Is FTTN vectoring just a pipe dream?


Businessmans bubble is about to burst as he is shouting through megaphone

blog If you believe Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a technology known as ‘vectoring’ has the potential to dramatically enhance the speed of a fibre to the node network such as the Coalition is planning to construct under its rival NBN policy. However, significant doubts have recently been raised as to the extent to which vectoring can be implemented in Australia — and at what cost.

Vectoring is a technique applied to copper ADSL networks which aims to significantly increase the speeds attainable on such networks. According to Wikipedia, the technique is based on the principle of noise cancellation on an ADSL line. Over the past several years, Turnbull has mentioned vectoring several times as a possible technology to help deliver the Coalition’s FTTN-based NBN rollout. Here’s the Liberal MP on launch day in April for the Coalition’s NBN policy:

“Copper is delivering much faster speeds today with XDSL, you know, ADSL, ADSL+, VDSL+ , VDSL2+ with vectoring. All of these technologies are delivering dramatically higher speeds. You’re getting over 100 megs. On the copper that you so deride, you are getting speeds that are as high or higher than what the NBN is providing over fibre. This is not me talking, this is, you know, telcos around the world are delivering this.”

In addition, there is quite a lot of activity around vectoring globally. In an article published in April this year on the website of French networking vendor Alcatel-Lucent, for example, Broadbandtrends principal analyst Teresa Mastrangelo writes:

“… we are seeing accelerating interest in the deployment of VDSL2 Vectoring. Based on responses to a recently conducted global operator survey on VDSL2 Vectoring deployment strategies – 60 percent of those responding are currently deploying or in trial with VDSL2 Vectoring … Although they won’t be able to match Gigabit speeds offered by some operators – VDSL2 Vectoring will easily provide speeds of 75-100Mbps at significantly less cost than FTTH.”

However, vectoring also has its critics. One of the quickest to throw his hat into the ring following the launch of the Coalition’s policy was telecommunications engineering professor Robin Braun, who wrote at the time:

“Unfortunately, vectoring’s performance deteriorates rapidly with the length of the copper runs, the number of copper pairs bundled together and the quality of that copper. Turnbull wasn’t wrong to call vectoring “as a key technology which has extended the life of copper everywhere from China to Germany” but the best use of vectoring is in high-density areas, where distance to the node is less than 800m.

This has been feasible and effective in European and Asian cities but has not gained much traction in North America, and is unlikely to be a long-term solution for a massive country such as Australia.”

More recently, some pro-FTTP commentators have been examining the vectoring situation more closely. Local IT pro Kieran Cummings, for example, wrote last week, in a provocatively titled post named headed “Why You’ll Never Get Vectoring”:

“When I see the claims of 90% of Australia receiving a minimum of 50Mbps I remind myself of the reality that there are no VDSL2 providers offering any guarantees like this. In fact, BT has already revised down the “capable” speeds of their VDSL2 services due to consumer backlash over lacklustre speeds. When looking at the [Deutsche Telekom] example, they are well aware the end-game is fibre, and that end-game is near with DT estimating less than 30 years before their copper network will be decommissioned.”

So what do I think, having read all the different arguments here — the Coalition’s, analysis by telecommunications infrastructure experts and academics, and more populist punditry? To be honest, I’m not sure what I think about vectoring. It’s clear that many people do consider this technology viable, and it is being trialled and deployed around the world, to a certain extent. However, it’s also clear that there are substantial doubts about its viability in Australia.

I think when it comes to vectoring in the Coalition’s NBN policy, and FTTN technology in general, we’ll learn a lot when the first trials of this kind of technology start being deployed in Australia, likely through NBN Co. Until that time, it’s hard to say precisely who’s right and who’s wrong here. So much depends on conditions specifically in Australia, as well as the maturity of the technology globally, that we can’t say for sure just how viable vectoring is just yet. I think we’ll have to wait and see.


  1. Mt spruiks vectoring as a magic bullet but he couldnt be more wrong – it merely’s delay the inevitable move to FTTP while driving up to total cost of the network.

    How spending more in the long run can deliver lower internet prices to consumers simply defies all logic!

    • That was one thing Renai didn’t mention, but I did state in my article. The move to vectoring by AT&T (mix of vectoring & FTTP) came in at US$3b for 1 million services. Deutsche Telekom’s pure vectoring upgrade is weighing in at $38b for 10m services.

      That’s $3000 per premises for AT&T & $3800 per premises for DT. That’s more than NBN Co’s $2300 per premises. Do note that these are high density areas, a far cry from Australia’s ultra low population density.

      • As I thought, the numbers simply dont add up and that’s just for CAPEX – throw an extra 1.1Billion of OPEX into the mix (copper line maintenance + electricity for each 3kW slurping node) and claims of cheaper Internet for consumers are shown to be 100% false!

          • That’s 29 Billion for CAPEX, OPEX is the cost of running the LBN which is were we really see how flawed MT’s reasoning is!

          • djos,

            That figure is incorrect, the Coalition CAPEX figure is 20.4b, you quoted the required funding figure of $29.5b.

            By way of comparison the CAPEX for the Labor rollout is 37.4b and the required funding is $44.1b.

            You blame MT for flawed reasoning?

          • Wrong, the only thing that matters is the amount of gov investment, MT runs around claiming the gov are wasting money but the reality is he’s the one wasting money on a short term band-aid which needs to be replace in less than 10 years!!!

          • You quote a incorrect figure for the Coalition rollout and instead of correcting it you say I’m wrong (err what?) then go off into anti Coalition rant?

          • @Fibroid

            Your reasoning was still flawed- the CAPEX of the 2 builds IS different by $17 billion supposedly (the Coalition’s is currently uncosted) but the government funding difference, which is what this whole argument and debate is about- how much Government should be spending on “faster warez for teh kiddiz”- is only $900 million.

