Coalition Now Saying Fibre A Good Idea?

A curious tweet just now from opposition communications spokesperson, Malcolm Turnbull, in regards to “ultrafast” internet being launched by British Telecom.

Malcolm suggests in his tweet that this solution – (FTTC for most people, and FTTP for those who want it) – is better than the full FTTP network currently under construction by NBN Co.

Huh? What is FTTC?

“FTTC is subtly distinct from FTTN or FTTP (all are versions of Fiber in the Loop). The main difference is the placement of the cabinet. FTTC will be placed near the “curb” which differs from FTTN which is placed far from the customer and FTTP which is placed right at the serving location.”

So he’s praising a solution that runs fibre down every street, while bagging the NBN FTTP network, which runs fibre down every street?

Yes, it’s not exactly the same as an FTTP rollout, but given his love for his FTTN solution, why praise a solution that is almost exactly what he is normally against?

Non sequitur.

  • That’s because FTTP NBN is an ALP plan, and the ALP is EVIL incarnate. So the LNP has to offer a crappier alternative just for the sake of offering something not EVIL.

  • FTTC is an archtectural model that can be described in the set of FTTN.  The node being a street cabinet.  This has always been a topography in the coalition plan.  From the Curb/Cabinet/Node the last mile can then be installed as required.  From the cabinet, the last mile can be OFT FTTP, it can be ADSL2+, VDSL or 4G LTE wireless.

    • The BT model gives FTTN for everyone, with an FTTP option. If they are providing the FTTP option, the fibre will be in the ground – they aren’t going to an expensive 800 metre fibre run from the node for people who want FTTP.

      FTTC is only just short of FTTP – it’s just the curb to premise drop isn’t installed unless someone orders the FTTP option.

      There is some terminology confusion here, as FTTC is Fibre-to-the-Curb.

      FTTN is still wasted money when a full FTTP build is done one day, as even Malcolm admits will be required.

      •  The BT model also makes use of infrastructure already in place.  The current Australian NBN model does not.  On the contrary, It is paying money to destroy working network segments.  Shutting down HFC just as DOCSIS 3 is being rolled out is an idiocy. A decent FTTN topology is not a waste of money.  The architecture provides for changes in last mile technologies, and in social trends in internet usage.  Fixed line broadband in Australia is pretty well saturated at the moment.  Mobile devices (even excluding ‘smart phones’) is, and has been growing in double digit numbers.  The concept of the government “picking winners” and making the crux of the NBN OFT FTTP worries me for a number of reasons.

        1. The size and population distribution of our most populous areas is by no means fixed.  The buildings, as they are now in South Bank, Spring Hill, Newmarket, Toowong, Milton, Auchenflower et al hardly existed a decade ago, and did not exist at all two decades ago.  I rather doubt that the civil building structures will be the same in a decade as they are now.

        2.  A decade is a bloody long time to assume that any one given technology will be ‘future proofed’ within that time scale.  Thinking back to FDDI, in the ITC industry (amongst others) we were told to “Do it once, do it right, do it with FDDI fibre”.  Well, we did.  Every MAN in the world was swapping over to FDDI OFT. Nearly all of that pipe is still in the ground, dark.  It is dark because in a relatively short time frame, Gb Ethernet copper and point to point microwave made building and operating MANs and LANs cheaper and easier.

        3.  The digital divide.  I can not see where the NBN is addressing the very real concern of the digital divide in this country.  The current plan seems to put remote and rural Australians into the ‘too hard’ basket relying on fixed wireless (which is a nonsense) and satellite systems.  No way in hell is any user going to get a guaranteed 12/1.5 Mbps satellite service even with new Ka band, spot focus, bent pipe missions.  The cost is prohibitive.
        A well thought out FTTN architecture can extend to remote and rural areas by extending the network topology, rather than change the network archtitecture based on geographic circumstances.  The ABS did a state of the Internet study in 2006 and again in 2008.  They found that 38% of Australian households did not have any internet connection.  Suprisingly, this was not because of availability.  50% of the 38% replied that they had no interest at all in the internet.  40% of the 38% cited cost as the major factor for not being connected.  The current NBN model has chosen THE MOST EXPENSIVE architecture to provide a national network.  The people not interested are not going to be interested now because it MAY be a little faster.  And the people who can’t afford a cheap DoDo account now will not be able to afford a connection to the NBN (given current pricing indications and predictions).  Telstra have recently taken this network topology out into remote Arnhem land, providing OFT to wireless nodes and SELECTED FTTP recipients (Health centers etc.).

        4.  Market analysis.  None has been done.  It is quite easy to spot the trend towards mobile internet connectivity in the market.  I don’t want three internet accounts.  One at my desk.  One wireless when I am out and about.  And one operating my telephone.  I want the one account that will follow me, not me follow it.  I can’t be sure, but if one did any realistic market research, I have a feeling that this sentiment might be visible in the collected data.

        5.  Technology change.  I have mentioned the FDDI ‘spring’ and subsequent winter.  Affordable femptocell, microcell and picocell technology that will enable LTE MIMO is not far away.  Robust test are being done right now.  If this communications model becomes popular, which I believe it will, then a FTTN architecture will easily provide for this network architecture.

