Dreaming of the perfect NBN policy


opinion In an ideal world, the perfect National Broadband Network policy would be a mix of the policies espoused by both Labor and the Coalition, taking the best ideas from both sides and ditching the bad ones. It would address Australia’s short-term needs while still investing in the future. Here’s how it would work.

Over the past few years, as I’ve been covering and commenting on the National Broadband Network policy development process and rollout, I’ve repeatedly been asked what sort of deployment model I would follow if I was in charge of setting telecommunications policy in Australia. Would I back Labor’s comprehensive, decade-long, predominantly fibre to the home infrastructure rollout? Or, would I favour the Coalition’s more minimalistic approach, which will see more infrastructure quickly re-used and a focus on helping the commercial market to solve its own problems?

I’ve given it a great deal of thought over that time, and come to the conclusion that I would attempt to utilise the best points which both sides of politics have contributed to the NBN debate, while discarding those features of each sides’ policies which I see as weak.

The first thing I would do, if I were Communications Minister, is legislate to force Optus and Telstra to connect their HFC cable installations to individual residences and business premises in multi-dwelling unit buildings (MDUs), if either owners or renters requested it. And I would provide a modest financial package to help the telcos justify the additional cost.

I have several friends in Sydney and Melbourne who are already enjoying the 100Mbps broadband speeds which Labor’s NBN plan promises to bring to Australia. They can access them as they live, like a huge proportion of Australia does, in areas served by the HFC cable rollouts pursued by both Telstra and Optus in the earlier years of this decade.

I too, live in these areas and would like to access these speeds. However, unlike my friends, I live in a rented apartment in Sydney’s inner suburbs, and although both Telstra and Optus have HFC cable running down our street, they won’t connect it to our premises because to do so, I have been told many times, they would have to get the permission of the building owner to connect up the entire block of apartments, rather than just the one I live in. And of course, getting notoriously tight-fisted apartment block owners to fund a half dozen apartments’ to be connected to HFC cable is just not a realistic proposition.

However, with legislation enacted to force Telstra, Optus, and MDU owners to come to the table on this one for individual residents, and a small financial incentive, on a per premise basis, to sweeten the package for them, this wouldn’t be a problem. Suddenly, hundreds of thousands of Australians could get access to dramatically faster broadband speeds — for a fraction of the investment and much sooner than the planned NBN rollout. This aspect of my plan would come from the Coalition side of the fence, seeing this HFC infrastructure re-used, at least in the medium-term — say, the next five years or so.

My next step would be to target broadband blackspots. As a technology journalist I frequently receive complaints about residents or business owners in certain areas not being able to receive broadband at all. Before Telstra and its rivals rolled out their 3G networks, there was often just no broadband at all in some areas of Australia — not unless you wanted to pay several thousand dollars a month, in which case Telstra could certainly arrange something.

With the rollout of 3G networks, the game has changed. Now many Australians can get access to wireless broadband, but not fixed broadband. The issue they face here, in the short to medium term, is primarily related to cost. To access the same level of downloads they would want (and many Australians are signed up to plans up to 100GB on fixed broadband), they will pay an order of magnitude more than they would on fixed broadband plans. To resolve this issue, I would provide a direct government subsidy to support these users who can receive 3G wireless, but not fixed, broadband, and who need to purchase higher quota plans. This aspect also comes from the Coalition’s side of the fence.

In areas where fibre has already been deployed, such as in South Brisbane and some greenfields estates, I would likely legislate to compulsorily acquire that infrastructure under the Constitution and make it a part of the long-term NBN. It’s just too much hassle dealing with the greenfields companies and Telstra in these kind of situations — and I think most retail ISPs and end users are frustrated with the ongoing stand-offs in these areas.

You can see with these first steps that no infrastructure rollout is required — merely legislative change and government support for uncommercial areas of the telecommunications market. Yet these are areas which could see instant quick wins, which the current Labor Government is ignoring. Now we get to the infrastructure — and here is where Labor’s NBN plan generally shines.

We know from NBN Co’s technical testimony on the matter, and research I’ve conducted myself, that current and planned satellites over Australia will just not cut the mustard in being able to provide for Australia’s satellite broadband needs, for the small portion of the country which can’t access any other form of broadband. Consequently, I would implement NBN Co’s satellite plan immediately. I would, in the short-term, provide subsidised access to other commercial satellites as per NBN Co’s interim satellite project, giving many Australians access to up to 6Mbps speeds instantly.

Then I would progress the plan to launch two NBN Co-owned satellites to deliver long-term speeds of up to 12Mbps to rural and remote Australians. There is absolutely no question that this is worth doing, and that no commercial organisation is going to do it. This is something which Australia needs and should go ahead with. As with the interim plan, NBN Co would provide access to these satellite services only on a wholesale model, with retail ISPs to deal with the actual customers.

Concurrently, given that the majority of Australia’s metropolitan areas are already covered by broadband (ADSL2+, HFC cable, 3G/4G) which will be broadly sufficient for their needs for the next few years, I would immediately focus my efforts on, as NBN Co currently is, deploying competitive backhaul fibre infrastructure to areas such as Geraldton in WA, Darwin in the NT, Broken Hill, and so on. I would also build another fibre cable across Bass Strait to Tasmania.

The deployment of this infrastructure, as we have already seen, would immediately stimulate investment by retail ISPs such as iiNet in those areas, boosting the availability of fast broadband through ADSL2+ and helping to bring prices in line with city areas through providing competition to Telstra’s existing monopoly backhaul lines. NBN Co would sell access to these lines to retail ISPs.

Now we get to the sticky part: The part which everyone argues about. All of these are interim measures. How, you might ask, will I address the long-term replacement of Telstra’s copper access network?

Now, bear in mind, up until this point, I have focused primarily on interim measures. All of the steps I have outlined so far in this article have been aimed at ensuring that all Australians will have access to a basic level of broadband services over the next five to seven years. All I have done so far is raise the bar in the medium term to address many of the outstanding issues which continue to plague Australia’s telecommunications environment.

In addition, so far I have not really addressed the situation with regards to long-term competition in the telecommunications sector. In fact, aside from stimulating rural competition via competitive backhaul, so far I have largely left the market structure of the sector intact, with a few large players — Telstra, Optus, iiNet, AAPT and Vodafone — continuing to dominate.

My long-term plan for Australia’s telecommunications needs is broadly based on Labor’s NBN policy, but with a few flourishes of my own, and some of the Coalition’s.

Firstly, there is no doubt that the fibre replacement of Telstra’s copper telephony network in Australia must happen over the next decade or so. The copper is reaching the limit of its useful life, and must be replaced to provide for future needs. And the current structure of NBN Co’s contract with Telstra for that replacement is a good one. Telstra has agreed to be compensated for the replacement of its assets, and NBN Co gets access to Telstra’s facilities and a guaranteed burst of customers onto its new fibre network.

In addition, as my other moves will have addressed many of Australia’s short to medium-term broadband problems and the NBN proposal has long been projected to make a return on its investment, there really is no need to consider fibre to the node as an alternative strategy to fibre to the home. A decade to replace Australia’s copper network is not a long time for this kind of infrastructure deployment, and the long-term profit to be made by the NBN sweetens the deal and makes FTTN unnecessary as an option. Labor has definitely done enough to make its case for FTTH at this point.

However, unlike the current NBN plan, I would focus on deploying fibre first to those areas where Australia has the highest population density: Major city, urban and inner suburban areas where a lot of people live and where NBN Co can get the quickest uptake and return on its investment. Then I would extend that fibre outwards gradually to the core areas of smaller, regional and rural cities and the outer areas of the major cities over a decade-long period.

Why would I do this? Firstly, it would guarantee an influx of income to NBN Co, helping to address concerns about it being perceived as a government slush fund. But that’s just a perception thing. The real reason is that there is just more demand for higher-level speeds in these areas, and it’s where you can get the biggest bang for your buck faster. There are more high-tech businesses in these areas, more early adopter consumers who will use the NBN’s capacity more fully, lots of people crammed into apartment blocks to soak up the bandwidth, and so on. This is where the demand for better broadband truly lies.

If you live in the back of beyond somewhere like Broken Hill (as I did for the majority of my childhood), then by no means should you expect to receive these kind of services at the same time as others in major cities get them. That’s life in the bush. Change comes slowly there. If you want high-speed change and access to the latest services, move to the city. That’s the reality of modern life globally. Why spend more to roll out to the bush first, for less immediate return, to areas where there is less demand? This ‘outside-in’ aspect of Labor’s plan was always political in nature — to keep the independents happy after the 2010 Federal Election. It’s a flawed approach.

I would also modify the NBN rollout to focus it along the lines of the 14 points of interconnect model strongly pushed by Internode founder Simon Hackett over the past several years. The ludicrous 121 POI model mandated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has already led to a decline in competition in Australia’s telecommunications sector, and we don’t need new wholesalers to sit between NBN Co and retail ISPs. What we need is the ability for small ISPs to compete with larger ones equally on the NBN’s fibre infrastructure. And that means less PoIs. Sure, this may somewhat strand the infrastructure of duopolists Telstra and Optus. Who cares? They’ll still do pretty well out of the whole arrangement.

Speaking of Optus, I would can NBN Co’s deal with Optus. The $800 million arrangement gives Optus an unfair advantage over rivals like TPG and iiNet, and is unnecessary. All of Optus’ customers will eventually move onto the NBN eventually; there’s no need to pay the company for that. The deal has been unsavoury from the start.

Lastly, yes, I would proceed with fixed wireless in some rural and regional areas where the population density simply makes it uneconomical at this point to deploy fibre. This is something which basically everyone agrees on at this point, and such a wireless deployment could proceed concurrently with the fibre and satellite deployments, again targeting areas outside the planned fibre footprint of highest density and then need. Of course, in these areas I would also make sure existing ADSL broadband services were still made available ad infinitum, taking those under the NBN Co’s wing long-term if necessary.

As NBN Co has done, I would also set up a policy where communities or individuals could pay themselves to have the NBN’s fibre extended from core city areas to their own locations, if the fibre wasn’t going to be extended out that way eventually. This just makes basic sense. But I wouldn’t let those efforts hamstring the mainstream rollout.

With respect to the long-term future of the HFC cable networks operated by Telstra and Optus, I would leave them be and let Telstra and Optus continue to provide services over them. The customers on those networks will have, by the time the NBN is fully rolled out, more than have compensated both telcos for the cost of building the networks several decades before, and perhaps their continued existence will help keep the NBN itself honest, with some degree of infrastructure competition. However, I anticipate that the modest number of Australians on the HFC cable networks would eventually mostly shift to the much more powerful NBN eventually anyway, off their own bat.

As a final flourish, in the extreme long-term, as NBN Co is a government entity, I would ensure once the network has reached its initial 93 percent target for fibre coverage across Australia following its decade-long rollout, that any profits from the network’s operation were ploughed into extending it further, replacing wireless and satellite services with ubiquitous fibre where possible.

Should NBN Co become a commercial entity in the long-term, being sold off to the private market? Quite possibly. But that’s a matter for policy makers 15 to 20 years in the future — I would not presume to know what the right decision is there. However, I would set long-term legislative guards on NBN Co to ensure that that decision was not made lightly.

With the policy outlined above, I hope I have demonstrated that there are elements to both Labor’s and the Coalition’s NBN policies that are worthwhile, and would come into play in a perfect world. Labor’s NBN policy is extremely visionary in the long-term, but doesn’t really address many of Australia’s broadband problems over the short to medium-term. In comparison, the Coalition’s own policy has some great short to medium-term wins, but doesn’t satisfactorily address the long-term issues around the necessary upgrade of Australia’s customer access network.

Of course, I will never be elected Communications Minister, and this policy will never be enacted. Australia will likely end up with a policy slanted towards either the Coalition or Labor instead. But that’s the thing about perfect plans — they only exist in an idealised world. In the real world, unfortunately we have to deal with an imperfect reality.


  1. This part “for a fraction of the cost and much faster than the planned NBN rollout.” I’m guessing you meant SOONER than the NBN rollout? Given the discussions lately it might be worth making that point clearer (unless you really mean that HFC cable would be FASTER than NBN?).