            Total funding NBN = $44 Billion, Government Funding = $31.4 Billion
            Total Coalition Funding = $29.5 Billion, Government Funding (as there has been zero indication of a business plan and therefore no possibility for private debt) = $29.5 billion.

          • Sheesh, Malcolm wouldn’t have put his plan forward if there wasn’t a business plan, amiright? Considering each iteration of his plan gains more paperwork, I’m sure LBN v5.6 will include it :)

      • That’s more than NBN Co’s $2300 per premises. Do note that these are high density areas, a far cry from Australia’s ultra low population density

        You mean theoretical, predicted future cost, don’t you? The NBN has yet to deliver any connection for $2300.

        • @Tel

          Incorrect. Not only have they actuals from TAS at that cost, but your suggestion that they are outright lying about their final estimates is based on nothing. NBNCo. have no reason or incentive to lie. They will likely be ripped apart and audited up the wazoo from September. WHY would they bother lying???

          Give me one reason you believe the final estimates will be any significantly different. That doesn’t involve some grandiose conspiracy about a cover for Labor.

          • They are absolutely truthful about their estimates. Their estimates are exactly what they say they are. However, these things remain “estimates” until they become real, and the thing about estimates is they are not real.

            Last week, at another parliamentary hearing, NBN Co finally gave some hard numbers.  It said actual cost per premise was $5,000 in stage 1 of the rollout (in Tasmania); $4,000 in stage 2 (also in Tasmania) and $3,100 in stage 3 (the five ‘first release’ sites on the mainland).

            NBN Co also said that its ‘estimate at completion’ of the cost per premises on parts of the network currently being rolled out was much lower: between $1100 and $1400.


            Evidence: the NBN has yet to actually roll out any connection at a price of $2300 or lower. Everything else is maybe, perhaps, future, could be, but isn’t.

            I suspect these figures don’t even take into account the cost of head office and management, but I admit I haven’t checked.

          • …but I admit I haven’t checked.

            Which is exactly the reason we will take NBNCo’s estimates over yours. They have checked. They might have got it wrong yes, but until you present evidence that suggests their estimates are based upon faulty assumptions or fail to take into account something then the fax remains they are the most reliable cost figure we have.

            You can, if you want, stick to actual results, but if you do, let me point this out: NBNCo have completed some of their rollout, and the Coalition haven’t. So if you support the Coalition over the NBN because you refuse to look at the estimates on the table and dismiss them as “maybe, perhaps, future, could be, but isn’t”, you are being hypocritical, because the Coalition estimates are very much “maybe, perhaps, future, could be, but isn’t” right now too, aren’t they?


            Here’s another way of looking at it, the NBN has cost $4 billion to date and they have passed what? 100k premises? Let’s just push that up to 200k, no, umm let’s push that up to half a million, why be stingy?

            4000000000 / 500000 = 8000

            But the $4 billion is old, and the 500k is dreamland, so the real figure is certainly worse than $8k per premises… and only a fraction of those actually pay for services.

            I know, I know, it will all be faster, more efficient, better, yadda, next year… how long have we been hearing the same?

          • Right, so… they’re only rolling out last mile fibre infrastructure then? They haven’t spent any money on the more expensive wireless options or on back-haul upgrades which provide common infrastructure that all connections can utilise?

            Please, your arguments would have less holes if you modelled them on Swiss Cheese.

          • The IPA dont like it’s employee’s to think for themselves as they might realise what rubbish they are being fed!

          • Errr, kind of the whole idea of the NBN is to charge the same price to all users. I would have thought such advocates would know that.

            Thus, the average cost across all users equals the borrowed money your access fees must pay back (plus interest). This is a very basic financial concept known as a loan.

          • Hey Tel, back on topic.

            Do you think the Coalition plan will be able to achieve 50 megabits per second with a Vectoring upgrade on services that just meet the initial 25 megabit VDSL2 target?

            If not vectoring; what will need to be done to achieve the 50 megabit target for these users?
            Will this cost more than the projected cost of the LNP project?

            PS. I know you actually can’t answer the cost question, but what do you base your support of their policy on. Personally my gut tells me it will be a more expensive option to achieve the 50 megabits from a 25 megabit starting point. (deployment of sub-nodes, or running of FTTP, are the only methods I can think of).

            If they can’t provide 50 megabits as a guarantee, are you OK with them guaranteeing it?

          • All true, except when you’re issued a loan on say a house you don’t get the leader coming to you when you’ve completed one room in the house and have him tell you that your current average cost per room is too high, because the he understands that the foundation was the most sigificant expense and is shared by all rooms.

            I was pointing out you were taking the average cost per premise and including the “foundation work” in that, which is reality you can’t do because that “foundation work” doesn’t need to be repeated for every house. Something I thought a “Telecommications Expert” would understand, if I rememeber what you called yourself correctly.

          • Ok, so using your (childlike) reasoning, the first user to be connected to the LBN will have cost $20.4B.

            I knew it was too expensive!!1

          • @Tel

            As NightKaos has already covered, NBNCo. have built a company from the ground up, done trials, built nearly half the backbone network, begun building the satellite ground stations and are about 1/4 of the way through the wireless.

            Suggesting NBNCo. have spent $4 Billion and to show for that only have 130K customers therefore it’s $X per premises is disingenuous AT BEST and an outright lie at worst. If you’re going to argue, argue with decent figures, not made up ones.

  2. The premise of the technology is sound. I believe it would take some OK speeds to some better than OK speeds.

    But I doubt we can guarantee 50 megabits if 25 is the initial (non vectored?) promise.

    Looking at speed graphs comparing [last one says an improvement of upto 50%, and theres a video with a specific example] Vectored and Non-Vectored (which are probably marketing materials – and thus better-case scenarios than reality) the results of Vectoring a 25 megabit link are approximately 40 megabits.

    I am not sure MT is going to be able to guarantee 50 megabits by relying entirely on vectoring.

