The Broadband Future

Is our broadband future fixed? Or are we going to move towards alternatives?

I thought I might cover a few possible outcomes!

1. Nationwide WiMAX
The possibility of Nationwide WiMAX networking immediately sparks up with the consideration of the Unwired sale to Channel Seven, and its keen interest in investing Unwired into WiMAX networking by placing $200 million into it after the purchase of the company.

Talks with Austar by Seven also go to back that up with Austar owning the regional spectrum which could be accessed for WiMAX.

WiMAX has plenty of upsides, no copper wire needed, no wire needed at all! But it does need a good coverage plan, and consumer equipment of good quality to do well with it.

It’s other advantages are in the fact its a young, developing technology and is going to be innovated with, and allows a fantastic possibility of VoIP Mobile Phones over WiMAX, and internet access at good speeds in the middle of the highway, or out in the farm.

Disadvantages? Well, it’s wireless, and not fixed, so there’s no connection quality guarantees like you get with a fixed network which only ever has circuits with two states: Closed, or Open. It’s mobility advantages are a great credit to the fact that it doesn’t require any last mile maintenance.

2. Fibre to the node
Fibre to the node recycles the current copper paths we have in the ground right now, making them useful for a few more years to come yet by bringing DSL based services closer to the customer, and therefore increasing possible access speeds.

Speeds of this nature, generally speaking, aren’t required in my honest opinion, and simply adding ADSL2+ services to exchanges nationwide would do the solution for many, with select areas requiring a node however.

Advantages? It’s a great upgrade to the current network, but has a high cost and little to gain, it basically upgrades Telstra’s network to a newer standard, something they should have done themselves years ago. Fixed connections, so a service is either working or not, and not really in the middle of working and not. Faster speeds in some cases are possible depending on the DSL technology installed at the node. It’s key incentive is the upgrade to FTTH connections which is the next upgrade path.

Disadvantages? It’s still using higher maintenance copper in the last mile, and faults on the lines aren’t going to disappear as a result of a new network. It’s a high cost upgrade for little gain, because the gains are a simple increase of a few Mbps to some users, or only in minor areas, delivery for the first time of broadband. Possible issues with MPI (mid point injection) affecting any services at exchange levels, and will inevitably slow competition.

3. Fibre to the home
A national fibre to the home network would concrete Australia’s future. There’d be no more uncertainty for competitors as to what to invest in, or how they should invest. A fibre to the home system brings the internet directly to your door, the same technology used under the oceans to take the internet internationally are used to bring your home online. The speeds are limitless, and the expansion of the network still knows of no upper bounds.

Advantages? Never upgrade again (assuming lasers can’t transmit faster). Speeds in excess of any perceived future demand. Certainty to competitors on investment decisions. Would be designed to be open access due to its very nature, and will put Australia right on the map for services.

Disadvantages? Well, a high cost upgrade, but the permanent nature of fibre negates the cost to a high degree. Faster speeds might result in more homeless folk due to the 200MB limits still found on Bigpond plans, but we don’t have FTTH yet..

4. National ADSL2+ or VDSL deployment
This is the more reasonable expectation. A national ADSL2+ or VDSL/2 deployment.

It gives Australian’s world class speeds, doesn’t require any hostile blocking competitor access to customers, provides for the same competition levels we have now, or possibly more. Sees that everyone can hold their own ground to a extent. Competitors can invest more in services, and we all get faster speeds.

Advantages? Faster speeds for all without the high build cost of FTTN or FTTH. Innovates, without having to decide on the FTTN / FTTH debate now.

Disadvantages? Lower speeds for some people on crap quality Telstra phone lines, and lower speeds to no service for those on the fringes now. Upgrades from this decision will eventually be required as bandwidth demands increase, and this is simply a patchwork system to patch the issue until technology and politics show us the way.

5. The current situation
The current situation remains. We sit with the election finished, no new networks, a new election just starting. Telstra chucks its regular political spin out, employs another whinging, fool to destroy more of the company reputation.

Advantages? Well, we at least know services are provided to those that can get them, to some extent where Telstra isn’t politically involved.

Disadvantages? You already know these.

Of the above 5, number 4 seems like the safer, better option to me. Simply upgrade all exchanges to faster services and offer those on a wholesale basis.. Like OPEL are planning. The results can be seen that we will all be able to eventually get ADSL2+ based services, and due to competitive threat, Telstra will carbon copy them, and so we have price competition and nationwide faster speed services to a majority > 50% get 10Mbps.

So, that option is the one that makes sense right now. Sure the upgrade is inevitable, but playing judge around politics and election time is just silly and sees us only have a political slinging match, where at the end of it all, the only acheivement is a government that is just a little more smarter on broadband.

Australia need decisions and Australian’s need consistent movement in the market, Australian’s need certainty, competitors can’t invest in a market where there is no idea who is going to bite your head off for simply entering the market.

So, we need a framework for at this moment, a nationwide ADSL2+ or VDSL / VDSL2 deployment, which sees faster speeds to the masses, and a fair chunk of the problem patched over until both technology and politics grow to act their ages, and the path becomes more clear.

It should eventually become a “Why don’t we just do this” decision. And that’ll put an extreme amount of certainty in the industry at the end of it.


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