50Mbps “only a milestone” as Germany targets “gigabit society”


news Germany’s top technology minister Alexander Dobrindt and the heads of its telcos have reportedly described 50Mbps broadband speeds as only a “milestone” on the country’s broadband roadmap, which will ultimately culminate in a “gigabit society”.

In comments at an IT summit reported by German media outlet Heise (we recommend you click here for the full article), Dobrindt — Germany’s Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure — said he saw the long-term future of Germany as being a “gigabit society”.

Germany is currently deploying a number of high-speed broadband technologies, with Deutsche Telekom in particular focusing on upgrading its existing copper network with Fibre to the Cabinet or Fibre to the Node technology, including the VDSL standard. It is also planning to deploy 5G mobile broadband services.

The German Government has previously announced that it would guarantee all households in the country would receive broadband speeds of at least 50Mbps. Deutche Telekom reportedly said at the event that it believed it likely it could offer speeds as high as 250Mbps over FTTC/FTTN using vectoring technology.

However, at the event, it appears that Thorsten Dirks, President of Digital association Bitkom and CEO of Telefonica Germany, described the 50Mbps target as only a milestone. Dobrindt appears to have backed the view that transition towards a “gigabit society” is where Germany must go.

There are certain similarities between Germany and Australia. Both countries are currently focusing on upgrading legacy networks such as copper and HFC cable networks, using Fibre to the Node technology especially, coupled with the vectoring standard. And both countries also have some of the world’s most advanced 4G mobile networks — with much planned in the way of future mobile upgrades.

However, in Australia, the current Coalition Government and the leadership of the NBN company believe that the 50Mbps speeds described in Germany as “only a milestone” will be sufficient for some time.

For example, in an interview with TelecomTV published a month ago (we recommend you click here for the full article), NBN company chief Bill Morrow downplayed Australia’s desire for very high-speed broadband.

“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.

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.”

In this case, what we see is that Australia and Germany are actually pursuing very similar technological solutions to the issue of high-speed broadband availability. But the rhetoric from the top could not be more different. In Australia, it is common for our politicians and NBN executives to talk down the need for high speeds, seeing 50Mbps broadband speeds as sufficient.

In Germany, it appears clear that these speeds are viewed as nothing more than a bare minimum — a stepping stone.

One wonders why this huge disparity exists — and when, if ever, the two views can be reconciled.

Image credit: Metropolico.org, Creative Commons


  1. Big difference is (IMO), as has been said by many here, many times…

    Those abroad upgrading copper, own the copper and as such it’s in their financial interest to continue to invest minimally to wring every last cent from their otherwise obsolete copper, rather than bite the bullet and do it properly with fibre.

    What we did here was rightly take obsolete copper out of the equation, to be able to progress beyond such antiquated technology… but then the current government idiotically brought it back.

  2. I’m sure he meant stepping stone and not mile stone too.

    250mbps (speed we don’t need according to coalition clowns) yet another stepping stone to their “gigabit society” capability. So yes very similar in that we like to waste time and money on intermediate steps to the inevitable goal.

    I guess we can expect GimpCo to move the goal posts again in yet another politically motivated twitverse post in the next few days due to this new international example too…

    • I’m sure he didn’t, a mile stone is a marker along a continuing journey; which is actually a much better description than a stepping stone which just gets you across a stream or pond to the far side. So I think he meant exactly what he said, there’s no reason to pause when you pass it (as the LNPs lot plan to for 10 years!) especially when network volumes double yearly.

      • stepping stone which just gets you across a stream or pond to the far side.

        Exactly what 50mbps is.

        If he really does consider 50mbps a “mile stone” (I’m sure he actually does, my comment was to point out the absurdity in considering it a mile stone) then that is not saying a lot about the standards Germany has and Australia would have if we followed.

        • Indeed HC,

          Milestone implies something of significance…

          Whereas anything to do with copper here or abroad, in comparison to fibre, pales into insignificance ;)

  3. Actually it would appear both are saying the exactly the same thing. Reutilise existing infrastructure to save capex and deliver ubiquitous high speed internet at customer demanded speeds as quickly as possible, upgrading where increase speeds demanded using available (continuously improving) technologies.