    • Would like to add; that the 3 links I provided were:
      An Ecitele slide
      An Alcatel Lucent slide
      and a Calix DSL marketing page.

      All marketing; the Calix DSL one has a nice marketing video that makes you want to commit suicide, but the Alcatel Lucent one shows some pretty decent info. (a very nice non-vectored vs Vectored graph).

      None of the above indicate that a minimum of 25 megabits will double in performance with Vectoring enabled.

    • Thinking about it, it is eerily similar to the 2010 election promise heralding wireless as the way of the future. All the Libs have done is research into an alternate new technology, one which is only able to be debunked when investigated on a more technical level.

      Politically, vectoring is yet another example of the art of the soundbite. Credit where it is due, the Libs are unrivaled when it comes to fancy one liners and setting the media conversation… cue MSM conspiracies.

      Come 2016, there are two possible things I believe I will be saying about the LBN either;
      1. Where the hell is my faster BB you promised me Malcolm; or
      2. FTTN is nice, but for the small increase in speed I ended up receiving, why the hell didn’t we wait and do FTTH in the first instance.

    • Really this is what betrays Turnbull’s agenda. How is it he is somehow going to magically cover the nation in 25+ Mbps in 2-2.5 years, but then it will take another 3 years to upgrade that to 50+ Mbps?

      The answer is simple, that’s how long the election cycles are. Why those numbers? Because those are prominent numbers on the real NBN.

      Come to think of it has he even said vectoring is how he’ll get to 50+ from 25+? I don’t think he has, he just mentions these things in neighbouring sentences (because they make it sound like he has a plan?)

      The more I think about it the more I think (maybe it’s all hope I can’t tell) that it’s just a ploy and he’ll say it’s too late to change the NBN.

  3. Welcome to last year where basic research into vectoring showed it wouldn’t work especially with long loops and pair gain systems.

    Run new copper? Might as well go whole hog and run fibre.

      • Oh geez i cant remember…all im my head. I looked into it for a NBN contractor when i was working for them. Led me to whitepapers and other web resources. Just take my word for it! ;)

        • I think I may have read the same papers. It was some white papers on the trials. The pair gain one is pretty obvious as you share a line. The limit on distance was below 800m I believe, but that was on thicker copper than used here in Australia. It would be interesting to see trials here, especially on some of the older copper in the cities. I think the other thing that was a fail for VDSL, and ADSL to some extent was aluminium. In some areas aluminium cable was used by Telstra as it was cheaper at the time and adequate for voice.

          • Do the search yourself. Type “Alcatel vectoring trials” into Google.
            I have work to do and no time to search for things for people who imply I am lying :)

          • I didn’t think he was really was saying I was lying. It probably took him 2 seconds to write that reply. I have no idea if he is really interested in the information or not. It’s not a hard thing to search about and find the white papers on the vectoring trials, but it does take time. Maybe an hour or so. I work and haven’t got time to search for the data for some random “URL or it didn’t happen”. I doubt he even looked back to see if I posted one.

          • I was being flippant, but that doesn’t mean I am not interested. I could look it up, but I can’t guarantee I will find the exact references you are making.

            You made the statement, and said you had evidence, but you didn’t introduce it, even after 2 people asked.

          • I wish people would stop throwing pair gain around like this – it is misleading and factually incorrect. Yes, pair gain over AML is incapable of any data service worth considering, but a lot of people on pair gain are connected to RIMs, and because they have individual copper lines they will receive an improved service under FTTN. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous at best.

  4. When it rains… my adsl goes to shite.

    Can we book in a drought for the next 4-6 years?

    • What happens if it rains after that? Copper will still be effected, causing your you beaut FttN line to still degrade to carrier pidgeon speeds. Going to be more annoying after 5-6 years of good connections…

      • What evidence do you have that when it rains the much shortened copper link to a FTTN cabinet is affected in exactly the same way as a long copper run that goes all the way from the residence to the nearest exchange?

        • Actually in this particular instance the burden of proof lies upon you to prove that the length of the copper has anything to do with the likelihood of water ingress causing service interruption or degradation.

          The reason for this is because the cause of this problem is relayed damaged pits and pipes, and assuming a random distribution of damaged it just as likely for a pit or pipe to be damaged in a short length of copper than a long one.

          In essence you are indirectly suggesting that the majority of faults occur before the proposed cabinet locations in the copper tails. The fact is water ingress can occur anywhere along the tail.

  5. One thing I note from a lot of talk regarding xDSL is the lack information is upload speeds. What are the guarantees? I feel that decent ubiqutous upload capacity will make for a significant change in the way we use the internet and not enough focus is placed upon it. Whether you think the website is flawed in what speeds it uses, it really does a lot to show the difference in upload speeds. Even if you are generous and quadruple the upload speed of FttN, the difference will still be staggering (20Mb/s is only 5% of 400Mb/s and I’ve yet to see any deployments with a promise higher than 10Mb/s*).

    Vectoring, whilst it may help it’s just vendor vaporware until it’s deployed widely in the real world. It’s in the vendors best interest to say “Yes this will solve your problems”, as their business relies on selling hardware. What requires a significant amount of hardware to achieve it’s stated goals? Why FttN does my friends.


    • Unfortunately the fight is being fought on download speeds. And the coalition cant even tell the truth there either.

      100 megabits by 2023 on the labor plan from their product release, when they knew that was a lie. (amongst all the other lies like 93 billion dollars projected cost etc.)

  6. If the copper was in pristine condition i might actually agree with vertoring (if we are forced to keep using copper) but we all know what the state of the copper is like in Australia.

    Im 2k from exchange and i should get about 10-12 Mbps download speed but on my copper im on way way less than that.

    IMHO that just shows how bad the copper is, without much research you will find horrible stories much worse than mine about the state of the copper.

    Mal wanting to keep using that copper is absolutely ridiculous in the extreme. But i’ve been saying for ages that he is a fool.


