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Australia's Telstra Requires Fibre Customers To Use Copper Telephone 217

daria42 writes "Progress is happening rapidly in Australia, with the country's government continuing to roll out a nation-wide fibre network. However, the country's major telco Telstra doesn't appear to have quite gotten the message. Releasing its first National Broadband Network fibre broadband plans today, the telco stipulated that fibre customers will still be forced to make phone calls over the telco's existing copper network. Yup, that's right — fibre to people's houses, but phone calls over the copper network. Progress."
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Australia's Telstra Requires Fibre Customers To Use Copper Telephone

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  • Typical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SultanCemil ( 722533 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @01:53AM (#39169449)
    Some cynical people might even suspect a plot here - our right wing party would love to bury the NBN and have been claiming that it'll be more expensive than ADSL services - perhaps Telstra wants to give them more ammunition, and muddy the waters at the same time?
    • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @02:40AM (#39169685)
      It's Telstra, what do you expect. This is the company that has kept regional centres on dialup and whilst giving a RIM-job [] to major urban centres.

      They have repeatedly been busted for telling other telco's "there are no ports available at X exchange" but then selling Telstra ADSL services from the same supposedly full exchange.

      Do you honestly expect Telstra not to try and screw up the NBN.
    • They have a business motive to do this.

      Imagine if phone calls could be as free and open as email. If you could just pick up a phone, call anyone anywhere in the world on any device for as long as you want at no cost.

      It's real. There are open VoIP protocols that allow this such as SIP and IAX. If they became popular the POTS and cellular telephony industries would be destroyed, and those are massive cash cows. Have you seen the profit margins telcos bring in for these services? In some case, such as SMS, the

    • Re:Typical (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <> on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:48AM (#39172363) Homepage

      So what? It's not like copper for phone calls has any disadvantages. Quality will be about the same unless wideband VoIP is deployed (almost no one has done that), and it's better for safety since the copper phone lines are powered by the CO, which usually has multiple redundant backup power supplies. If your home's power goes out - you can call 911 with copper but not with VoIP.

      • I have FTTH. My connection is converted to copper for both IP and voice services. The box on the side of my house (called an O.N.T.) has a battery backup that will last 12+ hours in case of a power outage.
        • by Andy Dodd ( 701 )

          12 hours? Pretty pitiful - I have routinely been in situations with extended power outages (48-72 hours) where the phone line worked the whole time.

          This wasn't even in the boonies where I live now - this was in middle-upper class Central Jersey.

  • Could make sense (Score:5, Informative)

    by NFN_NLN ( 633283 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @01:53AM (#39169451)

    Fiber requires external power for the lasers.
    Traditional phones lines are powered by the telco so they'll work during a standard blackout.

    • Re:Could make sense (Score:5, Informative)

      by miaDWZ ( 820679 ) * <alan AT alanisherwood DOT id DOT au> on Monday February 27, 2012 @01:55AM (#39169463) Homepage

      Traditional phones lines are powered by the telco so they'll work during a standard blackout.

      All NBN endpoints have a backup battery to allow phones to continue to work for a good few hours even in a power outage.

      • Re:Could make sense (Score:4, Informative)

        by NFN_NLN ( 633283 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @02:00AM (#39169477)

        All NBN endpoints have a backup battery to allow phones to continue to work for a good few hours even in a power outage.

        The telco (unless it is third world) will have massive diesel generators (and a stock pile of diesel) to keep things operational in an emergency. As long as there is electricity or diesel the phones should continue to work.

        • by miaDWZ ( 820679 ) * <alan AT alanisherwood DOT id DOT au> on Monday February 27, 2012 @02:04AM (#39169515) Homepage

          The telco (unless it is third world) will have massive diesel generators (and a stock pile of diesel) to keep things operational in an emergency. As long as there is electricity or diesel the phones should continue to work.

          That's true. Although, in reality I think 9/10 households will be using a cordless phone which will be useless in a power outage, regardless to how you're hooked into the phone network. Speaking of which, can you even buy non-cordless phones these days?

