coalition Broadband Policy, finally....maybe....

So, here we are then, the Coalition's Broadband Policy, as produced (in copyright protection, of course) by me (backed up with help by Citigroup's analysis, if I need to be honest):

- FTTN upgrade to ~40% of premises in Urban, semi-Urban and high density Regional areas
- HFC to ~25% of premises in existence already, subsidies to make competition better and drive prices down
- Copper CAN continuation to ~25% of premises, able to receive speeds of up to 24Mbps (many less)
- Wireless to 10% of premises currently unable to get much over speed over the CAN, if at all

So, this then, is the Coalition's "mixed technologies" plan, or "alternative path of upgrade" as Turnbull calls it in his speech to the Broadband conference in Malaysia recently.

What speeds do we get from this? Now? (or when it is done rather) 25% of premises up to 100Mbps (HFC), 40% average 50Mbps (FTTN), 25% up to 24Mbps (CAN) and 10% up to 12 Mbps (Wireless). So, if you want fast broadband, under the Coalition, looks like you'll have to choose carefully where you move for work or play. Ultimately, this plays against the Coalition, because this fragments the market, making it difficult for consumers who move around (and there are alot of us, look at the rental market). And, as Citigroup notes, it will actually promote, even more than now, the geographic nature of wholesale, and subsequent retail prices of broadband, meaning the digital divide we already experience gets significantly worse as private companies refuse to invest in non-profitable areas.

Upgrading...or not

However, of course, even this last paragraph is assumption. Because of course, we haven't dealt with the "white Elephant in the room" yet; the NBN. If the Coalition do indeed win the 2013 election and opt to stop the NBN where it sits, that will still leave somewhere between 10-20% of people on the NBN ALL over Australia. (perhaps THIS is why NBNCo.'s rollout seems haphazard, makes it more difficult to stop...?)

So we need to modify our numbers again. Some people in Armidale will have access to 100Mbps on the NBN, while some people in Blacktown, Sydney, won't get above 24Mbps and that's if they're lucky enough to get that at all. This seems like a fairly farcical situation and indeed it would be. How would the Coalition deal with this? Part of the reason the NBN is going in is to "close the digital divide" of regional and urban Australians (or even semi-urban and urban Australians...). I don't have an answer for this. All I can assume is that they would choose to increase the amount of FTTN rolled out to deal with these areas that some have NBN and some don't. Otherwise, you'd be left with the East half of a town with 100Mbps and the West half with possibly little access to broadband at all!

So our policy price goes up. To what? This is pure conjecture here, but while it's clear from Citigroup's analysis it would indeed be more than the $8 Billion we've been working with, (they suggest $16.7 including all legislation) Citigroup work on the assumption of no NBN whatsoever, so we can't use those numbers. I would hesitate to put down a figure, but my guess would be.....$23-25 Billion, including all legislation and CBA, seeing as FTTN gets more and more expensive the further apart premises get. And much of the NBN would have stopped in regional areas, where FTTN may not have been slated under a "pure status quo" situation. Now, of course, we're in a situation where the % on copper has decreased, the % on wireless MAY have decreased and the % on FTTN increases, significantly. Possibly to as high as 55%, although likely hovering around 50%.

And there's the next question too, of where do we go from there? Paul Fletcher believes there is much technologically we can do yet with HFC, copper AND FTTN. Technologies like phantoming and DMM in FTTN can provide current bandwidth up to 300Mbps along last-mile copper, very true....but what he doesn't point out is that phantoming and DMM are VDSL2 technologies and, as I've said, many Australians don't have 2 bonded pairs going to their houses. Also, 300Mbps is PEAK speed at no more than 300m from the exchange. It drops rapidly after that.

Here's also an interesting tidbit from ospmag:

Due to the amount of calculations involved, vectoring will provide the best results in nodes with a limited number of lines (FTTN or FTTB deployments, for instance). The only requirement is that all lines are under full control of a single operator, meaning that there can be no sub-local loop unbundling. Indeed, if the lines belong to multiple operators and are terminated on different nodes, then there's no way to collect all the signal and crosstalk data.

Emphasis added; the vectoring here is talking about VDSL2 technology paths. Hmmm, single operator?....sounds awfully familiar...I seem to remember a certain incumbent telco back in 2006 presenting something like this....Of course, if NBNCo. was enabled to deal with the FTTN section, this would possibly be viable. But we, as yet, have no confirmation on any of this. Worrying nonetheless that FTTN higher bandwidth technologies simply do not ALLOW competitors to use the line if it was to be built by Telstra....