    • I’m in a new house on a brand new phone line. When I moved in it took them 3 months to connect the line because there wasn’t enough capacity in the area to support the new houses in this little block they built, so at least some of the cable from me back to the exchange is also brand new. I live 1.5 KM from the exchange.

      All good signs right? I should have a pretty sweet connection by ADSL standards? It drops out when it rains, the background noise on the voice line is enough to make conversations difficult, it’s 4 Mbps, which is already 1 Mbps less than when we moved in.

      Copper is the future am I right?

      • Unlucky mate, i feel sorry for you i really do. You got the shit end of a big stick there…

        (begin sarcasm)

        There you go Mal COPPER IS AWESOME!!!!

        (end sarcasm)

        • @Fibroid

          Ummm, FTTN in many parts of the world USES ADSL. Like in NZ and UK. What you’re talking about is VDSL and it is actually MORE prone to faults than ADSL because it uses a higher frequency.

          • First it was in response to the comment about a new copper run as you well know, to insinuate that a existing copper run that has faults which goes all the way to the exchange and may be so long that it takes ADSL to its line length limits will therefore have faults in the much shorter copper run from a FTTN cabinet to the residence is not correct.

            Secondly what evidence do you have that faults are higher under VDSL than ADSL?

          • @Fibroid

            I didn’t insinuate anything. You said FTTN was not ADSL. I said, that is incorrect. FTTN in many parts of teh world IS ADSL. Thats is fact.

            Secondly, it’s called physics. Higher frequencies propagate shorter distances and require higher power to do so and are more affected by interference as well as water and copper surface layers. I can link you to some great physics sites that actually specifically deal with copper surface conductivity and its’ affects on above 1MHz frequencies if you like?

          • No not ‘physics theory’, actual fault report evidence that shows unequivocally that are more faults with VDSL than ADSL.

          • @Fibroid

            Where did I say physics theory??

            It is Physics FACT that the ADSL SNR ratios at 1MHz can be considerably higher than at the 10-20MHz VDSL uses and not receive the same drop in service.

            If you believe otherwise, you are disagreeing not only with the entirety of the telecommunications industry, but the laws of physics.

            Here’s a good forum representing exactly what I’m saying:


            Have a look at the attenuation. At 20dB, a MAXIMUM sync rate of 30Mbps is achieved here. 500m of 0.6 copper (22 AWG) which is higher than many Australian urban premises, gives almost 15dB of attenuation. Without any joints or terminations included (at 0.5-1dB per joint). How do you guarantee 25Mbps at 800m when physics tells you that’s not even possible with a perfect, medium gauge copper line???

          • @Fibroid

            Oh and on faults, you won’t find any for VDSL. They’re not reported. BT lowered their maximum speed advertising after customers complained they couldn’t achieve the speeds advertised of perfect, ultra-short lengths. They never reported that as a fault though.

            Almost all faults on copper networks are still only presented in terms of voice-failure. And voice-failure happens WELL beyond DSL deterioration and even total failure.

          • Indeed, you can almost run Voice/ADSL1 over a wet piece of string! As described by a Telstra tech when the old man was having service issues on his ADSL1 connection, that turned out to be faulty central splitter termination.

          • So that’s a no then, you don’t have any evidence that there are more faults with VDSL than ADSL, it is only conjecture.

          • @Fibroid

            Look, you can think what you like. Again, you’re ignoring the premise- there ARE no fault types or rates reported for VDSL publicly, because that isn’t what telco’s report- Telco’s with copper networks, predominantly, worldwide, report on voice faults. That is, lines that are unsuitable for use as phonelines. Faults about speed and stability of DSL are not reported publicly. Why would they be???

            Does it count if you WERE getting 70Mbps on your VDSL connection, but now you’re getting 40Mbps because of an unknown fault?? Or worse, you were getting 40Mbps, but now you’re lucky to get 10-20Mbps and it drops out 8 or 9 times a day? Not necessarily- the rate is advertised as “up to” and no telco I know of has a clause which states a minimum % of that rate is guaranteed- in fact many would probably just drop you to the lower tier to make you happy you weren’t being charged so much. If it was dropping out, they might do “tech support” but that wouldn’t guarantee anything- look at what Telstra does with ADSL faults- is the line data capable? Yes. Right, line is fine. That’s it.

            That’s half the ridiculous nature of Turnbull’s premise-NO telco guarantee’s VDSL speeds. They have “up to” tiers, but you can get considerably lower than those max speeds without the telco doing anything about it because there is no requirement for them to.

            Assuming there is no public data that indicates VDSL is less stable than ADSL does not make it true- physics says it is. There’s no public data that says there are spy satellites that can view you in your home… you want to believe they can’t?….

            Might be a bad example, but if you want to believe the opposite of what physics says is true, that’s up to you. I’ve done university physics. I’ll believe my professor when he says to me the higher the frequency, the higher the power or the lower the penetration. It’s fact.

          • So that’s a no then, you don’t have any evidence that there are more faults with VDSL than ADSL, it is only conjecture.

            Do you have evidence that 73% of Australia will be getting the full 25Mbps using xDSL technology under the LBN?

        • Your implication that using shorter copper lines and a higher signal frequency will eliminate the weaknesses of Australia’s copper network and copper services in general is flawed, to say the least.

  7. @Renai, You wrote this article about the impact rain was having on your ADSL2+ Service. See:

    With 750-800 metres of copper in a FTTN, how do you think you will go with VDSL2? How reliable will it be? If the copper network that connects you to the node works OK in dry periods, but fails when it rains and if testing of your copper for a FTTN is done during a dry period, you might find yourself with big problems. Water will get into the copper network. It’s just physics. It’s just a matter of how much and if this amount will cause a fault. Maybe something for you to consider.

