The NBN is a bad idea

by Jimboot on October 15, 2010

As I have explained previously, the main reason I think the NBN is a bad idea is because there will be so much waste. Mainly because a lot of Australian’s simply wouldn’t want it. A business case may expose some of that which is why Conroy is probably reluctant to do one.

The article below was a comment left at a pro NBN article published at Delimiter yesterday. Its certainly articulates better than I could, why this NBN is such a waste. I have permission from the author to republish here.



Posted 14/10/2010 at 6:12 am | Permalink

Dearest Gav,
At the end of June 2010, there were 9.6 million active internet subscribers in Australia.

The phasing out of dial-up internet connections continued with nearly 92% of internet connections now being non dial-up.

Australians also continued to access increasingly faster download speeds, with 71% of access connections offering a download speed of 1.5Mbps or greater.

Digital subscriber line (DSL) continued to be the major technology for connections, accounting for 44% of the total internet connections. However, this percentage share has decreased since December 2009 when DSL represented 47% of the total connections.

Mobile wireless (excluding mobile handset connections) was the fastest growing technology in internet access, increasing to 3.5 million in June 2010. This represents a 21.7% increase from December 2009.

As for business (and government) dial-up, there are a total of 180,000 dial up accounts still in operation.

Source, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 8153.0 Internet Usage

“Internet access in the home is dependent on a range of factors such as affordability, the reliability of Internet connections and service providers, and the interest and capability of potential users of the Internet. Socioeconomic characteristics, such as family composition, educational attainment and income are also related to rates of household Internet access.”

Source, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4102.0. Australian Social Trends 2008

“In 2006, people aged 15 years and over, who had higher levels of educational attainment, had higher rates of household Internet access. People with a Bachelor degree or above had the highest rate of household Internet access (88%), whereas those without a non-school qualification had the lowest access rate (63%).

Higher levels of income were also associated with higher rates of household Internet access. The highest rate of household access was for people in the highest income quintile (89%), while people in households in the lowest income quintile were least likely to have Internet access (47%).

The influence of educational attainment on household Internet access reduces as household income increases. In the bottom two income quintiles, there was a considerable difference in Internet access according to the level of educational attainment. Those with a Bachelor degree or above had higher rates of Internet access than those with lower levels of educational attainment.

In households with relatively higher incomes (top three income quintiles), there were high levels of Internet access regardless of educational attainment. For example, in the top income quintile, those with a Bachelor degree or above (92%) had a similar access rate to those who did not have a non-school qualification (85%).”

This is quite important. A number of demographic factors are at play when discussing that nn% of Australians are not connected to the internet. Many do not want to be, and many can not afford to be.

“According to the 2005-06 Household Use of Information Technology survey, 40% of Australian households did not have access to the Internet. The main reasons Australian households did not have Internet access at home were that the people within the household had no use for the Internet at home (24%), or had a lack of interest in the Internet (23%).

Around one-fifth (22%) of households in the bottom two equivalised (that is, adjusted to take account of differing household size and composition) income quintiles stated high cost as the main reason for not having Internet access.”

This is important enough to repeat. ***** The main reasons Australian households did not have Internet access at home were that the people within the household had no use for the Internet at home (24%), or had a lack of interest in the Internet (23%). ********

That is, 47% of the 40% of Australians not connected AT ALL, simply DO NOT WANT TO BE.
******* one-fifth (22%) of households in the bottom two equivalised (that is, adjusted to take account of differing household size and composition) income quintiles stated high cost as the main reason for not having Internet access. ********

Can’t afford it.

Now. So far we have seen fixed line subscriptions slowing, as the market has saturated, Wireless continuing to experience double digit growth. Putting a FTTH NBN in around the country is unlikely to sway those who have little or no interest in the internet, and for the fiscally challenged, it will broaden the digital divide. A subscription to the NBN via IRP is not going to come in at entry level xDSL (Dodo, $9.90 pm). The people who consider a tenner to be too much are not going to find $50 pm regardless of how fast it can run.

World market. The rest of the world has put FTTH deployment on hold. The USA, Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Thailand … et al, have either deployed, or are deploying 3.9G wireless in the shape of 802.16m or LTE in response to the market requirement for a MOBILE and device independent internet experience. This is in preparation for 4G in the shape of 802.16n or LTE-Advanced. This will provide a GLOBAL ROAMING internetwork including location awareness, content awareness and all services being packet-switched based on a flat architecture using IPv6 addressing. LTE is currently rated at 100 Mbps, served by FTTN. In real life the 100 Mbps will never be reached, as is the case with fiber GPON. OFT is not magic. Share the pipe, and resource goes down. Telstra have undertaken trials in Australia and delivered 80 Mbps over 75 Km LTE.

So, what concerns me about this $43 BILLION spend?

1. We seem to be building a network that a large percentage of Australians don’t want. From the ABS data, and looking at the recent take-up levels of the FTTH NBN trials in Tasmania and Armidale. Under 50% accepting a FREE installation, and a VERY small percentage actually using the connection. About 5%.

