Woohoo, the NBN is coming

So the big bad NBN is coming to a street near me soon. When I say soon I mean “construction will commence” sometime toward the end of this year. Damn, make it FASTER! I want it NOW! That’s still a lot sooner than a lot of people, so I’m pretty damn excited about it.

I’ve had first hand experience on an NBN connection while working for a client on the south coast. I’ve always wanted it (that glorious upload speed!) but after using it I realised just what it actually feels like.

Yes, it is really, really expensive, but the alternatives just are not… not alternatives that is. Wireless is great for mobile devices, but it’s expensive and limited with how many people can share radio frequency in a given area. Sure the technology is getting better, but that same wifi signal with all that clever technology will be competing with the hundreds of private home wifi points that are also using that clever new technology.

People talk about how tablets and mobile phones can’t use cable, and how mobile data is the future. Yes, but no.

The LNP plan is for “fixed wireless” to homes, so it will only work when you *don’t move around*. If you hop in your car and move out of that access points range, you will lose your connection.

Mobile wireless, using 3G, 4G, or whatever new tech comes along, is even more expensive than fixed wifi because the carriers need to allow for all the extra smarts to handle the switching of your connection from cell to cell. They also need to make sure there is an excess of bandwidth available because they can’t know for sure just how many people might be connecting at any given time. Assuming they aren’t underprovisioning to save money that is.

So, fixed wireless is doable, but still limited, and even in our best dreams of the future won’t come anywhere near fibre. Mobile wireless is way too expensive, and many people just don’t seem to realise it’s different to fixed wireless.

So that leaves us with Fibre to the node (FTTN) which is one of the other bits in the LNP policy. Oh boy.

So that plan means we keep using the existing rubbish copper wiring into our homes. The same copper that currently costs about $1billion a year in repairs. Lets not even bother discussing the requirement for a refrigerator sized box on the corner of every other street, a box that will need to be packed with batteries and have it’s own air-conditioning.

So we use the existing copper, and assuming you have a good line coming into your house, then all you are going to be guaranteed is a speed at least as good as the slowest speed offered by the NBN FTTH plan. If you are lucky then you *might* get a faster connection, but upload speeds will still be about what they are now on ADSL.

On top of that, the LNP plan is to use a “mix of technologies”. What that means is they want to leave all the Telstra and Optus hybrid coax cables in place and use those as well. So then we’re back to the bad old days. Depending on what is in your area, you will be stuck with whatever is there. People all over the place will be getting different technologies, different service levels, and I can’t even begin to imagine how the poor sod that has to manage this hodge-podge of a network will cope. Chances are the LNP will just tender it out, and award it either to the lowest bidder or to Telstra. Both of those options make me sad. (There is another option, they farm it out to multiple vendors for different areas… coz I’m sure that would work even better)

I do understand Malcolm’s point about the lack of a clear cost/benefit analysis from Labor, but really, that’s about the weakest and only attack they have. Even the LNP policy isn’t cheap, and it would cost a hell of a lot more to keep running, and it cost a HELL of a lot more to upgrade, which is something that will need to happen a lot more regularly than the Labor NBN plan. I’m sure they aren’t worried about that though, coz that’s a cost that’s way into someone else’s government term to sort out.

The really stupid line from the LNP that they like to use is that they will “deliver it faster, cheaper, and better”. There is a standard rule in many industries where you have those three things as the sides of a triangle. You can only pick two sides at any one time, you can’t have all three.

Faster and Cheaper? Sure, but it won’t be better

Faster and Better? Yup, but it won’t be cheap

Better and Cheaper? ok, but you’ll spend decades dribbling it out

Perhaps an article or two to help explain better than I can:

http://www.abc.net.au/technology/articles/2012/11/27/3642266.htm

http://www.nbnco.com.au/blog/rome-wasnt-built-in-a-day.html

So, even if the worst happens and the LNP win the election later this year, and assuming they stick with their current comments about not cancelling “existing” NBN contracts, construction in my area will already be underway or planned to start and will go ahead regardless… would be areal shame to happen that way though.

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