The new NBN fibre/ADSL digital divide


blog In amongst all the noise from the politicians over the National Broadband Network rollout in Tasmania was buried a very interesting comment from a business owner in Smithton who’s had NBN fibre for six months already. From The Examiner:

One Smithton business owner, Brett Dawes, said from his six months’ experience, internet users must be on the same bandwidth for the network to work properly. “There is not much point having a patch connected here and a patch connected there – it’s all or nothing,” he said.

I couldn’t help reflecting when I read this that the digital divide between those who have the NBN and those who don’t is already starting. Not only has this guy already had the NBN for six months — when 99 percent of the rest of the country has no idea when we’ll get it — but he’s already noticed a difference between his own connection and others. I’m sure he’s experienced more than a few problems transferring large files between his premises and other locations in Australia which only have ADSL or even lesser forms of broadband (hello, 3G).

Also … he’s had it for six months already? That bastard.

Image credit: Piotr Ciuchta, royalty free


  1. This was always going to be true…you can’t build it in every place at once. It’s a “problem” that will taper off as the rollout continues.

  2. In my work there is so much time lost because of people trying to upload files on adsl, and then re-upload, and then re-re-upload, and then … oh bugger it just send them a usb key.

    Roll on the NBN.

    • If you take a 1.1 terabyte hard drive and you send it through the post (remember the bubble wrap) and it gets there the next day, that’s a data rate of about 100M bits per second. Aus Post will charge you about $10 for that, most couriers will charge you a little bit more. The NBN CVC charge on the same transfer is more that $60.

      I’ll leave you to puzzle over that one for a while.

      Needless to say, the NBN will also charge you for all the days you don’t send any data.

      • Sure. So by that measure on an current average adsl UPLOAD connection it would theoretically take probably the whole calendar month to deliver at about $50-$70. Hmm which would you choose..

        But that’s the whole point. It’s never been feasible to send a terabyte drive down the line, both for practical and cost reasons. It would cost my business about $12,000 to send a terabyte on our current fibre connection (other business plans might be a little cheaper but nothing under a $1,000 per month), and it’s pointless trying to do it over adsl.

        It only becomes feasible once both the capacity and usage increases across the board to bring the prices down.

        I’ll be happy when people can reliably send me 20-50MB files at a reasonable price let alone 1TB. The sooner we get this done the sooner the pricing will become more competitive.

  3. What would be also interesting would be asking other business owners in Smithton (I assume there is more than one) why they have decided they don’t need it.

  4. This is a very real constraint on all current 100Mbps services (and even slower services like cable or those who are getting 20Mbps from their ADSL). If you’re only getting 2Mbps from overseas sites now (and you often are), you will still only get 2Mbps from those sites even with a faster pipe here. Servers can only send data so fast; the key is making sure the sending server, and not the recipient’s broadband, is the bottleneck.

    If I may:

    • It’s a chicken and egg problem. Server providers won’t bother updating their upload bandwidth if there is no need for it. Backhaul bandwidth and international bandwidth are the same.

      The home connection is the most expensive piece of this puzzle through, so it is the greatest threat to updating infrastructure in this respect. What we do to home connectionls determines what topology we need for the rest of the network.

    • That’s why there are plenty of companies investing in local data centres including ironically Bevan Slattery’s NextDC. Increased traffic from the NBN should lower overall local data rates and create incentives for people to host locally.

      If we can get to the market threshold to where Google and or Amazon decide to setup shop here we’re set. Admittedly I don’t know what that threshold is, but at the moment they’re willing to sacrifice latency for the convenience of serving us out of the west coast just because the market is too small. The NBN should change that because there will be a much more noticable difference and demand beyond the gaming network for low latency SAAS applications, edge caching, and video on demand.

      • It’s going to be difficult to host locally unless electricity comes down in price.

        Is NBN going to also charge CVC prices to the hosting providers? If they do then overseas will still be much cheaper.

        • That’s why it needs bandwidth and not just latency as an incentive trade off for price. The don’t think CVC would have much bearing on a host connection just simply because your average 1Gbps connection is already astronomical in price. But until we see how it pans out I don’t know..

      • i do know Google has expressed interest in getting more involved in the Aussie market when the NBN is in many more places than it is now – that bit is absolutely correct and i wouldnt be surprised to hear Amazon in the same boat. i think Hulu – who currently put up a ‘this service is not available in your country’ flag when a website uses one of their hosted videos – is also waiting on NBN to open its doors as it were. Yes external pipes will still be limiting but internally i wont be surprised to see domestic usage lift and by quite a bit.

        any business that is NBN hosted and can offer its product to Aussies at a significant portion of the customers up to 100mbit link will be a business well worth wathing.

        Tel, as far as Google is concerned, with its corporate HQ they have heavily invested in a large solar system – one site claims ‘It is said to be the largest solar power system ever installed on a single corporate campus. ‘ i wouldnt be surprised to see if Google do build a DC here that it comes with a similar solar outfit, which will lower their price exposure to local power co.s – its a fair point and something that will definitely need to be considered by the bigger cloud/entertainment/business services with large DC needs who want to put up shop and take advantage of the NBN transmission rates. personally i think theyd be idiots to not consider something along the lines of Google for cutting back on power needs.. but im not any kind of big DC manager :)

  5. Cant wait til the NBN Fibre gets here.
    It should have been built a decade ago instead of telstra being sold.

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