back to article NBN study: we didn't make it, but may have made a point

A little over a month ago, The Reg's Australian outpost tried to raise $AUD100,000 to fund a study into Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN). This is The Reg so we're not going to spin it: the $AUD7,216 pledged is a long way short of success. We hoped to hit the target because the team, here in Australia and at London HQ …


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My problem with the study was that it was too little and far too late.

The kind of NBN we get will be determined by the coming federal election.

The best way to do it is completely irrelevant, the two options are now set in stone according to political doctrine.

A study that will tell us what we need to know AFTER the decision has been made was just a waste of time, effort and money.

Anonymous Coward

Future Proof

What's the point of getting the last dying gasp out of 100 year old copper wires when fibers just starting to be ramped up to 31 terabit speeds? I'll keep that spectrum free for my FM radio thanks. We'll all happily pay NBNCo a few bucks in five years to upgrade our home fiber transceivers from 1GB to 1TB. You can do that with fiber, you can't with copper.

Hopefully the government can get as much of the NBN done as quickly as possible so the money is locked in and the fiber is in the ground, before politics manages to keelhaul a future proof network to save a few bucks.


Re: Future Proof

The truly sad thing is that the LBN won't even save a few bucks over the medium to long term and yet be so inferior as a national communications platform that it is pathetic long term


Just for starters, FTTP with 4 Discrete Data ports and an NTU looking at 2.5Gb at this stage is just comparing chalk and cheese with a single limited data stream through ONE isp, yet only a relatively small difference in up front cost and marginal difference in install time.

Right wing fantasy land ideology reigns supreme


Roads to Apathy?

I do like the cut of jib of a man who comes out and gives a decent account of himself, having been on the wrong end of a crushing defeat ...

One of the first things I noticed, when I landed down here, were the number of roads (pretty often dirt; or unsealed, if one is Australian) I was driving on that were advertised as being constructed by the government. It made me wonder who had constructed all of the other roads?

I think many of those residing down here (native or ex-pat) have probably concluded that the big-spend of this millennium is just one more in a long line of similarly great – and expensive – ideas. And surely everyone would very much like faster interwebs, especially if it was costing them no more to acquire.

Whether down here or elsewhere, large projects run by those in charge are seldom undertaken solely because they are necessary, but - just as often - because there may well be votes in running them (or abandoning them). In the roads example, “jobs for the people” must have been seen as a vote winner?

In the end, they'll waste it on something, so it may as well be faster access to porn.

As to the VS study; I reckon that however good - or bad - the consultant employed, it would be impossible to predict the ROI of an “IT system” implemented today over a period of sufficient duration to have adequately justified the massive initial investment. If it takes longer than half-a-decade to “repay”, it's almost certainly going to be obsolete. And one never knows when the next Sir TBL might come along.

I am one of the digital-poor. Not because I live on a remote sheep station, but because I live equidistant of two small rural towns (and 50k from a state capital), just far enough from each not to get fixed line broadband. So I know “wireless” is about as reliable as the tourist's top order at Lords.

The thing that confounds me most, about the NBN-wotsit, is why the State wants to pay to upgrade folk who already have a reliable net-connection, at a decent speed, and can be upgraded in a commercially viable way? A VS article linked a speech saying as much, by some tech-bod or other, a few days back.

Like that tech-bod, I am all for giving little girls, who have never seen an ice cream van, a taste of modern urban life.

Now; I'm off to visit my local agricultural supply shop, trying – as ever – to avoid losing my ute in one of the many potholes along the way.


NBN study?

I don't know whether it is my fault or not, but I live in Sydney and read El Reg everyday, and this article is the first that I had heard of this effort. I would have dropped some coin on it.

Possibly more people are in the same situation, simply unaware that it was going on.


The NBN debate is a mostly tribal ideological crap. Better than a deep analysis would be to knock some of the dumb ideas out of the "debate"

1. Can wireless ever replace a cable/optic infrastructure? No.

Data throughput is of the order of available bandwidth. This is textbook physics. Get over it. There are loads of noisy dills "participating" in the debate who don't understand this. Techno golden age mythology won't trump information physics. If we could just get these wireless nuts to shut up the debate could move on to real issues.

There are strategies for dealing with radio bandwidth limits. Build more base stations. They need to have low power to share the bandwidth. Low power signals don't go far and can't go through walls. That's why it is smart to place them in our houses and supply them with high bandwidth cable links. Another strategy is directional antennas. Reuse bandwidth in different directions. Designs for these systems are around but they are big and expensive. There is a trade off between cost/size and directional resolution. You can get phenomenal radio resolution out of the Square Kilometre Array but it costs billions.

The other strategy is to use cables to channel the signal. This works well.

2. How much data do we need? Funnily enough, this question is hardly discussed probably because it's speculative - and because people are innumerate anyway - but it's important. The ways you might guess this are to look at the household bandwidth usage, currently growing exponentially, and project out say 20 years. Presumably it will taper off it is currently showing no signs. Any realist guess based on this chartist's method says fibre. You could also consider applications. Video is the big hog. There are limits to detectable resolution and useful screen size but if you take a few screens of live video at twice the current screen size at bluray resolution and faster frame rates you've blown ADSL (or your own personal phone tower) and need a better cable. Can it work on a fast copper cable system? Maybe, but you're up against the cable limits. Fibre will handle anything we try to throw through it. If something like high-res 3D video becomes the norm the chances are you'll really need the fibre.

3. Economics I. This is a big public infrastructure project, like electricity, reticulated water, roads, the sewerage system, the phone system. The cost of digging up the roads and laying new cables is significant, like a couple of thousand dollars per premises, depending on where, how long, etc. Reality check: This is like 10% of the cost of a low-end new car or 25% of the cost of a cheap kitchen renovation or less than 1% of your typical home price. People spend money like this on a new TV that will be chucked in maybe 5 years. NBN fibre will last 50 years plus. (The routers and transceivers won't, but they are cheap.) The headline project figures are tens of billions but per house it's really not that much for something you use all the time. Worth the money? Well, that depends, but while it is big but it's not a major life purchase.

4. Economics II. Can the private sector do it? Yes. Can they do it for nothing? No. It's about the same cost either way but if the cable is privately owned they won't itemise the cable cost in your bills. If a company owns the only cable to your house, would they like to screw you forever? Yes, that's how the market system works.

Alternately, insert your own ideologically motivated answer from the government-is-wrong or capitalism-is-wrong myths.

5. The fast copper v fibre trade off.

Fast copper:

Initial Cost - Cheaper by 30 to 40% upfront

Maintenance cost - High

Speed- Good enough for current applications, probably too slow

Lifetime- 10 to 20 years. We hit bandwidth limits and/or maintenance cost before too long


Initial Cost - Higher by 30 to 40% upfront

Maintenance cost - Low

Speed- Fast enough for any foreseeable applications

Lifetime- at least 50 years

Take your pick.

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