news US technology giant Google has announced that it will work with a further 34 cities in the US on deploying its high-speed Fibre to the Premises broadband infrastructure, in a move that further solidifies the long-term case for the FTTP deployment model globally.
Google Fiber is a broadband network which Google is rolling out in several cities in the US, such as Kansas City, Missouri, as well as Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah. The service is based on the same Fibre to the Premises model which Labor preferred for its National Broadband Network project, but offers significantly better prices, including unlimited plans for $70 per month for 1Gbps plans with no download quotas. The network, however, does not allow competitive wholesale access by other ISPs.
Overnight in the US, Google revealed that it would start exploring Google Fiber deployments in a further nine metropolitan areas across the US, consisting of 34 individual cities altogether.
“We’ve long believed that the Internet’s next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds, so it’s fantastic to see this momentum,” said Milo Medin, vice president of Google Access Services, in a blog post. “And now that we’ve learned a lot from our Google Fiber projects in Kansas City, Austin and Provo, we want to help build more ultra-fast networks. So we’ve invited cities in nine metro areas around the U.S.—34 cities altogether—to work with us to explore what it would take to bring them Google Fiber.”
Medin noted that there was no certainty around Google Fiber definitely being rolled out in those areas.
“Between now and then, we’ll work closely with each city’s leaders on a joint planning process that will not only map out a Google Fiber network in detail, but also assess what unique local challenges we might face,” he wrote. “These are such big jobs that advance planning goes a long way toward helping us stick to schedules and minimise disruption for residents.”
“While we do want to bring Fiber to every one of these cities, it might not work out for everyone. But cities who go through this process with us will be more prepared for us or any provider who wants to build a fiber network. In fact, we want to give everyone a boost in their thinking about how to bring fiber to their communities; we plan to share what we learn in these 34 cities … we hope this news inspires more communities across America to take steps to get to a gig.”
Google chief financial officer Patrick Pichette also reportedly told a Goldman Sachs conference in the US this month that the company was already working on 10Gbps speeds — much higher than the 1Gbps speeds currently available.
The news comes as debate in Australia continues to exist around the need for higher speeds. Labor’s previous National Broadband Network plan would have offered similar speeds to Google Fiber, and it is likely it would have been able to be upgraded to 10Gbps speeds, similar to Google Fiber, in the long term.
However, that model was largely thrown out of the window in December, when NBN Co published its wide-ranging Strategic Review. Using this document, the new Coalition Federal Government appears to be pursuing a so-called “Multi-Technology Mix” model for deploying the Coalition’s Broadband Network initiative. The model will only see Labor’s preferred FTTP model deployed to some 26 percent of the majority of the population, Fibre to the Node used for 44 percent, and the existing HFC cable networks owned by Telstra and Optus extended to cover the rest.
Speeds available on FTTN and HFC cable networks are substantially less than those available on FTTP networks; up to 100Mbps in the case of FTTN, and around 300Mbps in the case of HFC cable. In a statement published on his website last week, Turnbull attempted to address the question of whether higher broadband speeds were necessary.
“Fibre offers the capacity for much higher speeds but it depends what plan the customer buys. The most popular plan on the NBN is currently the 12/1mbps plan,” the Communications Minister wrote. “If a business wants speeds higher than is available over VDSL, such as 1gbps, there are available products such as fibre on demand, to allow that access. Speeds of 100/40 mbps are being achieved on hybrid fibre copper connections of the kind proposed in the Strategic Review.”
“An important point which is overlooked is that increased line speed is only of utility or value to a consumer to the extent it enables them to do something they couldn’t otherwise do. So while fibre can provide a speed of 1 gbps, it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify the applications or services of value to residential consumers that would require it.”
“A second point worth remembering is that the NBN is a last mile customer access network – it connects a customer to the local point of interconnection (PoI) after which connectivity to the rest of the Internet is carried by the customer’s retail service provider. So even if there is a very high speed available between the customer’s premises and the PoI that does not necessarily mean connections between servers in other towns, states or countries will be at that speed because of contention and congestion elsewhere in the Internet.”
However, Turnbull’s comments are believed to be out of step with the telecommunications industry globally. Although technologies such as FTTN and HFC cable are viewed as viable broadband technologies in the short to medium term, in the long-term industry consensus holds that almost all fixed-line networks will trend towards fibre, to cater for extremely rapidly growing bandwidth demands.
Such infrastructure already exists throughout much of Asia, particularly South Korea and Japan, and neighbouring countries to Australia such as Singapore and New Zealand are deploying FTTP rather than FTTN or HFC cable technologies. In November last year, in another example, The City of Los Angeles revealed plans to embark on a massive Fibre to the Premises city-wide deployment of fibre broadband, in a model that may deliver gigabit broadband speeds to the city’s 3.5 million residents and all businesses and vault it into the next-generation of technology enablement.
The news comes as a new comprehensive study of public attitudes towards Labor’s National Broadband Network project published this month found the initiative still enjoys very high levels of widespread public support from ordinary Australians, despite what the study described as an “overwhelmingly negative” approach to the project by print media such as newspapers.
When asked ‘Do you have a positive or negative opinion of the National Broadband Network in general?’ respondents expressed an overwhelmingly positive opinion. 26.1 percent responded with “very positive”, 38.2 percent responded with “positive”, 14.8 percent responded with “neutral”, and only 12.6 percent and 8.3 percent responded with “negative” or “very negative”, respectively.
The analysis also considered whether political affiliation would produce any difference in attitudes to the NBN, by asking ‘Which party did you vote for in the 2010 election?’ Respondents who voted for the Liberal and/or National Parties at the 2010 election had a more negative opinion of the NBN than Australian Labor Party (ALP) voters, with ALP voters twice as likely as Liberal voters to hold very positive opinions on the NBN. However, NBN support amongst Liberal voters was still very strong, with 48 percent of that voting base supporting the project.
A number of other surveys conducted over the past 2-3 years have consistently shown strong support for the NBN project amongst Australians, and even Coalition voters. In addition, last week Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare tabled a petition in Parliament with the signatures of some 272,000 Australians calling for the Coalition to support Labor’s FTTP model.