        6.  Value for money.  At no time in the discussion of this project have the cost/benefit criteria been addressed.  All I hear is that the NBN will “provide unheard of {something} if we build it”.  Well, what are the benefits?  The government and NBNCo have produced a half dozen motherhood statements about how wonderful life will be, without one concrete example.  How will it help small business?  Get them on the Web?  They can do that now through a hosting service.  Or are we expecting every small and medium business in Australia to start running a server farm, come up to speed on *NIX administration, PHP, XHTML, HTML5, CSS3, SQL, AJAX, Javascript etc…..?  eHealth?  eHealth can be done given the current network speeds and availability.
        ehealth.addinall.org
        Why isn’t it popular?  Mostly because it is undefined, and clinicians see no need for it.  I can’t get my Doctor to answer email.

        7.  Lack of transparency.  Fifty billion dollars is a lot of money.  Building this thing is costing over $110,000,000 PER DAY for the next decade.  I want to see a cost/benefit analysis, a business case complete with alternative models and RISK analysis.  This project has ignored all of government/ITIL ‘best practice’ in favour of a stubborn ‘we know best’.  Part of the risk analysis would include “What will happen to our investment if we are no longer in power in 2004?”.  This government and NBNCo have proceded with an “all or nothing” approach to this project.  The sort of thinking one would expect from a student in day one/week one Business Analysis 101.

        HTH

        Mark Addinall.

        • All this is true if you are talking about a vision for the next ten to fifteen years.

          It is certainly quite feasible – (in fact, more than likely) – that the speeds that will be possible on existing infrastructure in that time frame will be more than enough for many people.

          The solution proposed by the Coalition – (details of which are amazingly scant, considering the amount of time they’ve had to come up with an actual policy) – makes near zero provision for the future, and is based on assumptions about the existing infrastructure that not even Telstra could make.

          They assume that the copper is in good condition. Overall, it is not.

          There are many people who can’t get a stable enough phone line for dialup let alone ADSL1/ADSL2. And they would propose VDSL over these very same lines?

          Hell, I don’t even get a dialtone when it rains heavily!

          The copper network is a completely unknown quantity. Even if we stick with the copper network, there will be a great deal of investigation, and then rip and replace of the existing copper, just to get everyone up to spec.

          When you look towards future upgrades, most of the $16.9b – (the independent costing of the vague proposal the Coalition has put forward) – would be wasted, especially since even they admit FTTH will happen down the road.

          Wasted? Absolutely.

          The rollout of fibre will be no cheaper in 10 years from now, and all those powered – (costs money too) – VDSL DSLAMs Malcolm committed us to will be obsolete. Many of them may have been replaced a number of times over in that period too.

          More waste.

          Because when the inevitable upgrade happens, the $38b (or more) that it will cost, will be ON TOP OF the money already spent. $17b for now, and $38b later? Sounds like $55b to me – (give or take).

          I’d rather spend $38b now on a network that has the ability to expand to support 40Gbps without digging a single new hole in the ground, than pissing $17b down the drain on a patchwork, haphazard, highly contended network the Coalition suggest, that will only be upgraded to the “NBN” for much the same cost later.

          A network that will last us for 50 years.

          If we wait 15 years, the copper network will be 75 years old in places, and it’s already showing it’s age.

          It’s time to do it NOW, not commit us to unnecessary intermediate spending, when we can do it right, now.

          HTH.

          •  “The solution proposed by the Coalition – (details of which are amazingly
            scant, considering the amount of time they’ve had to come up with an actual
            policy) – makes near zero provision for the future, and is based on
            assumptions about the existing infrastructure that not even Telstra
            could make.”

            With respect, the NBN solution that you support addresses none of my concerns, listed in order of importance, and the amount of time you spent addressing these quite valid questions has been exactly NIL, opting for some motherhood statements and some very vague assumptions.

            “They assume that the copper is in good condition. Overall, it is not.”

            This is a blanket statement that could use some qualification.  I note you have worked as a network engineer.  As have I, for thirty years.  In my time working for OPTUS (twice), Telstra, Paradox and iiNet one would assume that the figures being collected in the NOC would show the dismal state of affairs concerning the copper throughout the country.  The statistics collected do not show the level of dis-repair you suggest.

            “There are many people who can’t get a stable enough phone line for dialup let alone ADSL1/ADSL2. And they would propose VDSL over these very same lines?”

            “I know a bloke who knows a bloke” is not a valid method of network traffic analysis.  My work has taken me all around this country several times, and I am yet to encounter the horror stories popular at the moment.  Seems everyone who favours the NBN hasn’t been able to connect to the net for at least a decade.
            Here in South Bank/South Brisbane we had some of the oldest copper in the state, and up until seven weeks ago I could still get 17/0.7 Mbps from it.  Never that quick out Mildura way back when, but still usable.  Twenty years ago I was development manager for STALLION Technologies when everything was dial-up.  The net worked then.  It seems to work right now.  There are crappy areas I am sure.  Would it not be wise to upgrade the crappy areas FIRST?  This includes rural and remote services. Y

            “Hell, I don’t even get a dialtone when it rains heavily!”