  2. Once everyone can connect to HFC without restriction would be there a point where FTTH would be rolled out? Once it goes below say XMb of an evening? Would you suggest replacing it in 2020 when 1Gb broadband is the goal and it can’t do it? Why not just roll out the HFC areas last and the problem would pretty much be addressed.

    • No, the NBN fibre rollout should ignore the HFC dynamic. The reality of HFC is that as more people connect to it, it will become more congested. On the decade-long time frame that the NBN FTTH rollout will need to take place, as more people connect to HFC, there will be more and more need for the NBN’s FTTH. HFC is only a stopgap measure — just a very good one.

      • The bottom line is that if HFC were the solution, they’d be rolling out everywhere, yet Telstra and Optus stopped rolling it out over a decade ago.

          • GPON works the same way has HFC in this regard, it’s a shared medium network. The potential for GPON to become congested is no different to that of HFC, and is a decision fundamentally made by the telco as to how many subscribers and at what speeds to allow those subscribers to attach. In this regard, ADSL is better than both HFC and GPON, as the link from the subscriber to the aggregation point (i.e. the exchange) is dedicated bandwidth for that individual subscriber.


          • @MarkS

            The potential for NBN GPON to be the same as the HFC we have is untrue. The NBN GPON will have a contention of 1:32. At an initial speed of 2.5Gbps per FSM, that gives a maximum of 78mbps full speed for all 32 premises on the FSM. Later, this total bandwidth will be upgraded to 10Gbps and then 40Gbps down. Giving possible maximums for all premises of 323mbps then 1.2gbps.

            I am not currently aware of Telstra and Optus contention ratios. But I would suggest, that seeing as quite a few people are getting 40mbps or less, then they’re in the vicinity of 50-60:1.

            They are both shared mediums. But NBN GPON has much greater potential in its current form. To match it with HFC (in downloads only, uploads can’t be matched) it would require several tens if not hundreds of millions to node split HFC.

          • @Anthony

            Mmm, no, that’s not quite correct. I’m talking forced contention top speed of all customers running at maximum speed and filling the bandwidth of a fibre node.

            What BT are providing is maximum PLAN speeds of 330mbps available to customers. When NBN will offer 323mbps contended top speed, the PLAN speed will be as high as 1gbps.

            It’s a small but important distinction because, in fact, depending on BT’s contention, that 323mbps will likely only be 80mbps contended maximum. This is because the node will run both FTTC/FTTN AND FTTH. It’s a shared medium over 2 types of architecture, so It’s not directly comparable to the NBN.

          • No probs Anthony. It’s this whole “Up to” thing we seem to be obsessed with in broadband. It’d be GREAT if we could all achieve max speed…..but it’d cost a FORTUNE to do it that way! :D

          • You have actually proven my point. If “tier-1” carriers like Telstra and Optus are not going to run their HFC networks congestion free, how can you be sure NBNco are going to? NBNco aren’t making that assurance. Furthermore, they’re going to the effort of QoS enabling their network (TC1, TC4), which also means that they expect that at some point there will be periods of congestion that impact people connected to it. QoS is a congestion management mechanism which isn’t necessary if you never have congestion.

          • @Mark S

            I’ve never stated NBNCo.won’t run congestion free. However, HFC’s contention is varied and is thought to be somewhere around 60:1, on average- some are more, some are less. NBNCo.’s is 32:1. HFC has a maximum throughput of something like 1Gbps for the headend. NBN’s GPON is 2.5Gbps.

            So yes, they are BOTH contended mediums- but HFC’s inherent contention is MUCH higher than NBN GPON, meaning even IF the NBN reaches contention maximums (which it won’t, because the GPON is ALREADY going through GPON10 trials) it will STILL give, on current equipment, 78Mbps maximum possible filled node speed, compared with 10Mbps maximum possible filled node speed on HFC.

            QoS is on the NBN because it is a VOICE CARRYING service. HFC is not. HFC is also NOT available to business. NBN fibre is, hence, NBN fibre HAS to be more reliable for critical traffic ie QoS.

            Your original statement that “The potential for GPON to become congested is no different to that of HFC…” is NOT factually accurate. The potential for GPON to become congested is MUCH lower than on HFC currently. And it will continue to be so.

          • DSL is not any better – the contention point is the DSLAM and its backhaul link. Connect 300 DSL ports to a DSLAM with a GigE uplink and see how contention-free all the DSL services are.

          • In other words, your saying that the congestion point isn’t within the DSL network (or rather, the point-to-point DSL tails between subscribers and the backhaul aggregation point), but at the point where the DSL network is connected backhaul. That possible congestion point also exists in GPON networks and HFC networks. GPON does not inherently eliminate it.

            GPON, compared to traditional point-to-point/hub-and-spoke fibre networks, is a compromise, driven by cost. If Australia truly wanted a “rolls royce” FTTH network, then the NBN should have been built using 1000BASE-LX/1000BASE-LX10. I’m not saying they should have built it that way, however people should realise that GPON also has limitations that are similar to HFC, and it is completely up to the provider’s traffic management philosophy as to whether the attached customers suffer or not from those limitations. NBNco are not making assurances that there will not be congestion within the NBN, and are “QoS enabling it”, which means they expect there will be periods of congestion on it – QoS is only necessary at times of congestion, as it is used to prioritise one packet over another, so that the former packet is delayed. If packets aren’t suffering long delays in queues, then there is no need to start selectively moving some of them ahead of others, or dropping others.

          • >”I’m not saying they should have built it that way, however people should realise that GPON also has limitations that are similar to HFC, and it is completely up to the provider’s traffic management philosophy as to whether the attached customers suffer or not from those limitations.”

            I’ll leave that one to Seven_Tech but I can well imagine there will be 10 years before we have any ‘major’ conjestion issues with FTTh unlike those that you would get with HFC if you didn’t add in more nodes.

            Happy to be corrected…

          • I’m sorry Mark S, but you’re going down the wrong path.

            HFC’s contention comes from both the fibre backhaul/node capacity AND the fact that the ACTUAL HFC cable is shared. GPON’s ONLY comes from the fibre backhaul/node capacity. In GPON, each premises has it’s own fibre core from the node. IN HFC, each premises has a Coax core that is joined to the main cable outside their house, THEN that main cable goes back to the node.

            GPON is a shared medium. But its’ contention POTENTIAL is much LOWER than that of HFC in this country. For Telstra/Optus HFC to TRULY compete with GPON, they would have to node split, as current nodes have a maximum capacity of 100 premises. Node splitting to 32 premises would achieve similar contention potential to GPON (in other words, 3 nodes for every 1 node now). THAT is why neither Telstra OR Optus will spend the money- it’s cheaper overall to rollout FTTH, as it is eminently more upgradable than HFC.

            Again, QoS is necessary on the NBN because it is a CRITICAL DATA carrying network. It carries voice AND business data. HFC carries neither. It would’ve been utter folly for NBNCo. to not use QoS on a mission critical network.

          • GPON doesn’t work the way you think it does. In the downstream direction, GPON broadcasts traffic to all nodes, and creates separation of subscriber traffic via encryption. Upstream is arbitrated using a multi-access protocol. That’s why it is a passive rather than active network.


            (No need to YELL, I’m not going to change my mind on something I disagree with just because it’s written in capitals …)

          • @Mark S

            I’m sorry, but you’ve misread that article. The downstream traffic is broadcast to all the SUBSCRIBERS on a node not to all the nodes. GPON would be useless if all nodes received all traffic for all subscribers in an FSA.

            My apologies if you believed I was yelling. I am not with capitalisation. I accentuate with capitals because it gets context across better. I’m too lazy to bold in html….

          • No I didn’t misread it (and nor do I use Wikipedia as the sole source of my telecommunications knowledge, I quite often use the standards themselves), I use the term node as a generic term to describe link layer devices. In a GPON network a node is the ONT/ONU, on a HFC network it is the cable modem, and in an ADSL network it is the ADSL “modem” or router.

          • @Mark S

            Ok. Sorry for seeming condescending, it was not my intention.

            Node is not really used to describe the subscriber/end customer equipment, which is how you’re using it. It is the mid-point aggregation of the subscriber loops. Hence, in HFC, it is the cabinet that switches the coax to fibre (hence the Hybrid bit), in the NBN it is the Fibre Distribution Hub (FDH- which aggregates as 6 nodes actually) and in ADSL it is the exchange.

            But what was your point then, anyway?

            On HFC, the contention is a mixture between the headend cable contention and the node (switched cabinet) backhaul capability. This, in Australian HFC networks, leads to contentions, on average, with current signup rates, close to 60:1. They are capable of 100:1 in their current state, but Telstra/Optus artificially limit them, to boost service.

            GPON has a contention ratio of 32:1 in the NBN. (FDH’s supply 200 premises with 6 feeds)

            Therefore, with those numbers, GPON has much lower potential for contention than HFC.

  3. HFC is still a shared medium with very poor upload ability.. By the time you connect all the premises with it and add costs of upgrading equipment to match, you would be approaching FTTH.. Why bother? It would still be vastly inferior..Do it once , do it right..

    • hey Paul,

      your statement is not really true … with the right legislation, it will take a matter of weeks for Telstra/Optus to connect HFC to my premise. The NBN’s fibre could take a decade to do the same, and my area is not on the early deployment schedule; a decade in which I could be receiving 100Mbps broadband, as opposed to my current 16Mbps.



      • Renai, technically it’s still shared medium by nodes via hundreds of users instead of a few users.

        HFC is crap, i been on it, before it went to 100mbps, it does not give you the speed advertised at all.

        You download a large file, it peaks to it’s high speed, then drops down to ADSL speeds.

        Also on NBN Fibre you get min 78Mbps compared to the ADSL like speeds if everyone on a node uses the node at peak periods.

        The Uploads are crap as well for HFC, no good for small business who require large file uploading (and believe me – there plenty that do).

        You’ve been blinded by promise of HFC when it only connects to (28%-30%) of the population – which is only 24%-26% less than the NBN LTE 4%.

        • I gotta agree Renai.

          While I see the rest of “your” rollout as being sensible AND prudent to maintain speeds of broadband in teh short term, simply legislating and subsidising HFC to enable MDU connection and connection of all other premises on the Cable footprint would defeat the purpose of what you are trying to achieve.

          Many of the HFC MDU non-availability is both because, as you say, building owners won’t pay….but it’s ALSO because that would put a HUGE strain on a single node, especially if you have multiple MDU’s near each other, as you do in inner suburbs.

          The HFC cannot handle much more than it currently services without infrastructure upgrades- node-splitting. I believe legislating for HFC to be REQUIRED to connect MDU’s and subsidising the connections would simply result in alot MORE people getting speeds not better than, if even equal too ADSL, on HFC.

          • hey guys,

            I think you’re getting blinded by the ‘HFC can replace fibre’ argument.

            If you read the article, I’m not making this argument. I’m not advocating HFC as a replacement for FTTH or even FTTN. And I’m not even saying that many of the people currently on ADSL would switch — I think most people would wait for the NBN.

            As I clearly said in the article, I view HFC as a technology with a time-frame of about five years. By that stage the NBN’s fibre rollout would have begun to affect the main metro areas. I also clearly acknowledged in the article that HFC has no long-term potential because of congestion issues.

            However, none of these facts mean that we should reject HFC’s short to medium-term potential to provide higher speeds than ADSL2+ to those people who want it. I know quite a few people who already have 100Mbps HFC cable and love it. Sure, it’s nowhere near the same consistent performance as 100Mbps NBN fibre, but that does not mean that people in MDUs should be locked out of it in the 5-10 years until the NBN fibre hits.

            Right now, there are legal difficulties putting an unnatural impediment to the uptake of HFC cable in Australia. All I’m saying is, let’s remove those legal difficulties and see what happens. Maybe nobody would adopt the 100Mbps HFC cable. Maybe it gets too congested in areas and people go back to ADSL2+. But there is literally no reason not to try — it would cost us very little.


          • Thats the point Renai, unless HFC gets a significant and costly upgrade, it simply wont be able to take on that extra load, and as you mentioned, it may force some back to ADSL2. I understand some say ADSL is actually better than HFC in some areas. I appreciate your attempt for a stop gap solution, but it just isnt worth the cost.. And who pays for it?