    Vectoring results in the real world are affected by the condition of the copper network. Not just when the copper pair is first tested for a VDSL2 service, but at every moment that copper pair is used for that service because it’s in real time. That is the electrical properties of a copper pair used for such a service are not static. They are dynamic and change depending on a number of factors. Again something for you to consider.

    So the bottom line is you can’t say that that the sync rate you get will always be the same with a FTTN using the copper pair for local loops of up to 750-800metres because you can’t guarantee that the electrical properties of a given copper pair remain constant.

    • I agree with what you say; except will point out that while the results will vary over time; there is little doubt that vectoring will end up with a higher rate of transmission.

      The question is will this “guarantee” of 50 megabits hold up. And I think we can both agree that this 50 megabit guarantee is a very bad faith guarantee.

      • And it’s not a small point either. If vectoring cannot be deployed on the FTTN network, either due to cost or technical reasons, it makes FTTN as an alternative next to useless. If they could stretch copper to get 50+Mb, with the average being around 80Mbs as they seem to be implying, it would still wouldn’t be the better plan, but would at least have some life in it.
        If, however, they roll out FTTN with VDSL2, we get 20-40Mbs, depending on uptake (crosstalk means high uptake limits speeds) and copper quality. Come 2017 and vectoring doesn’t work as expected, we don’t have a bonding option due to lack of spare lines, where do we go but FTTH? And without some boost over the “25Mb” initial rollout, FTTN will have a very short useful life and therefore very short payback period. FTTH at double the current 50% higher whole to begin in 2017? Lets hope they make sure the can get >50Mb and preferably neary 100Mb for most users before they roll out phase 1 to 70% of the country. Mr Broadband could as easily be a derogatory title, if it isn’t already.

  8. Vectoring clearly has a lot of potential, it can increase speeds by a significant margin, but saying you can guarantee 50 Mbps with it has got to be either a lie or optimism gone wild.

    I also question the wisdom of pinning the hopes of such a large government investment on a speculative technology.

    • “I also question the wisdom of pinning the hopes of such a large government investment on a speculative technology.”

      which is also a short term solution.

      Is it really worthwhile trying to save (optimistically) less than a billion dollars and do so (even more optimistically) in slightly less time for something full of “ifs” and ‘buts’ that will need to be upgraded eventually?

  9. Let’s pretend FTTN is cost-effective and faster to roll out. Where is Turnbull going to find the skills and labour to roll out FTTN to 90% of premises from 2013-2016, when all the current contractors are going to be rolling out FTTP over the next 3 years (2013-2016) and that’s locked in by contracts he’s promised to honour?

    • I was discussing this on twitter today, if we ignore weekends that’s 55 cabinets that need to go live per day. If you take in weekends & the Telstra deal that needs to happen this gets to over 150 cabinets per day that need to go live.

      I’m no project management expert, but that seems like an awful lot of manpower required when you look at BT’s cabinet install times (months of work according to I doubt there’s enough skilled telco techs in the world to be able to roll out such a large network so rapidly. Being the same engineering companies, we can expect similar delays in the Coalition’s rollout.

      • You don’t have to worry about it, the Openreach FTTN deployment is passing over 100,000 premises a week

        • This should be obvious, but the UK is a more densely-populated country than Australia, BT own and maintain their own copper so they don’t have to negotiate for its leasing/ownership and have all the technical information required, and their copper is in better condition.

          • I was only quoting a real world experience from a Telco that is actually deploying FTTN as distinct from armchair theorising about what might happen in Australia, I was referencing the actual deployment time from Day 1 of construction as well, not adding theoretical delay caused by pre -construction negotiations. .

            As for your next guess that the copper in the UK is in better condition than here:

            “One of the biggest criticisms of a fibre-to-the-cabinet deployment is that it uses legacy copper lines to the premises that are often described as being too old or damaged to be usable for high-speed broadband. Galvin rejected this suggestion.

            “That’s not our experience. I can’t comment on what the Australian local network is like, but a lot of our network goes back to the great expansion in telephony services in the ’50s and ’60s, and that network is perfectly good for carrying these signals,” he said.”


            Hmm, seems about the same as here don’t you think?

          • So you’re telling me that not only is FTTN in Australia folly, but FTTN in Britain is folly as well.

          • Nope, he’s telling you he doesn’t understand that the age of the copper isn’t the primary factor that determines performance, the gauge is. And because of the longer distances usually covered in Australia due to low population density, to save on costs, lower gauge wires were used, particularly in urban areas with relatively high population density (for Australia).

          • Relevant:

            Snippet: “The reality is that little of Australia’s copper on the distribution side (what matters for FTTN) of the network is over the 0.64mm diameter cable (aka: 22 AWG) that VDSL2 requires, much of it is in the 0.40mm & below class, with some newer areas having 0.50mm deployed. “

          • So why does Telstra have to remediate any ducts before NBN Co can do anything with fibre?

            I mean, if the ducts are broken surely that reduces the quality of the wiring within?

            Or do the wires not need ducts… they are just there to make network installation easier…

        • @Fibroid

          Yes, Openreach is “passing” 100 000 premises a week.

          However, you’ve left out one TINY detail- Openreach’s rollout is ON-DEMAND. NOT forced cut-over like it will be here.

          Your comparison is invalid.

          • The BT rollout is also only passing 66% of the UK, only 85% of an exchange area in the rollout gets FTTC/P, the UK has a much larger telecoms workforce, & Australia’s population density is 1/100th of that of the UK. So really, Turnbull’s comparison between AU & UK is folly, which I have demonstrated repeatedly in articles.

            Essentially Turnbull is walking a road to ruin & we’re all in the passenger seat screaming “STOP!”.

          • Why are those percentage figures significant in terms of any FTTN rollout here? – as for your point that the UK has a much greater telecom’s workforce that’s because the UK population is higher than Australia’s, they have more nurses, police, and teachers as well, your point is what?