            Why?  Where do you live?

            “The copper network is a completely unknown quantity. Even if we stick
            with the copper network, there will be a great deal of investigation,
            and then rip and replace of the existing copper, just to get everyone up
            to spec.

            When you look towards future upgrades, most of the
            $16.9b – (the independent costing of the vague proposal the Coalition
            has put forward) – would be wasted, especially since even they admit
            FTTH will happen down the road.

            Wasted? Absolutely.”

            Not at all.  I do not suggest ripping up bad copper and replacing it with better copper.  How can a FTTN topology be wasted money? To construct an FTTN network you are going to run big fat OFT pipes out as far as cabinets/nodes.  If at some time in the future it is decided that LTE MIMO is a no go, and the world has decided to avow mobile computing in preference to staying at home working in the kitchen, the the network pipe to the nodes will still be the backbone for a FTTP architecture.

            “The rollout of fibre will be no cheaper in 10 years from now,”

            You know this to be true how?

            “and all those powered
            – (costs money too) – VDSL DSLAMs Malcolm committed us to will be
            obsolete. Many of them may have been replaced a number of times over in
            that period too.

            More waste.”

            Are you suggesting that the kit the NBNCo is installing TODAY will be operational and still ‘cutting edge’ in a decade from now?  That has not been the case from 1960 onwards, I do not see why the trend of rapid change should halt right at this moment in time.

            “Because when the inevitable upgrade happens, the $38b (or more) that it
            will cost, will be ON TOP OF the money already spent. $17b for now, and
            $38b later? Sounds like $55b to me – (give or take).”

            That assumes that a FTTP OFT network will still be desirable in a decade from now.  And that the cost of technology will remain constant.

            “I’d rather
            spend $38b now on a network that has the ability to expand to support
            40Gbps without digging a single new hole in the ground,”

            Are you suggesting that the plastic pipes run into homes in Tassie can transport 40Gbps?  They will not.

            “than pissing
            $17b down the drain on a patchwork, haphazard, highly contended network
            the Coalition suggest, that will only be upgraded to the “NBN” for much
            the same cost later.”

            The NBN seems to me like a patchwork haphazard, highly contended design.  Oh, we can have FTTP for most, and fixed wireless for some, and satellite for others.  How is that a contiguous design?  And as far as contention goes, please don’t tell me you are of the school that thinks OFT is somehow magic, and regardless of how many people you hang off a GPON segment, everyone gets 100Mbps regardless.  It doesn’t work that way at all, as you know.  The contention for wireless networks is not in the ‘Physics’ of the part of the EMS used (Physics played a large part of my BEng and MSc) but the number and saturation of transceivers.

            “A network that will last us for 50 years.”

            Perhaps.

            “If we wait 15 years, the copper network will be 75 years old in places, and it’s already showing it’s age.”

            Parts of it are, parts of it are not.  The copper was not all laid in the same week.

            “It’s time to do it NOW, not commit us to unnecessary intermediate spending, when we can do it right, now.”

            That was the FDDI argument.  And it failed, badly.  That was also the argument for GOSIP in Australia, which failed, badly.  Making decade long predictions in our industry is fraught with hurdles.  A great concept is used in most if not all industries now, and its name is “Just In Time”.  Every time the government has picked a sweeping “winner” in ITC it has failed and failed badly.  Ten years ago I purchased a 1TB SAN.  I had a shitload of geo data that all needed to be in the same place.  I didn’t get a lot of change from $500,000.  Two weeks ago I bought a 1TB disk from the post office for $79.  It is rather lucky I did not purchase twenty SANs back then, because at the time they were the best, fastest and ‘future-proofed’ as for only $200,000 more, I could add another TB of disk.  The same goes for networking.  Twenty years ago a 386 or 486 running SCO UNIX with 64 STALLION RS-232 ports was pretty much ‘state of the art’ to build an ISP.  iiNet used them, ozemail, Paradox and ALL of the little ISPs that used to live around the nation.  Now that rig is a mere curiosity that one can find in a technology museum.  If we can’t specify a NEED to upgrade the nation into a FTTP model right now, then spending the money prior to establishing costs/benefits, requirements analysis, alternatives is foolish.

            I actually thing the current goals of the NBN are rather outdated, lacking in vision, and if allowed to proceed will almost certainly be obsolete before the completion date.

            On the other hand, FTTN now, builds a great OFT backbone throughout the country, and can adapt to newer technologies for the last mile as technological changes occur.

            HTH

            Mark Addinall.

          • With respect…I disagree with the basis of your premise, and I’m not here to suggest you are right, or that you are wrong – merely that I have quite a different opinion.

            I do however disagree with your statement that I haven’t addressed your issues – we simply have a perspective on what is required, so of course, our values in this debate are different.

            I happen to believe that the NBN – (in its current form) – is the best for the long term future of telecommunications in this country. Not just for 10, or 15, or even 20 years – but for 40, or 50 years – and for the record, I am anything but a Labor voter.

            I respectfully suggest we will need to agree to disagree.

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