          • Telstra is still actively signing up customers for HFC. All I am suggesting is a slightly higher signup rate. Do you have any evidence suggesting what the point is where sections of the HFC network become unusable?

            I would also point out that this effect would not be felt uniformly across the HFC networks. It would occur in discrete locations. It wouldn’t break vast portions of the networks as a whole. And, as I said, if it does, then affected people simply shift back to ADSL2+.

          • >”And, as I said, if it does, then affected people simply shift back to ADSL2+.”

            And that is the point. people that had faster speeds will loose them, and start to complain.
            Creating more problems. I think you’ll find this is why the Labor government or quigly or conroy or whoever the hell made the decision, made that decision. The cons out weigh the pros.
            Keep the HFC running for as long as possible to keep the people that have it happy.
            But it’s pointless taking it away from them before a replacement is in the area.
            And adding more people, from my understanding, will do just that.

          • …And this is only to benefit a few people.
            More subsidies for the few.
            The electorate are already complaining about subsidising the few at the moment.
            I hardly think subsidising more will make the NBN any more likely to roll out.
            We still have an election looming remember..

          • @Mark S

            Telstra have finished most of their DOCSIS 3.0 upgrade.

            It was both a software AND switch hardware upgrade. But it was NOT a major infrastructure upgrade. It was a replacement of end point hardware, at the nodes and a software upgrade to the system AND the cable modems of the customers (or hardware if they had an early model).

            DOCSIS 3.1 is AGAIN the same thing. DOCSIS systems just use different mechanisms like Frequency Division Multiplexing (FDM) etc. to increase the carrying potential of the ACTUAL HFC cable. DOCSIS upgrades do NOT address the issue of whether or not a node has enough backhaul capability to SERVICE those upgrades in speed to end customers.

            It was a relatively cheap upgrade to allow Telstra to introduce their more expensive, premium “Ultimate Cable” plans- hence it makes them more money for little effort. Same as Top Hat upgrades. Telstra aren’t interested in doing anything more expensive with the NBN here.

          • Sure we can remove those legal thingos, but that doesn’t help the 70% of Australia get better broadband.

            Your policy has full of holes that isn’t “perfect”.

          • In a further example, let’s say the 100Mbps HFC cable only delivers 20Mbps on average in practice to most people.

            So what? That’s still double what many (most?) people are getting on ADSL2+. For a minor legislative change and a bit of subsidy, that sounds like a good outcome.

          • The ‘subsidy” , i believe would be significant, unless you decommission ADSL ..And who pays for this?

          • “unless you decommission ADSL”

            Sorry Paul — not sure what you mean here.

            And the government subsidy would only be a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars per customer, in my estimation — to cover the cost of extending the cable. Say there were fifty thousand new customers, who signed up instantly, at a cost of $1,000 each. That’s still only $50 million — a paltry sum in the context of the NBN. And I believe the cabling costs would actually end up being quite a bit less than $1,000.

          • Renai, i am not suggesting that your idea doesnt have merit, but surely you cant mean running ADSL and HFC to the same premise? If It was Telstra, yes, that could work, but as NBNco, the ADSL would be decommissioned. OK so, cost of HFC extension is $1000-2000, that needs to added to the cost of the FTTH as well… If it were just a few million, maybe it could be justified, but reckon the entire upgrade could be well beyond that..

          • Paul, your argument is confused. HFC and copper already run to many premises concurrently, and I never suggested NBN Co should take over the HFC cable.

            I don’t think you quite understand what I am talking about here.

          • As i see it, you want more premises connected with HFC? Ok, so that would be concurrent with Copper. Unless NBNco take over the Cable, it remains in Telstras hands. You want the costs to be borne by NBNco or Taxpayers? Because Telstra wont do it for nothing. Either way, the Taxpayer will bear the cost of both the HFC upgrade as well as the FTTH eventually.

          • To pay for 100Mbps HFC cable and get 20Mbps as you suggest is like buying a V8 and it only driving like a 4 cylinder hatch back.

            HFC as has been mentioned by others is flawed. The nodes will quickly become oversubscribed and the performance will fall. It’s not a solution regardless of who is signing who up it’s going to go the way of the dinosaur and this is why the HFC owners aren’t really investing money on it.

      • “my area is not on the early deployment schedule; a decade in which I could be receiving 100Mbps broadband, as opposed to my current 16Mbps.”

        Totally agree. The whole business precinct we work in is not even on the current planning radar for NBN and we only get at best 6Mbps – and then that only after hours when the other businesses have closed for the day. Since NBN was announced (what 3 years ago) it has been down tools on any non-NBN network upgrade options. So much for NBN helping businesses go forth into the future. I guess we have to survive another 5 years before we get an improvement. At least a few Australians can download movies and play games real fast now – it’ll give the unemployed something to do.

        • @Northern Blue

          While I agree with the overall sentiment (i get less than 5mbps most times and 1-2 on nights) I don’t think that line of thought follows through.

          Part of the reason for the NBN is because of the current system whereby many many people can’t get even half way decent speeds, while many others get above and beyond what they need. To change this BEFORE the NBN, hundreds of MILLIONS of dollars would have to be.spent. its all very well to say ‘lets just upgrade these people’….but what constitutes an upgrade? Telstra are already doing Top Hats to enable ADSL on RIMs. And ADSL has been enabled at many exchanges and done nothing for speeds because the copper runs are too lone. How far do you go to ‘upgrade’ in the interim time before the NBN? Our exchange IS ADSL2 enabled….but 75% of people can’t get ADSL2 speeds because of the line lengths and copper quality. Many hundreds of thousands are in the same boar. Short of replacing their copper, there’s nothing more that can be done before the NBN. And replacing the copper is JUST as expensive running fibre.

          Australians have crappy broadband because of area neglect due to profitability problems in that area. The NBN is trying to address this. Trying to address it beforehand is a waste of money seeing as you’d be replacing it with the NBN a few years after.

          It’s a bitter pill to swallow for those of us on barely useful broadband…..but would you rather the NBN happened or not? Cause upgrading in the mean time would spend so much political capital AND taxpayer money as to render the NBN unlikely.

  4. I should have been clearer Renai, i was referring to costs , not speed of roll-out. But dont forget the awful upload abilities of Cable.

  5. For me one of the absolute core tenets of the NBN plan is to smash the digital divide.
    You are doing nothing of the sort with your proposal.
    12MBPS is useless to my business. I’m also not technically in a broadband blackspot. I currently receive about 1MBPS ADSL (advertised 1.5), which is the best I can get with current infrastructure.
    The NBN is NOT about helping city dwellers get a faster service, it’s about spreading the benefits of world class broadband to the nation as a whole…. exactly because some of the nations brightest entrepreneurs are not all concentrated in the cities and suburbs.
    If it’s just going to become another scheme that prioritises the major cities and suburbs, or expects private enterprise to build it (again obviously concentrating on the income rich city suburbs) the whole thing is fatally flawed.

    • +1

      City dwellers have access to better services already. ADSL2, 4G, etc, while rural dwellers may or may not, depending on the whim of Telstra.

      For far too long, the rural community has been the poor cousin, getting the scraps when Telstra decides they get them.


      I live in Wollongong, and far too many of my friends cant get ADSL2 because they are either on a pair gain line, the exchange is full, or some other excuse Telstra comes up with. Some cant even get ADSL.

      I have ADSL2, live within sight of the exchange, and for some reason connect at 6 Mps on average. Occasionally better, usually not.

      Meanwhile, Sydney, in general, has ADSL2+ across the board. Sure, there are blackspots, but as a general rule those areas you think should still be cherry picked already have better.

      And thats the gripe here. Why should they get even better, when others dregs will be left until last. Again. For once, let those communities that are always behind get the fresh technology. It removes the stigmas of “thats life in the bush”. Why should that mentality be there?

      In general I like your ideas Renai, they are a solid compromise. But parts simply reverts back to the cherry picking mentality thats been prevalent for decades. City has ADSL2+? Give them HFC as well, and hurry up with that fibre while you’re at it! Country has dialup or ADSL? Well “thats life in the bush”…

      For once its nice to be ahead of the game.

      I’m interested to see what happens once Wollongong is fully connected. Will be interesting to see if business follows, or whether there are other changes to the community as a result.

      • hey GongGav,

        I’m not suggesting that Wollongong never gets fibre — in fact, as a major metro area with a sizable tech presence and a major engineer university, under my plan it would get fibre as part of the first tranche — alongside Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle, Canberra, Adelaide, etc. Wollongong is a major city.

        I’m talking about towns like Broken Hill here — areas where people barely even know what fibre is, much less would be interested in using the speeds for anything relevant.


        • “I’m talking about towns like Broken Hill here — areas where people barely even know what fibre is, much less would be interested in using the speeds for anything relevant.”

          Renai, like others I’m really surprised at this turn of events at Delimiter.
          There is nothing to prove desire for faster speeds, or a lack of understanding of FTTH is any different between bush and city. Many city dwellers are merely using Facebook, watching YouTube and streaming music. There are businesses in rural Australia that could use super fast broadband, and there should be no discrimination against entrepreneurs who are living or grew up in rural Australia. That’s what the whole NBN thing is about.
          Your above statement is right out of the Abbott playbook I’m shocked to say. No one outside the major cities understands superfast broadband, or neccesarily wants it?

          • No no muso1, that’s not what he means.

            He means those in regional areas don’t even KNOW what the service they could get on fibre, or anywhere near it even, is like. They’ve been dealing with Shit connectivity for years.

            I happen to agree with you, I do believe regional should be prioritised, but you’re tarring Renai unfairly here. He’s not suggesting ‘bush people’ are dumb numptys, just that they’ve been dealing with worse services for longer, so they know how. But that, IMO, is why they should get it first.

          • “There is nothing to prove desire for faster speeds, or a lack of understanding of FTTH is any different between bush and city.”

            Yes there is. I lived in rural Australia for most of my life. There is a much greater concentration of early technology adopters and tech/content-centric businesses in the large cities than there is in rural areas. Rolling out to the areas where there is the highest population density and demand for these services makes sense.

          • To be fair Renai, I DO live in a Regional area. And there a HUNDREDS of architectural, engineering, manufacturing and IT businesses and people here who could MASSIVELY improve productivity from a faster NBN rollout to here.

            I’m only an hour 20 down the road from Sydney. As such DOZENS of factories, large firms and engineering companies have set up shop here to be close to Sydney, but have country people working for them, saving costs on rent and labour and generally improving regions economy…..but they’re stuck on ADSL1 speeds half the time.

            We have 2 transformer manufacturers (including Tyco, one of Australia’s biggest), a AV and home cinema screen manufacturer, Joy mining manufacturing, 6 or 7 major engineering firms….and they’re all stuck on ADSL. Do they not deserve better NOW, or at least sooner rather than later?

          • And to add to Seven’s comments, they only move to the city, cause that’s where the services are.
            Provide the services elsewhere, the people move there.
            Governments have been trying for a decade to get people to move to country areas.
            And this is one more catylist, behind the Labor governments decision.
            (That and a decade of infrastructure deficit..)

          • “they only move to the city, cause that’s where the services are”

            That’s not the only reason people move to the city. When I grew up in Broken Hill in the 1990’s, there was a certain redneck culture to the area that I found rather unappealing.

        • Thats fair enough Renai, but from experience I’ve simply seen such statements made time after time, and Wollongong ultimately left behind. Newcastle, Nowra, Townsville, Geelong, etc etc etc all the same.

          The grand ambitions of rolling those fringe cities out as part of the Big Plan never seem to quite play out in reality.

          When it suits the pollies, Wollongong is part of Sydney. When it suits the pollies, it isnt. They play games with boundaries, and at the end of the day it seems Wollongong misses out. Im talking about just 1 city here, but I see and hear the same thing reflected around the country.

          Right now, I cant wait to see what happens when Wollongong is fully rolled out with the NBN. For the reasons you state, there is a real potential for IT favorable businesses to move to the area and give it the shot in the arm it needs. It has the potential to generate 10’s of thousands of jobs quickly, and with the uni there is an instant skilled up workforce every year.

          If the Lib’s get in, those chances go down – the 3 year rollout exchanges could very easily become FTTN, which makes them second cousins to the FTTH exchanges (which includes me – yay!).