          • by jaymz666 ( 34050 )

            Whether they are using a cordless one doesn't mean they don't have corded as a backup? I know we do.

          • If you believe the stats which are constantly flung at us, maybe 90% of adults have a mobile phone. Certainly, if I were concerned about the reliability of a fibre link to the premises for phone calls I would be using mobile as a backup, not copper.

          • Re:Could make sense (Score:4, Informative)

            by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @09:46AM (#39171687)

            Speaking of which, can you even buy non-cordless phones these days?

            You have to go to walmart, but they do exist.

            The real problem is you need a copper line that is homerun to a CO not to a SLC hut. SLC hut battery backup is ... not so good, if there is any at all. Supposedly there existed a SLC-96 system 30 years ago that was CO powered off the T-1 repeater supply, but they've only installed fiber SLCs for decades now and the few I've seen the insides of have metered electrical service.

            People who only know a little telecom think every copper line is a home run to the CO. People who worked in telecom know that 20 years ago SLC market penetration was at least 1 in 10 residential lines, and now, I would not be surprised if the majority of copper lines are run to a SLC.

            It does depend on your neighborhood. If there's a homeless panhandler on the sidewalk, thats urban and probably 100 years old and you probably have copper homerun, unless its a "factory to condo conversion" and the telco put a SLC in. If its a "1950s baby boomer house" like mine then its 50/50 and in fact mine is on a SLC (which was a nightmare to get DSL back in ye olden DSL era). If its a modern mcmansion I guarantee the LEC installed a SLC, they're not going to home run copper all they way from each house to the CO.

          • That's true. Although, in reality I think 9/10 households will be using a cordless phone which will be useless in a power outage, regardless to how you're hooked into the phone network.

            That's why I have my cordless phone base station connected to my UPS. I surely can't be the only one to do this.

        • by NFN_NLN ( 633283 )

          At least that is how it is suppose to work ..Unless of course the guy who architects the backup system uses an electric pump to push diesel from the tanks to the generator... and that pump is tied into the standard power grid :)

          • Even then, hook up the pump to the backup, manually transfer some fuel to the generator and start it up
          • by AgNO3 ( 878843 )
            except that most of these generators or TURBINES that once started generate all their own power to run themselves.
            • by afidel ( 530433 )
              Turbines? I've only seen one turbine backup installation and that was for a WaMu facility in Northridge CA that had to use a turbine to meet harsh pollution standards for the LA basin.
        • Re:Could make sense (Score:4, Informative)

          by deek ( 22697 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @02:28AM (#39169623) Homepage Journal

          Fibre based phones requires power to devices on both ends. Copper based phones can (and are) powered by the telco on their end.

          So those massive diesel generators aren't going to be much use in an emergency, for a fibre network.

        • The telco (unless it is third world) will have massive diesel generators

          I guess suburban USA counts as "3rd world" then.

          I live roughly 100 miles from Washington DC just outside of Richmond, VA. Our power was restored a few days after hurricane Irene last summer. After our power was restored, our internet (and voip phone) was still out. After a while, I realized that it would come on for a few hours, then go off.

          After meeting some neighbors (we'd just moved in 2 weeks before the storm and knew nobody in

          • I live roughly 100 miles from Washington DC just outside of Richmond, VA

            So do I. Small world. I had a similar experience. I lost commercial power for a week along with internet service, cell service, and cu-based phone service. I have a whole-house generator, so I was ok until the coup de grace - a tree fell on my satellite dish and crushed it!

            Where do you live, approx? Drop me a line at dtiller0112 at david[nospam]tiller dot com.

      • Re:Could make sense (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Cassini2 ( 956052 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @02:02AM (#39169495)

        Power failures can last several days. Parts of the north eastern U.S. and Ontario have been blacked out for several days at a time. Montreal was hit by an ice-storm that caused them to lose power for several days too.

        It doesn't happen often, but the problem with big disasters is that they are big. Emergency equipment still has to run.

        Copper phone line work well as a backup.

