back to article Turnbull's NBN is startup-land's litmus test

Opponents of the Australian government's policy to build a National Broadband Network (NBN) with anything other than fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) came up well and truly empty last week. The 270,000+ signatures amassed in support of the the cause on, while an impressive demonstration of activism, were ignored. I …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. shayneoneill

    I'm not sure your objection to the overbuild argument is coherent. If we take it as given that building an NBN is expensive, then it surely means we do it right the first time or we'll be stuck with a network thats going to become a chain around our neck when things like 4K TV become a reality, or more fanciful but still possible things like VR telepresence and the like. And of course cloud computing, etc.

    25meg is awful for the task of cloud computing. We're a big-ass country and particularly in the mining sector we're often quite distributed in the way we do business. In some respects we've been doing cloud before it was even a word, because we had to. But it also has never been an entirely satisfactory technology because it has required ridiculously expensive fibre roll outs to businesses that have kept it out of the reach for smaller consultancies and the like, especially for the mining sector where large datasets need to be transfered around by small , often one man spare-room companies doing metalurgy, and the like.It just doesn't work well.

    So we either do it right the first time, or face the very real possibilty we'll need to start pulling it out before we've even finished putting it in. The turn around here is not in decades , but in years as far as capacity is concerned. ADSL2 is only maybe 7-8 years old (for widespread use) but its already painfully slow for most people and in desparate need of upgrading. So adding 30-40% extra speed seems like its not going to last that long. Assuming the curve of things, its probably fair to say 25mbit is going to be redundant in 5-6 years. We won't even have finished this damn network and we'll be needing to pull it up and.... go fibre.

    So why not just cut the nonsense and go fibre, like, right now.

    1. Mark 65

      Your issue with large data sets is not necessarily solved either way as it is more dependent on the asymmetry of the connection. I already have 30 mbit/s cable as a download but with only 1 mbit/s upstream. It is this asymmetry that's harms businesses as they will tend to have or need more two-way traffic.

      1. BlackKnight(markb)

        so VDSL on FTTN to offer up to 3 mbps up if you get the 50 mbps down link or FTTP with 25 down and 5 up, or 50/20mbps up? which would be the better solution?

        Ignoring the fact that businesses with fttp have access to install both fibre cables for symetrical 100mbps \100mbps services if required. kind solves the problem doesnt it?

        the FTTP was only going to over build the HFC network the only consumer network we have better then twisted pair. mainly because although it has a large foot print it needs a large investment to connect it to premises past that it doesnt actually service, as well as massive bandwidth and contention improvements to get it anywhere near supporting the speeds promised under the FTTP design, wasnt a lot of money to be saved if you factor in the investment then having to buy it\rent it from telstra and optus afterwards. So while it can technically be used and improved on to supply up to 1000gbps in the future using the latest innovation.

        so 25 mbps by 2019, 50mbps by 2022 and FTTP by 2030 is the coalition plan.

        OR they have the option of Doing the FTTP rollout in there words 11 billion cheaper then labour and finishing it around 2025 (3 years longer to make 1000gbps available to 93% of australia instead of 50 to 100mbps)

        they could also continue with the HFC plan for 30% of connections and replace everything else with FTTP, so those with fibre or HFC all get up to 100mbps, would save some time, probably not much in costs though. and as theres and upgrade path for HFC up to 1gbps should be right for 20 years.

    2. Fluffy Bunny

      If you ignore the fact that the country can't affort to build a fully fibre network, then yes. But we're broke. The deficit is going to be $47B in the red. We can't actually afford to build the sensible proposal the Gov't is doing.

      I like your grandiose plans. But there is no need for me to fund them.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The US powered (arguably) the greatest period of tech innovation since the industrial revolution - all without a national broadband network. There still isn't one.

    I know it may seem hard to believe, but there are more useful ways of spending what is now looking increasingly more like AUD50-100B dollars, than providing a platform for STEM ignorant nontrepeneurs to chance their arm on the web2.0rrhea roundabout.

    1. Persona non grata

      Nice pulled out of your butt figures there

      The only people saying the fibre NBN would cost that much are the Coalition and their stooges.

      If you read the rest of the Australian tech press or the fact check site you'd know this for a lie.

      It already looks like the 25Mb figure has been discarded for their target date and the cost will blow out as well - so this is a worse, possibly more expensive and legal nightmare. Exactly as predicted by those with experience of the previous coalition government.

      What happened to structural separation btw?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice pulled out of your butt figures there

        @png - Politifact said the following:-

        Labor's NBN would end up costing $44.1 billion if everything goes right. So far a great deal has not. Turnbull's estimate of $94 billion is perhaps high, but it's certainly not in Pants on Fire territory as some PolitiFact followers have suggested.

