blog There are actually few Australians who your writer considers to be actual, verifiable experts on the current class of broadband technologies being debated as part of the National Broadband Network discussion. However, Geoff Huston is one of them. Huston is the big cheese of network architecture in Australia. He’s currently Chief Scientist at the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre, where he is regarded as one of the world’s global authorities on the phenomenon of IPv4 address exhaustion, but he has also held a variety of other important roles in the history of the development of the Internet in Australia. From 1995 to 2005, Huston was the Chief Internet Scientist at Telstra, where he helped develop the big T’s Internet offerings. Before that, he was one of the main driving forces helping to construct AARNet — you know, the Internet network between Australia’s universities which represented one of the first actual IP-based networks with access to the Internet in Australia.
Yeah. He did all that. Not bad, eh?
In a new post on his site last month (we really recommend you click here to read through the whole thing; it’s worth your time), Huston expresses his surprise that Australia’s political sphere is actually actively discussing network architecture design daily, and provides an excellent overview of the current NBN debate. However, perhaps more importantly, Huston also expresses his view that an Active Optical Network in a fibre to the premises framework would be a much better option than the passive network currently being rolled out by NBN Co. The key paragraph:
“If there was an option for an Active Optical Network in a FttH framework then I think I’d prefer to head in that direction. That’s in spite of the considerations of the reliability issues associated with the deployment of active electronics in the node. This approach offers a direct path to increase the capacity of the trunk fibre from the exchange to the node, and a means of increasing the individual capacity from the node to each ONT on a service-by-service basis if need be. In the trunk networking environment in Australia we have already seen the long haul fibre network that was constructed in the mid nineties be upgraded from the original 500Mbps capacity to multi-gigabit capacity through the retro-fitting of DWDM optics, using the original glass.
While the edge cables in a FttH environment might not be the subject of such intense levels of capital investment, the reassuring thought is that the megabit speeds achieved through the FttH network are an artefact of the electronics of the system rather than a physical limitation of the cable plant, and there is an progressive upgrade path that does not involve a complete replacement of the edge cable system.”
To be honest, you have to take what Huston is saying with consideration to the context in which he’s writing. Huston hasn’t really explored the economics of the NBN solution he’s pushing here, and he also hasn’t fully explored the current political situation. In fact, as with many deep technical experts, I would say that Huston is probably a little bit politically naive. However, from a purely technical point of view, there is absolutely no doubt that we should be taking Huston’s view seriously. This is one expert who actually knows what he’s talking about. Without Huston’s work, the Internet in Australia that we all enjoy might look a lot different right now.
Image credit: APNIC