        • Southwest Arkansas and northeast Texas had an ice storm, and some parts of the area were without power for 47 days. My house was near the end of the line for repairs, at 32 days. I don't think there is anyplace in the world immune to the wrath of Mother Nature.

      • Re:Could make sense (Score:5, Interesting)

        by psergiu ( 67614 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @02:27AM (#39169611)

        Mod Gradparent Up !

        In some magical land, all endpoints have battery backup. In Romania, for example, they don't - a backup battery must be replaced every 3 years or so - which can become expensive. I refused to allow the local telco to install FTTH in my apartment building as all the cooper landlines (powered by the large battery pack + diesel generator at the CO) would have been replaced by VoIP over that fibre. Lousy audio quality, no battery backup, end-point equipment usually locks up during brown-outs. I'm ok with slower ADSL that works 24/7.

        Way to go, Telestra ! They still have some smart people in charge.

        • In Romania

          I work with some Romanian developers (and I'm Australian), and our infrastructure in this regard, is a LOT better.

        • You realize that (1) like the entire telecommunications infrastructure is digital from the exchange onwards right? It's all a-law or -law from that point on. (2) Your perception of VOIP is largely based on the unreliable and slow upload speeds of ADSL2 connections (which get contested by all your other internet access) and (3) how many types of disaster do you think are actually prevented by the telephone system's remote power requirement, given that it's not actually guaranteed nor particularly reliable fo

          • by psergiu ( 67614 )

            1) Yes, i know. I worked for that telco.
            2) The endpoint VoIP equipment is not carrier-grade. It's lower-bidder, lowest-bandwidth grade. Huawei if you're lucky. I have a VoIP phone line from their competitor - all calls sound like on a GSM phone or worse.
            3) In order to call the Power company to report a blackout, you have to dial their "short" number. Free on a fixed line, extra cost per minute from a mobile phone. And if your mobile phone is low on battery, good luck navigating their voice prompts and waiti

        • What I don't get is why they don't just use the old copper to power the CPE. Surely it can't take more than a hundred milliamps to run the laser and a little embedded processor, and perhaps a bit more to ring the phones.

          • by psergiu ( 67614 )

            Here, the endpoint boxes they install in apartment buildings use power from the hallway lighting. Which is paid by the owners of the appartments. And not by them = savings. And after everyone is converted, the cooper trunks can be dug out and sold for scrap as the prices of cooper have skyrocketed. And if you no longer have a cooper line to the CO, you can no longer call on that anti-monopoly laws which allowed you to get a different ADSL provider on those lines.

          • Surely it can't take more than a hundred milliamps to run the laser and a little embedded processor, and perhaps a bit more to ring the phones.

            Great. That's only about 5 times designed system load.

            Telsta's maximum line loading is 3 REN, which is a 7000 ohm impedance. Times 48V, that comes to 20.6mA.

            • by afidel ( 530433 )
              Not to mention that the phone lines are NOT designed for constant voltage but rather intermittent voltage, a constant 3REN would probably generate more heat than the spec calls for. That's not such a big deal for one line but if you were pushing the thousands of lines in a typical CO like that you would probably have some major problems. There's also the simple fact that VoIP+copper for power would be less reliable than the PSTN so where is the advantage?
              • No, that is constant. 48VDC (-48V if you want to be technical, as it's a positive-ground system to prevent corrosion) all the time. The intermittent load for ringing is 90VAC@20Hz over top of the constant.

    • I was thinking the same when I first read it. They've also copped flak in the media in the past over sob stories where someone who lives in rural Australia demands their phone have 100% uptime because they have a sick kid, yet they don't want to pay for a satellite phone backup or move to an area with closer medical facilities. It's probably a fair call until long-term reliability is known.

      Also it sounds like you only need copper for a traditional phone account, you can still go with cell and/or VoIP only.