        I believe my 'somewhere between 50-100 billion' is supported by this analysis. So which fact check site do you use ?

      2. Fluffy Bunny

        Re: Nice pulled out of your butt figures there

        So let me get this right. You believe those nice labour people and their stooges in the xxxx press with their financial promises. This is the same mob that stood up on TV and promised us all the budget would "only" be $30B in the red.

        Now, just 100 days later, the new Gov't has had a chance to get the auditors in to do their due dilligence and we discover it will actually be $47B. It was never going to be just $30B, was it. It was just another of those Labour lies.

        Just like the promises about how cheap FTTP would be. Go back to 2007 and check out how much Labour promised it would cost. Knocks your socks off, doesn't it.

        1. mathew42

          Re: Nice pulled out of your butt figures there

          > So let me get this right. You believe those nice labour people and their stooges in the xxxx press with their financial promises. This is the same mob that stood up on TV and promised us all the budget would "only" be $30B in the red.

          The $30bn figure was only released prior to election because of the figure was going to be released by Treasury prior to the election as required by Law. Labor announced it first because they percieved it as better politically.

          Which brings me to my main point, 3 months prior in the budget statement, Labor announced that the deficit announced the deficit would be $18bn.

    2. BlackKnight(markb)

      Thats because the US system works completely differently. they have Many ISPs that own there own cables. however they each services small areas, which means less captial investment per providers.

      basically instead of having one large infrastructure company (telstra) and a bunch of retailers buying from them, each geographical location has 1-2 infrastructure providers with smaller foot prints. So they have competing services and small costs on each part of the network. So as soon as one company starts upgrading services to higher speeds the rest have to jump on board or go broke.

      right now we have telstra who was making money by cutting maintenance costs and failing to invest anything other then what was required to gaurentee analog voice services.

      They dont need an NBN because the providers did it for them, ours didnt.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @BlackNight - Yeah I know how it works in the US. I'm from there ...

        The point I'm making is that the technical innovation that drove US growth didn't depend on an NBN - It didn't even need especially fast broadband.

        What does depend on fast broadband is content consumption and that's not an economic engine for Australia because most of your content comes from us (we have more cats so we make better cat videos).

        If you really want to 'invest' what I still maintain will be north of 50Billion dollars then you will get more bang for your buck elsewhere.

  3. aaaa

    Australian 'startups' - true world leaders...


    And I'm sure there are lots of others.

    My own company provides unique software, I've just spoken at 3 international conferences in 3 months - we're the only ones who do what we do. One of our products have been (poorly) imitated by overseas based projects. But ours is niche software.

    A colleague's company does 'kiosks' for shopping centres and universities - they are installing them worldwide because there is nothing comparable. They have their own indoor navigation and have been asked to present it at serious academic events (where google is seen as a toy).

    Australian companies do not self-promote globally - they promote the usefulness of their software, not the origin of the software. One reason is that they need to very quickly relocate outside of Australia to get any traction.

    Whether that would be helped by an NBN I can't be sure - but at the moment 'the interweb' is really only viable for those living within a few handfuls of square kilometres from our largest CBD's which dramatically skews the viable geography for starting a tech business (or raising children who will inherit a tech future), which in turn skews the cash flow analysis of starting a small-tech-biz-startup - it needs $1M+ just for real estate, whereas even in California you can get cheap real estate with 100MB+ connections only requiring a move to expensive office space when your idea is (relatively) proven.

    1. TheFatMan

      Re: Australian 'startups' - true world leaders...

      " (where google is seen as a toy)."

      Well there goes your credibility bud.

      Google can be described in many ways, but love it or hate it, it has infected the world.

      Anyone who would describe it as a “Toy” would also have trouble differentiating their arse from their elbow

  4. Thorne

    Is it just me?

    At some point the copper will have to be replaced with fibre. Considered a lot of area has really bad copper lines to begin with, not mention line splitters and other doodads to compensate for the lack of infrastructure to start with. A lot of places will need the copper replaced otherwise fibre to the node will offer no improvement. If you have to replace the copper, why not replace it with fibre?

    Really if the stupid government hadn't sold off Telstra or at least hadn't sold off the tax payer funded monopoly on the phone lines, they could have been running fibre while replacing copper as part of a continuous upgrade cycle and we'd have the NBN by now.

    They should do the job right the first time. It's not going to get cheaper to do later if you do half a job now.