    Since we missed the analysis of BT’s copper announcements several weeks ago perhaps a comparison of DT’s broadband upgrade vs NBNCo? Very instructive.

    • “Actually it would appear both are saying the exactly the same thing.”
      Oh, really? What gauge is Germany’s copper? Also, it says they’re upgrading existing infrastructure – we /bought/ existing 60+ year old infrastructure – you’re saying they did the same?

    • Yes Richard, but NBNco doesn’t have existing infrastructure.

      I know this is confusing – but NBNco aren’t Telstra. They only play one on TV. They liked it so much, they bought the company!

      Oh please, tell me again, the story of how a model that is designed specifically for incumbents, works for an entity, that isn’t?

      I do like that one. It’s my favourite story! Shame it’s in the fiction isle though. Bit of a bummer, hey.

    • Deutche Telekom, and BT both owned the copper.

      In our case, TELSTRA owned the copper. However they wouldn’t do the FTTN option that was brought to them. So we had to bypass them. As a result we didn’t have existing infrastructure.

      It’s not hard Richard. You can’t re-utilise something you don’t own.

      Well until the government change resulted in a humongous waste of money to allow us to pay for the operating expenses of the Copper network.. YAY TEAM.

      So no, completely different. Your comments are foolish.

  4. I believe the reason for the huge disparity exist in Australia is that only a few could get any better than the up to 24Mbps service we have had. Only the few could under stand the benefits of the fast speeds. As due to the glacial rollout of the MTM so far it will still many years before most can see the benefits.

    Considering our national average is now 6Mbps up from 4Mbps because of FTTP. 4Mbps average was an utter disgrace due to lack of investment from the private sector and one of the main reasons for the NBN to begin with.

    • As due to the glacial rollout of the MTM so far it will still many years before most can see the benefits.

      Indeed. So much for quicker and sooner. And by the time it’s done more time and money will be required to fix the mess that could have been avoided by doing it right the first time.

  5. So where exactly is NBNCo’s plan to get us all to this “gigabit society”?

    As far as I can see NBNCo doesn’t even have a clear path to vectored VDSL and I’m yet to see the fully costed plan for DOCSIS3.1. To say nothing of Fibre on Demand, of which NBNCo says virtually nothing.

    All the MTM has provided so far is a host of questions to which there seem to be few answers.

    Of course the biggest question of all is, who pays for this move to a gigabit society since MT’s crippled NBNCo is extremely unlikely to be able to afford to do so?

    • All reports are that NBN’s FTTN will be vectored. (It was the minimum they had to do to get half-decent speeds out of Australia’s network.)

      You’re right, there is no plan after FTTN and HFC because imagined future technologies will obviate the need for future expenditure in this government-supplied service. That’s the plan, apparently.

      • Vectored will have problem with the overbuilding of other FTTN/B networks that are running.

    • +1 Graham…

      At least the German’s are looking to the future not just the next election…

  6. When the higher speeds than 25Mbps on the NBN are as unaffordable as they are, the claim that people are not willing to pay holds no water and is a triumph of mean-spiritedness and negativity, which will come at the expense of new economic opportunities as much for the companies who would service those subscribers as for the subscribers themselves.

    “We can’t get companies to supply infrastructure, so we are half-heartedly doing it ourselves. We are actively limiting economic development. Aren’t we great that we’ve saved money doing so?!”

  7. We stayed in 25mbps is not we don’t want it faster but we cannot afford it .. jeez ..

  8. Whatever happened to 25 Mbps by 2016, 100 Mbps by 2019? Now it’s 50 Mbps for the next 10 years…

    • Passed under the radar as the “friendly media” are no longer on a witch hunt, for obvious reasons.

  9. The German approach, and the Australian MTM approach are remarkably similar.
    One you have FTTN, and HFC you can progressively roll FTTH over time.

    But the big difference between here and Germany is population density. They can get from 50-1000mbps much more economically than we can.

    I think eventually we will get there, but I don’t see the need to spend it all up front, and right now, I just want the current rollout done and dusted, the politics over with, and then move on with gradual upgrade over time.

    • John
      The problem with the mess we have now is that since the cost is now costing very close to Turnbull own SR figures for FTTP and the ROI decreasing. The NBN won’t beable to pay for any gradual upgrade unless asking the taxpayer again to pay more money for those upgrades.

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