HFC? We could node split, much like FTTN where we put cabinets closer to the premises. But apart from many large and unsightly cabinets, the investment would be substantial. How much? Unknown, until it becomes clear what sort of bandwidth is being demanded.

Copper? VDSL2 straight from the exchange is all we have at the moment. But being useless beyond 2km, that makes it useless for 60% of Australians, probably many of whom are the ones with the WORST current broadband. And of course it depends on copper quality too, which, depending on which side of the NBN argument you're on, appears to be "really bloody awful in general" or "quite adequate for the most part" half full/empty anyone? comment....

Wireless? Well, there's no question LTE is greatly boosting bandwidth for both fixed wireless AND mobile solutions. I've already talked about wireless as a "competitor" to the NBN in my "What about the Alternatives?" post, so leaving that aside, what other wireless options are available? There's the "Fi-Wi" I mentioned earlier, where FTTN is run and instead of using the copper in the ground already, we could put high power LTE transceivers and hardware on nodes to provide coverage at anywhere from 3-20km depending on the frequency. The speeds would be in excess of 40Mbps (real-world) currently, and more in the future to many in the wireless serving areas, much higher than many have now. Obviously, this would be a secondary "internet only"connection as, to have reliable phone, copper connection would still be required. (VOIP would still be possible however)

There are problems surrounding this- contention, as has been explained before (think Sunday night, everyone's home, schoolwork, work work, watching youTube/iView...) and it applies here, as more people access it, the spectrum is shared, so it reduces throughput. Weather, although this is a minor factor unless high wind or lighting knock-out transceivers. Transmission power; this is because there would have to be several of these "Wireless nodes" to cover a decent number of premises and allow sufficient bandwidth for those premises, due to contention. The power would have to be enough to overcome interference from surrounding LTE transceivers AND domestic wireless devices. I won't go into this debate, but we're ALREADY seeing much argument surrounding actual affects of EM radiation with just mobile wireless towers. I for one, DON'T believe it has everlasting harm, but that's me....

The bottom line

So what IS the bottom line here? The bottom line is....there isn't one, at least for the Coalition plan currently. We don't have enough information. But I believe my analysis (with help) has shown that even with some of the best circumstances, the Coalition's plan would deliver little benefit for the similar cost of the NBN. There is several quotes that come to mind, one being the famous "Do it Once. Do it Right. Do it with Fibre" mantra that was thrown around years ago on the topic of FDDI networks in large corporations. Of course, then Gigabit copper came along and removed its' much less cost too, as a slap in the face. However, I believe this applies for FTTH, unlike for LAN FDDI, which is short range only (less than 1km, usually less than 500m), mainly because of this statement from ospmag's "Turning Copper into Gold" article by Stefaan Vanhastel and Wim Van Daele:

FTTH, with fiber running all the way from the central office to each home and every apartment, is the clear endgame. FTTH architectures are future-safe, enabling operators to deliver (more or less) unlimited bandwidth: 100 Mbps per household today, with technology evolutions set to increase this in the future. Their main drawback, however, is that (nationwide) FTTH deployments require a lot of time and money.

And also:

FTTH is the clear end-game, supporting the delivery of 100 Mbps per household today and technology evolutions set to further increase this in the future.

So, we KNOW the NBN is going to cost between $27 Billion and, somewhere around $30 Billion (to the Government, total cost likely to blowout to maybe $45 Billion) once inevitable blowouts and inefficiencies are taken into account. (such as NBNCo.'s recent revelation that 1/3 of their address data (NOT their own) is wrong and Telstra's delay of 8 months in signing the Telstra Financial Heads of Agreement on NBN). This is high, but I've shown it is not a taxpayer burden and our government debt levels are some of the best in the Western world, therefore the risk is minimised.

Seeing as it appears ALL telco's are moving towards the ultimate goal of FTTH, as it gives the most bandwidth capability and the only reason they don't ALL jump straight to it is cost and investment risk, and the government is backing FTTH investment mitigating the risk, why NOT "Do it Once. Do it Right. Do it with Fibre" all the way? It would be a world first. A massive boon to our digital and real economy. Social benefits also innumerable in a country as vast as ours would prevail.

Why NOT be the envy of the world? We do it so well elsewhere....