2. We seem to be building a network that people don’t really need. I have been asking the supporters of a FTTH NBN what it wil be used for. The only concrete application to date seems to be faster and fatter television. All well and good if you like the telly, but I would suggest that on the order of importance of national infrastucture, it deserves last place. As an example: I use the internet every day, for a minimum of12 hours (my machines never turn off in fact, so when I am not sitting at the things, they are still working). I have two internet accounts. A shared fixed line, that gives me about 4 Mbps for $10 pm. I probably should mention I have been an ITC contractor for 27 years, starting at about the same time CP/M was starting to tumble to newcomers like PC-DOS, MS-DOS, DR-DOS and a few others. And a great deal of that work has been R&D or networking for places like STALLION, Paradox Digital, Telstra, OPTUS, iiNet, The Australian Bureau of Statistics and several large government departments. So, what do I do with my crummy old ADSL 1 connection?
2.1. I support my existing customer base. The speed is more than adequate for that purpose.
2.2. I read the Australian, and various BLOGS fed by links from GOOGLE news (like this one).
2.3. I write computer programs on my local machines and deploy them to my staging areas in the USA, and finally to my customers. Contrary to popular belief, computer applications are not that large.
2.4. I use USENET in much the same fashion as I have done since 1989. Same groups, aus.politics, aus.flame, and much the same speed and bandwidth use.
2.5. I build my work environment(s). Last week I built myself a new WAMP machine. (W)indows – Apache 2.n – MySQL – PHP. All in an MSI based stack. On my slow old network it took 41 seconds to download after Google found the site for me in 0.08 seconds. 184 MB when unpacked. My, that was almost a waste of a minute of my life. Yesterday I downloaded a postgreSQL Enterprise suite. That was slightly larger and took 71 seconds.
2.6. I use my computer for guitar lessons. I downloaded 50 lessons on video, plus TABs, plus sheet music, plus backing tracks, and the total space requirement was (is) 4.52 GB. That download will keep me busy in real-life for about 5 years. Led Zepplin I, II, III, IV and greatest hits in a folder, 363 MB.
2.7. My fourth degree is coming along just fine at ADSL 1 speed (for my first two, I had NO internet access, just a library card). And I can access the world’s largest genetic (proteomic) databases and pull experiments down in a matter of seconds.

The internet IS my business, and it is well served at speeds below ADSL2+ and well below the 100 Mbps that is VDSL.

2.8. Email. Works the same as it did under UUCP, except the address format has changed, and the world invented SPAM.

2.9. Shopping. I buy stuff off the net. Not much, but travel tickets and stuff like that.

2.10. I play games. Not often, but now and again I’ll download a hidden object game (about 150MB) or play Vampire Wars or Mafia Wars from Zynga. No problems with the speed.

3. We seem to be building a network that many will not be able to afford. The NBN is yet to put an access price on service, which in itself is bizarre, but the industry is guesstimating around $30 pm for the wholesale portion. So, $40-$50 per month for 25 Mbps – 60GB seems a fair guess. Students, the unemployed, pensioners, the under-employed, people struggling with house mortgages are still goin to be under-represented in our digital future. This is not easy to fix. It is NOT fixed by making internet access MORE expensive.

4. We seem to be building a network that is obsolete before it starts. Not OFT, that will not become dated in my lifetime, but the architecture and the topology of the proposed NBN.
The world is demanding, and building:

4.1. Peak download rates of 326.4 Mbit/s for 4×4 antennas, and 172.8 Mbit/s for 2×2 antennas (utilizing 20 MHz of spectrum).

4.2. Peak upload rates of 86.4 Mbit/s for every 20 MHz of spectrum using a single antenna.

4.3. Five different terminal classes have been defined from a voice centric class up to a high end terminal that supports the peak data rates. All terminals will be able to process 20 MHz bandwidth.

4.4. At least 200 active users in every 5 MHz cell. (Specifically, 200 active data clients)

4.5. Sub-5 ms latency for small IP packets

4.6. Increased spectrum flexibility, with supported spectrum slices as small as 1.4 MHz and as large as 20 MHz (W-CDMA requires 5 MHz slices, leading to some problems with roll-outs of the technology in countries where 5 MHz is a commonly allocated amount of spectrum, and is frequently already in use with legacy standards such as 2G GSM and cdmaOne.) Limiting sizes to 5 MHz also limited the amount of bandwidth per handset

4.7. In the 900 MHz frequency band to be used in rural areas, supporting an optimal cell size of 5 km, 30 km sizes with reasonable performance, and up to 100 km cell sizes supported with acceptable performance. In city and urban areas, higher frequency bands (such as 2.6 GHz in EU) are used to support high speed mobile broadband. In this case, cell sizes may be 1 km or even less.

