Unlimited 76Mbps for $38: BT’s awesome FTTN prices



news British telco BT has temporarily drastically cut the price of accessing its Fibre to the Node-style network, delivering speeds and data quotes unheard of in Australia, in another demonstration of the national consequences of the failure of the Australian Government’s telecommunications policies over the past decade.

Over the past decade, Australia’s two major sides of politics have been unable to come to agreement over how Telstra’s copper telephone network should be upgraded. Both sides of politics have had policies featuring upgrades such as Fibre to the Premises or Fibre to the Node for the copper network, but have been unable to have the policies implemented. A key related issue is that Australia’s politicians have not mandated the structural separation of the incumbent telco’s retail and wholesale arms, meaning it had little incentive to upgrade its network on its own.

In comparison, in the UK, British incumbent telco BT started upgrading its network to Fibre to the Node technology in 2009. In 2010 UK regulator Ofcom announced that BT would be required to provide open access to its fibre infrastructure.

In July 2013, BT announced that its fibre to the node network had passed more than 16 million premises since the network rollout was commenced in 2009, with more than 1.7 million customers having signed up for active connections to the infrastructure. It is also working directly with the UK Government to extend the network to rural areas, and it is also working on live trials of the new vectoring standard, which will allow speeds of up to 100Mbps on its FTTN infrastructure. It is also offering fibre to the premises extensions, which, at a cost (modest for businesses, pricey for consumers), allow customers to have fibre laid all the way to their premise (FTTP), delivering even better speeds of up to 330Mbps.

In late December, BT issued a statement noting that it had “launched its own version of the January sales” and would dramatically cut the cost of accessing its FTTN network, known as “BT Infinity.

The company’s BT Infinity 1 plan will allow customers to start the New Year with superfast fibre-based broadband for BT’s lowest ever cost of £7.50 (AU$14.23) a month for six months, followed by £15 (AU$28.46) a month for the rest of the 18-month contract. BT Infinity 1 offers customers speeds of up to 38Mbps with 20GB of download quota. Currently ADSL2+ speeds in Australia on Telstra’s copper network only offer speeds of up to 24MBps, and most customers get substantially less than that.

BT has also cut its Unlimited BT Infinity 1 plan, which offers up to 38Mbps speeds with an unlimited data quota, from £23 (AU$43) per month to £16 (AU$30.36) per month for the first three months, and its Unlimited BT Infinity 2 plan, which offers up to 76Mbps speeds with unlimited downloads, from £26 (AU$49.33) per month down to £20 ($38) per month for the first three months.

All of the plans also mandate the purchase of telephone line rental at an additional £15.99 (AU$30.34) per month. However, that cost can be cut down substantially if customers pay 12 months in advance. BT has also substantially cut the cost of its ADSL-based broadband plans.

BT has been marketing the January sales offers from Boxing Day and the offer runs until mid-March. Pete Oliver, managing director of BT Consumer, said: “This is the season for that great institution, the traditional January sales. However, our customers will not need to queue on the streets for days or fight fellow shoppers to grab our lowest ever price for BT Infinity, as you just have to call BT or go online at www.bt.com/sale to sign up.”

“We know that customers are looking to cut costs and are searching for great bargains to get the New Year off to a flying start. This year, as well as that smart TV or shiny new fridge, customers can grab a top quality BT Infinity deal that will deliver superfast speeds for the kind of price people were paying for dial-up a few years ago.”

In Australia, no comparable speeds and data quotas are offered. The only way for Australian consumers to obtain similar speeds is through signing up to the HFC cable networks operated by Telstra and Optus. However, such networks are only available in limited metropolitan areas and are not always available in multi-dwelling units such as apartment blocks. There are no “unlimited” data plans available through such networks, and such plans as do exist typically cost around twice as much as the BT Infinity plans, with a substantially reduced data quota such as 200GB.

The availability of BT’s plans appear to demonstrate that the country’s telecommunications policies — which have focused on splitting up its incumbent telco and incentivising it to upgrade its copper network to FTTN — have succeeded where the policies offered by successive Australian Governments — both Coalition and Labor — have failed.

The previous Coalition Government under John Howard failed to structually separate Telstra or come to an agreement with the telco to upgrade its copper network. The following Labor Governments under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard initially had a FTTN upgrade plan, but then abandoned the plan and took up a national FTTP construction plan. However, the Government was unable to implement this plan in a timely manner.

The current Coalition Government appears to be supporting an unpopular piecemeal plan where some parts of the country will receive HFC cable upgrades, while others will receive Fibre to the Premises or Fibre to the Node upgrades. It is not immediately clear how the Coalition intends to deal with the issue of differential pricing and technology capabilities between the various technologies.

If the comments on this article turn into a debate about FTTP versus FTTN, so God help me, I will lynch the lot of you. This issue is about the failure of the Australian Government to competently choose either option. As BT is showing in the UK, either option, picked back in 2009 or before then, would have delivered huge broadband service delivery advantages to Australians. It is the complete inability of Australia’s Governments to pick one option and stick with it over the years that is causing the current problem. That, and its failure to do as virtually every other jurisdiction has done and structurally separate its vertically integrated telco monopolist.


  1. tempted!