  5. pblakez

    once again focus on download speed, of which 25mbps is not even guaranteed

    upload speed is what is important to business esp small biz wanting to compete

    fast upload is in the old Pentagon speak a force multiplier

    if you want this country to be about content creation not content consumption upload speeds are vital

  6. Rattus Rattus

    Is anyone surprised...

    ...That Turnbull completely ignored the petition? Listening to the public is not something the Coalition are known for. Nor is investing in infrastructure.

  7. cracked

    If you build it ...

    I think there are three things influencing the "debate":

    1. The "survey" some-firm carried out - mentioned in the Review Document - that classed the likely short term uses for "The Interwebs".

    Cat Videos topped the list. Only 4k TV appeared to be above the capacity of a "half way house" solution (which is what Mal appears to be offering). And the "survey" thought 4K take-up would be very poor.

    If the main use predicted is for an Entertainment Delivery System, then it's no wonder some people might think $40-billion-plus is a lot of cash.

    It is extremely unlikely all people, on all sides of the "debate", agree with the survey and the uses it predicts.

    Sadly, for everyone, this is the crux and no one - on either side - knows the answer. Lots of folk think they know the answer ... but the polar opposite assumptions at the Taliban-end of both sides of the argument, are so far apart that any form of consensus seems extremely unlikely.

    This lack of a definative purpose allows Mal and his supporters to claim that something a bit better than now, will do for now

    2. Historically, any increase in computing power and/or telecoms ability has been followed by business finding uses for the improvement. The mobile phone market is a good example, as is what game-designers have done with processor power.

    This does give the "It's not just about cats" proponents credibility. However unlikely it seems, however few truely outstanding uses have been proposed for an upgraded network; it has always been true.

    If you build it, they will fill it up with something.

    3. As discussed on here, before ... The size and complexity of the NBN project does equate it with the building of telegraphs, railways and roads. It requires a cross party, long-view consensus. Not something very popular among political parties (anywhere in the world).

    It is never going to be finished (just like roads) and so is never going to provide any political party (other than the original proponents) with a political win.

    (and, unlike railways, the proposal is for this system to have a station everywhere)

    Just like roads, the moment geeks have quit woohooing about their speed-test results, it will become all about the road in front of your block.

    Please fix the potholes!

    A request for a correction:

    "it could even be that Australia gets faster and more reliable connections than the 25Mbps baseline promised.

    Can we change this for:

    "it could even be that (most of) Australia gets faster and more reliable connections than the 25Mbps baseline promised."

    And with that correction, maybe some clarity or even consensus could be found (and as ever, I will declare my biased Country-Australia world-view, upfront).

    Yes, history says that uses will be found for advances in technology; but it may well (and very sadly) be prudent to only pay the stupidly large sums involved for the 80% of the country where setting up as a StartUp makes logistical sense?

    No one digs a mine a long way from a seam. Should start-ups (or already-starteds) be setting up in Willowra?

    It is not a nice question to pose. To an extent, answering the question in the wrong way, invalidates naming it a National anything. There is no hope of virtual surgeons, based in Sydney, ever helping to remove a liver in Brome; unless the entire country is running with a decent ping and bandwidth.

    But - whichever of the costings, by whichever of the players, you do or do not believe - Given the cost of trying to build the network that we would all like to have, may proclude a viable system being built that could see the populated bits of Australia prosper; do the hard choices have to be taken?

    Finally: One hinted at plank of Mal's review document is the assumption that some places may want to get a better connection by paying for it themselves. A DIY NBN. In my particular situation, that may prove both attractive and viable.

    It may also be a clever ploy by Mal. "Well, people obviously don't really want speeds greater than 25MB, or they would have paid to connect their "town" to the closest link. So 25mb must be fine".

    I am surprised more has not been made - one way or the other - about this committment (which has always existed, in NBN plans, I believe?)

    A very good, if slightly controversially toned, discussion-piece, Simon.

  8. Winkypop Silver badge

    The LNP are lying

    It's what they do best.

    They are still in opposition mode, someone should wave them off, maybe then they will start governing.

    Hockey has raised the deficit all by himself

    Turnbull has already reneged on even his version of the promised Fraudband

    Pretty soon, Abbott will introduce Work Choices 2.0

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seriously, 25Mbps isn't enough to erase the divide between LAN and WAN. And whilst that's still noticeable then 'cloud' applications aren't that viable.

    1. mathew42

      Under Labor's plan the figures for actual connection speeds selected for fibre are 49% @ 12Mbps, 23% @ 25Mbps. FTTP is still going to be available to ~25% of the population (mainly greenfields) and some business districts where sufficient demand is shown to exist.