4.8. Good support for mobility. High performance mobile data is possible at speeds of up to 350 km/h, or even up to 500 km/h, depending on the frequency band used.[9]

4.9. Co-existence with legacy standards (users can transparently start a call or transfer of data in an area using an LTE standard, and, should coverage be unavailable, continue the operation without any action on their part using GSM/GPRS or W-CDMA-based UMTS or even 3GPP2 networks such as cdmaOne or CDMA2000)

4.10. Support for MBSFN (Multicast Broadcast Single Frequency Network). This feature can deliver services such as Mobile TV using the LTE infrastructure, and is a competitor for DVB-H-based TV broadcast.

A large amount of the work is aimed at simplifying the architecture of the system, as it transits from the existing UMTS circuit + packet switching combined network, to an all-IP flat architecture system.

Source, Wikpedia.

I am of the opinion that a FTTH NBN is quite possibly the WORST architecture we could choose if the idea is to ‘future proof” Australian telecommunications. Bizarre.

The concept that Australia is just waiting around for NBNCo to start rolling out fiber is nonsense. Telstra, OPTUS, iiNet, TPG, AAPT, Internode et al. already have ~9 million Km of fiber in the ground, a lot of it dark. Overbuilding is an extreme waste of money. Every business that wants broadband already has it. Every University has it. Every research facility has it. Every software house has it. Every government department has it.

The proposed NBN structure is based on providing fast internet access to those who already have fast internet access, and ignoring those who do not. Spending $2-3 BILLION implementing VDSL in every exhange in the country will serve the population as well as a FTTH NBN, and leave R&D money available to join in ith the rest of the world implementing Internet 3 as 4G LTE-Advanced.

@Darryl – “SO GET OFF MY LAWN!”

Hmmm. When you were tap tapping on a keyboard, so was I. And I haven’t stopped being an ITC contractor. Having a concern about the architecture, and suitability for purpose of a nation’s telecommunications infrastructure is hardly ‘yammering’. The NBN as it stands is a bad project. It has no KPIs, no SLAs, no business case, no risk analysis. It is being made up on the fly, which is a sure sign of doom and waste as time marches on. The project is shrouded in secrecy, mostly to cover up the fact that the people involved in building the pig of a thing don’t have much of a clue either. City first, no wait, bush first, no wait, both together. Telegraph poles, no underground, why not both? 100 Mbps, NAH! 1 Gbps!! Well, 25 Mbps anyay, errrr, 12 Mbps for those bush folk. “Whaddya mean we can’t do 12 Mbps on OPTUS C1 using spare Ku-Band?”. NBNCo announced yesterday that AUSTAR would likely get the nod for satellite system coverage. Good choice.

Optus (and Defence) C1

Satellite Type: Space Systems/Loral (SS/L): LS-1300
Launch Date: 11 June 2003
Location: 156° east
Design Life: 15 Years
Equipment: 24 Ku band transponders, 4 (+1) Ka band transponders, 4 X band transponders, 6 UHF transponders
Partially funded by the Australian Government (Defence Department) – Optus C1′s use is shared between Defence and Telecommunications, in particular the supply of Television services to Australia. Mitsubishi Electric was the prime contractor responsible for manufacturing all the Optus C1 communications systems.

The Ku band Transponders are exclusively used for Television Services, mainly:
Foxtel rent a considerable amount of satellite capacity for the transmission of their Foxtel Digital service (and onsold to ***Austar for their Austar Digital service***).

Optus operate the Remote Area Broadcasting Services Aurora, allowing Free to Air television to be accessed via satellite in areas that may not be able to access FTA services via terrestrial means. The service is also used in a commercial capacity by a number of organisations for satellite linkups.

ABC – via the Aurora service allowing access to state tailored feeds of ABC TV in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory, Radio National in all Australian states except Northern Territory, Local Regional ABC radio, Classic FM in all states except Tasmania, Triple J in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, and News Radio.
Commercial TV – via satellite & cable viewers to watch the Seven Network, the Nine Network & the Network Ten programs are rebroadcast on digital TV.

The remaining transponders (being Ka band, X band and UHF) are exclusive for Defence/Military use.


To get STTN to distribute 12 Mbps you need a beam focussed Ka band bird with a down rate of 20-40 Mbps, and AUSTAR don’t own one…….

And then you need LTE from the Earth station to the consumer, and I haven’t heard much from NBNCo apart from 3G (at 4 Mbps).

This project makes pink bats, and million dollar school tuck shops seem well planned and executed…..

Addinall. Queensland.

[email protected]

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

NightKhaos October 15, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I must remind you of the limitations of DSL and Wireless networks. See my recent blog post:

I appreciate the sentiment, with only 50% uptake, why should we do it? And I don’t actually have a valid answer here, but neither did Australia when you rolled out the POTS network. Neither did Germany when it rolled out the Autobahn network. Neither did America when it rolled out the Interstate network.

Besides what we are really doing is replacing the aging copper network. The copper network is going to get more and more expensive to maintain. And the longer we wait, the more it will cost us to replace it as demand for fibre skyrockets in the rest of the world, and labour costs continue to rise.

There are issues, I am the first the admit there are, but hopefully we can work out what they are and make constructive suggestions to fix them. Given the issues mentioned in these comments, what are your options for resolving them?