    The problem with most governments is they only think about the next election cycle… so no proper long term planning ..

    I honestly can’t remember the last politician i thought was good…

    • More to the point, any government that plans beyond their next defeat is a failure. The incoming government will inevitably rewrite the plan. The government has to keep winning elections in order to be able to carry out long term plans.

  2. “The previous Coalition Government under John Howard failed to structually separate Telstra”

    And that is precisely why BT has been upgrading its network, it’s properly separated and it’s network/wholesale arm knows network capacity upgrades = revenue growth. Telstra on the other hand has had no incentive whatsoever to to upgrade its CAN because it’s customers are held captive with no viable options.

  3. Given that the UK copper network is a different animal to the Aussie copper network, I have a question:

    When they claim to offer a 76Mbps connection, I assume that is an ‘up to’ figure. Anyone got any idea of what the actual deliverable speed range of such a plan would be from the UK network?

    I’m trying to get an honest handle on comparative reliability, in the context of my current Australian experience that routinely delivers 10-20% of the advertised ‘up to’ speed and considers this to be broadly adequate.

        • Not really they will not sell you a 76Mbps service if you can only get 38Mbps. The average is exactly what is should be based on that criteria.

          To get an accurate figure you need to use all the data and remove people who are artificially limited to 38Mbps

      • Which doesn’t mean as much as you think. Someone who could get let’s say 50 Mbps is likely to not go for the 76 Mbps instead of the 38 Mbps plan, so the reason people will get that much on the 76 Mbps plan is because the people who can get that much will choose the 76 Mbps plan rather than the other way round.

        They are on the 76 Mbps plan because they can get something within let’s say 20% of that speed. If they couldn’t, they’d be on a lower plan. What you need to make any further assessment is to know the percentage of customers on each plan, including ADSL2+.

        • That pretty much applies here as well.
          We briefly switched ‘up’ to an ADSL2 plan only to discover our copper could still only deliver exactly the same slow speed we had before so we went back to our cheaper ADSL1 plan.

  4. Though I’m not sure its the fairest of comparisons given the differences in populations, population density and country sizes.

    Certainly there is room for complaints to made in terms of bandwidth caps and prices for higher end services though. And even if FTTP had been rolled out nicely and even ahead of schedule you’d still have that problem. Is that purely due to lack of competition in terms of bandwidth out of the country?

  5. you cant seriously be comparing the costs between a sparsely populated country like Australia, to densely populated area like the UK, really, i thought you were better than that

    • Australia *is* largely densely populated — along the eastern seaboard and in the other major metro centres. Just as an FYI, I won’t be allowing commenters to invalidate the UK example as a whole by use of this spurious argument from now on. Sure, there are differences, but that doesn’t invalidate a comparison between the UK and Australia as a whole. In addition, it should also be obvious that it’s not just the UK deploying FTTN — it’s actually most of Europe right now.

      No “FTTP or nothing” arguments, please.

      • I’ve never really understood the “Australia is sparsely populated” argument myself. Most people are crammed into 15 to 20 cities, with most of whats left on the main travel routes between them. High end infrastructure (trunk lines, etc) in general pass within easy reach of 90+% of the population, making it a platform any FttX can build out from.

        To put it another way, between exchanges its all fiber already. Has been for years. The space between the exchanges doesnt need work, its the radius out from them thats important, and where the development is. And that is no different to most other countries. The 121 POI’s are the key, not the distance between cities.

        • …Which is why “3” was so easily able to cover 90% of the population when they entered the mobile market

          • Good goddess I miss “3”

            Was such a great carrier until they got consolidated into Vodaphone =(

        • The way I at the sparsely populated issue isn’t where we are located but how we live. A very large percentage live in detached housing even in the inner city, terrace housing isn’t common. This drive up costs just because you are passing say 10 house holds on a given run instead 12-15 and all those houses are set back from the street so there is some more cable length and cost to add. So yes we might mostly be concentrated in a narrow along the coast there is still that good old Australian suburban sprawl to deal with.

          • This^

            The density issue mostly comes back to what SMEMatt said, but that only really applies at time of construction.

            It should have minimal bearing on the monthly cost of a connection, especially when the infrastructure has been in long enough to pay for it’s self several times over (as with HFC and CAN for example).

      • spoken like a person who lives in one of those 15-20 cities…

        people in regional australia deserve the same access, whatever the type.

        • No. No they don’t. I’m sorry but to suggest everyone should be on equal footing is ignoring the physical realities. If you live in a small rural town or your own farm you need to expect some trade offs.

          We have to draw that line. The question is actually where we draw it. NBN thought that line was 93%. That was probably pretty good guess.

          • wherever there is copper, there should be fibre. if not, why not?

            it’s funny how that ‘line’ is always drawn by people that don’t live in these areas, where having faster internet access might actually help them more (commerce, medical help, education) than those living in the big cities.

          • “wherever there is copper, there should be fibre. if not, why not?”

            Because it is not reasonable to run a single fibre cable 100km down a highway to a couple of properties, which is what would be required. It can be thousands of times the cost to lay fibre to areas which may not even be populated in a few years. If you live in certain areas, you should not expect to get the same services. The level of services in Broken Hill, where I used to live, was shitty compared to Sydney, where I now live. That’s just reality.