          • Umm the point is obvious they can roll out faster

            If you could not even figure that out there is no helping you

          • He picks a solution, and then argues back from that, picking up “logic” along the way. it’s no surprise there’s a few holes and blind faith assumptions.

            That was how Labor started too, with them deciding “FTTN is the way forward!”, until an expert panel had to come along and fix it for them.

          • @AJ

            ‘umm the point is obvious they can roll out faster’

            You missed the point or avoided it, if the Telcom’s workforce is larger in the UK than here and so is the population and your and Keirans’s assertion is that’s why they can pass 100,000 premises a week with FTTN , we can scale that down because our population is lower so therefore we don’t need such a large Telecom’s workforce to service that lower population.

          • Except we have a lower population density with affects the work required per premises, meaning it isn’t 1:1 scaling as you are implying.

    • ‘Let’s pretend FTTN is cost-effective and faster to roll out.’

      We don’t have to pretend, it is less cost and faster to rollout than FTTH.

      • @ Fibroid…
        ‘Let’s pretend FTTN is cost-effective and faster to roll out.’
        We don’t have to pretend, it is less cost and faster to rollout than FTTH.

        Don’t confuse cheap with cost effective, conversely faster to roll out is also a relative term.

        Is it faster to roll out a FTTN network, 1 1/2 years into a FTTH roll out?
        Consider that your management, staff, contractors and legislation are specced for FTTH.

        If we were starting at a blank slate with no prior work then your statement “might” be true, but today we will never know!

        • What is it that is unique to Australia that deploying FTTN and FTTH at the same time is a deal breaker where everywhere else in the world it is of no consequence?

      • There is a real need to pretend that repurposing from a known FTTH rollout into an untried FTTN rollout is more cost-effective and faster to roll out than continuing with an FTTH rollout that has already reached its ramp-up phase.

      • @Fibroid

        Really? Can you show me where in Australia VDSL at 25Mbps guaranteed and in fact 50Mbps guaranteed, has been rolled out in Australia and has shown to be cheaper than $2400/premises?

        • I just showed a real world experience of the speed of a FTTN deployment and how it is also CHEAPER to deploy than FTTH.

          What you need to to do as a counter is reference a real world experience that shows that FTTH is faster and cheaper to deploy than FTTN.

          • @Fibroid

            You are purposefully ignoring my premise. I asked you to show me where FTTN is cheaper to deploy when:

            1- It must guarantee 25Mbps within the first 3 years and 50Mbps within the first 6 AND
            2- Costs less than $2400 per premises

            Your assertion that because you have shown that A SINGLE type of FTTN can be rolled out cheaper than a SINGLE portion of FTTH, not in any way related to what Australia’s FTTN/FTTH circumstances are, is completely irrelevant. This is not FTTN in isolation. We have FTTH being delivered for $2400 per premises. Unless your FTTN can guarantee 25Mbps and then 50Mbps AND come in for less than that, your statement is invalid.

          • I am not purposely ignoring it because I prefer to reference real world examples, not discuss an artificial premise set up of your own making because you want to control the argument.

            ” Unless your FTTN can guarantee 25Mbps and then 50Mbps AND come in for less than that, your statement is invalid.’

            It’s not my statement that is invalid in the first place, it comes from UK Openreach who are actively deploying BOTH infrastructures, if you cannot prove their figures wrong by providing a counter argument with evidence based figures from real world rollouts that shows FTTH is cheaper and faster to deploy than FTTN just say so.

            BTW it’s not my FTTN.

          • As distinct from armchair theorising from self appointed ‘experts’ with absolutely zero experience in rolling out FTTN and FTTH infrastructures at the same time – yeah any day.

          • @Fibroid

            Once again you ignore the premise.

            The premise wasn’t set by you and I never said it was. It was set by Malcolm Turnbull. It is HIS party promising 25Mbps minimum to 40% of the total FTTN by 2016 and HIS party promising 50Mbps to 90% of the FTTN footprint by 2019. Unless you can show me evidence that shows either are possible for LESS than $2400/premises, then the argument fails. The NBNCo. have shown, with data, that it is possible for them to connect premises for that cost, in the real world. There’s your real world evidence. Now show ME some for FTTN, VDSL2, with guaranteed speeds?

            You can laud BT all you want- BT lowered their highest tier speed after customer complaints, are averaging about half their top speed (41Mbps) meaning many will be getting lower than 25Mbps AND have taken over 18 months more than was originally planned. Their takeup for FTTC areas is also considerably LOWER overall than the same comparative timeframe since the NBN has been installed in an area. That doesn’t make their rollout unsuccessful- by BT’s measure it has been very successful. But it DOESN’T match what Turnbull needs and it DOESN’T guarantee speeds. Therefore you cannot directly compare its’ rollout costs.

          • No not ‘physics theory’, actual fault report evidence that shows unequivocally that are more faults with VDSL than ADSL.

            not discuss an artificial premise set up of your own making because you want to control the argument.

            Premise, meet wheelhouse.

          • So with that cute remark I assume you don’t have any VDSL vs ADSL fault report statistics evidence either?

          • No he doesn’t, and he explained why quite succinctly. Now the burden of proof is on you to disprove his assertions, which are evidence based observations of physically properties designed to indicate possible trends.

            All you have done is told him there isn’t any data to verify his trend suggestion, which isn’t a counter point! A counter point would be finding trend data that contradicts or pointing out a fallacy within his logic. You have done neither.

          • The don’t publish “ADSL” faults anywhere, so you need to work it out yourself.

            Telstra reports both the number of voice faults, and the total number of fixed line connections:



            Telstra — annual number of CSG faults repaired – 2010–11: 1,060,933
            Telstra fixed line services : 8,100,000

            So the number of repaired voice faults is around 13%

            This will be your absolute minimum base number for ADSL faults, as xDSL requires better conditioned lines than voice, the actual xDSL fault level will actually be higher than 13%

          • My point was you complain on one hand about someone constraining the argument to something irrelevant.
            When you yourself constrain the argument to something irrelevant.