From there I can see the following issues:

1) wholesale price of $30 being too high
2) there appears to be very little high bandwidth applications apart from high definition streaming video and television as well as multimedia intensive programs (games)
3) the Sat will not deliver the desired speed and not enough provision for wireless network

And I wish to put forward the following points:

1) Considering the majority of internet access users pay for line rental as well as internet access, a retail price of approximately $50 – $60 is actually what they pay now for access (including a VoIP service for phone calls), so there is no real increase in price.
2) I concede this point, I doubt the majority of Australians will want, nor need, 100Mbps in the first few years. However, there are many Australians who cannot even get 1Mbps due to backhaul congestion when they are paying for ADSL connections now, so a minimum access of 25Mbps per connection is a marked improvement.
3) The last 7% and wireless networks are already well served by the private sector in mobile broadband and sats, I do not actually understand why the government needs to invest any money in this sector when we already have networks like NextG and AusStar. Could the government just invest more money into these projects in order to encourage them to improve their services rather than rolling out their own, redundant, network?

Jimboot October 15, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Interesting points. I think the pots arg is invalid tho. We rolled it out because of voice. Being able to make an emergency phone call for a society is far more important than YouTube HD.

The arg for video i hear people propose is a little naive. Youtubes growth has not suffered because of lack of fibre in the world. we were doing video in the late 90s over 56kbps. Video applications are not restricted today because of bandwidth. The industry pretty much abandoned RTSP for on demand vid because compression and bandwidth had got to a point where http streaming became acceptable. The other restriction on “quality” video content is of course the IP food chain of cinemas, rental, TV etc. If vid is one of the main drivers of the NBN I hope there’s a good multicast strategy being built in.

The line rental is a good point. However I understand your points re wireless but most homes do not have their own techie to fix the modem when it’s borked. The great majority of users that the NBN is proposing to serve will soon just prefer a 3G card for their ipad like device. Switch it on and it works. No cables, no boxes. Betamax was better than VHS

NightKhaos October 15, 2010 at 5:59 pm

On demand video was abandoned by the industry because of lack of bandwidth. If you disagree with this point, look at the popularity of Netflix and Hulu in the US, and iPlayer and SkyPlayer in the UK. Not to mention TiVo and T-Box offering on demand video here now.

As for the POTS network, was the POTS network really rolled out with the intention of getting a universal phone network for emergency services, or did the emergency services take advantage of the universal phone network? I think you’ll find that is a chicken and an egg problem there.

Jimboot October 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm

With pots I’m saying voice was far more revolutionary than download speeds.

My company has been doing vid since 1999 & audio since 98. MSN, yahoo! AOL, real networks all syndicated our content. In 2001 we were delivering 300000 streams per month out of melbourne. The killer here was cost if bandwidth. Not speeds. I mean cost to deliver not watch. I don’t like to toot my own horn but I’m probably one of the most exp net vid people in AU.

Yt has shown people want to watch video. Bandwidth is not the issue. Biz models are

NightKhaos October 15, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Unfortunately all revolutionary developments in the telecommunications sector now depend on bandwidth. And the more bandwidth you have, the more creative you can be. Look at Telepresense.

As if implemented properly the NBN will reduce the per unit cost of data. Meaning less economical business models can start to pop up for offering VoD services. As you said, people watch video, and the fibre will enable them to watch more.

Jimboot October 16, 2010 at 9:21 am

Here’s the thing. You talking about innovative vod services – Neighbourhood cable remember? They started as a VOD service.

Here’s a few of the video business ideas well hear about;
VoD. What content? If you don’t have the rights you cant use it. When ppl are talking about vod they’re usually talking about entertainment.

Innovative video apps – as we know the network is only as good as the bottleneck. So whilst you maybe on a speedy fibre backbone, if your apps existence is because of that bandwidth, it’s services will unlikely move outside that network. I.e. Don’t expect an Aussie YOuTube.
So all these innovative apps we hear about will only exist in the NBN.
If we are talking about other web apps that somehow will flourish because highspeed bandwidth, I would argue they will not flourish. If they’re overhead requires that much bandwidth they are doomed. They may get a small audience in AU but that will be all. As Mark Newton points out the NBN is about speed.

Addinall October 17, 2010 at 1:48 am

I am a little tired of hearing the justification of this spend being compared to the roll out of POTS or the Snowy River scheme. It is nothing of the sort. It is a project that seeks to take a fast network, and make it faster, for reasons not readily evident. “It will enable projects yet un-dreamed of”. Well, bulldust. People use computers now, on a daily basis, much the same as they did in 1985. People use word processors to write papers, letters, memos. Accounting systems still look after the general ledger, print a TPL, and re-order stock.
The last paradigm shift was courtesy of CERN, and begat the Web.
Things tend to happen on a ten year cycle in IT. The web built on top of what was already serviced. In 1990, TCP/IP wasn’t even very popular, competing with SNA, DECNet, AppleTalk, Windows Workgroup. It was really only used by a few geeks like myself and University Comp. Sci. labs. Year 2K, and an average user would be hard pressed to find a network that wasn’t TCP/IP. The Web turned computers into pretty pictures. And the pictures have got beter and bigger but not really very different. People are now doing business over the network. Again, not new, just more pervasive. X.11 and EDIFACT are very old B2B technologies. But the web did change things, in a very real sense. Computer systems became people friendly, and over a period of two decades, became a part of modern life for most of us. That is good and proper.