      This might explain why concern is not as high in the electorate as the screaming hordes have suggested.

  10. pdf


    Simon, even as an opinion piece, this appears poorly thought out, and unnecessarily snarky. I'd expect this sort of thing in the comments, not in my news feed.

    The first argument is flimsy because it rules out other innovations enabling the same outcomes.

    So, we're supposed to discount an option we know provides adequate infrastructure to build these business models on, because there might be something, some day, that can do the same?

    The second retains some potency but has been defeated by the cost blowouts to build any form of NBN

    How does the fact that any build will incur cost blowouts defeat the argument that having to build twice makes the impotent (and only marginally cheaper first time round) option more expensive in the long term? Because surely then you will have not only the build cost multiplied, but also the blowout?

    Turnbull's NBN ... will probably deliver 25Mbps to just about every household in Australia. That's better than Australia has ever had before. It's comparable to what has been available in many places. Between and DOCSIS 3.1 it could even be that Australia gets faster and more reliable connections than the 25Mbps baseline promised.

    Well, so long as it will probably deliver 25Mbps, then we'll have Internet connectivity that's somewhere around the worldwide average (which is nothing to be proud of). For all those billions, that seems like a poor result when for a (relatively) little more, we could place ourselves amongst the leaders in this space. And hasn't the baseline 25Mbps promise now been turfed?

    In any case, what's missing for business, and the startups you're so quick to denigrate, is upstream bandwidth - and that will remain pathetic under Turnbull's version(s) of the 'NBN'. A lack of understanding of this as a key metric for businesses (or startups) on the NBN really shows a clear lack of understanding of the entire argument surrounding the technology.

    1. cracked

      Re: Erm...

      (and to the AC above your post)

      The question Mal has - apparently - asked (who asked, and who was asked, I have no idea?) is what will the system be used for?

      (If I remember correctly) The survey said 5mb-Up should be sufficient for anything required other than (possibly) video-crowd-conferencing. And 25mb down enough for all but 4k-TV (and then went on to say 4K-TV was dead in the water, anyway).

      The survey included "Game Streaming". I assume this meant the playing of games using thin-client tech, rather than MMO style games, which rely more on ping than the ability to shift large amounts of data - upwards - quickly?).

      Game Streaming is a cloud application.

      So, specifically what cloud applications are not being constructed because of a need to ship gigbytes of data in less than, say, a day?

      I read - here or whirlpool, I can't remember - that "Online Backups" was not viable as a service to offer to SME businesses, with only 25/5.

      And that is possibly true. But then a USB Drive and a fireproof - well secured - safe doesn't cost $40-billion.

      There will need to be a great many proposals for such, specific services - over the (10 year?) lifetime of Mal's system - for the upcoming CBA to provide a favourable outcome.

      And, a way around the, "Well, if it is going to be that useful/profitable; why aren't more people paying for their own better link"?

      1. Cpt Blue Bear

        Re: Erm...

        " But then a USB Drive and a fireproof - well secured - safe doesn't cost $40-billion."

        It also doesn't service the whole country, provide any other services or, in reality, work as a fireproof backup . In any sort of decent building fire its highly unlikely the interior of the safe will remain cool enough to save your paper records or cash (remember we have plastic notes here in Oz), so the likely result is your flash drive with it's precious back up will be a smouldering lump or plastic when you get the safe out of the wreckage.

        "Well, if it is going to be that useful/profitable; why aren't more people paying for their own better link"

        The short answer is because its not profitable if everyone has to build their own. That's the point of public infrastructure.

        Further the claim of at least 25Mb is highly dubious given the state of the last mile copper in this country. A position largely due to Telstra having failed to do maintenance over the last decade. I know from tests done by Internode that the cause of the drop from 18Mb to 8Mb were I am is completely due to the last mile. I assume most of the country is in the same boat.

      2. Martin Budden Bronze badge

        Re: Erm...

        And, a way around the, "Well, if it is going to be that useful/profitable; why aren't more people paying for their own better link"?

        You want me to pay for WHAT? Just how rich do you think I am???

        Not only would it mean connecting from the node to my house, it would also mean connecting to the node which does not yet have any fibre whatsoever going to it. In other words I'd be paying tens of thousands just to connect a single house. THAT is why people aren't doing it right now.

        The whole point of doing a national roll-out is that the cost is shared among many, so each house would only pay a fraction of the cost, making it affordable for the majority of households.

        I really do want a better link (and I want it right now) and yes I am willing to pay for it, but I'm just an ordinary bloke so like almost everyone else I can only afford it if the entire neighbourhood is hooked up in one go.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019