news The National Broadband Network Company has shot down in flames inaccurate claims by a non-technical analyst this week that all Australian telecommunications would be based on wireless technologies by the time construction of the predominantly fibre-based NBN was completed.
In an article published by News.com.au this morning, David Chalke, a self-professed ‘social analyst’ with Quantum Market Research, claimed that the NBN’s fibre infrastructure was irrelevant. “Everything is going to be wireless by the time they’ve dug up the roads and stuffed the pipes,” he said. “It will be too late, it’s all going to be mobile and wireless in the future.”
It is believed that Chalke’s statement is highly inaccurate, with the global telecommunications industry universally in agreement that future telecommunications services will see a combination of fixed and wireless services used to provide access, as it is today. In addition, local commentators on the NBN have repeatedly emphasised that even leading mobile networks such as Telstra’s Next G network will increasingly depend on fibre-optic backbone links to mobile phone base stations in future, as they largely do today. The increasing popularity of online video streaming and conferencing services is one of the key factors which is placing a heavy burden on telecommunications infrastructure. Fixed infrastructure is best suited for delivering this kind of content.
In a statement issued this afternoon, NBN Co said Chalke’s claim was simply inaccurate. “Recent claims that “the rise of mobile internet through smartphones and tablets threatens to make the NBN a waste of money” and “out of date” were not supported by the facts,” the company said.
“The eternal problems associated with spectrum scarcity – such as mobile congestion and a hefty price premium placed on using such a limited resource – are not going to go away,” said NBN Co chief technology officer Gary McLaren. “They may help explain why over the past 12 months the average amount of data being downloaded over mobile devices per subscriber per month grew by only six per cent. By contrast, average fixed broadband data usage in the same period grew by more than 80 per cent.”
McLaren cited recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which showed that the “vast bulk” of Australia’s Internet usage — some 92 percent — was carried over fixed line connections rathr than wireless. “The proportion of mobile handset downloads over mobile networks is estimated to make up just 1.4 per cent of total internet downloads in Australia,” he said. “Other wireless broadband technologies account for just 6.6 per cent.”
McLaren reiterated that better fixed line infrastructure was essential to ease the load being placed on mobile networks. He pointed to a recent Informa study of 200,000 smartphone users in six countries that showed that on a global basis nearly 70 per cent of data usage on smartphones was over Wi-Fi rather than mobile networks. Wi-Fi generally relies on a fixed line network to connect to the internet. “Fixed lines remain the engine-room of downloads in this country and around the world. As data-heavy applications such as video become more prevalent there will be an increasing need for robust fixed connections such as the NBN,” McLaren said.
Telstra chief executive David Thodey has publicly stated that it is clear that fixed and wireless broadband services are complementary rather than direct replacements for each other. “They are very different products. In the home, we’re enabling a whole new digital future for how they get entertainment, how they interact with each other, what they do, how they transact,” he said in February, according to ZDNet.com.au. “The other experience is what they do on the move. We see enormous opportunity for people to have multiple products going forward.”
The inaccurate nature of Chalke’s claims was also highlighted by posters on broadband forum Whirlpool, who signalled the fact that the analyst appeared to have gone to ground on the issue. “What baffles me is how can David Chalk claim to be an “Expert” and have a news article published when he hasn’t researched all aspects of his discussion topic?” wrote forum member ‘mashynewie’. “I phoned Quantum Market Research today for comment and they provided me with David’s mobile number but it has been switched off all day, I have sent him an SMS asking for him to call me back, if he does, I will post his reply here.”
It really is getting too easy to shut down the increasingly ludicrous attacks which News Ltd media outlets around Australia have levelled on the National Broadband Network project over the past few years. To be honest, I’m surprised that NBN Co even bothered responding to this one — it’s so outlandish a statement, by someone who has so little qualification to speak on the matter, that The Advertiser’s article on this subject almost reads like satire.
You would think that News Ltd would have given up its attacks on NBN Co by now, after The Daily Telegraph was shown to be repeatedly inaccurate in its NBN reporting, after The Australian was forced to publish a correction to a factually inaccurate article, after it found no evidence of wrong-doing by NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley in his previous career at Alcatel-Lucent and after one of its journalists laughably claimed the NBN threatened the “way of life” in NSW’s sunny Shire district.
But it doesn’t appear the FUD being thrown at the NBN is going to stop any time soon.
Image credit: Still from Gladiator