The paradigm shift underway AT THE MOMENT is preparing the next gen Internet that is MOBILE and DEVICE INDEPENDENT. Countries around the world (as noted in my lengthy missive above) are implementing 3.9G WiMax or LTE in preparation for the 4G TE-Advanced GLOBAL roaming network. Spending ALL of our budget R&D money on implementing a fixed line network will exclude us from this new generation of internet usage.

If fiber were going to create ‘killer apps’ it would already have done so. I started building fiber networks in 1987. Fiber is great at what it does best, provides VERY fast backbone and backhaul networks nationally and globally. No argument. Do you want the government to spend $43 BILLION stringing it to your house? No way. No point. And very few people want it.
Good engineering demands we build ‘just in time’. Not to spend and spend ‘just in case’.

Jimboot is quite correct in saying that FTTH will not make any difference at all to your net experience, unless you are watching streaming shows on your own closed network. The internet is as fast as the slowest router you bounce into.

This is me explaining to an idiot why the current NBN architecture is a complete waste of time. His views are marked with an id tag.

His argument is the usual LABOR rubbish that a FTTH NBN will CHANGE EVERYTHING.
I introduce hime to mathematics and network engineering.

More options Oct 4, 7:15 pm
On Oct 4, 12:37 pm, Surfer wrote:

LABOR IDIOT> You underestimate the potential of this technology:

LABOR IDIOT> Via Internet, Australian-based researchers perform real-time cell
LABOR IDIOT> surgery in California
LABOR IDIOT> Irvine, Calif., August 1, 2005
LABOR IDIOT> The speed and precision of the sub-cellular surgery was equal to what
LABOR IDIOT> it would be like if we were doing the same surgery in our labs here in
LABOR IDIOT> California, said Michael Berns, professor of biomedical engineering
LABOR IDIOT> at UCI and adjunct professor of bioengineering at UCSD, who led the
LABOR IDIOT> development of the RoboLase technology.
LABOR IDIOT> In addition, the scientists were able to grab onto or optically
LABOR IDIOT> trap swimming sperm in the California lab by operating
LABOR IDIOT> optical-laser tweezers remotely from Australia. This was a
LABOR IDIOT> particularly noteworthy accomplishment, because it demonstrated the
LABOR IDIOT> amount of computer bandwidth (1 gigabyte/second) needed by the
LABOR IDIOT> Australia and California research groups to observe and grab a
LABOR IDIOT> fast-moving sperm with virtually no detectible delay in image
LABOR IDIOT> transmission between the two laboratories.
LABOR IDIOT> If there was a detectible delay in either the transmission or
LABOR IDIOT> reception of the video images, our colleagues in Australia would not
LABOR IDIOT> have been able to identify and trap a targeted sperm under the laser
LABOR IDIOT> microscope in the California laboratory, added Linda Shi of UCSD, one
LABOR IDIOT> of the key developers of the unique computer software that was used in
LABOR IDIOT> the sperm-trapping experiments.

LABOR IDIOT> In the light of the above, fibre optic communication will potentially
LABOR IDIOT> enable people to do many kinds of work from home. Eg.
LABOR IDIOT> – Remote operation of earth moving machinery
LABOR IDIOT> – Remote operation of factory machinery
LABOR IDIOT> – Remote operation of medical robots
LABOR IDIOT> Above robots and machinery could be located anywhere on the planet.
LABOR IDIOT> Also note that the above surgery was done back in 2005.

OK, back on this planet, let’s look at a few FACTS…

c = 299,792,458 ms.

Oh gosh. The speed of light through the VERY BEST OFT glass is c/1.5
due to the refractive index of glass, yes?
So c ~= 200,000 kms.

To perform any action remotely in ‘real time’ means receiving data (in
this case visual), responding, sending the data back, and the remote
system responding yes?

So we are talking a round trip, in a ping() sorta way. mmmkay?
The distance from Sydney to LA is 12050 km.

So a ping() should take around 120 ms.

That assumes LASER to LASER, NO routers, NO repeaters, NO signal
degradation, everything tickety-boo perfect.

Let’s have a look in the real world. We will use ping(). Remember
ping() is a very low level method of data transfer, no packet
assembling dis-assembling, no encryption, no re-try. So from here
we’ll ping good old Berkeley.

Pinging [] with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from bytes=32 time=235ms TTL=52
Reply from bytes=32 time=243ms TTL=52
Reply from bytes=32 time=223ms TTL=52
Reply from bytes=32 time=227ms TTL=52
Ping statistics for
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 223ms, Maximum = 243ms, Average = 232ms

Wait a mo. That is 100ms longer than it should be. It is probably
because of my copper connection. Let’s test that hypothesis:

Now, tracert as we all know, tests the round trip time for each hop.
In a perfect world, the first three numbers would be the same,
approx. c. (the ‘speed’ of copper signal and light signal is
essentially the same).

