Tuesday, 9 April 2013

NBN. One size fits all. Like it or not

In Australia both sides of the political spectrum have weighed in with anticompetitive solutions. Right now we see two options from both Labour and the Liberal party for Australia's national broadband network or NBN. In both cases it involves government rolling out an already dated non-commercial network that has to be paid for by government.

Why you may ask?

Well it's fairly simple. But neither party has faith in commercial offerings. Right now they are many technologies that can offer broadband better than the NBN is providing. These solutions are generally offered commercially as a business is not covered under the same restraints as a home user. This of course means increased cost as the business SLA or service-level agreement requires high levels of uptime and availability. Primarily, the SLA dictates dedicated bandwidth. This means that when you pay for a 80mbps symmetrical connection that you get 80mbps directly to the Internet. The problem many home user networks including those offered by the NBN from either side of the political spectrum is that you don't actually get dedicated bandwidth. You get a shared connection at what is potentially very fast locally but which is actually limited.

This political in game of putting all our eggs in one basket often comes from a misapplied and false notion of fairness. Political forces like to play games. This is one of them. The touted reasoning is that the NBN will create universal access for all Australians. The reality is it will limit some as others pay for an inefficient distribution to have a limited service. Right now, they are better, less expensive and better expandable options available.

The problem comes in when we start looking at technology as a solution to all our issues. Then we start to require universal access to the same technology. Even in rural areas where we're not trying to do is offer fibre broadband. What we're trying to do is offer high-speed Internet access no matter how that is provisioned.

This means using different solutions for different regions. The NBN of course is a one-stop universal solution that costs more for everyone. Instead of offering the best of breed solutions where they're needed we force the same technology to be applied everywhere.

Fibre Internet has its place. In densely populated urban areas with the capability of running cable (as occurred time and time again in the Optus, Telstra, AAPT, etc. cable rollouts) fibre is a great option. In other areas, bonded copper solutions connected to fibre backbones can offer just as high-speed connectivity using direct Ethernet-based solutions rather than those found on ATM. In some cases there is actually less latency and overhead.

That said, it still comes down to the amount of dedicated bandwidth offered at the ISP.

In rural areas, wireless, VSAT, LTE and a plethora of other technologies can offer high-speed connections at a far lower cost than direct fibre connections. What we need to start doing is to stop assuming that there must be one option for all people universally.


Anonymous said...

Rural connectivity is not via Fibre, so this argument is completely pointless. In rural areas NBN is deploying Satellite and LTE connectivity.

Also the NBN is not a cost, it is an investment that will repay itself not just in economic growth, but directly as well.

Craig Wright said...

Of course it is a cost. Hi speed internet is already available. So the options are there. Arguing a loss making enterprise is an investment and thus go away is a pointless exercise in ignorance.

NBN is NOT deploying Satellite, they are forcing existing connectivity to go that path. Not the same thing. In fact, the offering now makes it slower than what I could get a decade ago.

As for LTE. In rural centers where I can get copper bonded only. So again, at what point. Next LTE contracted and nothing to do with NBN but which is paid at a premium.