            A line needs to be drawn somewhere for the initial rollout in terms of population density. I think most people agree 93 percent is a reasonable line. After that is done, we can start looking at other options. In the meantime, satellite is making leaps and bounds.

          • so, has someone done the analysis of what it cost to run the copper back when it was originally run and then translated that into today’s dollars?

            once again, i ask: why is it that city people are drawing the line?

            it’s funny how people have stated that fibre should be rolled out, whatever the cost, and yet balk at the cost of rolling it out past the city limits of australia’s major cities.

            and you say that satellite is making leaps and bounds? i’ll bet my internet bill that you would not use it if you had the choice. if the satellite speeds are not comparable, then how is that equitable?

            perhaps the rollout should START with those in regional areas, as those in the metro already have access to multiple, faster services.

            if you were living in a regional area and could not get medical advice for example, except by fast fibre link, would you just say to yourself “oh well, the line has to be drawn somewhere.”?

            i highly doubt it.

          • @Shannon: Because by the time copper was being drawn out to the “outskirts” it had already begun to pay for itself w/ the roll out in the high urban areas.

            Just because its 93% *now* doesn’t mean it will be 93% *forever*.

            It’s a problem of “efficiency” over “cost”. Unfortunately the cost for laying down foundations for this network will be expensive. *however* once it has actually had proper penetration it will begin to start paying for itself. Once it has begun to become profitable “cost” goes down. At which point people can start feasibly rolling out on areas that wouldn’t have been considered during the initial roll out.

          • understood, but i put it to you that laying the copper was harder and more expensive (when the figures are adjusted) than laying the fibre, considering there was nothing before the copper.

            it’s about time the people who make these decisions actually come and LIVE and WORK in these regional and remote areas, so they have some idea of what it’s like in 2014.

          • Actually Shannon

            It took 90 YEARS to get all that copper run. (P.S with Taxpayer subsidy to fulfil Government requirements)

            Also, even though you being on the end of a piece of copper, may not be aware how the signal actually gets to you.
            Even now so much of that rural and regional and remote backhaul is over direct wireless links, you may have noted those repeater towers with their dishes on hilltops around the country, most of them now also have Mobile antenna’s mounted on them.
            These links are technically capacity constrained, for low numbers of customers, ADSL may be possible, but not the capacity for a local fibre network with up to 1Gb let alone maybe several 100Mb services, when the link capacity may only be around 380Mb and service several townships and rural exchanges

          • I’ll give you three letters Shannon


            Now go look them up in the Telecommunications Act and you will understand why there is a copper haul (with 12 repeater amps running 300V signal) down a 150km road with three properties on it.

          • and good on them for doing it. do you live in a regional or remote area, dan?

            i repeat: if my taxes are the same, then my services should be the same.

          • hey Shannon,

            I’ve had enough of you pushing this barrow. It’s off-topic for this article, and you’re arguing an irrational line that is far outside the mainstream debate with respect to national telecommunications policy. This is your final warning: Persist and you won’t be able to post any more.


          • “do you live in a regional or remote area, dan?”

            Yes I do; that ruined up your argument, didn’t it?

            And yes, I am pissed that NBN has been canned as we were set to get 25/5 wireless by 2015 and now we wont get shit and have to suffer on our shitty RIM that can only do ADSL1 and only from Telstra and $50/m plus line rental for stuff all data allowance.

          • Shannon, go and read the 2013-15 NBN Co revised business plan. In it you will see the cost/efficiency justification for the 93% – to add just 3% more to the fibre footprint (taking fibre to 96% of the population would have doubled the cost of the fibre rollout portion of the NBN. That is the justification. For a tiny fraction of that cost regional Australia gets a substantial improvement in connectivity via wireless and satellite, guaranteed at 25mbps, with the technology capable of delivering twice that so it’s likely there would be scalable improvements once the network was complete and they had a couple of years of stats and load testing upon which to plan and have confidence in deploying such speed upgrades – the initial 25mbps is highly conservative to ensure significant overhead is readily available, avoiding contention.

            As others have said, the 93% is not fixed forever, it is just the initial project. If the NBN had been able to continue as part of the original plan, it would be paying for itself in short order, and be generating significant revenue shortly thereafter. That revenue could be rolled back in to pay for future upgrades over time.

            Remember, as Renai said the copper network wasn’t deployed 100 years ago as you spuriously claim, it was started nearly 120 years ago and took over 100 years to build. I don’t disagree that if copper could be run to remote locations in the past, fibre could and should be run to replace it, but expecting it to be run within the same ten year time frame as the rest of the country within the same budget scope is ridiculous, naive and possibly even beligerantly stupid – yes it should be done, but it is extremely expensive and time consuming, so you should recognise that if it is ever done, it will take time and the cost will have to be offset against some other revenue or income stream, so waiting until the NBN was revenue positive was a good and reasonable plan.

            Was. Now not even that is a likely outcome, so good luck ever seeing fibre.

          • so going on your logic of “if i live in a remote area, i should expect less service”…

            does that mean i should pay less tax?

            if i am paying the same taxes as someone in the city, i expect the same services.