1 1 ms <1 ms 1 ms <– my MODEM in QLD
2 17 ms 17 ms 29 ms <– my ISP backhaul
3 17 ms 35 ms 17 ms
[] <– now we are on fiber,
4 16 ms 16 ms 25 ms bri-nxg-alf-crt1-port- [202
.7.162.133] <– still on fiber
our edge router
5 40 ms 56 ms 72 ms
.125] process->decision->action cycle is instantaneous (which it is not)

there is a 700 ms time difference between observation and action.
Those must have been some slow old sperm….. Of course, you can get a ROBOT arm to stick a pippette in a bucket of sperm and suck some up. It’s just not very Startrek.
During the last few weeks I have had any number of children mailing me and telling me that I lack knowledge in Physics because I suggest that wireless is a better last mile deal than FTTH. A ew astute young wannabe engineers have suggested that wireless propogates at the speed of sound (coz you can hear it, not see it) and “SHOW ME A WIRELESS BROADBAND THAT GETS ANYWHERE NEAR THE SPEED OF LIGHT!”
It is ver sad that the general education of the populace has fallen quite sharply after three or four decades only.

There is no good reason for the spend on the proposed NBN. In fact, as pointed out, several very good reasons for killing the project before it wastes any more money.

Addinall. Brisbane.

Mikel October 17, 2010 at 7:53 am

“Considering the majority of internet access users pay for line rental as well as internet access, a retail price of approximately $50 – $60 is actually what they pay now for access (including a VoIP service for phone calls), so there is no real increase in price.”

Most people don’t need landlines any more because they have mobile phones. Already 1 in 4 Americans have abandoned their home phone, and the trend here is the same. So I don’t think including landline rental makes for a fair comparison.

Mikel October 17, 2010 at 8:08 am

“The USA, Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Thailand … et al, have either deployed, or are deploying 3.9G wireless in the shape of 802.16m or LTE”

I think it’s fairer to say that they are planning to do so.

The first mover I am aware of for LTE is Verizon Wireless in the USA. They will be rolling LTE out by the end of this year.

And for 802.16m (WiMAX 2), the standard has nearly been finalised, and Samsung demonstrated it a couple of weeks ago, but it’s not expected to be deployed commercially until 2011.

NightKhaos October 17, 2010 at 11:10 am

Addinal – Wireless is great as a last mile technology, provided there are very little users in the cell. Which unfortunately, in metro areas, there will be.

Want to talk about physics? Make sure you include contention in the agruement. Our in the sticks, wireless is perfect. In fact a lot of farmers are getting stable bandwidth and reasonable pings using NextG. But in the city? In a town with a reasonable population? Not a chance. Contention means all those therotical maximums and low pings just disappear. And it is these cities, and towns, that’ll be serviced by fibre. With wireless on top of that for when you’re out in the park, and WiFi when your at home.

The more people use Wireless, the slower it gets. And no new technology will get over this.

Please stop thinking of Fibre as all about the bandwidth: it isn’t, it’s about universal access. Something Australia doesn’t have, and never will because it costs to much. Do you know how much easier it will be for some professions to go to someones house to set up some IT service and just “know” they’ll have at least 25Mbps? Do you have any idea how much easier it will be for business if they go to a warehouse and sign the lease and just “know” they can get a 100Mbps connection to their datacenter on the other side of the country? I have seen the headaches, frustrations on both counts, and I’ve only been living in Sydney for a year.

Your telecommications is so far behind it’s not funny. And you think that just because the world is delevoping wireless we should skip a vital step? That vital step being universal access. In the US everyone, except out in the sticks, can get HFC with at least 20Mbps. In the UK exchanges are so dense very few people get below 7Mbps, not to mention fibre is being rolled out everywhere via Virgin, who ate oftering 50Mbps.

Now, we need FTTH or FTTK here. It’s just the way the penny falls for you. Without it you have people stuck on RIMs, ISAMs, pair-gain, or to far from the exchange.

Mikel: It does when to get these super cheap $30 and $40 plans you have to pay line rental. I have a phone line simply because I need one to get Internet. I am paying an extra $30 a month for it too. I included the VoIP in my estimates, but if you want to exclude it take off $5 – $10.

Mikel /Addinall: Isn’t it interesring that all the countries mentioned who are rolling out new faster wireless already have some form of universal high speed fixed line broadband service in place?

Darryl Adams October 17, 2010 at 4:20 pm

1. The get of my lawn quip was to say I am old (admittedly 41 is not that old, but I remember such greats as PICK OS, the great CBA failgration from OS/2 to Windows, and command line internet.

2. I wrote the Delimiter article partly to codify my views of the NBN. In a way I expected an audience of 1, Renai and I had a discussion about the NBN and he leaned towards anti-NBN.

