news The chief executive of the NBN company, Bill Morrow, has stated in several comments over the past month that the 50Mbps base speeds which the company is aiming for across much of its network will be good enough “for the forseeable future” — ten years after the NBN is initially built.
The previous Labor Government’s version of the NBN would have seen speeds of up to 1Gbps made available on a near-universal basis throughout Australia, with a small percentage of the country in rural and remote areas to receive much slower speeds via satellite and wireless. The Fibre to the Premises infrastructure that Labor’s NBN model used could also easily be upgraded to higher speeds.
In Canada, Bell Canada last week announced it was planning to deploy 10Gbps broadband services on its FTTP network — reaching some 2.2 million homes by the end of this year — in 2017.
The Coalition Government’s Multi-Technology Mix model for the NBN will lock much of the country into slower speeds, although it can be deployed on a more rapid basis than FTTP as it uses existing infrastructure, and future upgrades are also possible.
The Fibre to the Node model for the NBN infrastructure commonly supports variable speeds of between 25Mbps and 100Mbps — depending on how far from their local neighbourhood ‘node’ a customers’ premises are. Currently, the HFC cable networks owned by Telstra and Optus offer speeds up to 100Mbps.
Both FTTN and HFC cable can be upgraded, with the G.Fast and DOCSIS 3.1 technologies promising speeds much higher — theoretically up to 1Gbps in both cases.
However, it is not clear how such technologies will perform in the real world, with FTTN being influenced by factors such as copper loop length, crosstalk interference and weather, while HFC cable has historically suffered extreme network congestion issues in Australia. In addition, upload speeds will not reach FTTP levels.
In a little-reported interview with TelecomTV published a month ago (we recommend you click here for the full article), NBN company chief Bill Morrow said it was more important to get entry-level high-speed broadband speeds to as many Australians as possible, rather than proceeding with a long-term FTTP build.
“So you want that as quick as you can get it, right? If you can say fibre-to-the-node can deliver up to 50Mbit/s for most everybody, isn’t that enough for the next 10 years to get this thing going and then, if there is more demand, then you just push fibre further down the street using the company’s profits rather than adding in more taxpayer money?” he said.
“I think you can argue both cases but one of them is more prudent than the other and also, most important – and this is me talking for the people of Australia – if you ask them what they want they say they just want broadband now!”
And in a separate article published in the Herald Sun newspaper earlier this week (we recommend you click here for the full article), Morrow again argued that it would be better to get better broadband to more people faster, rather than deploying FTTP.
“NBN’s current model provides the capacity we need into the foreseeable future,” he wrote.
“So what speed do people actually want? An all-fibre NBN is capable of speeds of up to a Gbps. Yet the vast majority of people on this network — about 80 per cent — are choosing plans of 25Mbps or less. As you would expect, people are not willing to pay for something they don’t need.”
Despite his comments regarding 50Mbps being sufficient, Morrow acknowledged that much of the NBN network would be capable of much higher speeds. Most of the NBN infrastructure that has been constructed so far is based on Labor’s FTTP model. “In 2020, we will see 54 per cent of our country able to access speeds up to a gigabit per second (Gbps), another 39 per cent up to 50 megabits per second (Mbps), and the remaining 7 per cent with at least 25Mbps,” he said.
“Most importantly, there are upgrade paths to provide even greater speeds when we need it.”
Opinion/analysis to follow.
Image credit: NBN company