news The chief executive of the NBN company this morning claimed the top-end speeds for the company’s HFC cable network could be as high as 30Gbps and that its Fibre to the Node network could do 5Gbps, but without providing any evidence as to why this would be the case.
Under Labor’s previous Fibre to the Premises model for the National Broadband Network, which is the majority of the infrastructure that the NBN company has deployed so far, the top-end speeds available have been 1Gbps.
This represents speeds at least ten times faster than those available under most of today’s broadband networks in Australia, with the HFC cable networks operated by Telstra and Optus, and the Fibre to the Node network operated by TransACT in Canberra, generally topping out at about 100Mbps.
The NBN company is also currently deploying Fibre to the Node infrastructure around Australia, as well as extending and upgrading the HFC cable networks owned by Telstra and Optus. Currently, those networks only allow speeds of up to 100Mbps.
Previously, the NBN company has stated its belief that the HFC cable networks could be upgraded to allow speeds of up to 5Gbps, with the latest modems supporting the DOCSIS 3.1 standard coming out of vendors in the United States.
However, speaking to a Communications Day conference this morning, NBN chief executive Bill Morrow said eventually speeds could be much greater.
Morrow told the conference that the G.Fast standard would allow FTTN infrastructure to reach speeds of up to 1Gbps, and that the XG-Fast standard had the “potential” for 5Gbps “and beyond” speeds.
These speeds could be eclipsed by HFC, however, according to Morrow.
The NBN chief executive told the conference that the DOCSIS 3.1 standard could allow speeds of 10Gbps over HFC cable networks, with 1Gbps upload speeds, and that “Full Duplex DOCSIS” had the potential to offer 30Gbps symmetric speeds up and down.
These speeds could be even faster than the NBN company’s existing FTTP networks, Morrow said.
The executive said the GPON standard for FTTP would allow 1Gbps speeds, while 10-GPON would allow speeds of 10Gbps and beyond.
When it came to the NBN company’s Fixed Wireless and Satellite technologies, Morrow said future upgrades were also possible on those different forms of infrastructure, with “Advanced Antennae” and 5G allowing speeds beyond 100Mbps for the Fixed Wireless networks (currently limited to 50Mbps).
And “Terabit” satellite was on its way, slated to allow 100Mbps speeds for the NBN company’s satellite infrastructure, Morrow said.
However, Morrow did not provide any evidence or references for his claims, so it is not clear what reference material the NBN chief executive has based his claims on. Some of the claims do not appear to match consensus views in the telecommunications industry.
For example, it is generally understood that FTTP infrastructure, contrary to Morrow’s apparent view, has the potential to offer significantly higher speeds than HFC cable infrastructure. In addition, the G.Fast standard is not purely applied to FTTN infrastructure; FTTN rollouts generally need to have their fibre component extended to achieve the full speeds which Morrow mentioned with respect to G.Fast and XG.fast.
I’m not going to say that Morrow is wrong in his claims with respect to the potential future speeds to be offered over the NBN network. I’m not a technical expert — just a journalist.
But what I will say is that they don’t match with what I understand of current telecommunications industry consensus.
For example, it was only in November last year that NBN executive Dennis Steiger was in the United States examining HFC cable modems capable of a theoretical maximum of 5Gbps. I do not believe that this technology has advanced so fast that people are seriously talking about 30Gbps symmetric speeds over HFC cable infrastructure.
It’s a similar case with the NBN company’s own FTTN infrastructure. Sure, the NBN company has already tested G.Fast speeds of close to 1Gbps … but that was over a tiny copper loop within an existing building, not over the company’s much more far-flung FTTN network. Can we really say that FTTN is going to go to 5Gbps any time soon, without extending the fibre very far into the NBN last mile copper network? I don’t think so.
In my view, it is irresponsible of Morrow to put these figures out into the wild … when there really is no potential to achieve them anytime soon.
What do people think? Is Morrow on the money, or blowing smoke with his speed predictions?
Image credit: NBN company