          • You are not paying less tax. You are paying less for the land.

            Syndey CBD is about $20,000-100,000 per sqm. to purchase (if you can find any). What’s yours; $2?

          • spoken like a person that has no idea what it is like to live in regional or remote areas.

            are you saying that my tax rates are not the same as the ones in the cities? the land value has nothing to with the tax rate that i pay.

            try buying land in a remote mining area and put a house on it. then talk about land cost.

            all i am debating is this farce that cities should get first bite of the cherry, while regional areas go without.

            they say 93%? my bet is that it doesn’t even come close to that.

          • A line needs to be drawn somewhere for the initial rollout in terms of population density.

            Interesting thought there Renai.

            What was “the line” for the original CAN do you think? What has changed that “now” running a (fibre) line 100 Km is “too much”, but running one (copper) there 50-100 years ago was justified?

            In the scheme of things, I’d assume it would have cost them just as much in that days dollars to run copper any given distance, so what exactly changed that “the line” is now different?

          • The CAN was deployed over 100 years on an “as needs” basis and the cost aggregated over that period. I’m confident we can replace the entire thing over two decades or so. But trying to fit every single property in Australia into the next 7-8 years is futile and represents thinking very far outside the mainstream debate.

          • Oh, I agree with you, the questions were more rhetorical or food for thought than actually calling anything you said into question.

            Though it is a delicious irony that folks think 100 years to lay copper is OK, but 10-15 years to lay fibre is waaaay to long :o)

          • Simple tinman, technology has changed…
            100 years ago, there was no reliable alternative to running copper…
            Now we can implement a Wireless technology with a very high level of reliability at a fraction of the cost.

            And to Shannon, you pay the same tax as everyone else yet you expect everyone else to subsidise your fibre rollout? Where are you going with this argument?
            We all understand that cable is preferable, but if you were paying for it out of your own pocket.. you’d at least seriously consider the wireless alternative

          • While it has improved over the years, wireless has no where near the reliability of fixed line…

          • The pay the same tax argument is spurious. You may pay the same tax rate, but never the same tax. And then the whole argument is BS.

            In an urban area one length of fibre can service say 50 houses, with 50 taxpayers all sharing the cost whereas in a rural area the same fibre services one taxpayer.

            Of course its a little more complex than that, but the I pay the same taxes argument is just irrelevant.

            Next Shannon will want ever bus service and fast train and supermarket built in the country first, maybe we should start with Costco?

        • Never said they didnt. I live in Wollongong, hardly a mecca for good internet, and fully understand the grief regional areas suffer. I’m saying that for the vast majority of people, the complaints about us being widespread are bogus.

          Nothing to do with whether regional areas do or dont deserve equality (they do), but that the perception is false that we live so far apart.. People either live within a few km’s of an exchange, or are along the path that the trunk lines between exchanges takes.

          Example: There is an exchange in Goulburn, there is an exchange in Moss Vale, Bowral, or Mittagong. Between Goulburn and Moss Vale is the Hume Hwy. Along that Highway is Marulan, a small township of not many.

          Normally, they’d be too small to get any FttX, but what I’m saying is that there is a full fiber line running down the Hume Hwy, so its only a very small step to run a junction to Marulan, and plonk a node in the middle of the township. There is a whole line of townships along that same stretch of Hwy that are within a reasonable distance of the Hume Hwy that the same can happen – Tallong, Wingello, Bundanoon, Exeter.

          The 121 POI’s do that across the country. Between all of them is full fiber lines, and those fiber lines pass a good number of people outside the big population centres, or are near enough that the cost is relatively small to link a fiber cable to the main fiber trunk lines laid in the late 90’s/early 00’s.

          Rewind a couple of years, and Gillard commented on something very very similar. Along the South Coast of NSW there are a bunch of small sub-1000 townships that are very similar. They were all slated to get FttH, “because it was easier to do that than not doing it” or something along those lines.

          The key thing here is that very few people are actually all that far from fiber already laid. It shouldnt take a rocket scientist to realise that taking advantage of that isnt going to be all that expensive, and means we can compare our rollout to other countries.

          As Dan said, this already laid infrastructure is why ‘3’ was able to gain so much coverage so quickly.

      • Are we actually going to see any realistic FTTN deployment here in Oz over the next 3 years?
        From what I gather on various sources the only thing likely to happen apart from fibre in greenfields during this government’s current term is a possible HFC expansion/upgrade & FTTN trials. With a full FTTN roll-out not in progress before 2018?

        • (Are we actually going to see any realistic FTTN deployment here in Oz over the next 3 years?)
          If there is grumpy the Coalition are determined that the Australian people will be the last to know about it.

    • > you cant seriously be comparing the costs between a sparsely populated country like Australia, to densely populated area like the UK, really, i thought you were better than that

      Yes, yes you can.

      There are going to be some differences, such as when you compare the urban densities and the width of the copper conductors themselves but they aren’t going to make FTTN not viable from a commercial perspective here in Australia by any means.

      I’ll say it again, if we already have a lot of copper in the ground and we wouldn’t be in the current commercial or legislative scenario or have ADSL2+ DSLAMs by multiple providers everywhere, then we would be insane not to praise VDSL2 like the second coming of Christ. So, basing your argument on that perspective primarily is quite the wrong way to go.