            IE let me just be very clear; I am calling you a hypocrite.

            Your method of arguing appears to be “ask very pointed specific question” and “complain about very pointed specific questions”.

            1) My opinion or position on the topic of ADSL faults vs VDSL faults probably aligns with yours. That people probably don’t report bad VDSL lines even if they are getting sub-standard service from it. (In the same way that even if you are 20 meters from a telephone exchange most people don’t complain about their ADSL lines getting 5 megabits, because they know no one will fix it since it works for voice.)

            2) I have no position on the speed of deployment of the BT network and direct comparisons of its cost to the Australian proposed FTTN network. (Because unless it is an order of magnitude cheaper I don’t believe it is worth it, since it is an order of magnitude slower in terms of bandwidth).

            And on point 2, it is the same total maximum government outlay (29 billion vs 31 billion) between a 93% fibre and a 22% fibre/60% FTTN network. It is just we might get the FTTN components installed before the fibre. (assuming it all goes to plan)

          • And now I’ve gone off topic. If you want to stay on topic Fibroid; ignore my bullshit personal attack above, and tell me.

            Lets get back on topic!

            Do you think a 25 megabit VDSL2 link can be upgraded using Vectoring (or some other technology) to 50 megabits cost effectively?

            If not; what do you think can be done about Malcolms initial plan targeting 25 megabits, but still promising 50 megabits after a few more years? (ie will he have to change his promise?)

            If so, do you have evidence to support this?

        • There is only ONE isp in Oz with a VSDL2 product and guaranteed speeds (25/50/100mbps) and that is Adam Internet – the reasons they can do it are simple:

          1/ Coverage area is a Single brand new High Rise Serviced Apartment building (the Precinct in Adelaide)
          2/ it uses brand new cat5e cabling from the Node in the basement
          3/ the building is only about 30 stories tall so cable lengths are no longer than the cat5e 150meter limit (building is about 90m tall)

          Plans are here:

          and contrary to Turnbull’s “$50 vdsl modem” claims, the zyxel used by Adam internet sells for a minimum of $160 !!!

          • Additionally they can do Bonded pairs with Ethernet. (4 pairs available). And STILL have redundancy.

      • I think you meant to say “It is cheaper and faster for an incumbent that already has a copper network to recycle”, right?

  10. Looking into my crystal ball of the muliverse possibilities, what we have is….
    Labor FTTP rollout will come in close to budget, but with significant delays in some areas.
    Liberal mixed rollout will be rolled out on timetable, but will come with a budget blowout (and/or future debt to upgrade to what was promised but never realized).

    • You got this weekends lotto numbers on that thing? :)

      I didn’t even know what vectoring was, another bit of knowledge pushed into the brain.

  11. The more one looks at the coalition policies, the more it becomes evident that they will throw half baked policies with little or confusing details. It seem to stem from a belief that the election is just as good as won already and that just giving the voters vague plans and aspirations will be enough.

    Unfortunately, there seem to be a trend worldwide of electors thinking that replacing the incumbent will solve all problems. That, I am afraid, is giving politicians of all sides far more credit than they deserve.

  12. I consider myself very lucky when it comes to internet. I get a relatively stable adsl2+ 11/1Mbps connection. My distance to the exchange is ~1.5-2km and i’m pretty sure the copper is in good condition, my estate is ~10 years old.

    With the coalition policy all that is offered to me is basically up to 4 times of what i get now and for the cost it hardly seems worth it. I wonder how many other estates there are around australia like mine that are doing pretty good for internet speeds? Do they need to be upgraded at all if its just FTTN with no guarantee for 50Mbps? Even if these types of estates are upgraded, i wonder how much faster my speeds would actually be? Maybe 30% faster in the first stage of the FTTN rollout until they upgrade to vectoring to get up to 50Mbps. If vectoring turns out to be unviable, is it worth spending the money to upgrade at all?

    Furthermore we still have to fork out thousands just to get fiber. Why not leave these estates to last in the NBN build and build fiber instead? Dont waste money on things that dont need upgrading. I remember MT going on about that for a long time.

    I would rather wait several years to get fiber than get some half baked FTTN plan sooner, that provides only a max of 50Mbps at a high price and makes me fork out thousands to get fiber and probably pay an even higher price for its speeds.

    Sure the coalitions NBN is great for many people that have poor net now. The true NBN offers so much more, and for a reasonable cost.

  13. What i wonder is what is at the other end? do we still have a telstra exchange, or is it a poi like the labor FTTH.

    The house i live in is almost 20yrs old, i have a decent ADSL2+ connection (18/1) and am about 2.5km from the exchange, my internet frequently drops (maybe several times a week) for a few minutes, when it rains it can be down for hours before it comes back up again.

    Also, with vectoring, i keep hearing (on here at least) about the copper required (0.6 or something), how reliable is that information, people keep saying we have i believe 0.32 here in Australia, is that everywhere in Australia, or just areas where Telstra decided to go cheap?

    • If it is an exchange, i assume the LNP one will be upgrading the capacity out too, i mean, it is all well and good saying they will use vectoring from the node to the house, and fibre from the exchange(?) to the node, but i know in the town i live in, the exchange is seriously congested.

      You can tell when school is out for the day and everyone is home as your internet just has major issues, from what i understand ‘sync’ is between you and the dslam, so you could sync at 50Mbps, but if the outgoing is congested you would be lucky if you see that speed.

  14. Vectoring is very affected by deteriorated copper, much of which will need replacing in Australia if this went ahead, also turnbull said Mini nodes will be needed to shorten the distance for the copper loops neede for vectoring. Plus the vectoring modems are expensive for householders (or whoever pays for them)> wouldn’t it be easier, faster and more reliable to just do fibre?