          What muso1 says is correct though, and this is what I agree with. For the areas where the connection isnt good enough, keeping them at the end of the queue helps nobody. The areas you put to the front of the queue already have a good enough connection (in the main) to deal with demand for the next 5 years, so whats wrong with those smaller areas getting the leg up?

          Your plan is good, I like it. But that one sticking point doesnt sit well with me. You want HFC in those city areas where its available, but as soon as thats done you want to give them fibre as well.

          My variation on your plan would be to encourage private companies to roll out fibre in the cities (Lib mentality) , give them an exclusive market for some small period (2-5 years) then require them to sell back to NBNco on a cost for cost basis (Labor mentality).

          As in, use NBN suppliers (if only to keep the tech consistent), and pay the same rate back to them. They win with the extra market share, fibre gets rolled out faster, and the country black holes still get it through the only resource that will do the job properly.

  6. From the part I did read, it read just like what I was hearing from the coalition.

    From a technology medium, I would have expected more.

    Area’s in blackspots ARE getting addressed FIRST under the Labor NBN FTTh

    HFC is again an old technology that optus hasn’t invested in for 10years. It would need an expensive upgrade to get it up to scratch.

    HFC is considerably dearer to power than fibre. Want faster speeds? More power again.

    By giving these telco’s subsidies, this money comes straight from the tax payers pocket.
    Labor’s NBN doesn’t.

    By giving these telco’s subsidies, you encourage the very means by which they get used to ‘Suckling the Federal Governments teet’ as Malcolm Turnbull so eloquently put in on QandA on July 9.

    I am happy for an ongoing evaluation of FTTh NBN as it is rolled out. But at this stage, there isn’t any reason why it should be scaled back to anything sub par

    From Delimiter, I expected so much more.

    Sincerely and in good faith

    • hey Anthony,

      I’m not arguing against rolling out Labor’s FTTH. In fact, what I am arguing for is doing that — and more, with an especial focus on boosting services in the mid-term — the next decade until the NBN FTTH is completed. It’s pretty hard to argue against an NBN+1 strategy if you are a supporter of the original NBN policy ;)



      • Yeah but as you stated above, they would have to remove legal constraints and subsidise it.

        They just signed the optus shut down so I don’t think they are going to change tact anytime soon.

        The NBN is costing alot in some peoples eyes, I don’t think they are going to throw more money at it for a ‘temporary’ measure.

        And in saying all that, just for a ‘few’ people who might possibly want, HFC.

        You can ask them. But I really don’t think there is much of a case, as if a couple of people take up on the offer, the speeds that you speak of, won’t exist..

        Just from my understanding of it any way.

        • If I read Renai’s idea right, the intent is to give a bandaid now, to look after the problem until they get to it.

          In that regard its better than Labors plan thats either no better than whats there now, or NBN, no middle ground.

          HFC rolls past 30% of the population apparently, yet a significant proportion of that cant access it for one reason or another. As a short term solution, a few million in investment to get near-NBN quality (or nearer to NBN if you like) connections is certainly smart.

          I like that part of it. It lets people have a better connection than they have, for relatively small cost. Penny pinchers will quibble over the extra cost, but they whinge about everything.

          • Thing is, it won’t be a few million. And you know this.
            Thing is, divide that service by that population, you are only going to achieve what you have currently.

            If the maths add up, do it.
            But my thought would be, if the maths added up, they would have done it….

  7. Renai >> “with the right legislation, it will take a matter of weeks for Telstra/Optus to connect HFC to my premise.”

    This is not true.
    You can not just “legislate” to force Telstra and Optus to connect HFC to MDUs.

    Telstra and Optus will fight against this in the courts for years to demand financial compensation.
    Additionally you can not force owners corporations/body corporates to permit connection. It requires their consent.

    Nice idea, but not in reality.

    • I don’t see why it’s a problem. Telstra is heavily regulated in virtually every area, including legislated services to the bush which it is forced to provide. As for financial compensation, you’ll note I suggested a subsidy.

      With respect to consent, the Government has already legislated around that issue with respect to the NBN. If you’re renting a property, my understanding is the owner won’t be able to stop you getting NBN fibre connected. Why shouldn’t the same apply to HFC cable?

      You see, when you start to look at the evidence, the argument changes …

      • I thought they were legislated for copper as it was gifted to them to maintain and part of that was providing access to other telcos.

        HFC they funded themselves and it doesn’t replace the copper, it’s a seperate network. South Brisbane was a copper replacement and so could be legislated to some degree, especially since it was partly government funded (despite denials by the anti NBN lobby)

      • Renai >> “Telstra is heavily regulated in virtually every area” … with respect to COPPER under the access regime administered by the ACCC.

        … but not Telstra HFC
        … and neither is Optus HFC
        – there is the evidence

        Renai >> “With respect to consent, the Government has already legislated around that issue with respect to the NBN.”

        Wrong – NBNCo must gain consent.
        If consent is not given then the property is listed as “frustrated” and NBNCo is relieved of its obligation to connect – there is the evidence.


        As I said before … Nice idea, but not in reality.

    • I agree with Belinda, every iota of strength should be directed to rolling out the NBN as fast as it can be.
      To be disctracted with discussions and negotiations and subsidies and courts, takes the eyes of the end game.
      It totally distracts the NBN from doing what it needs to do.
      It takes resources away from it’s end goal.
      It costs money to do this.

      If there was an easy way to do this, I’m sure they would have suggested it sometime since 2007.
      But all signs point to – There isn’t one.

      And going by the optus deal, the ACCC agrees.

      Sorry Renai.

      • +1

        All this talk about alternatives is just slowing the whole process down. Just get on with it and it will be complete.

        • Lets see. Would I prefer HFC in a month or two, or stay on ADSL1 until possible fibre rollout in 5-10 yrs?

          Tough decision.

          • But you (should) know, as well as the rest of us, you won’t get HFC in a couple of months if any form of government legislation has to be undertaken.

            And you won’t get any decent speeds for long.
            Especially as Renai has pointed out that Telstra a signing up like crazy on HFC atm.

            “Consider the fact that Telstra is still continually signing people up to its HFC cable network.”

            Signing up more customers without more structural investment will slow speeds.

            Why would you legislate something that is already happening.

            If you get a HFC UG, your at the back of the cue, esp if the Govt has to fund it.
            All for exactly what speeds …?

            “We started off with 80 Mb/s on the cable but that’s dropped now to 19 to 20 Mb/s because of congestion in the node.”

          • I understand the frustration Steve. But think about this for the moment:

            You have to pay, likely, more to get cable IF you could (under Renai’s plan)….but what if you were actually TOLD you’d likely see your speed of initial connection, say 60mbps, drop to 10mbps, possibly slightly less, but you still pay the same money?

            Is that offering any value over what you get now? And if it is, is it enough value to warrant the extra spend? And what about those who have ADSL2 already who are likely to see an overall DROP in speed for more money….which they can’t get out of because they sign a 2 year contract on cable?

            It’s not as straightforward as it seems.

  8. I think we’re all attacking Renai on this HFC issue without reason. He is suggesting a PERFECT WORLD solution.

    The agreements in place for HFC NOW for the NBN, may or may not preclude this sort of legislation change/subsidy or not. But in a perfect world, they could’ve been worked out.

    I happen to STILL disagree, because I think it would be a waste of time and money, ending up with, say 1.2 Million (over the 900 000 now) on HFC, slowing many regions to well below ADSL2.

    But the perfect world solution is what he’s looking at here. Keep that in mind.

    • Personally I don’t know why the HFC issue captures so many people’s attention … it’s just one aspect of the overall policy. I don’t think more than a few tens of thousands of people would initially take up the option, but it would be nice to have it — the cable does run down many people’s streets right now, after all.

      Plus, if an attempt to resolve the situation goes nowhere, then it can be abandoned without pain. As I’ve said repeatedly, it’s a low-risk proposal which doesn’t have an impact on the wider NBN rollout.

      • I think it’s a knee jerk mostly Renai. Most of us out for the NBN are tired of hearing “HFC has life left in it yet, and so too copper!” from the Coalition. That’s not fair on you for this solution, because that’s not what you’re suggesting.

        I think, IF it was able to be worked out now, CONCURRENTLY with the NBN, in other words not taking ANY time or money away from the NBN rollout, it WOULD be beneficial to pursue.

        But at this stage, ANY time splitting at all, with the NBN behind slightly and being flogged, is likely to just produce more spurious FUD…..

        • The truth is that both HFC and copper do have life in them. They, along with 3G, have been providing for our needs over the past seven years (!) since Australia started debating the NBN policy, and they will continue to shoulder the burden over the next decade until the NBN is complete.

          Even then, in many rural areas, the copper cable will continue to be important, alongside wireless and satellite.

          I wish people would start seeing the “NBN or HFC or copper” as the false dichotomy it is. I am arguing, and have consistently argued, for a more complex “AND” approach.

          • True, you have.

            Problem is, in THIS world, NOT perfect, this complex solution has one major issue- Politics.

            If Labor were seen to support the Coalition ideas, EVEN as a medium term measure, there’d be outcry. Same from the Coalition.

            I think the IDEA has merit, but the practicalities in this world meaning the idea wouldn’t be allowed by default in political circles.

            It’s ridiculous- we HAVE infrastructure. There’s NO reason we can’t CONTINUE to spend small, effective amounts of government money on it to spread the load until the NBN is done. But this wouldn’t be political dynamite…..it’d be sensible….so it’d never be accepted by our politicians :D

          • I don’t totally disagree with the ‘politics’ argument.
            But as you will see from my other posts, I think that if there was merrit in the argument, they would have made it clear early on.
            My understanding of the situation, is that it isn’t worthwhile, and that’s why they diverted all their energy into ftth.
            It may have been a resonable option before 2007, but today in 2012, more subsidies = a slower roll out of ftth. And no-one wants that.

          • Sure, in the same way an old fashioned letter gets my message to the recipient. It’s still functional and perfectly valid, but is it suited for the future?

            Let’s all go back to the good old days and smash our new fangled technology! Anyone who dares to introduce technology must be under the influence of Satan himself and should either be flogged in public or get a wholesome lynching.

      • Well to take a look at different parts of the perfect world strategy, again stating that I’m sure all of the issues you’ve raised were looked at carefully before they made their decision.
        Satellite – I believe some of what you have suggested is already happening, maybe not as fast as some would like. Forcing private companies to offer services only leads to litigation which leads to – wait for it – costs and delays.
        Second; Rolling out to city folk first – Well can be justified, and the only reason it hasn’t been done, is because a hell of a lot of city people have really good broadband. It’s the suburbs that got left behind and though there are city areas with bad broadband, Telstra and Optus invested in those areas. They didn’t invest in other areas. A result of Privatisation gone wrong.
        Thirdly; There was a change labor knew that they would struggle at the next election, so they had to make sure that as many people that don’t have broadband, get it, before any change of government.
        Fourthly; It just isn’t logistically possible to roll out all the city first. You need city and suburbs getting rolled out conseculatively to relieve conjestion. And this has to be in places where the backhaul already exists initially, and therefore installing the backhaul in places it doesn’t exist while conseculatively rolling out in other places.

        Lots of ideas in an ideal world, but I think most of them were already looked at.
        And the decisions were made, based on their findings..

        I said this early on; The NBN will be the great leveller. The sooner we get to this point, with the least distractions, the better.

        Sincerely and in good faith

  9. I stopped reading as soon as I saw “get more people onto HFC”.

    I’m already on HFC.

    I’m already on Optus’ highest HFC speeds.

    It’s already congested all the time in my area.

    When everyone in the house wants to use the net it’s too slow.

    Anything other than continuing the FTTH rollout is just wasting time and money doing something that already needs replacement now.

    • I’m somewhere between 4 and 5k’s in cable length from the exchange for ADSL. It also constantly dropped out when raining. This is in south west Sydney. not exactly whoop whoop.

      I was getting 3 or 4 Mb/s on ADSL.

      We started off with 80 Mb/s on the cable but that’s dropped now to 19 to 20 Mb/s because of congestion in the node.

      Sure, it’s better than pretty much anyone who isn’t on Telstra HFC or the NBN can get, but HFC has no future and FTTN is just wasteful. We’re on the rollout for NBN in 3-4 years. I see no point whatsoever in doing anything else but completing the FTTH rollout. I’d go straight onto 100/40 and probably higher when released.

  10. An interesting idea Renai but I have some reservations.

    Firstly HFC is well known for congestion issues. I don’t know whether Telstra or Optus would be prepared to invest in the extra infrastructure that they would need for a useful life of 5 – 10 years.

    Secondly 3G broadband (and soon to be 4G) has issues with congestion. The simple fact is that since the advent of smart phones and tablets such as the ipad the telcos have all been battling to provide a reliable service due to the congestion. Just think of how often you have seen reports of the access diminishing virtually from one street corner to the next. I can’t see mobile broadband as an alternative because the Telcos are unlikely to be able to service it appropriately before the NBN actually has covered the blackspots and you intend to make it worse by increasing the traffic volume by 10X to 50X.

    Thirdly while your argument for rolling out the NBN in high population areas has some merit it ignores the fact that the regional areas have been promised decent broadband for almost 10 years and have been given SFA. It also ignores the societal benefits including economic benefits that are going to accrue to these regions who frankly often miss out on benefits because of their low population density.

    I am inclined to the view that your plan has to a certain extent been coloured by your own selfish desires for the broadband that you would like for yourself. There is nothing wrong with you doing that but I think that it needs to be expanded to a larger picture that goes beyond just internet speed and download capacity.

    • hey Bob,

      so your solution is … to do nothing and wait for the NBN. Which will take a decade for some areas.

      I take your criticism on board, but I dislike how all of your points are negative — and you don’t suggest any progressive improvements to telecommunications policy of your own. There is a lot that can be done in the decade while we wait for the NBN.


      • Yes I agree my comments were negative. I was trying to point out what I saw as flaws in your suggestion. I was actually waiting for someone to tell me I was wrong.

        One of the problems with improving the current telecoms situation is financial. There seems to be a general belief that the Government should be providing more services and it should also be reducing taxation. To be perfectly frank that is unadulterated BS. If we want better services from the Government then we need to be prepared to pay for it. Are the people prepared to pay extra tax so the Government can offer subsidies etc., as a stop gap until the NBN arrives? Unfortunately I think not.

        Until that mind set of the public changes about paying extra for extra services I would suggest we have a major problem.. So in the light of the community attitudes that I observe, putting all available resources into getting the NBN up and running as fast as possible is the best solution. I would love to see some suggestions for things that could be implemented quickly and at no cost to the public purse. To be honest I can’t think of any.

        Disclaimer: I expect to be connected to the NBN in the next twelve months so don’t feel the pressure you inner suburb dwellers obviously do. So my view is probably just as coloured as yours, Renai.

      • yeah it sucks. When I lived in England I had BT infinity (FttN) and got 38/8 and it was sweet.

        Back in Melbourne I’m on ADSL 2+ and get 15/1.2 but its ok for now and I don’t want to go on to HFC and see my speeds down the toilet because of an oversubscribed node.

        3 years will come quickly. To say that you’ll wait for a decade in some parts, well I don’t know where I’ll be living in 10 years, maybe here, maybe someplace else. A lot can happen in 10 years…

  11. Renai
    As you said “A perfect World”.
    Just a pity the replacement/upgrade of our copper network and bringing our communications platform into the 21’st Century was not a bipartisan project. That being the case much of what you propose as interim may well have been included.
    However I actually do agree with early roll out of regional, partly to enable those who wish to to set up in the Regional areas taking the population and services pressures off the cities. I understand the economic rationale, but lets face it Telstra is suddenly running around installing Top Hats and upgrading so many of those black spots, called incentivised.
    The HFC
    Lets not forget it was originally designed as a Multicast TV with Telephony capability service. Seriously node splitting would not hack it, some low user demand nodes would be fine as long as the lower upload is accepted but for many areas new nodes and feeder fibres would need to be installed, especially if MDU’s are involved. That will cost
    The US experience is that once Cable TV is well entrenched, it is difficult for competitors to gain a viable foothold, the punters like their cable TV ,
    Incidently re opening up the TV competition

    On the Australian and invented to be used over FTTP ????

    “ACBI director Colin Griffith said that the project called “Social TV” had the potential to slash NBN backhaul charges faced by content owners.

    Part of the Social TV project involves trialling of set-top-boxes running software that can share content at the edge of the fibre-optic network in a peer-to-peer fashion greatly reducing the need for popular content to be transmitted across the entire length of the network multiple times.”

  12. I like the idea of plowing money over time into extending the reach of fibre beyond the planned 93%; this demarcation has always bothered me and I’d like to see fibre ultimately going everywhere that a phone line can go. I know it’s very expensive and understand the argument against it; I just would like things to be more equitable for all Australians.

    The other dream change I’d like to see is a massive increase in the number of installation crews rolling out fibre, to shorten the existing time factor by several years.

    I also agree that the Outside-In approach to fibre installation that favours rural Australia over metropolitan Australia is slowing down the ability for more people to benefit sooner from the NBN. While this approach has been a necessity to gain political support, I am concerned that so little of the NBN will be laid out by the next election that few people will ever benefit from it before the coalition (if they gain power) interfere with the roll out.

  13. Renai you make several points I have been saying for a long time myself. The only problem and I am sure you are aware this being an idealized version of a plan and all is that the extra cost associated with doing your plan would never allow it to fly in a politicized world, unfortunately this is one of those issues that really needs bipartisan support but something that will not get it.

      • >”I think if you chopped the $800 million Optus deal out of the equation the cost factor becomes a lot more palatable :)”

        Yes but you are being a little short sighted with that comment.

        The deal will have to happen eventually. In your case, 5 or so years.
        So you spend millions, as a stop gap, and then still have to pay the $800 Million, which is actually then likely to be valued at more, as a valuation is gauged on revenue, and as there would then be more revenue, the government would have to pay more to buy it in said 5 or so years.

        $800 million + Stop gap $millions + increase in valuation $ millions = $?billion, however many million….

        Too many holes..

        • HFC will be the poor cousin to NBN. It will be neglected and honestly who would bother to maintain it if you didn’t need to?

          Mr Turnbull keeps making references to the USA but it’s not comparing apples with apples. The cable companies in the USA are not the same as those here, and it’s only when the fine details are examined that Mr. Turnbull’s arguments begin to unravel.

          He’s promising faster speeds, but how much faster? 1Kbps faster than now is technically faster….

  14. I’m quite surprised at a number of comments to this article – Renai isn’t saying he wants to introduce measures INSTEAD OF NBN fibre, but concurrently, so that people have faster broadband sooner in the near-to-mid-term.

    My only criticisms/changes are to subsidise fibre rollout to regional areas considered uneconomical long-term (although you did suggest reallocation of profits for this purpose, if direct Govt subsidy is necessary it shouldn’t be avoided). Anywhere copper could afford to be run to give these people telephone lines, we as a nation must make it a priority to give them the same 21st century telecommunication infrastructure as the rest of us.

    My second change would be commercialisation of NBN Co – commercialisation of critical infrastructure is directly opposed to the interests of the population as a whole. The interests of a commercial company are to maximise profits for its shareholders. That means reducing costs in the form of maintenance and service levels, while increasing revenue through increases in the unit price charged to customers (pretty easy to do when you own a national monopoly).

    State owned monopolies providing critical infrastructure must remain the property of the state to avoid exploitation of the populace. Such a strategy of privatisation is nothing short of wealth reallocation – from the majority to the very few.

    • @Trevor

      ‘State owned monopolies providing critical infrastructure must remain the property of the state to avoid exploitation of the populace. Such a strategy of privatisation is nothing short of wealth reallocation – from the majority to the very few.’

      + 100

      Essential services SHOULD remain government controlled to ensure ALL citizens have equal, fair and cheap access to these services which are REQUIRED to live in today’s world.

  15. I’m sorry Renai, but to say that this will suffice for the next few years is just stupid. I’ve been working in this industry for 15 years now and I would never make such a claim like this, and honestly none of my colleagues would do this without risk of being made a laughing stock.

    If the current speeds are sufficient, then why not just continue with FffP and provision slower speeds and then when the need for additional bandwidth is there, just make the logical change rather than go through the pain of a hybrid bastardised mixture?

    • I tend to agree Mudguts…

      But it’s perhaps a bit harsh on Renai who is simply, as an impartial journalist should, trying to find some elusive middle ground, somewhere in between what I see as an insightful NBN project and complete anal conservatism.

      • Yeah, but still this is the problem that the average non technical Australian has. Mr Turnbull says that no one needs 100Mbps FttP speeds. He can see into the future now? This is just stupid, simply mind numbingly stupid.

        Sweet merciful Christ, I hope that he finally comes to his senses.

  16. IIRC the more rural orientation of the NBN was *part* of the deal to keep the independents (Oakeshott,Windsor) happy. ie no independents no Labor Govt. To add my two cents worth, I don’t believe NBN needs any distractions, they have a plan, it should be full steam ahead.Let’s get as much fibre in the ground as possible before the next election. I live in Mile End (Adelaide) FTTH is at least three years away if at all.

  17. The negative comments on this thread are incredibly disappointing. I am saddened by the lack of rational and intelligent debate in this space.

    There is such a false dichotomy in Australian telecommunications debate right now. The false dichotomy is “fibre versus everything else”. What people don’t seem to appreciate is that while fibre is the right answer, it also takes time (up to a decade), and that there are other things that can be done concurrently while we’re waiting for it.

    So many of the comments here so far amount to an argument that fibre is the best solution so we shouldn’t bother doing anything else in the meantime, even if it has the potential to drive better service delivery for five to seven years. That’s an incredibly defeatist and pointless argument.

    My biggest wish for the NBN debate is that people would get a sense of perspective on it. It’s been seven years since we started this debate, back in late 2005. Since that time, very little improvement or infrastructure has been rolled out in Australia’s fixed broadband space, because the debate has not resulted in any universally agreed path.

    To those who say we should merely wait another seven years until FTTH can solve all of our problems, without taking any intermediate action in that time, I say this: 14 years is too long to do nothing.

    • There have been improvements in other technologies that can help. The wide spread deployment of 3G and the emerging 4G could help to fill the gap until the NBN is completed.

      I’m not suggesting mobile broadband is a solution, but to say that nothing has been done since 2005 is not accurate at all.

  18. To take an example from the satellite area, if NBN Co had listened to the naysayers, it wouldn’t have implemented an interim satellite service of 6Mbps that would be active for the five years or so it will take to launch the long-term solution, the dual satellites which will deliver speeds of up to 12Mbps.

    Something else to bear in mind is that we have only actually had ADSL2+ for half a dozen years. If iiNet, Internode and others had said back in 2003 that there was no point upgrading ADSL infrastructure because copper would eventually be obsolete, there would have been no point to doing that either.

    This kind of reasoning drives me crazy; because without this kind of incremental improvements, so little seems to happen at all.

    Perhaps some of my thinking in this area is influenced because I’m also an entrepreneur. In startup-land, it’s well-known that big projects usually fail. It’s the small, daily, incremental innovations that actually get us somewhere which looks revolutionary in the end. In addition, with startups, it’s OK to try something and abandon it if it fails. Normally, because such attempts are low risk, they don’t come with a huge amount of consequences if they do fail.

    So many people in Australia’s telecommunications sector seem afraid of any change at all; scared that if they try something and it doesn’t work, the sky will fall. Well, the reality is it won’t — and if it does fall, at least we will have learnt something and can move on. But not moving, not changing at all, and waiting for the huge big bang solution to all of our problems is, in my opinion, an asinine approach.

    • The problem with small incremental updates when a large scale improvement is not far away is that it has the potential to delay the rollout of the proper solution.

      There is a mentality of just make it work for now and we’ll fix it later. The problem is, later rarely comes and we’re stuck with this bastardised half-arsed bandaid solution.

      • I can vouch for that in real terms…

        I did a house reno about 10 years ago (up, back, render) and I was always going to render the inside of the garage and put in a pool too, but…

        • Precisely! Your garage works and is fine for it’s use, but you planned to do this later and guess what, other priorities have come your way and it keeps getting pushed back further and further.

          Just let NBN do what they have been created to do. All this arguing and pontification is just wasting time and slowing it down.