    • Of course you can, Australia is one of the most urbanised countries on the planet, more people live in large cities in Australia than just about anywhere else, but we don’t even have our cities covered.

  6. The ALP picked FTTH, after looking at FTTN and Telstra. Telstra made it just too hard, so the ALP struck out on the correct long-term path.

    The Nationals pushed hard for FTTH – to the point of actually coining the term “Fraudband” to describe FTTN (Thanks to Senator Fiona Nash).

    The Liberals did basically nothing, as usual.

    We HAD chosen a path Renai, after a decade of nothing being done, so perhaps it should better be described as a decade of inaction by the LNP side of politics?

    Now we are going back to the “Digital Dark Ages”, and as I have said (more than once) we WILL regret this decision for decades to come.

    • I think calling it a decade of inaction is quite generous. The evidence suggests it’s deliberate sabotage.

    • No, the ALP picked FTTN and ignored that there was no way to do it without involving Telstra. So when Trujillo put in the non compliant bid, it guaranteed that FTTN under the ALP was dead. FTTH was a political solution and it might have worked if the ALP had played nice with itself long enough to secure a 3rd term to really embed the solution…

      Incidentally, FTTN was due to be completed in 5 years (2007-2012/13), pad that by an extra year or two, it is government after all, and most of us would theoretically be enjoying a better quality of service by now, including the rural/regional/remote dwellers.

      That’s the point Renai is making. Instead of partisan fighting, Conjob’s grandstanding (and subsequent failure to act at the time when it would have mattered), whatever the hell MT is doing and the rest of the stupidity, they all should have just pulled the finger out, settled on a plan and got on with it.

      Which would entail putting the country before attempting to look good politically (or in our case, making the other guy look bad).

      • “Which would entail putting the country before attempting to look good politically (or in our case, making the other guy look bad).”

        And politics has now gotten even worse now, with politics driving almost every aspect of the whole damn show.

      • And the ironic part of your obvious political comment?

        The fact you totally ignored that had the current government who now promotes FttN had a partisan approach to FttN in 2007 (remember when in opposition they politically opposed it, called it fraudband and said they’d roll out their alternative sooner and cheaper) Telstra or no Telstra laws could possibly have been enacted to build FttN…

  7. Counterpoints:

    * The price mentioned in the headline is only for the first three months. Unless you’re writing an advertisement for BT, it’s not appropriate to use that price in the headline and bury the details much further down. The actual price is 26 GBP.

    * Virgin Media offers 60 Mbps for 25 GBP. I’m sure the similarity in the price is no coincidence. Competition is very much at play here. This is not the case in Australia where the only HFC network of relevance is owned by Telstra.

    * BT has existing customers on ADSL to compete with. This would also not be the case in Australia where, especially with vectoring, a mass transition would need to take place rather than a one-by-one upgrade being a conscious economic decision by a consumer. While ADSL prices in the UK have sunk, they’ve also moved relatively closer to FTTC prices, to apparently help the transition.

    * The take up rate of BT Infinity has been 11% in Q3 2013. BT is going to want to first keep or win customers and secondly get money out of this in order to pay off the capital expenditure.

    * It’s a commercial business which owns the network and has the right roadmap and so on to make their investment worth it, even at that monthly subscription fee.

    * This is FTTC, not FTTN, and the characteristics of the copper are quite different from what we have here in Australia.

    * Typical speeds are so that only about 50% of premises on each cabinet will receive speeds of greater than about 40 Mbps, in ThinkBroadband’s estimation. In fact, quoting from a Guardian article: “Current Ofcom rules state that advertised speeds must be achieved by at least 10% of a provider’s customers, which is hardly the toughest hurdle for firms to jump.” The 60 Mbps quoted above in the comments is all nice and good, but most people won’t hop on the 76 Mbps plan if they can only get let’s say 45 Mbps when the 38 Mbps is going to be much better value for them.

    * uSwitch has found, as of Q3 2013, that more than a quarter of British broadband users still have speeds under 3 Mbps and that not a single city matches the government’s definition of super-fast on average, 24 Mbps.

    * The National Audit Office in the UK has said that BT Infinity is about two years behind in its partially publicly funded rollout of superfast to rural areas. The reason I mention this is that this kind of “$38 a month” price means that BT is going to be as cost effective about rolling this out as possible and that’s going to imply things like that.

    So, looking at the headline, it should be 76 Mbps to 10% of subscribers on a specific plan that’s $38 for the first three months, if you want to be accurate about it. So, I’d hardly consider this, for all its apples and oranges, to be necessarily relevant to Australia, when I could also just as well say, to the same degree of relevancy that I could get 200 Mbps for $20 in Romania or 2 Gbps for $50 in Japan. But let’s not mention FTTP. Yes, the coalition’s FTTN/FTTC is possible. Could it be sensible if we had a time machine? Sure. Is it sensible in the current Australian telecommunications landscape and following some pretty mediocre legislative decisions and telecommunications agendas in the ministries by both Labor and Liberal over the past two and a half decades? Yeah, that’s a lot more doubtful.

    But all in all, the point of the article still stands. Less of what the future could hold for the CBN, no, but more as a “what could have been”, had we had a healthier telecommunications landscape like the one in the UK. A forced sale of the HFC network during Telstra’s privatisation, we would likely have ended up with something much closer to this result, and it would have likely been superior to the situation we’re in now. But all in all, it is, at this point, an apples and oranges comparison. VDSL isn’t a silver bullet by any means. It makes a lot of sense for an incumbent telco like BT, and it make quite a lot of sense for consumers in the UK marketplace, as the above plans illustrate.

    But unless you possessed a time machine and could go all the way back to at least the 1970s, no realistic legislative or commercial outcome would have resulted in a situation similar to the one in the UK. Let’s rather look forward to the future.

  8. Optus HFC actually does have unlimited plans now! Much more expensive than this, of course. And with all the FUN and GAMES of the Optus Network.

  9. Given that BT has operated in the past in a similar manner to our own incumbent T$, why are they offering this bargain RIGHT NOW – they don’t do these things without a detailed and very cunning plan?

    What does BT know in its consumer arm about the OFCOM regulated fibre infrastructure that is driving to recruit as many consumers as possible to their FTTN infrastructure? Not sure that BT is a separate as you think.

  10. It’s not all roses over there though.

    My parents live 40 minutes from London, and 5 minutes from an international airport (Stansted), but because the surrounding area is somewhat rural (by UK definitions) their exchange isn’t even on BT OpenReach’s list of exchanges considered for FTTN. I’ve been checking on and off for about 18 months and nothing has changed. The town about 4 minutes drive away has FTTN.

    They’ve been stuck on ADSL – barely getting 1.2Mbps – for about a decade. Mobile 3G/4G isn’t an option as none of the networks provide data coverage in their area, it ends about a mile away.

    • An example of what we will see here. Profit driven deployments, bang of buck will get the latest and greatest, the rest will go fish.

      That for me is the significant difference in the NBN vs CBN debate that the public doesn’t understand. If providers can get out of providing infrastructure to rural and remote regions; as sure as a bear does his thing in the woods, they will absolutely will not deploy there.

  11. Worth keeping in mind that our purchasing power is significantly higher than the UK’s at the moment, so a simple exchange rate conversion isn’t the perfect way to compare. Still obviously much cheaper than anything in Australia.

      • Think he’s refering to us having a much higher percentage of what we earn as disposable income.

        26 GBP is a bigger percentage of their take home pay than $50 is here. We pay less average tax than pretty much any other country (with 1 or 2 exceptions like Dubai where there is no income tax), so our take home pay is a higher percentage of our average income.

        Meaning we have more to spend. So the equivalent dollar amount in Britain takes up more of their income and hence we have more purchasing power.

        The difference is only a few percentage points, but that makes a world of difference. Europe is an expensive place to live…

  12. Careful, don’t pull a TPG. You should mention the 15.99 pound line rental you have to pay on top of those prices.
    Also you should mention if they consider that you are using too much “unlimited” they can throttle your connection.
    So when this is taken into account, it’s pretty comparable to Australian unlimited prices. Faster, but you may be throttled.

    Pays to read their site and terms and conditions.

      • Ahh, sorry I missed that. Opps. I guess why the ACCC objected to TPGs headline prices not including all costs. I thought it was obvious in that case and wondered how they could miss it, and just done the same thing myself.

      • Pfft, who reads the article these days?! This is the “new media” age where 140 characters is all some people can digest.

        Read headline, scroll to comments, post dribble.

  13. Haderak
    Posted 24/01/2014 at 9:27 am
    “Given that the UK copper network is a different animal to the Aussie copper network, I have a question:
    When they claim to offer a 76Mbps connection, I assume that is an ‘up to’ figure. Anyone got any idea of what the actual deliverable speed range of such a plan would be from the UK network?”

    My parents are on one of BT’s high speed Infinity Plans – not sure exactly which one but it’s definitely at the more expensive end of their offerings, and from memory when I was there in October they were getting less than 10Mbps downstream.

    However, once you get out of the cities in the UK into rural areas, the service is generally quite poor, or not even available.


  14. I remember years ago, how excited the family was to finally get the phone connected on our country farm. We could actually talk to our grandparents in the city. Even if we did have to book the call days in advance, and the call cost a bloody fortune.

    More recently I remember how excited we were to hear that the copper was going to be replaced by optic fiber. We would have broadband at last! And then how disappointed we were to hear that country people weren’t getting fiber.

    I certainly can understand that replacing all of the copper in one go would be hideously expensive. Bit why on earth can’t the country copper be slowly replaced on a rolling basis? Even if it does take another 50 years. Especially when the copper in our area is so bad (due to lack of maintenance) that I’ve long cancelled our fixed line.

    So here is the question: How is it that 50 years ago, Australia could afford to (slowly) cover the nation with copper, but today we cannot afford to replace it?

    The answer of course is that once we were a relatively egalitarian (and relatively socialist) country. Now the only goal is in making the rich even richer.

    • John

      You miss your own point.

      It was very expensive and you had to book a call in advance.

      So now people have internet, and just have to book their download in advance.

