How close is the NBN to meeting Australia’s connectivity needs?

The NBN is almost halfway to completion, but will it meet Australia’s connectivity needs?

By Leon Spencer
Jan. 25, 2017

"Among other things, FttN requires electrical power to the nodes...This is presenting problems that contribute to the overall speed of the rollout and the level of local disruption.

"These nodes will be redundant and will have to be pulled out when the government inevitably bites the bullet and moves to fibre-to-the-driveway, or fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FttDP)".

"Our highly qualified technical experts believe that the copper wire network will need to be replaced in 10 to 15 years or sooner. On current modelling around a third of the NBN, perhaps more, will need to be replaced - meaning more disruption in times to come," he said.

Patton is not alone in his criticism of the current rollout model, yet others take a more moderate view of the government's approach.

Intelligent Business Research Services advisor and former Gartner analyst, Geoff Johnson, suggests that the technology nbn has been trialling to help it push more data through copper wire is likely to take care of any speed issues over the coming years that the move away from a mostly fibre network might present.

While both the FttP and the MTM network approaches are aimed at delivering a network that offers download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, it was expected that a mostly fibre network would be upgradable to gigabit-level speeds further down the track.

Given the perceived constraints of the existing copper network, nbn has, understandably, made a big show of demonstrating various technologies aimed at pushing ever more data through the metal cables.

In October last year, nbn successfully clocked up speeds of 8Gbps over 30 metres of copper cable in an XG-FAST technology lab trial conducted with technology partner, Nokia.

According to nbn, XG-FAST can be used to deliver services to multi-dwelling units in a Fibre-to-the-Building (FttB) scenario, or via FttDP. The XG-FAST protocol is just one of a number of emerging technologies that nbn could tap into if it wants to pump up the speed capabilities of the existing infrastructure on which it has to rely under the government's MTM approach.

Such technology will see some, if not all, of the NBN's delivery infrastructure open to future speed upgrades, according to Johnson.

"Although the minimum design speed is 25/5 Mbps with at least 90 per cent of services capable of [over] 50Mps, only FttP and HFC services are upgradable to gigabit per second services in the near future using GPON and DOCSIS 3.1," Johnson said in a research paper on the network, published late last year.

"The FttN network will need upgrading to FttDP (and or FttP to achieve 1Gbps [or higher]," he said.

While new technology looks likely set to deliver future upgrade paths to much of the network under the MTM approach, a more pressing concern is the pricing of the network, which is yet to settle down to a level comparable to many other markets, according to Johnson,

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