          Less talk, more action!

      • “The problem with small incremental updates when a large scale improvement is not far away is that it has the potential to delay the rollout of the proper solution.”

        Can you provide some evidence for how this might apply to the NBN? I don’t want to speak in generalities, when specifics will do a better job.

        • So let’s use access to Telstra exchanges as an example. NBN will need access to some of these exchanges. If you’re deploying ADSL 3 (a fictitious new technology based on copper that does not exist yet) as an interim measure, it delays retirement of copper, and for HSE reasons only a certain number of people may work in a building at one time, so there’s a couple of examples I can think of that could delay the NBN.

          • That’s why I didn’t propose deploying any new infrastructure — all I proposed was allowing people to connect to the existing HFC, and subsidising 3G. I didn’t propose anything which would affect the NBN rollout.

          • @Mudguts- Actually if you want to go down that route, ADSL 3 DOES exist- It’s called VDSL. Part of FTTN. It involves using the copper. It is WIDELY held to be a good “interim” measure between ADSL2 and FTTH.

            See, this is the problem in my eyes Renai. Your ideas are great. Truly, they are. But the implementation is where things fall down.

            To be specific, let’s say in 2007, Labor had actually gone AHEAD with FTTN. It would’ve cost, let’s say, $20 Billion (that’s being generous). It probably would’ve been just completed by now. And around about now, experts would be telling the government “Great, fantastic, NOW you have to start thinking about the future- FTTH”. Ok, says the government “When and how much? We did just finish spending an AWFUL lot of money after all”….well, they say “FTTH is complex AND you couldn’t really reuse the FTTN architectural points…..so, you’d need to think about rolling it out from, say 2015, cause it’s gonna take about a decade….and it’s gonna cost you….$38 Billion for 93%…”

            “$38 Billion !!! We just SPENT $20 Billion, and you’re telling us it was not good enough for even 10 years??”

            This is the problem. We have the NBN. It will take time and in that time, we have little to improve things. But if the NBN had been designed to INCLUDE incremental upgrades, we’d have $75 million there for HFC open up, $250 Million there for ADSL2 to blackspots, $500 Million to improve 3G/4G in VERY regional and remote areas where ADSL is impossible…..there’s almost another Billion already….and who has the political clout to do that in Australia….ever?

            We don’t DO incremental in Australia. We never have. That’s not a good thing. But if we start trying to “incrementalise” the NBN….it’ll never get done, because the money spent and the time added, overall, will see it fizzle out when the political power swings the other way.

            So many brilliant ideas in Australia are bastardised by our politics. The NBN has a VERY good likelihood of being bastardised completely. And I’m afraid that your measures would fare just the same, IMO. That is not to say they aren’t, on the whole, good ideas- they are just likely to end up in the bottom of the “It’s too hard right now, we’re fighting the Oppositions X policy, we’ll do it next year” pile….

    • >”The negative comments on this thread are incredibly disappointing. I am saddened by the lack of rational and intelligent debate in this space”

      I think there has been some very rational arguments put against your proposal.

      >”This kind of reasoning drives me crazy; because without this kind of incremental improvements, so little seems to happen at all.”

      This is the hardest thing for a man to do, ‘know when to wait for the result’. Too many people destroy what they have because they think that they need to ‘do’ something. If the cogs are in place, let the machine work. (sorry, a philosophical viewpoint)

      >”Perhaps some of my thinking in this area is influenced because I’m also an entrepreneur. In startup-land, it’s well-known that big projects usually fail. It’s the small, daily, incremental innovations that actually get us somewhere which looks revolutionary in the end. In addition, with startups, it’s OK to try something and abandon it if it fails. Normally, because such attempts are low risk, they don’t come with a huge amount of consequences if they do fail.”

      I agree, ‘Slow and steady wins the race’ But many people also win by ‘betting the house and burning the bridges so you can’t turn back’
      If there was a slow and steady progression in broadband happening since 1997, I would have agreed to the ‘bit by bit’ approach. But we were behind the 8 ball.

      As I stated earlier, If the maths add’s up, do it. But from my understanding, the maths have been done, and it didn’t compute. If you can put together a rational case that states otherwise, I’d do so. But as it stands, I don’t believe there is one.

      The cogs are in place, maybe a bit of grease here and there (which is happening) but overall, from what I can see, the machine is about to run at peak speed.

      Again, if you can see a broken cog, I dare say fix it. But if you only ‘think’ it’s broken, i’d sit back and wait for the result.

      We are all nervous about this..

  19. Pretty ordinary solution for rural Australia…. The only ones that love satellite are the ones that never have to use it. Yes new sats may provide faster speeds, but they are still 37 000km away in orbit still has a 1 way latency of 250ms… pings of a minimum of 500ms.

    There are better solutions out there then both the labor and liberal plans for everyone. A one size (or three size) fits all policy is useless for a country our size.

    • @Frank

      Such as?

      Labor’s plan gets 93% of Australians on future upgradable fibre, low latency, reliable. 4% of them will end up on New-Gen wireless, upgradable and relatively low latency and STILL more reliable than half the copper with the way in which it is implemented.

      Yes, 3% end up on satellite. Seeing as it would probably cost several BILLION more to get them fibre, what would you suggest?

  20. Over the long term, your solution is going to cost the country more than building a new network straight up.

    It’s going to cost what it is now to roll out a FTTH network and you want to spend even more money to help Telstra and Optus improve their network for short-term gains?

    I fail to see your logic.

    • @Marc

      Because it would be a paltry amount of money compared to the NBN. We’re talking a couple of tens of millions. Compared to the BILLIONS on the NBN. It won’t make a significant difference to the cost.

      But it MIGHT to the political viability and the time, which are my arguments against it.

    • Your comment is invalid. I never suggested not building a new network. In fact, my approach incorporates the whole NBN FTTH rollout in the same timeframe. In addition, if you take into account the fact that my version of the NBN would hit more premises sooner, it may actually make more money in the long term than Labor’s version — especially if you cancel the Optus deal.

      Read the article again.

      • I disagree and I don’t think under your plan rolled out sooner.
        Just because you’ve stated it will doesn’t mean there is a real time case.
        Sure, more people will have ‘faster broadband’ sooner. But they won’t have ‘FTTh’ sooner.
        Sure, city people might get FTTh sooner (and would seriously believe that anyone on an UG HFC network would in fact, get FTTh later), but country people and suburban people, would get FTTh, later.
        You just can’t fill a city with telecommunications guys along with all the construction going on, and expect it to happen quickly…

        Someone recently mentioned to me that the $800 million Optus deal wasn’t on the 2010 Budget Plan.
        Evidently, if this is true, the NBN is 800 mill over budget. Adding another $(?) mill to that isn’t going to help anyone, in fact, it is more likely that the coalition will win government and you will get
        Friken Copper TT Cow and Commerce.

        (Yes I know the ($?) mill will be ‘on’ budget unlike the NBN, but that’s the point. Taking from schools, hospitals, roads……. The coalitions catchcry…..)
        Helps no-one.

      • To be clear:
        Anyone on an Upgraded HFC network, is going to be the last one to get FTTh.
        There isn’t a way in hell that the electorate or Government would allow one section of the country to get 2 upgrades (From no HFC to HFC, then to FTTh) if they are yet to receive one!

        • Renai’s idea with HFC is to simply connect people who have it running past their house. Nothing more. Theres no build as such, just a connection.

          It’s like living on a street you’re not allowed to use, and suddenly putting a driveway in to give you access. You dont need to build the road, its already there, so the only cost is the driveway. Renai’s idea is to legislate to force/encourage the owners of that road to build the driveways so at least there is SOMETHING better as an option.

          When the master plan gets to that part of the world, the road (thats been there 10 years already) can be retired from service, and the residents can use the new beaut road instead.

          What it does is allow the master plan to put that part of the world on the back burner for a little longer, knowing that the better service will be enough for an extra couple of years, so it reduces the pressure to get to everyone NOW.

          • Anthony … read the article about the part about MDU legislation. Clearly you don’t understand that Telstra is prevented from signing up new customers in MDUs.

          • Well why mention it?
            After the government legislation delay and expence, How long do you think it would take after that for the body corporate negotiations? Bearing in mind that body corporate meetings are held once a year usually, just say they organise an earlier one or send out a voting form, how soon after this is undertaken do you think the body corporate to come to agreement to allow fitting of HFC? And then, only to customers who sign up.

            It takes Telstra a week to connect a phone and internet to a stand alone house (two people I know have just moved)!

            Delays delays delays. Surely you can’t deny this?
            Yes there will be a pay off but,

            “The ACCC remains of the view that the public benefits, which are clear and quantifiable, on balance outweigh the likely detriment.”

            C’mon, pull the other one.

            Pre 2007 I would have been shouting from the roofs otherwise, but it’s 2012.
            You will have FTTh soon enough. And so will I.

          • And that is exactly right, They WILL be put on the back burner, to the end of the rollout!
            With speeds that in no way resemble 100/2. (20/? 10/? 5/? 2/? 1/?)
            While their neighbours in suburbs next door surf away at 100/40.
            Hardly a desirable option….

          • But Metro rollout isn’t happening and isn’t going to happen, and you know this.
            And even if Metro rollout was happening, You aren’t going to improve HFC if they are going to get fibre ‘sooner’ than they would under Labor’s current plan.

            It is even more so a waste of money to put money into HFC if they were going to get FTTh sooner than they are currently..

          • I think that Renai’s beef is really with the landlords and owners of MDU not allowing HFC connections. What he wants to do is force the landlords and owners to allow the HFC connections to the premises to be done.

            If you use the driveway example then think about who actually bears the cost of putting in the driveway and access to the street. It is the property owner.

            If Renai’s suggestion was implemented I would think the responsibility for paying for the HFC connection would need to be born by the person getting connected and not the owner(s) of the property or MDU.

  21. Wow Renai, you created quite a shitstorm today.

    Very good article tho, totally agree with your approach. I would have liked to see a bit more reuse of existing tech thats already active and in the ground in the short term. While its impractical in the long term, some of the HFC and ADSL components could have served quite well up until its replacement.

    It may have elevated the costs however of the total network – possibly leading Conroy and Quigley away from this approach.

    • >”While its impractical in the long term, some of the HFC and ADSL components could have served quite well up until its replacement.”

      I haven’t read the Optus or Telstra deals, but I don’t believe that the HFC or ADSL will get switched off before FTTh is rolled out.

      (Or did I miss something…?)

  22. Flow on effects of the NBN unrecognised so far. Hits on your site. Interesting to see the spike.

  23. Skipped over most of the comments.

    You’d fix black-spots and increase HFC saturation.
    Then you’d scrap the Optus deal.
    Then you’d target cities first with NBN?

    I think that this probably *isn’t* going to help NBNco’s business case – you’ve just decided to have a infrastructure war where the incumbents have taxpayer subsidized infrastructure!

    While I do like the general idea’s you’ve come up with, I’d note that it, even from your numbers, affects “hundreds of thousands”. Which is nice and all – but the NBNco in a similar time-frame intends [barring a massive change in the plans] to connect millions of homes.

    As such it’s a plan that, while addressing many important points, loses out on simplicity and that’s got plenty of issues involved.

    • Your comment is invalid. In actual fact, I never discussed delaying the main NBN FTTH rollout. I only discussed adding additional activities to be done concurrently — and most of them are only changes that need to be carried out on paper or with financial support — not actual construction.

      Read the article again.

      • Err… Excuse me?

        “Your comment is invalid.”

        I’m pretty sure my comment is valid, but let’s see.

        “In actual fact, I never discussed delaying the main NBN FTTH rollout.”

        In actual fact, I never discussed delaying the main NBN FTTH rollout.

        What i *DID* mention was that some of your goals may be contradictory. For example – extending HFC and building FTTH in cities first [for higher returns] may be contrary goals. Another argument *implied* is that implementing temporary measures is a good idea, but given the concept of limited resources [political, budgetary, experts, business support, developer support, consumer attention etc.] may have negative impacts.

        While there may be room for changes one has to be careful of the impacts of the changes – particularly if those changes are detrimental or cancel each other out.

        As a ‘Geek’ I love the way Android & Linux are run. As a developer I’ll only touch Windows and iOS. How well this example corresponds to your plan is up for discussion – but I’d keep it in mind.


  24. I am convinced that 75% of people who read this article actually think I suggested using HFC cable as an alternative to building the FTTH NBN.


    • Lol Renai.

      I can understand the frustration. We Pro-NBNers can be a right narrow minded bunch sometimes. :D

      I appreciate your analysis and ideas. Whether they’d work or not is up for debate, but there’s no question in my mind you’re ultimately in agreeance that the objective of the NBN is the ultimate goal, in the timeframe already given. How we get there in the meantime is what you’re addressing here.

    • I didn’t think that, but I do have a serious doubt about the viability of your plan…

      1. I don’t think you could legislate Optus and Telstra into a forced HFC wiring job. I don’t see any serious public need for it as the NBN FTTP is coming out at the same time. I think it would be in the courts for a few years, not to mention the ACCC. (it’s not like HFC is for emergency services, and it won’t help with the digital divide).
      2. Unlike the FTTP, the cost of the subsidy for HFC would be lost and not paid back over time as it’s a short term solution (bandaid). Hence it would need to go on the budget, which is anathema these days…
      3. Avoiding business installations was part of the cable business plan from the outset, and you would have to compensate Optus and Telstra for the business income lost on their other services (or at least their lawyers would attempt to force this).
      4. Areas with HFC (since we spent the money on the subsidy) would almost certainly go to the bottom of the list for FTTP…yuck…

      • >”1. I don’t think you could legislate Optus and Telstra into a forced HFC wiring job”
        +1. You could, but it would take TIME and $

        >”2. Unlike the FTTP, the cost of the subsidy for HFC would be lost ”
        +1. But in saying that, if the rest of the rollout was perfect, they might have got away with it.

        >”3. Avoiding business installations ……(or at least their lawyers would attempt to force this).
        +1. ‘Cough’ Delays….. ‘Cough’ Resources…… ‘Cough’ $$$$…….

        >”4. Areas with HFC (since we spent the money on the subsidy) would almost certainly go to the bottom of the list for FTTP…yuck…
        +100. Helps no one
        The rest of the city would get FTTh (under Renai’s ‘plan’)…. Then the country would get FTTh…. While those particular city suburbs are sitting at 100/2 (read 20/.01) While the next suburb gets 100/40.
        Yeah, cause they’d just sit back and take that one the chin……

        And those business in that (HFC) area get what exactly…..?

        I must admit, I’ve taken a less pragmatic approach to my rebuttles now, but from everything I’ve read, Renai, you’ve just jumped on the coalitions bandwagon, and are chanting ‘Sooner’ but without really thinking about the causuality of it all.

        Ok, I know it’s a ‘ficticious plan’, and in totally agree that in a perfect world it would be ideal.
        It would have been perfectly ideal if it had started somewhere before Kevin 07. But it didn’t.
        Sorry. :-/

        Hopefully the coalition reads this and realise how stupid their ‘plan’ is, and encourage Labor to roll out FTTh…. (I know, swine flu or something…)

    • I didn’t; I understood right away you were not changing the NBN rollout but were looking at opening up some interim options for the short term speed increases for some people until the NBN arrives in most suburban streets in several years time.

      I suspect that many of the pro-NBNers here are the veterans of the FUD wars at whirlpool and, quite reasonably, don’t want to extend any sort of olive branch towards something that the Libs might seize upon as an excuse to not do the NBN.

      As an idea in itself, it could be helpful and would give noticeable speed increases for little cost sooner than the NBN will provide for many people, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  25. DOCSIS 3.1 will make current GPON standard look like a total waste of time and money. Give it 12-18 months for the light to shine on what the ideas floating around the standards space looks like, and youll be absolutely baffled by the speeds.

    I would go so far as to say ittl make even 10GPON look silly…..these guys are not going to just let their existing market share vanish into the word of pure fibre. The RF boys in this world are not going to take this lieing down.

    Dont get me wrong, hell I work for a last-mile fibre vendor, fibre is brilliant….but its not the only kid playing in this sand box.

    • Errr….what?

      DOCSIS 3.1 may very well up the speed any individual can receive….but it doesn’t actually help contention whatsoever…..and it is for UPLOADS. Not downloads. That problem with HFC of contention, can only be fixed by one thing- node splitting. Renai is not suggesting this, he’s saying use what they have for as little more money as possible now. DOCSIS 3.1 isn’t even out of R&D yet and it is looking likely it’ll be 10Gbps downstream….same a GPON10….

      NBNCo are building GPON that’ll crap over ANYTHING RF/HFC can do, simply by swapping the end hardware after GPON40. Fibre will always beat copper. It’s physics.

      Optus haven’t spent any money on HFC for a decade, apart from DOCSIS 3.0, which is a switch and software upgrade. Same as Telstra. They’re not interested in increasing HFC share. They’ve both publicly stated this.

      • DOCSIS 3.1 is important- for countries like the US with 50% Cable penetration. It is not in a country with less than 8% cable penetration (it goes past 25%, but only services 8%).

      • Ive no doubt fibre will always beat copper in terms of quantitative performance, but where leveraging existing systems is concerned…..price per customer will ALWAYS be cheaper with docsis.

        RFoG is a white elephant, so dont even go there…FTTx is fantastic as an option for new rollouts, or upgrades from non-hfc and non-fttx…the majority of the planet however is running coax everywhere, and leveraging that is where DOCSIS will survive for a good 10-15 years more at the VERY least.

        3.1 is looking beyond 10gbps in the forward path….ive heard things from cisco honchos around the 40 figure. Upping the useable bandwidth improves contention, wouldn’t you agree?

        Im not arguing against the NBN, not at all…but if you think that HFC networks wont compete with an xPON network, then you really dont know whats going on in the R&D space.

        China is pushing HARD for a new spec that allows DOCSIS to be run over EPOC systems, they are looking at a cost per user of around $30!!! This is for DOCSIS 3.0 speeds, 64:1 at the worst case!

        Dont discount it because ‘its just china’…..the market pressure here is actually forcing all of the major players in this sector to play together for an international standard to emmerge to service this existing EPOC market….look out for it in the coming 12 months. Things are going to get interesting.

        ^^Read this as a comment internationally, not just for the NBN.

        • Unless HFC can supply a minimum of 20Mbps upload speed in the next year or so, DOCSIS will be useless. Cloud systems are now at the forefront of every software manufacturer’s roadmap, so for the first time we have upload speed becoming every bit as important as download. Advancing HFC is beating a dead horse…

          • +1.5

            Personally I’m still a little dubious of cloud computing (the Megaupload debacle shows there isnt as much security as people think), but there is STILL a massive move towards the processes at least. In that regard, as you say, upload is becoming more and more important.

            Existing technologies have shown they cant deliver NOW, so what will change in the next 10 years to reverse that? Not much, and other technologies (eg fibre) have shown that the capabilities arent in the delivery, but in the exchange, where its far easier to upgrade.

          • Chas … most of Australia is going to be on ADSL for most of the next decade, which definitely does not feature good upload speeds. Are you going to claim that ADSL is useless as well?

          • Hey Renai…”most of Australia is going to be on ADSL for most of the next decade”

            I know it may be picking nits, but I don’t think that is true at all. What you are saying is that >50% of the country will be on ADSL for the next >5 years…and I don’t believe that is accurate.

            “Are you going to claim that ADSL is useless as well?”

            Going forward, yes I think it is…I certainly would not spend $100s of millions if not more to enhance only the download portion of ADSL for a few years (just as I wouldn’t do it for HFC).
            I do agree that it would be worth the extra spend to speed up the NBN rollout and make it available to 99.9% (there’s always a few out-layers) of the population. But the difference between a 12/1 connection and a 100/2 connection (IMHO) is not something that we should subsidize.

  26. >>”The first thing I would do, if I were Communications Minister, is legislate to force Optus and Telstra to connect their HFC cable installations to individual residences and business premises in multi-dwelling unit buildings (MDUs), if either owners or renters requested it. And I would provide a modest financial package to help the telcos justify the additional cost.”

    Great idea in an ideal world. But in the real world, you need to consider the following:
    #How long do you think it would take to enact the legislation to force the telco to connect customers? 1 year, 2 years?

    #You cannot force private enterprise do things unless you also provide financial incentive, so how much of an incentive package do you give to the telcos? $1000 per dwelling for 100K dwelling? That is 100M.

    # And How long and how many people do you think would require to connect all these dwellings?

    >>”To resolve this issue, I would provide a direct government subsidy to support these users who can receive 3G wireless, but not fixed, broadband, and who need to purchase higher quota plans.”

    #Do you provide the subsidy to the end customer or the Telco? How do you define the eligibility for the subsidy?

    >>”In areas where fibre has already been deployed, such as in South Brisbane and some greenfields estates, I would likely legislate to compulsorily acquire that infrastructure under the Constitution and make it a part of the long-term NBN”

    #Again, How long do you think it would take enact the legislation? And how much do you have to pay for the acquisition?

    >>”I would also modify the NBN rollout to focus it along the lines of the 14 points of interconnect model strongly pushed by Internode founder Simon Hackett over the past several years.”

    #The push for 121 POP was by the big telcos. Simon Hackett pushed for 14 because he doesn’t own any of backhaul infrastructures. If he does, I am sure he would push for more POPs.

    #NBN actually wanted only 14 POP. Don’t expect the big telcos to give up their backhaul fibers without a fight in the court? And again, it would require a big carrot to entice the telcos to give up their fibers. The fiber backhaul is the only infrastructure they have and is their main competitive advantage over other NBN retailers. Don’t expect an easy fight.

    When you consider all these, it would take 3-5 years to sort out. If we just use these resources deploying the NBN to these areas, it would probably be done by then.

    All the ideas are wonderful in an ideal world, unfortunately ideal world does not exist.

  27. Renai

    I am puzzled by your reaction to your “Ideal world” broadband policy. Implied in this policy is that the real world is full of restrictions. So, it is not surprising that you policy would aim to lift these restrictions. However, these restrictions do exist and the responses to it point out how difficult overcoming them would be. It is, therefore, logical that most reactions would be negative. To be positive about them would just be unrealistic and would mean that we would all need to indulge in a bit of wishful thinking and contemplate how wonderful the world could be.

    I am sure many people would share your frustration at leaving short term solutions aside while waiting for the network to roll out. If one was to indulge into a bit more utopia, why not throw the proverbial kitchen sink at the problem and do the all roll out in say 3 years. Bring workers from overseas, spend all the money now. Then bingo, no need to short term solution. Off course, there would be training, logistics, resources and financial restrictions but hey we are talking perfect world here. See my point?

    Something else is becoming more apparent in your posts. You seem to have growing concern about this site becoming too pro-NBN. This problem is not caused by its contributors being biased towards NBN but rather by the lack of quality of the arguments from those opposing it. I, for one, would never be silly to come to a very knowledgeable site with half-backed arguments. Those opposing the NBN have the additional burden of having nothing concrete to defend. Which bring me to the last point.

    Your attempt to marry both sides of the fence are commendable insofar that it may bring more balance to the discussion. The problem, however, is that the reasoning behind the coalition’s policy is politically motivated which is understandable in context of an Australian adversary political system. The problem with blending aspects of two policies is that the have different visions of what the broadband landscape should. In fact, in the coalition’s case, they have two visions: Turnbull’s short term minimalist view and Abbott’s view that we don’t need the NBN.

    So, don’t despair, who knows we may eventually get a unanimous, fully fledged and costed coalition policy worth discussing which, in turn, may allow more useful comparison to take place.

    • Quote: “Something else is becoming more apparent in your posts. You seem to have growing concern about this site becoming too pro-NBN. This problem is not caused by its contributors being biased towards NBN but rather by the lack of quality of the arguments from those opposing it.”

      Totally agree. The desire for a ‘balanced’ opinion often gets in the way of the technical facts and regulatory reality. I don’t know how many people here have said ‘great plan in the ideal world, BUT…”. If the idea cannot be implemented in the real world due to real world constraints, then it really isn’t that great an idea.

  28. Renai,

    You forgot to add an update with Piers Akaman’s piece in today’s Daily Telegraph championing OPEL, you know, because everyone has a phone and a daily telegraph iPad app now, so the NBN is “Not Bloody Needed”.