      • by atomicthumbs ( 824207 ) <atomicthumbs @ g m> on Monday February 27, 2012 @03:32AM (#39169871) Homepage
        Should someone really have to buy a very expensive satellite phone + plan, or move somewhere else, because their telephone company wants to replace their (perfectly fine) POTS connection with something that stops working a little while after the power goes out?
        • Well the TFA is about Telstra not wanting to replace their perfectly fine POTS connection, presumably for that very reason. I was commenting that even with the good old POTS system they expect 100% uptime and immediate fault resolution. In remote areas much of the fiber will run above ground, as does most residential mains power in Australia. About 90% of my local power outages are a result of vehicle accidents, how fast can they expect a fiber cable to be replaced when it's 100KM from a major center and se
          • Well the TFA is about Telstra not wanting to replace their perfectly fine POTS connection,

            No, TFA is about Telstra requiring all customers rent a copper line in addition to a fibre connection, whether they want it or not. That's $30/month for no added service.

            (And a coax line, if they want Foxtel's on-demand service, even though the on-demand service would be delivered over fibre.)

    • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @03:19AM (#39169827)
      Don't kid yourself. Telstra are doing it for one reason: Money. They have an existing copper network, if it fails to generate revenue it turns into a worthless multi-billion dollar liability that they will still have to maintain year after year.
      Their New Zealand subsidiary, TelstraClear, kicked up a huge fuss about over-building their docsis cable network with a government subsidised national fibre network build. They threw their toys out their cot and threatened to shut up shop and leave the country.
      Last time I was on their cable network you couldn't buy internet services without a $50/month phone line.
    • by mvar ( 1386987 )
      Although POTS telephony is indeed better in a power failure case, on this occasion i think it has more to do with the provider's infrastructure. If you were to deploy telephony over fiber, that would probably be voip telephony which translates to the cost of an additional SIP-capable (or some other protocol) modem, and a whole shit of infrastructure changes on the provider's backbone like class 5 soft-switches, customer provisioning, personnel training etc, it's a nightmare. And as we all know, if it ain't
    • by MoogMan ( 442253 )

      More to the point, the phones would have to be Ethernet compatible. This pretty much means VoIP and the large infrastructure that comes with it.

      The biggest concern is probably land line availability in an emergency.

    • by Nikker ( 749551 )
      Then why not just use the copper as a backup power source rather than a mandatory signal medium? This gives the customers the ability to select from the multitude of VOIP subscribers as well as have a stable backup power supply in the event of a blackout.
  • Really a big deal? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lev13than ( 581686 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @01:59AM (#39169475) Homepage

    POTS infrastructure is fully depreciated, lines are self-powered and system is completely compatible with all existing equipment. Even if you put a fibre-based POTS system in every exchange you'd still need to keep the copper running for non-subscribers. Seems like a reasonable trade-off if they are taking the savings and using the capital to accelerate the roll-out of fibre internet.

    Interested to hear from an actual telecom engineer about how hard/expensive it would be to update the exchanges.

    • by mcbridematt ( 544099 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @02:13AM (#39169549) Homepage Journal

      All copper lines in the fibre footprint under the Australian NBN rollout are being decommissioned, the only people who will remain are those getting wireless or satellite broadband services, for POTS usage.

      Some would argue that Telstra, by keeping the copper lines active until forced to decommission them (as is the deal), makes it easier for a future opposition government to scuttle the fibre rollout.

    • This is not a reasonable trade off.
      Telstra has a monopoly on copper, but their agreement with the government owned NBN Co
      is that Telstra will switch its internet customers to NBN fiber when it rolls out to their area.

      What the contract doesn't stipulate is telephone usage.
      So Telstra is trying to squeeze the very last drops out of their copper network while they can.
      That is the only reason they are making it a forced bundle.

      What we're seeing are the final struggles of a dying monopoly.
      Unfortunately, Telstra w

      • the NBN will be leasing access to ducting and exchange space until fiber is no longer needed.