      Problem is that people read that when you had copper you had STD type service, many in the country used to have party lines, hell even now some on copper have paired gain, so cant even access the internet.

      The real issue is that what ever argument people want to make they can quote a simple statistic like we had copper 80 years ago. Its not just the line or the fibre its a lot more. Even 50 years ago telegrams were still a big thing.

      And while people had copper, many could afford to connect or use the telephone, meanwhile the juniors what fast movie downloads now at no cost, if we took a phone call cost vs the average weekly wage it wasn’t very egalitarian

  15. I’d be interested in what the current average British download per household is. I know ours is now approaching 40GB per month, whereas I believe I read the British equivalent was closer to 5-10GB.

    Perhaps that’s why they’re offering Unlimited- because people are using so little data, that they’re banking on people still using very little on it?

    I’m going through 30-40GB average living by myself. And I don’t own a console either.

    It’s be really interesting to compare British and Australian internet usage to see what the data throughput and usage statistics show.

  16. There are 3 majors problems in Australia’s quest to obtain better broadband:

    1. Politics – Neither party can agree with each other or work with each other to achieve an agreed plan of attack. Lies and exaggerations abound when criticizing each other’s plans.

    2. Telstra – You only have to look at the last decade to see that they aren’t helping our cause. Understandably their objective is to make profit and increase market share.

    3. Australia’s mass media – Take a look back at the news articles published by The Australian in 2010/2011 about the NBN, it was absolutely trashed in every conceivable way. Also have listen to Alan Jones saying that Fibre would be obsolete by the time the NBN was built.

    Sadly, these three things aren’t going anywhere so Australia is just going to have to suffer and accept that the outcome of this situation will not be the ideal solution.

  17. I live in the UK and that plan doesn’t guarantee that speed. I know huge number of people that are too far away from an exchange and have to buy that plan but will only get 5-10Mbit. The only place it works is in London and a few other cites where population is far denser than most of Australia. Oh, and before I get blasted with comments, how do I know? I do contract work for an IT department where all employees are provided with BT Internet connections.

  18. So why is FttP future proof? Just the other day I read about a different type of fiber optic cable that offers much higher potential speeds than the existing fiber. If you wanted to upgrade to that then you would need to tear out the exiting fiber.

    Then there is this news yesterday. South Korea plans 5G network that can download a a movie in one second.


    Turnbull is right – you can’t future proof because no one knows what the future will bring.

    • Without turning this into another pointless match with you Matthew:

      1- 1.4Tbps is a) what is achievable now. No doubt that will rise dramatically in the future. I’ve no idea why you think it wouldn’t. b) Australia’s average speed is 4.5Mbps. That’s 310 000 times faster. At current growth of speed, it’ll be 2050 before we need those speeds. If we don’t plateau before that. That’s about as future proof as you’ll get.

      2) Did you actually read that article on ‘5G’??? It used 64 antennas and still only managed 2kms. Wow. If that’s the future of mobile broadband, I’ll stick with my 4G thanks.


    • “you can’t future proof because no one knows what the future will bring”

      Hey dude,

      no arguments along these lines on Delimiter, please ;) Fibre infrastructure has been around for quite a few decades now. It’s very well understood as the future of fixed-line telecommunications. I’m holding the banhammer right here …


    • First up, you claim there is a new fibre optic type of cable, but expect people to take that on faith, then you post a reference to a 5g article, which has been argued not to be viable in real world trials, not least because the millimetre wavelength will not pass through solid object, including tree’s, walls etc. To hold your argument as sound, means to also assume that the people that made product selections across the Telecommunications networks of the world (who are undeniably using fibre optic cabling for communications networks) are incapable of making a technically sound judgement call on viable infrastructure. I suggest they would know better than you, despite your sky-high confidence in your position on telecoms matters, and therefore, suggest that your final claim – that Malcolm Turnbull is right – is utterly wrong.

      • He would be refering to hollow Fibre cable and since light travels through air faster than glass the speed of transmission is faster ~25% faster from memory may be more or less.

        BUT internet speed is not the speed of the light!

        This would improve your ping times by about 25% but will not effect Bandwidth as this is determined by the wavelengths used.

  19. Also please note that BT had to get customers at least 2.2mb service. And of the 16 million homes passed how many can be connected?
    All they’ve done is drop the fibre cabinets in near the PCP’s. Once the cab is full it goes in for upgrade (additional equipment is needed as it can’t connect the same number of customers as the copper cab… But the potential customers off the copper can is used as homes passed) let’s face it BT are not going to upgrade the fiber cabinet for just a couple of customers as the ROI won’t cost in. FTTH is what is ended not the fiber to the node or cabinet. You still get all the same copper faults and maintenance issues on the last part…

  20. 1. BT sells “up to 78Mbps”, in the same way Telstra sells “up to 24Mbps”

    2. Price inc the required phone line is ~69

    3. An equivalent service would be TPG’s unlimited at 99c more.

    As this is s temporary price change, those on NBN Co resold FTTP still have an option for a better deal, until the operational expense of FTTN comes in.

    BT has actually installed a side by side FTTP network, with no reuse of FTTN fibres, unlike what AU politicians have stated.