3. One thing that was picked up was the “we dont know what we are going to do with the NBN”. I wish I was articulate, because what I was trying to say was something like “If we build it, they will come”. having the underlining infrastructure will promote development of new technology, like the Internet 1.0 and 2.0 is doing now.

4. I do believe that bandwidth is needed, not just to download porn or watch TV. One of the issues I have is that I want to have decenet real time off site backup. I only get 1mb upstream with ADSL2+, and this is almost unusable. I also use bandwidth for media consumption with companies like TWIT LLC, Rev3 and the like, who do not broadcast on TV, only via the net.

5. Thanks to people like yourself and Addinall, we are getting a technical debate. One reason I write is a subliminal challange to prove me wrong. I do admit, I have the world peace starry eye outlook, but only because I don’t want rural and regional people disenfranchised from new technology just because we could not be bothered to deploy it. So in a way, in IT, I am a died in the wool socialist.

Jimboot October 18, 2010 at 10:01 am

Daryl, I was making similar arguments 10 years ago. Build it and they will come. However it simply hasn’t worked that way. I believed that we’d eventually have some sort of networked ipod but I never could have imagined the iphone or ipad.The way a 3 yo can use an ipad as it’s designer intended is pretty mindblowing. This is where the innovation is now. How we access information. So I believe we need more wireless and a better backbone to support it. That is not the discussion we’re having tho.

NightKhaos October 19, 2010 at 4:50 pm


I agree with that; convenience access is where the world is going. But I do not envision it to be as you picture it. I do not envision it to be towers every few kilometres providing wireless service. I envision it to be a world where you can just walk into a friends house, or a business, and instantly be connected to their local network.

One of the key aspects of the information revolution is information aware services. If we make it easier, not harder, for a device to know where it is, then the device can even more envisions. Imagine walking to a McDonalds in a few years time, when your iPad automatically connects to the McDs wireless network, and is informed by the network that there is a location specific service available on this network, allowing you to place an order and pay immediately, and then walk up the counter to pick it up when it’s ready.

That is the way I see the future, and yes, you’ll note there is a lot of wireless in there. And the reason I see it that way is because I know two things:

One: centralised wireless networks, such as 3G and 4G networks are flawed in their implementation because they cannot continue to provide the levels of service we have been accustomed to if we attempt to use them as our only method of access. As I have been saying all along: wireless is a supplemental technology.

Two: The method of access is becoming less and less important. In fact, the method of access, particularly for people of my generation; only determines one thing: what the connection can be used for.

That second point is very important. And even more so when you consider that I am referring to my generation, the people who will inherit the network of the next five to ten years as they enter the work force.

My friends, for example, won’t play Minecraft (a popular game at my university at the moment) on the train, or bus, or in the park, even through we have the capability to, because we know we will be unable to get a stable connection like we can at home, or via University’s WiFi. We won’t stream YouTube, we won’t listen to streaming music, because all of theses things we know not to perform well over even the best network in the country at the moment, NextG.

And this backs up the statistics I have been reading lately: there is an rapid increase in the number of wireless connections, yes, but there is also steady increase in the number of fixed line connections; often, surprisingly, from the same client.

So you want to know what the data is telling me: yes, Australia wants Wireless, because it is convenient. I can read your blog on the train, I can even reply to it. But we also want reliability and speed. In fact, we want both. So give us the options.

Australia has one of the best wireless networks infrastructure in the world, it is also relatively cheap to get mobile broadband. But the fixed line infrastructure is lacking, and expensive. So we need to focus on improving it. With it, and technologies like FON (A technology that asks you to share a small amount of your wireless bandwidth in exchange for access to any other FON enabled network in the world, BT in the UK have used this technology successfully with their OpenZones) can start to thrive.

I guess what I’m trying to say here Jim is: I hear you, but I disagree on the details. Kinda like what I think of NBN; I hear them but I disagree on some of the details.


Jimboot October 19, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Ok I think we fundamentally agree that we need better bandwidth. I also agree that wireless is only as good as the fixed backbone in our current regulatory structure. Personally I’d like more of the discussion focus on how communities can get involved with their own bandwidth solutions. Groups like Melbourne Wireless have lobbied for years for regulation to be freed up so hobbyists & enthusiasts can explore local solutions to share bandwidth. What about a community Games server? Connect with people in your local community to play via shared wireless daresay LCAN Local Community Area Networks. This would certainly suit those who connect in a device/protocol dependent way. We bang on about bandwidth but forget one of the fundamental lessons that VoIP taught us. Compression allows you get get much better use from existing infrastructure. So the argument that Conroy wheels out about new applications and saving the planet because people will work from home is fantastical. I’d like to see his green house gas savings Vs how much we create building the NBN. Not you I know.. but I felt the need to vent momentarily :) You seem to disagree with a lot of the NBN details but think we should have it anyway without knowing all of the details some of which maybe even more unpalatable. For instance are you ok with Government controlled pricing in the wholesale market?

You don’t agree with fibre to the home but believe we should proceed anyway? Regardless of cost?

NightKhaos October 19, 2010 at 9:29 pm

“You don’t agree with fibre to the home but believe we should proceed anyway? Regardless of cost?”

No, I agree with fibre to the home. I also know that the costs will be the same, the only difference is who pays for the $43 billion bill. We currently have a plan that uses $26 billion worth of public money and the rest will be private debt. I believe that if we put forward a regulatory structure allowing private enterprise the ability to bid on highly profitable regions, such as A3′s offer for Brisbane, and the government will cover region areas with subsidies. Such a policy would need to address other issues, like forcing the retail and wholesale arm of Telstra to be separated.

I believe that will be far better model, but the Liberals didn’t offer that, and industry lobbyists are too busy trying to get the government to invest in wireless solutions where I believe we do not actually need any improvements. Sure, we could use more spectrum, but that is a minor issue and will resolve itself in time when analogue television switches off, and that spectrum might allow for LCAN solutions, provided we get enough community interest.

But regardless of what we do, we will still need to pay $43 billion dollars (according to KPMG). The question is, how much of that $43 billion will come out of the public coffers? The figure at the moment is $26 billion, and all things considered, I’m pretty happy with that.

“For instance are you ok with Government controlled pricing in the wholesale market? ”

Are you okay with a privatised government enterprise now owned by a profit hungry corporation with little to regulatory oversight controlling pricing in the wholesale market? Because that is what we have now, and how is NBNCo regulating wholesale fibre prices any worse than this?

It comes down to this, I think, no actually, I know we need FTTP and the data I have read tells me that a delay in a roll-out will cost us money. If we begin to debate the specifics of the policy, it will end up costing us more. So I am willing to debate the policy, I am not happy with debating over FTTP vs Wireless.

I also know that the world is going wireless, that the ability to access anywhere, for convenience, is very important for users. These two points of view seem to conflict at first glance, and I can understand why that might confuse a few people.

However, I am of the opinion that a strong fibre presence in every home, coupled with community effort, can create an environment of universal wireless access, with the 3G and 4G networks to fall back on. I mentioned the technology FON and BT Openzones, you recall, where users share a small amount of their wireless in exchange for access to any FON enabled network in the world?

I do not, and will never, from the technological point of view, and a moral one considering my deep seated understanding of wireless technology, advocate further investment in WiMax and LTE solutions in lieu of a fibre network.

It has famously been said that to get the speeds of 12Mbps to every user on the network we would need to have a tower every 500m or so. Consider this: we currently have a tower, in the form of a WiFi hotspot, every hundred meters or so. If we could utilise them, then we have the wireless solution we want; and the only problem is back-haul to these nodes, which the NBN will provide.

I hope you understand the points I am trying to make here, and if you are interested in technology like FON I would be happy to discuss it with you.

I also apologise. There is a lot of information I trying to convey here, and I’m not entirely sure if I made it readable and understandable.

Nik October 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm

The NBN would improve many aspects of our online uses. The argument of the amount of wastage is in my view very short sighted.

When we create computers that can process at 100x the speed of the predecessor we don’t think its waste, we utilise the speed with more powerful applications, technology and processes enriching the experience and tasks carried out. Initially we may struggle to fully capitalise the power of the NBN but thinking outside of the next 3-5 years I am sure businesses and homes will benefit beyond what we could clearly define at this point.

The fact that 40% of Australians don’t want to be connected… Name some outback communities that have had the education and opportunities that the established/city areas have. A huge part of wanting the internet is first having access and education with the internet which is exactly why we need to expand the coverage.

We live in a country where distances between services and people are huge. Connecting people, businesses and services to all our areas and the rest of the world is the only real way forward.

I would be fascinated to know whether the poster votes left or right. As well as Jimboot’s voting preference, unfortunately those facts are critical in these debates.

Jimboot October 29, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Hey Nik,
I am a Libertarian. At the last election in the Senate I placed both parties last. In the house I voted for an independent. Fibre is about speed. The talk of applications that will take advantage of it is naive. A lot of talk has been around VOD services. Well youtube is only as fast as the various international hops so we wont see a lot of improvement there. SO maybe movies? Well who has the rights? We’re talking about Foxtel et al. Great so we have a unknown billions of tax $ being spent and we know the ISPs and maybe Pay TV operators will have solid cost/benefit analysis for taking advantage of the fibre. Why can’t we see the Govts?

Jimboot October 30, 2010 at 10:03 am

Here’s something interesting the company that owns that domain you posted a link to comment spammed one of my other sites. I also noticed on your first comment you had no url but as soon as I approved your first comment u made another with a backlink to a URL. Interesting eh? Fabulousdotcom still have not replied about their comment spam.

Edward July 22, 2011 at 11:42 am

just some food for thought, just wondering what you guys think of this tech.

Munix June 7, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Anyone suggesting a wireless LTE network for urban use, has no idea about congestion and the many other issues with 4g/LTE in densely populates areas. I would suggest to get some real information from say someone working at ubowireless where they are tackling these issues. And then they will then have realise their ignorance. Round Trip times will be highly variable and lead to congestion collapse.

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