    It was an awesome piece, really insightful.

    I’d provide a link but, wisely, the tele kept it in print so they wouldn’t have to moderate all the mocking it would attract.

    Go buy the Tele, just for laughs.

    • Ugh. The Telegraph makes me SO angry- It has the highest subscriber level, so it “convinces” the most people. And 90% of what they print is shit.

      I wouldn’t buy it if someone gave me $2. But if someone has a copy and would mind spending a few minutes transcribing, that’d be appreciated.

  29. This is just Renai’s wish list but in reality we will proberly get…

    Depending on the outcome of the 2013 Election.

    Lib win… we will get the first part of Renais wish list…..some tinkering at the edges.

    Labor win…. the NBN

    mmmm now let me see….. eeni meeni miini moh, catch Renai by the toe, if he squeals let him go

  30. Although I agree with the many comments pushing the NBN is the only practical solution mainly for political and public dollar reasons. Your article does raise some good points.

    I would love a technology solution to be available in the shorter term but I can’t see anything being provided for those outside of the HFC and 3G areas, which is my personal situation, which I don’t think is that unusual from that of the majority of Australians.

    I for one am on the fringes of the 3 year plans for the NBN, being in Metro WA ~10kms from the CBD i can achieve close to 4/1 on ADSL2 on my copper telephone line. As there is no HFC option what would an interim solution be to those metro people around the country who are deemed to be given a “Broadband” service currently but receive poor speeds on current equipment, I really feel for those on a rim / pair gain.

    My current 4/1 connection is definitely in my opinion not sufficient. AFAIK the only option would be to node split (essentially a FTTN) to bring an fibre link closer to my house as I believe my cable run is ~3.6kms, that or provide a 3/4G solution. Although alas for me a 3G internet account isn’t practical (downloads) due to being in a black spot for mobile services, which I believe is due to the contours of my local suburb, so without having an aerial around 3metres above my roof and everybody else on my street connecting (should a subsidy be provided for this scenario).

    So in summary the NBN FTTP (or alternative if one is provided by the Coalition) is for many the only way to get an upgraded service at an affordable level. As it hasn’t been attractive enough for any of the current Telco’s or fibre providers to provide any alternate service and Telstra and my ADSL provider (iinet) are no doubt highly profitable using the current infrastructure.

  31. I thought I’d compose something to cover all the points of Renai’s “In an ideal world, Perfect National Broadband Network Policy” opinion piece.

    Let’s start by noting paragraph one “..taking the best ideas from both sides and ditching the bad ones”. But I’ll refer to this later.

    Renai states:
    >“The first thing I would do, if I were Communications Minister, is legislate to force Optus and Telstra to connect their HFC cable installations to individual residences and business premises in multi-dwelling unit buildings (MDUs), if either owners or renters requested it. And I would provide a modest financial package to help the telcos justify the additional cost”

    There are many problems with this so let’s start with a few questions that need to be asked before this could be approved:

    How much is the financial incentive?
    Is it $100 or $1000?
    How many people per MDU would be the expected take up?
    Is this 10% or 90%?
    How long will it take to investigate this and/or correlate the data?
    How much would the negotiation cost the federal government?
    How long will it take to negotiate a price once all the data is agreed upon?
    How soon are the MDU’s set to get FTTh as it stands?

    All these questions and more need to be answered, negotiated and agreed upon before any work can take place on the legislation to be written.
    Some would call it a cost benefit analysis, or CBA.

    Then we go on to speeds.

    Renai mentions his friends are on speeds of 100mbps which I’m sure is all true and correct.
    However, one poster on here mentioned that he was getting speeds of 20mbps currently on HFC, though when he connected initially, he was getting 100mbps. And therein lies the problem that many people you chat with who are in the industry will attest to; HFC is a shared medium which, although peak speeds are around 100mbps, isn’t necessarily what you get on a consistent basis, or for some, at all. And because it is a ‘shared’ medium, the more people that get signed on, the slower it goes. So I think it is safe to assume, that if the government is subsidising more people to get on to it, without a significant upgrade, it is going to get slower. Renai has also pointed out, that Telstra is currently trying hard to sign more people on to HFC. Again, without spending much capital to increase the nodes ability, will slow down the ‘actual’ speeds.

    So therefore, on our CBA or SWAT analysis, we have to factor in, the ‘actual’ speeds people are likely to obtain while they wait for the FTTH rollout. If there are more people, the speeds are to be slower. How slow? How many people are expected to sign up initially? How many are expected to sign up later? And then the big one; What will happen to the speeds of the people that are already signed up?

    All this talk about speeds, and we’ve forgotten to mention about uploads. Uploads on HFC are limited to 2mbps. This is good if you aren’t getting that sort of speed to upload on, but again, this is peak speed. It can be very far from reality, especially if you add a larger customer base.

    Moving on.

    >“My next step would be to target broadband blackspots” is Renai’s next point. Sounds noble. But unfortunately he forgets the detail. It is in the NBN’s scope to ensure service of 12/1 mbps broadband is delivered to country areas and ‘blackspots’ as a matter of priority. And this is very much so what NBNco is doing.

    The next discussion turns to 3G; ‘subsidising’ people who have access to wireless networks that don’t have access to good land line internet. Again we have the problem of most broadband mediums, and that is the division of the service as more people jump on board, just like HFC. Most people who have had a smart phone for longer than a year would have observed that their 3G data speeds has slowed down. This is purely because more people have smart phones than a year ago. It’s as simple as that. More users, slower speeds.

    (4G, if they happen to get access to it, succumbs to the same problems, albeit, with better output than 3G).

    The powers that be, then have to ask; What speeds can currently be accessed? And then how slow will it go? How many people is a tower servicing? How many will it service? How long can this speed be maintained? And more importantly, how much are we talking about subsidising? Remember we have to add this to the HFC amount. And this comes straight out of the government coffers.

    It’s then mentioned that the NBN should be legislated to purchase any current Greenfield fibre that has already been deployed. I see this as a little bit moot as it’s the intention of the longer term scope of the NBN rollout to eventually sell off the wholesale division. Whether this eventuates, I’m unsure, but buying Greenfield fibre that isn’t owned by NBNco can be looked at a later time, when the NBN is generating more consistent revenue. And I might add that any negotiation for a company to hand over it’s assets is going to be costly and time heavy.

    >“You can see with these first steps that no infrastructure rollout is required” is stated in relation to HFC and Wireless.

    I totally agree with this, but as you dig deeper you see where the cracks start to form. We’ve already observed the speed ‘bump’ that we have to overcome. And then we have the cost. Further to that we have delays, because of discussions, negotiations, renegotiations, and legislation. All for a stopgap.

    >“I would implement NBN Co’s satellite plan immediately. I would, in the short-term, provide subsidised access to other commercial satellites as per NBN Co’s interim satellite project.”

    Again we talk of subsidies. Remember this is what the coalition wants to do. But what are we up to? $Millions? $10’s of Millions? $100’s of Millions? Where do we draw the line?

    We then talk about the satellite plan and bringing it forward. From everything I have read on the NBN I believe that the satellite plan is well underway, and interim measures are well underway too. How could you speed this up? And were in the budget would we take the money from to speed it up any more?

    Under any Project undertaking, the ‘Scope’ of a project is constrained by ‘Cost’, ‘Quality’ and ‘Time’. Change anyone of these within the current Scope, one of the others has to change. A delay in Time, will result in an increase in Cost, or a drop in Quality. ‘What you do to one side, you must do to the other’ if you will.

    The only way to avoid this, is to bring money in from outside the ‘scope’ of the project. As is suggested, by subsidies from the budget. Again, where is this money to be taken from? And who else would have to miss out on their ‘funding’ because the money has gone to a temporary measure to speed up the NBN? Fair for some, but at what cost to others? And at what point do we stop? Why don’t we just speed up the whole rollout with those $Millions, $10’s of millions, $100’s of millions instead? Surely this would be a better spending of taxpayers money?

    >“I would also build another fibre cable across Bass Strait to Tasmania.”

    I agree. Once the NBN is rolling out and generating money, we can look at ways to disburse this money to improve the infrastructure more so. All in due course.

    >“However, unlike the current NBN plan, I would focus on deploying fibre first to those areas where Australia has the highest population density”

    I disagree with this proposal, but I can understand why some would argue otherwise, and they have done so vehemently. The main decision to rollout the NBN is to be ‘Fair to all’. There is always the capitalist/conservative mantra of servicing just those who need it. But the problem then lies in the very fact that the NBN infrastructure becomes a ‘vital’ piece of infrastructure, for the ‘whole’ country and ‘all’ of it’s people. All will need it. Many decisions were made as to where the rollout should take place first, and much of it viciously debated. It isn’t the usual business product we are talking about here. We are talking about the replacement and improvement of an essential service. There isn’t a way that anyone can argue that Joe City Public needs an essential service more than Joe Country Public. It just ends there. It should be totally observed that the country and city getting a well balanced delivery of NBN infrastructure focusing on those in need first, and those close to ‘backhaul’ and done in such a way, that the delivery teams, aren’t working all in the one area, over each other. I think the NBN team have done every possible thing to ensure that the project is rolled out to the country as a whole, as quickly and as efficiently as is humanly possible, with minimal need for compromise. How could this possibly be improved upon? Being both a city and country dweller like Renai I ask, ‘Why should city dwellers have access to an essential service before anyone else?’

    It is talked of having 14 Points of Interconnect or POI’s if you will. There will always be a compromise. Some wanted more, some such as here, wanted less. 121 as a number was decided to be in the middle ground, a compromise if you will, and I think this will have a good outcome for Australians.

    >“Speaking of Optus, I would can NBN Co’s ($800million) deal with Optus.”

    In hindsight, it may have been a good idea, maybe sometime before 2007, to make sure that Optus invests in it’s HFC network. But today, in 2012, well $800 million could fix a lot of wireless for Optus customers. The deal is done. In actual effect, it leads to a quicker connection for the customers in that HFC area to get Fibre to the Home, as it mitigates any delay in take-ups. If the HFC was allowed to be kept active, if only for a stop gap to FTTh, I dare say the engineers will then pick that area to be serviced later in the rollout. Pushed back. And for fair reason. If they can get ‘decent’ speeds on HFC, as subsidising the service would suggest, wouldn’t you then rollout to a different area first who has lesser speeds? Wouldn’t that make sense from an ‘essential service’ point of view? Wouldn’t that make sense from a ‘technical’ point of view? So why would you want to be subsidised if it was going to delay your rollout? Or do we want our cake and to eat it too, while other suburbs miss out? Hardly a fair go for the rest of the population.

    After all that, I do agree with one proposal; “that any profits from the network’s operation were ploughed into extending it further, replacing wireless and satellite services with ubiquitous fibre where possible.” Spoken like a true Australian. And I agree, whole heartedly.

    I understand that Renai is purely talking about stop gap measures here. But unfortunately, many of them haven’t been well thought out, and already have been well discussed and debated amongst the powers that be and the people in the know. Why debate it further? We are all going to get a great service. Without the ‘some are more equal, than others’ we are all too familiar with.

    • @Anthony

      “I thought I’d compose something to cover all the points of Renai’s “In an ideal world, Perfect National Broadband Network Policy” opinion piece.”

      I think you’re overcomplicating with alot of it, but many points still stand.

      I think the ultimate thing in all of this is that there may very well be some good ideas here, with work….but none of them will ever happen in OUR world. Because Labor don’t even have the clout to ensure the NBN will continue OFF-budget, let alone use budget money to subsidise broadband in the meantime…..

  32. Hey everyone,

    thanks for the debate over the past couple of days. There have been some good points raised.

    However, at times I fear the conversation has been getting a little heated at times on Delimiter and sometimes a little circular. Sometimes the argument has also gotten a bit irrational. This isn’t what I’m really aiming for with the site — what I want to promote is new ideas, new discussions, to help push things forward.

    I want Delimiter to be a forum of open-minded individuals, debating things based on evidence. I don’t like inherent political bias and I have felt recently that some of this has crept back into our conversation.

    With this in mind I’m closing this thread. I’ll consider over the next couple of days how to stimulate things more in the direction I’m after.



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