        Unless there is a MAJOR breakthrough (e.g. quantum teleportation turns out to be a viable communications method rather than just a lab curiosity) some form of cabled communication (be it copper, fiber or something we haven't invented yet) is likely to be needed for the forseable future. Having a bunch of independent channels just gives you so much more bandwidth and reliability than the shared channel given by free space communication methods. Yes you can use directional antennas and MIMO to improved the sh

    • For this to be a successful bit of infrastructure the government needs the NBN to reach a point where they are self sustaining in a reasonable amount of time. This means that the large ISPs had to sign contracts to move people away from ADSL. To combat this, the ISPs seem to be pushing their customers to move to cable, they are trying to keep customers on their old telephony infrastructure, and are holding out on negotiating some things with the NBN Co.

      In essence, they are using their market power to push b

    • And it's not like stationary SIP is difficult to set up. Hell, most routers I've seen lately have an actual RJ-XX (the one that looks like a smaller RJ45) socket for phones, specifically for use with SIP... I know mine does.

      If you really want voice over your new fibre: Set it up yourself. If not, well, just keep using POTS, because you probably won't know the difference anyway...

      • Really? Most routers I have seen have RJ-11 socket so you can connect it to the phone line if you have DSL.

        • Really. Here's a picture I just snapped of the bog-standard router that came with my DSL package:


          As you can see, phone jacks, and there's a whole fully configurable SIP stack in the web interface. The one all the way on the left is the DSL line, and I'm assuming the one on the right is for some special kind of phone (ISDN maybe).

          • Nice. I have not seen a lot of those routers (most people just use the router they get from the ISP and those do not support analog phones and I use a PC as a router) so I have not seen one that has internal VoIP gateway.

            Interesting, I should look if there is a SIP-to-phone provider in my country and how its costs compare with the costs of my cell phone or landline.

            • Seems to be different from country to country, I suppose. Here in Germany, I've had three routers, all directly from the ISP, and all of them had a SIP stack and a jack for an analog phone :)

              As for SIP to Phone providers: You should check with your ISP, many of them offer SIP service too... mine just bundles a phone-flatrate (to all domestic landlines) with its internet service, which is useful - especially with SIP stacks becoming available standard on most smartphones. Free calls from anywhere you can get

    • by jonwil ( 467024 )

      The fiber system is being paid for by the government, not Telstra. Every fiber box includes a battery-backed VoIP gateway device that you plug a PSTN phone into (either line powered or wall powered) and which sends phone signals over the fiber link back through the network to the "point of interconnect" where the ISPs all connect to the network.

      At that point, the ISPs take the VoIP data and run it into some sort of carrier-level gear that talks whatever VoIP protocol the NBN is using.

      That said, I can see wh

    • You misunderstand TFA.

      Neighbourhood has fibre and copper lines installed. People ring Telstra to get fibre for broadband, they decide to switch off their $30/month copper line since they have cell-phones and can get VoIP from anyone. (Or perhaps they never bothered to have copper before, using mobile broadband.) Telstra says, "No. All fibre customers must also pay for a copper line. $30/month extra please!"

      No other provider has this requirement, because no other provider owns the copper lines.

  • by mehrotra.akash ( 1539473 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @02:02AM (#39169493)
    Copper means no need for converters/change of instruments at client side AND a single power source. If the exchange has power, the phones work
    Fiber needs power at more points
    • Why?

      You asked Why Not? Well my simple answer is that it's a service that not everyone desires and not everyone is willing to pay $30 / month for (which is what Telstra charge for copper line rental).

      If this is a critical service then LET people pay the $30/month, don't FORCE them to do it. Why should I be forced to pay for something I don't want? Also given the cost of copper line rental I'll take a battery backed phone which needs new expensive batteries ever few years any day over paying the line rental f

  • To my knowledge NBNCo is rolling out their own new fibre system to places which are not currently cabled for fibre. Including the original Tasmanian trial etc.

    Telstra has their own fibre network which must be near 10 years old, using their own concentrator (correct term?) and their own modems. This older system is still of course fibre based (well to the street, I don't believe it is to the door)

    If I recall, the Govt / NBNCo are trying to take a shortcut on wiring places up by using Telstras existing Big

    • by jonwil ( 467024 )

      All of the Telstra infrastructure (including the HFC network and the copper network) is to be decommissioned as part of the NBN roll-out. So no, the government isn't taking a short cut here.