  21. If previous governments (i.e. Howard Government) had acted, we would already have a FTTN network and wouldn’t be having these FTTN vs FTTP debates.

    A FTTN network built 10 or 15 years ago would still be adequate now – and in about 2020, we could start talking about upgrading it to FTTP.

    But no – failure to act has delayed the roll-out to a point where many believe it’s uneconomical to roll out FTTN only to have to upgrade to FTTP in a few years time – while others are suggesting FTTN will suffice for now and the future. This argument will only delay the roll-out even further.

  22. The only two type of communications medium that would be possibly faster than Fibre optic cabling are: Vacuum cabling (so the light is travelling through a vacuum not through glass (prohibitively expensive to do)) and Quantum entanglement. Which would require a hell of a lot of R&D not to mention the rollout would be intensely slow requiring massive inter connector points. Fibre optic Glass cabling is the only technology that is proven and has massive potential for future growth.

    • Quantum entanglement is not a communications medium faster than Fibre optic, as far as its use in communications it basically just enables completely secure communication, it doesn’t have anything to do with the speed of it.

      This is because when using QE you also “need” to use a classical form of communication (you have to make a phone call, send an email, use 2 tins and string etc) as well otherwise the person at the other end doesn’t know what it is you sent via QE. You can’t just use QE to instantly send information to somewhere and the person at that location know what that information is.

      So if you used QE with vacuum cabling it would be faster than Fibre optic cabling, but it’s only faster because you are using the vacuum cabling not because you are using QE the QE just makes the information secure even if you intercepted what was sent over the vacuum cable.

      You could use a carrier pigeon with QE to send a message which would obviously be really slow however completely secure.

        • That still can’t transfer information faster than the speed of light though.

          The quantum network mentioned in the article isn’t even using Quantum Entanglement to instantly transfer the quantum states, it’s just transfering quantum information.

          “These atoms communicate with each other by emitting a single photon over an optical fiber. Each atom is a quantum bit — a qubit — and the polarization of the photon emitted carries the quantum state of the qubit. The receiving qubit absorbs the photon and takes on the quantum state of the transmitter. Voila: A network of qubits that can send, receive, and store quantum information.”

          The network is sending quantum information but it’s not doing it instantly via Quantum Entanglement it’s doing it by sending photons over a fibre at the speed of light.

          And even if you did instead use teleportation via Quantum Entanglement to do it instantly, sending a quantum state instantly, quantum information, isn’t actual useful information.

          Having the quantum states of entangled particles change instantly doesn’t let you read a message or watch a video that was sent as the particles are in a superposition of all possible states. In order to be able to read or watch what was sent the particles each need to be in the single state (if it was something digital sent then the state corresponding to either 0 or 1) which was being sent.

          To get them into that state they need to be manipulated so the waveform breaks and they move from being in a superposition of all states into that single state. The problem is depending on how you manipulate them they could end up in any of the possible states not just the state that was actually sent.

          So that the particles get into the state which was actually sent you need information in the form of a bell state measurement that was taken when the quantum state of the entangled particle was sent. The only way you can get that information is from the person that sent it or a computer at that end sending you that information via an email, phone call, direct system link etc, which are all classical sub luminal speeds of communication. And you can’t just do it once then use those results to get all the other particles in the right states, you need the measurements taken for every single particle that was sent and they all have to be sent to you at light speed or slower.

          Once you have that information you can manipulate your particle which had its quantum state changed and the state it ends up in will be the same state as the particle which was sent and you can then read the message or watch the video or run the program as all the information will be correct. You could do it without waiting for those measurements but then you’ll gets particles which are in the correct states and ones that are not and if it’s a program it simply wont run cos most of the bits are wrong or if it’s a message some of the letters may be correct but most won’t etc.

          So the quantum state of your particles can change instantly but you can never know the information that was sent until you receive the additional information from the sender which is limited to light speed.

          No matter how you look at it Quantum Entanglement does not allow for faster than light communication/transfer of information.

          “This does not mean that faster-than-light information transfer has occurred.”

          “Entangled information arrives faster than the speed of light, but to read it scientists would need a key to decode the information, which would arrive using traditional communication at slower-than-light speeds.”
          With a quantum network you could have the whole thing automated and if you change something on the main system then it will change on all connected systems instantly but before those systems will still have to wait for the additional information from the main system to arrive before they can process the instantly transfered quantum states on the entangled particles into something useful.

          “Also quantum teleportation does not allow for faster than light communication, although the teleported particle attains the polarization value instantly.”

          “Also, quantum teleportation does not allow for faster-than-light communication.”

          “Conventional (nonquantum) communication channels relay information”

        • “In another, probably more exciting test, the emitted photons were actually used to entangle the rubidium atoms. Entangled particles exactly mirror the quantum state of their partner, instantaneously and over any distance.”

          The photons entangling those atoms is not the same thing as using entanglement to instantly transfer states.

          And things like “Entangled qubits might be able to form the basis of a quantum network with zero latency over any distance, which would make it rather useful for the intergalactic Galnet that will eventually succeed the internet.” in the article are simply uninformed assumptions made by the author as there are no claims from anyone (other than the uninformed or uneducated in the field) that Quantum Entanglement can be used for any kind of zero latency instantaneous communication.

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