  15. Another thing that is not mentioned much is the twist rate of the copper in the last mile and how it affects ADSL and consequently VDSL

    I have read that the twist rate in some parts can be as low as 3 per metre which may put a big dent in MT’s plans

  16. Some quick googling around vendor literature would reveal vectoring isn’t as hot as some claim it to be.

    1. All lines in a bundle need to be vectored for it to work. One line that is only plain VDSL2, and bam, no speed advantage. One vendor (Alcatel-Lucent) claims to have technology (proprietary, of course) that claims to work around it.
    2. 80mbps seems like the realistic max for an FTTN deployment (with vectoring) with nodes 500-800m away from users.
    Any further requires bonding (not enough copper lines in the ground to do that), and a host of other tricks which are either not standardized yet, or vendor specific. Any further in and, you wonder, why not just spend a little more and do FTTH after all.

    At the end of the day, we should emphasize that FTTH does the things we want *now*, where as FTTN promises are based on uh, “feelings”

    • Malcolm could achieve the speeds he’s talking about without vectoring, but only if he sets up the FTTN like TransACT did and locate the nodes at the 300-400m mark….but he’ll need twice as many nodes as he was thinking of…

  17. I think the biggest thing with Vectoring here is:

    How much? How long? And what’s the outcome?

    If the answers are:

    Reasonable amount, not much longer and about 75-100% extra speed guaranteed for all, I’d say, go for it. If the answers are: alot, alot longer and 100% for some lines, 40-50% for most and less than 30% for some, I’d say now you’ve got a problem.

    The other major problem? We’re not gonna find this out till proper trials take place. That’s not only after the elections, but months after. That means, there will be months of potentially wasted mobilisation if it’s found that, large scale implementation of vectoring isn’t viable here. And what then? Will they just jump ship altogether? Or go Full FTTH? The second would be a HUGE admission of being wrong. While the first would be disastrous.

  18. Deutsche Telekom actually canvasses new roll-out areas prior to building.
    If more than 80% are “interested” in fibre and at least 10% are prepared to sign up before construction starts, they will roll out FTTP rather than FTTN because it is more cost effective.

    Australian’s surveys repeatedly show in excess of 80% want ACCESS to fibre and we will have 100% take up as the copper will be turned off. Surely if 10% is economically viable, 100% must be a no brainer?
    Or is that the problem, no brainers making the decisions?

  19. Despite the obvious technical barriers to his plan being feasible, I would have a whole lot less problem with MT’s plan and statements if they were underwritten by something meaningful. Such as a written contract (pre-election) stating his promises, a commitment to enshrining his ‘guarantees’ in legislation (ie 25mbps & 50Mbps minimums (ongoing) or customers/streets will have FTTP deployed) and penalties for failing to deliver his guarantees (retiring from politics, personal financial penalties, disbanding of the LNP…)

    While my examples may be a bit extreme, the reality is MT & the LNP aren’t going to provide any airtight contracts or guarantees, leaving is with the only factual conclusion – you cannot describe any statement made by MT and the LNP prior to the election as a ‘guarantee’, because it isn’t guaranteed against anything. If you have no reasonable expectation of a guarantee being enforceable, then it isn’t a guarantee, it is a promise. And we all know how reliable pre-election promises are…

    So ffs, please stop reusing MT’s own words when discussing or reporting his statements, because using the term ‘guarantee’ to describe them is disingenuous and factually incorrect.

  20. Still looking for an example where an active FTTH/ FTTP project has been halted in favour of FTTN.

    Turnbull has chosen to leave the “guarantees” to ISPs, over speeds. This effectively means the continuation of “up to”, which will not change even with Vectoring.

    Will average speeds improve? Probably. Vectoring will make a difference. But it, along with “technology changes all the time” are being used to justify what is, effectively, a dead end technology.

    There is intent, and then there is actual policy directive. Abbott wants to claw money back; Turnbull has to deliver something, or risk big losses at the polling booth. The outcome is a policy that is a huge bunch of unknowns.

    Frankly, until live trials start, it’s crystal ball gazing in the extreme to bank on wholly different environments and structures working the same, here.

    That’s the other thing — forget the timeline Malcolm is proposing.

    it’s preposterous to assume the solution will be tested, legislation signed off, deals struck with Telstra, ACCC weigh in on the competition concerns (etcetera) and for the build to ramp up to sufficient numbers, all within the times stated. It will also take time for Vectoring trials to conclude.

    We have ample evidence on the typical negotiation time scales with Telstra; there have been numerous attempts in the past and they’re all measured in server-month to years in time.

    Personally, I think Vectoring (either how well it works, how long it’d take to retrofit, or even the cost) are the least of the problems.

    • Cheers for that. I’d already come to the conclusion that Malcolm needs a lot more nodes that what he’s factored for (most likely 100k+).

      Unfortunately, Malcolms plan seems more like a political one, ignoring economics and looking for a technical solution, rather than a technical solution looking for an economic plan to achieve a societal outcome.

      For more plans like Malcolms, see “QLD Health”, “Miki”, etc

      • It’s a political policy, not a technical blueprint.

        In the same way pre-selecting a technology, despite exclaiming the horror of it prior, is a political choice. It’s expedience to solve a problem. Virtually no-one, outside of infrastructure owners, are putting in FTTN.

        A new build is almost always fibre, because if it’s a new build, you’re going to spend near the same figure on either technology. You’re not going to half fibre and run FTTN. There’s just no example of that. Anywhere.

        This is a policy to sell a mostly believable outcome. Renai believes it’s a viable alternative (to nothing) and so will a great many voters. And ~10 years ago, it was better than nothing. It’s just not 10 years ago, now.

        And that’s really all Malcolm has to do; sell it based on the current situation, not as a comparative policy.

      • and dont forget the uni-directional Southern Expressway the Libs built in SA which is now being made bi-directional at a cost of over $400Million dollars!!

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