      There IS a plan by the federal opposition to scrap the NBN and build a cheaper alternative using existing infrastructure (including both the Telstra and Optus HFC networks) but that wont happen unless the opposition wins the next election.

      What the $11 billion being paid to Telstra by NBNco is buying is the abillity to pu

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @02:23AM (#39169603)
    The Telstra wires are lead with paper insulation in my pit, and it's only a 30 minute walk to the centre of a state capital.
    Because Telstra have a monopoly on some segments and close to a monopoly on others they can mazimise profit by doing as little as possible. They are an evil beast that screws over the customer the way that only a former government body that has picked only the worst aspects of private enterprise can do.
  • Newer operators provide competition.

    News at 11.

  • Basically in the first areas where the NBN has been deployed the biggest complaint from the customers was about the need to have battery packs inside their homes and the fact they will need to be replaced periodically.,nbn-users-complain-about-battery-backup.aspx []

    Although some people or businesses may need to have working POTS during a black out I'm not convinced that it is appropriate to have it in all premises, particularly in a country like Australia where everyone has

    • You must live in one of the major coastal cities. I live in a little place called Canberra, I can't even get reliable mobile reception from my house in the outer suburbs. Large areas of Australia still have extremely patchy or non existant mobile coverage outside the major capitals, many of those areas are also being covered by the NBN.
  • The technology to run telephony over fibre is extremely expensive. It's much cheaper to just run Ethernet for the Internet and leave telephony on ISDN.

    Yes, one could do VoIP, but that's just *juck*. Not only will you have huge delays, modems won't work (still essentialy for many businesses), but it still requires seperate networks with complex configurations so it'll still work when you use the Internet.

    (Don't get me wrong, there are situations where VoIP has its uses, but it's certainly no alternative to p

  • "Copper telephone" means a telephone made out of copper. "Copper telephone lines" is what the headline of course meant. I came here thinking the story would actually be interesting--why in the world would a company want customers to use copper telephones? Why a company might want customers to use copper telephone lines is pretty obvious: you can charge more for two services than for one. Nothing interesting to see here (though I hope for Australian's sake the situation changes); move along.
  • ... why should they allow phone calls to congest the bandwidth for all those torrents and downloads?
    if the copper wires are still there and function without any problem, why remove them? classic saying "don't touch what aint broke"

  • The answer is more likely quite simple, Telstra are profit whores. Imagine being able to sell your customers expensive FTTH yet still charge them $30/month rental fee for a copper landline that they may or may not be using. The fact is that Naked DSL has been cutting into their landline profits. On top of that when the ACCC forced them to open up the copper lines to competition that has further eroded their cost structure when you can now get fully unlimited internet and telephone line rental for $60 from a

  • by Kjella ( 173770 )

    I'd like to say screw them, get fiber + cell phone and tell their landline to suck it but from the article you can't, you get a copper line no matter what. Personally I think cell phones are underrated. Cell phone towers have huge battery backups and beyond that usually generators like COs, if they go down in a storm they have portable towers too. My cell phone probably has a good charge already. I can pilfer some off my laptop, there's emergency chargers and if need be I can plug that into an UPS or genera

  • POTS is a carefully engineered system (as is the entire telephone system, for that matter). It's a distributed system, designed to increase reliability by keeping the parts that are most likely to need repair concentrated at a single location: the central office. The parts of the system least likely to need repair are located at the periphery of the system: the terminal equipment. Remember the jokes about being able to drive nails with the old Western Electric handsets? If you take apart a WE phone, all yo
  • How does that work? Do you have a daily quota and a fine if you don't meet it?

  • Telstra have been doing the exact same thing in New Zealand for years. I have a cable connection for the Net and TV but still have to pay an arm and a leg for a copper telephone line (required to get the good Interwebs from Telstra). As usual, Big Business screws us (as it does everywhere) and our Government gets Big Business to draft the telecom laws and tells us what is good for us. Balance needs to be restored in the Force.

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith