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Australia Networking IT

Australia's $44B Broadband Network May Settle For Fiber Near the Home 229

Posted by timothy
from the first-order-approximation dept.
Garabito writes "In April 2009, Australia's then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, dropped a bombshell on the press and the global technology community: His social democrat Labor administration was going to deliver broadband Internet to every single resident of Australia. It was an audacious goal, not least of all because Australia is one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth. ... So now, after three years of planning and construction, during which workers connected some 210 000 premises (out of an anticipated 13.2 million), Australia's visionary and trailblazing initiative is at a crossroads. The new government plans to deploy fiber only to the premises of new housing developments. For the remaining homes and businesses — about 71 percent — it will bring fiber only as far as curbside cabinets, called nodes. Existing copper-wire pairs will cover the so-called last mile to individual buildings."
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Australia's $44B Broadband Network May Settle For Fiber Near the Home

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  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Thursday December 05, 2013 @04:51PM (#45612377)

    Don't they have an fiber to the node cable network in place now? why not just build off of that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by fru1tcake (1152595)

      No. Most people don't have cable, but instead have ADSL over copper phone lines from the interchange to the home. Pay TV is not ubiquitous, and AFAIK is mostly served via satellite. I live in a fairly typical suburb and the interchange is a few kilometres away, so max download speed is around 4-5 Kb/s.

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        max download speed is around 4-5 Kb/s.

        Either you have a typo there, or you should consider upgrading to a modem from the 80's ;)

      • Not sure what you are calling a "typical suburb"? Fibre optic to the home is common in the major cities, there were two competing networks set up in the 90's for cable TV, Optus and Telstra. The 1990's cable rollout "race" by private telco's was an even more ridiculous state of affairs than the NBN, two companies hung wires in the same (profitable) places using the same poles, then ignored the rest of the country. In the 90's they were banging your door down to hook you up, offering free cable just to have
        • I used to live with an Optus cable technician and the Telstra and Optus networks are not Fibre to the Home. They are Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial networks, so fibre to a node point and then coaxial to the homes that node services, with only a few nodes per suburb. It's still better than ADSL but the copper component still limits the overall speeds.
          • by rjch (544288)

            It's also not available to all people within that area. I live in an area covered by both Telstra and Optus cable, but can connect to neither since I live in a unit. Neither Telstra nor Optus will connect their HFC network to units.

          • by DeSigna (522207)

            The biggest issue with HFC is the shared medium. NBNCo fibre uses a 2.5/1.2Gbit OLT with a 32 or 64-split GPON local loop, a design that shares many of the same issues and has a maximum design speed compariable with FTTN w/VDSL local loops (~100Mbit). The biggest benefit of fibre is being able to deliver 100Mbit over 20KMs instead of 300m with DSL technology.

        • That cable you have isn't the same as what the NBN was doing. It is a hybrid coax.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_fibre-coaxial [wikipedia.org]
          The fibre is downstream only, not upstream.

          My rubbish ADSL beats your upstream by double yet my downstream is 10Mbit.
          Hence the massive flaw with HFC.

        • by mjwx (966435)

          Not sure what you are calling a "typical suburb"? Fibre optic to the home is common in the major cities,

          I dont know what you call common but if you dont live in expensive parts of Sydney or Melbourne, you have no cable.

          Over 90% of the urban areas inside major cities (300,000+ population) have no cable, let alone fibre and are on ASDL which is at best 24 mbit down and 1 mbit up however the average is much lower, around 5 Mbit down for ADSL.

          Fibre optic is not common in the major cities.

          The 1990's ca

        • Inner city Sydney is not a "typical suburb" of all major cities IMHO either. While a bit of Sydney got cable in 1996 before Telstra and Optus stopped their rollout a lot of other places didn't. I live about a thirty minute walk from the middle of Brisbane and there is nothing but rotting copper wire in the ground (wrapped in paper in parts!). Every time it rains I get a crackling sound on the phone and have completely lost the connection and had to get a tech out to do line work six times over the last f
        • Good for you. However, you're not in the majority. In reality, what you have depends on your suburb. All the new developments (ie. in the last 10 years) are serviced by Satelite for Pay-TV and DSL for Internet. It's only the really new developments (last 2 years) that have fibre.

          Everyone in my suburb has a DSLproblem. The DSLAMs in most areas are full and Telstra won't upgrade. Mine is about 5km away (as the crow flies), so give it about 7km of crappy copper. Every time it rains, I lose my interne

    • by Cimexus (1355033) on Thursday December 05, 2013 @05:18PM (#45612697)

      When you say 'cable', are you referring to cable as in US-style cable TV (and internet, using DOCSIS)?

      If so, then no, most areas of Australia do not have this. Subscription TV is delivered by satellite in virtually all areas of Australia, save for small sections of urban Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Far more cost effective for such a big and sparsely settled continent. So the cable footprint would be lucky to cover 5 or 10% of the population.

      Currently most people in Australia get their internet via ye olde copper phone line using ADSL2+ (which can provide up to 24 Mbps if you have a short line, but degrades rapidly and can barely push a few Mbps at distances of 4-6 km, depending on the quality and gauge of line).

      FTTN rollout would thus require that nodes be built, branching out from or replacing the current telephone exchanges/central offices (where lines currently terminate) so that they would be no further than a few hundred metres from any given house, and leverage the existing phone lines as much as possible to cover the remaining distance. You can push 50-100 Mbps using VDSL2 over these kind of distances. But only if the lines are in good condition (which they aren't, in many cases).

      It should also be pointed out that most newer areas (built in the last 10 years or so) already have fibre right to the door, and also that some parts of the original FTTH NBN network have already been completed (I have some friends that are already on it, at 100 Mbps). But the rollout is still only 10% complete at most.

      • by Cimexus (1355033)

        I should point out, if you're American, that some parts of AT&T's U-verse service are precisely this - fibre to the node, then VDSL to the premises. Not true in all areas though - U-verse also uses ADSL2+ and even some ADSL1 in some areas still, I believe.

        Compare to Verizon FiOS which is a true FTTH service.

        • Verizon FiOS is FTToutsideofTH, not fiber to the router. They actually use cable (as in nasty TV connectors) to link the fiber termination box to the TV cable box and the WiFi router.
          It actually makes it more flexible to install and doesn't impact bandwidth given the reach, but it's fundamentally no different than fiber to the curb.

          • by Cimexus (1355033)

            I think the Australian FTTH proposal technically only delivers fibre to the 'outside' of the house too. Or more exactly, it's fibre to the ONT (Optical Network Termination). The installers will then run CAT6/ethernet to a point inside the house for you (or multiple points if you want to pay for it).

            Don't quote me on it but I believe the ONT can be placed either inside or outside the building, or in a garage etc. Depends on the particular house.

            • Makes sense.
              Pulling fiber through existing walls is a pain, when cable can just be rammed through, and most people can't be trusted with optical fibers and connectors: "look Ma, I can bend it along the edge of the shelf and then loop it around that nail, stop kneading and give me a hand"

            • by David_W (35680)

              Don't quote me on it but I believe the ONT can be placed either inside or outside the building, or in a garage etc. Depends on the particular house.

              I can confirm that is generally correct for FIOS (so I can't imagine why it wouldn't be in Oz), since at my old house it was inside, my current one it is outside, and I've visited homes with it in the garage.

          • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

            You can do Ethernet to the ONT if you want to, which can eliminate the Verizon router inside altogether (if you don't use them for TV). To upgrade to gigabit you need a new ONT usually, but the system can easily accommodate gigabit throughout.

            AT&T's service is a mess in comparison. I've had several friends who needed the 30-year old copper replaced at least from the street to the demark point.

            Today using FTTN as anything but a stopgap to FTTH is really a joke.

            For Australia, the original goal and benef

            • by dbIII (701233)

              You can do Ethernet to the ONT if you want to

              Not unless you are almost close enough to spit on the node. Look up how far you can run ethernet for details. Not much good for sprawling suburbs, which is a lot of them. Those in rural areas can just forget about it.

              For Australia, the original goal and benefit of the NBN was that the physical infrastructure is independent of the service provider

              Correct. Now the man that was in charge of that service provider back when it started being a problem is in charge

              • by Ksevio (865461)
                The ONT is typically placed in the building. I've had fiber in two locations - one had it run to the basement where I used the MOCA connection over the cable line to my router, the other it's in the closet by my apartment door where I run ethernet. They do have trouble with ethernet because they assume you use coax and don't all know how to activate it.
                • You misunderstand the urban environment here.
                  Most of these places are single homes and not apartment buildings. Also even most of the apartment don't have basements :)
                  • by Ksevio (865461)
                    Well the first place was a home with a basement, the second was an apartment without a basement (where fiber was run to each apartment)
                    • by dbIII (701233)
                      My real point is that not many people will be in range of a 100 metre run in the areas that don't already have cable. In some places towards the inner city a dozen houses, in others five or less.
        • by wilson_c (322811)

          U-verse did include FTTP at one point: I had fiber to my router in an apartment I lived in 3 years ago. However, U-verse is now nothing in particular since AT&T have rolled all of their residential data offerings under the U-verse banner, including sub-1Mbps DSL that they will still sell as U-verse service.

      • So New Zealand has better internal than Australia? Ha Ha.
        We've got ADSL2+ and VDSL with fibre going to street cabinets where homes are more than a few km from exchanges.

        TelstraClear was gloating about their fibre to the node before they pulled out of the country and sold themselves to Vodafone when the government said they would over-build their DOCSIS network.

      • Subscription TV is delivered by satellite in virtually all areas of Australia, save for small sections of urban Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Far more cost effective for such a big and sparsely settled continent. So the cable footprint would be lucky to cover 5 or 10% of the population.

        It's actually about 28% of the population. http://delimiter.com.au/2013/02/15/turnbull-confirms-hfc-areas-last-to-get-fttn-if-at-all/ [delimiter.com.au]

      • by NoMaster (142776)

        Subscription TV is delivered by satellite in virtually all areas of Australia, save for small sections of urban Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

        And Perth.

        I only add this becase there's a whackjob on one of the Australian tech forums who - despite living in Perth himself, repeatedly being presented with lists of suburbs that are cabled, and provided with first-hand information from customers connected to it - likes to claim there's no Foxtel cable in Perth.

        He's such a whackjob that he's likely to use your com

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Australia has thin copper to the exchange or digital loop carrier (DLC) (RIM Remote Integrated Multiplexer).
      The copper is old, has be patched up over years. The fixes are usually to get the service working again - as in data and voice - not a real repair. So a lot of copper lines are now shared and the amount of spare lines has dropped over many years.
      Back at the exchange you have an adsl 2+ card via your isp or the telco (rented). Hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) exists by only for the push of pay tv and in
  • THAT'S SOCIALISM!... oh wait. ;)

    yelling? me? no way, slashdot filter!

  • by kramulous (977841) on Thursday December 05, 2013 @05:05PM (#45612541)

    Rich prick didn't like the idea of losing his total control of media, so began a relentless attack of the previous government using the current media he has at his control. All sorts of brainwashing techniques were used. It worked.

    We had a chance and we blew it.

    • I really don't understand it. He's already rich. He's going to lose control, either by something better coming along or him dying. His power isn't going to vanish immediately. What on earth does he have to gain that's worth dicking over democracy and millions of people?
      • by dbIII (701233)

        either by something better coming along or him dying

        His mother died this year. Expect another decade or two from him, plus he's got the dynasty thing going.

    • by GumphMaster (772693) on Thursday December 05, 2013 @05:44PM (#45613023)

      What killed the National Broadband Network as a progressive fibre-based infrastructure project was the politicisation of a technical project. The Parliament (not the Government), having decided to do the project should have allocated the money to the project for the next ten years, got the **** out of the way, and stayed there. However, at the time we had a corrosive opposition party that saw an opportunity to pester an internally fragile, and later minority, government. They could not let cheap political points lie for the greater good. That they had the help of certain vested commercial interests is not surprising, but that was only possible while the political division continued. Had the same politcial effort been put into constructive endeavours aimed at furthering the project we would still have a fibre-to-the-home network project, that was not in danger of being canned entirely (my prediction), and Murdoch and the shock-jocks would have been neutered.

  • and unless you have a New York City density, it takes more money than you can ever get a return on to run FTTH to every hobbit hole and cabin. now, you can remote gig etherswitches and run spokes of fiber off that to cut the cost of cable placement, and you can subtend more dslams on short runs from a control unit, but if you have copper in the ground, it's still valuable. you can punch 100 Mbit/sec from a dslam from 750 or so feet on copper pair, perhaps bonding two pairs, and that's massively sufficient

    • by Zuriel (1760072)

      Why not use the copper you've got? The short answer is, a lot of it is shit.

      That copper has been lying in the ground slowly corroding for some time. Telstra doesn't really bother with maintenance unless customers complain. Customers just get changed over to a spare pair of wires in the conduit when the pair they were on stops working properly. But conduits are running out of spare pairs.

      That's assuming you're on copper in the first place. There's aluminium and lead in the ground in some places. They were ch

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday December 05, 2013 @05:28PM (#45612815)

    So if G.Fast can extend VDSL2 to 1 Gigabit at a couple hundred meters, are people really going to outgrow that by the end of the decade?

    Copper links simply lack the capacity to support the massive growth in data consumption that analysts predict. Eventually, Australians will have no choice but to replace those links with fiber, probably before the end of this decade

    Since the average speed in Australia is 4.8mbit now it seems unlikely that people are going to be demanding 10gigabit connections in 7 years. Even 100mbit would be about 20 times their current average and VDSL2 can already do 100mbit for short distances.

    By the end of the decade, point-to-point (with high-gain directional antennas) wireless networking may be the way to go to get better bandwidth from the fiber cabinet to the home - put an antenna tower on the cabinet and hang an antenna on houses.

    • by AHuxley (892839) on Thursday December 05, 2013 @06:02PM (#45613247) Homepage Journal
      Australia is not the US or UK. The average copper diameter is smaller, the number of breaks in the line until it reaches the home can be a factor, the line length, age and quality is different.
      VDSL2 is great in the lab but in the real world the speed numbers up and down can drop off.
      http://www.zdnet.com/nbn-co-cant-guarantee-libs-50mbps-speed-promise-report-7000023901/ [zdnet.com]
      "....only realistically be offered two guaranteed speeds: 12Mbps (with 1Mbps uploads) and 25Mbps (with 5Mbps uploads)."
    • So after the decade is up, we'll be stuck with the nodes and no clear way to upgrade everyone to FTTH. For an additional 20% now we could have a network that can deliver all of our demands for bandwidth for the next century. If you're going to spend billions, do it right.
    • by Sabriel (134364)

      The average download speed in Australia is 4.8Mbit. Upload speed is nowhere near that.

      And yeah, sure, VDSL2 can do 100Mbit for short distances. In ideal conditions. Um, you did notice the location is Australia, right?

  • What kind of upgrade path is their from FTTN to FTTH? After some googling, all the articles/discussion I've seen about this are marred with political ideology.

    If paying for FTTN and then FTTH is individually cheaper then going straight to FTTH (even if the total is more expensive) it may be easier for a future government to sell as prudent policy.

    Government finances work differently to normal finances, when you're guaranteed a certain level of tax income, two smaller payment (over a period of time)
    • Using the US as a benchmark (it's not perfect, but the mix of single family homes vs apt buildings and overall density is much closer to Oz than, say, South Korea or Europe), we can compare Verizon's FTTH deployment (FiOS) with AT&T's FTTN deployment (U-Verse). Round numbers, U-Verse has cost about $250 per home passed, vs. about $1000 per home passed for FiOS. So, roughly 4:1.
  • Copper can carry gigabit or higher and nobody has fiber optic cabling in their house's walls. So yeah, do that, obviously.
    • by Vylen (800165)

      Having FTTH was to also not be reliant on the ageing copper network that has been shown to be temporarily fixed at areas with grocery shopping bags. There are regular outages as the copper fails and millions are spent in maintaining patchwork solutions.

      • Taking something sensitive and replacing it with something newer but even more sensitive is kinda dumb. Copper has temperature problems but if you simply bend a fiber optic cable too hard, it breaks. I'd say copper wins there. Fiber is thinner and lighter and thus not quite as tough as solid metal too. A squirrel has been known to take down an entire fiber network when a full sized beaver probably couldn't get through a coaxial cable. A moderately sharp butter knife can sever some fiber optic cables an
        • by Zuriel (1760072)

          Failing if you cut it with a knife isn't unique to fiber optic cables.

          Copper corrodes. That means it fails if it's left lying in the ground completely undisturbed. That sort of unreliability is hard to beat.

  • That'll likely be far better than the service the phone company wants to provide to our neighborhood. I wonder how much the carriers will be dinging the residents for this service? (Didn't see anything about that in the article.)

  • by JabrTheHut (640719) on Thursday December 05, 2013 @05:59PM (#45613215)
    Telstra is the Australian telco monopoly. It's a bit like BT in the UK, but without the customer dedication, commitment to upgrades or ethics, fairness, and sense of social responsibility of its management team. The new government sacked the board of NBN Co and has stacked the new board with ex- and current Telstra insiders. It's pretty obvious that once the NBN Co has finished rolling out the fibre network, the plan is to sell it to Telstra. This will ensure a fairer outcome for all Telstra shareholders, but may be a drag on the rest of the country.
    • by slapout (93640)

      "It's a bit like BT in the UK, but without the customer dedication, commitment to upgrades or ethics, fairness, and sense of social responsibility of its management team"

      So, it's like AT&T then.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      Telstra is the Australian telco monopoly. It's a bit like BT in the UK, but without the customer dedication, commitment to upgrades or ethics, fairness, and sense of social responsibility of its management team. The new government sacked the board of NBN Co and has stacked the new board with ex- and current Telstra insiders. It's pretty obvious that once the NBN Co has finished rolling out the fibre network, the plan is to sell it to Telstra. This will ensure a fairer outcome for all Telstra shareholders, but may be a drag on the rest of the country.

      Telstra was like that when it was Telecom Australia but back in the early 90's the last Liberal government under John Howard sold it off to make his economic credentials look good.

      Now Telstra is a private semi-monopoly as they own all of the copper but not all of the services. Telstra is forced to sell their copper at fixed wholesale prices (which they are continually trying to increase) to other service providers.

      • Telstra is forced to sell their copper at fixed wholesale prices (which they are continually trying to increase) to other service providers.

        I read somewhere recently that Telstra at one point set the wholesale price well above its retail price...

        • by mjwx (966435)

          Telstra is forced to sell their copper at fixed wholesale prices (which they are continually trying to increase) to other service providers.

          I read somewhere recently that Telstra at one point set the wholesale price well above its retail price...

          At the very least I'm sure they tried to.

          But the ACCC and Telecommunications Industry Ombudsmen would have shot them down in flames.

          Telstra should have been separated into wholesale and retail when it was privatised in the 90's. But the Howard govt didn't want that as the sale price would have been lower. The Australian public's been paying for it every since.

        • by Zuriel (1760072)

          They did, sort of.

          That plan had a cheaper monthly charge than the wholesale price, but had a 100 megabyte download quota and huge excess usage fees. Telstra's intent was to abuse clueless users.

  • Get peanuts.
    What we saw in this election was the other edge of the double edged blade which is democracy. There's wisdom of the crowds, then there's the complete opposite too.
  • by locopuyo (1433631) on Thursday December 05, 2013 @09:02PM (#45614745) Homepage
    "not least of all because Australia is one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth"
    This statement is extremely misleading. Australia's population lives almost entirely in urban areas and has vast amounts of land that are not populated at all. This makes it a much, much easier task, not a much much harder task.

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