Moore’s Law key to fibre’s promise

By John Nixon 13/10/2009 1


New Zealand Herald writer Anthony Doesburg is a very professional technical writer here in New Zealand. He called me recently requesting my comments on the real need for higher internet bandwidth – ie via FTTH (fibre to the home).

I was caught on the hop – no time to reflect on the subject. But his article is very readable. I didn’t intend the joke about dogs peeing on DSLAM cabinets to be printed, but that’s OK, no problem.

I’ve since thought a lot about his question. Internet bandwidth expansion is quite similar to Moore’s Law concerning I.C. chip density, but perhaps even more similar compared to the size and use of HDD (Hard Disk Drive) capacity.

I am personally a 2 Terabyte HDD household now.

Step back a few years: I personally oversaw back in the ’80s the design, build and sale around the Pacific of a complete online retail banking system that ran (and backed up) hundreds of thousands of accounts all on a 10 Mb disk system (5 Mb fixed, 5 Mb removable).

Of course it was written in COBOL, with ASCII characters on TTY monitors etc. But it worked fabulously and made my company a lot of money.

We had to do it, because that 10 Mb drive was bigger than a washing machine and cost an arm and a leg.

So what do I do with 2 Terabytes?

Things that didn’t exist before you “could”.

I have FLAC’d (Free lossless audio compression) my whole collection of CDs (countless numbers) on 1 Tb, and back the drive up to an outboard 1 Tb drive.

The point I’m making is that without the huge capacity of HDDs and memory cards today, you wouldn’t have FLAC, let alone MP3.

The same with internet bandwidth. Create the capacity and the (useful, perhaps life-saving) applications will come.

Those “with” will participate in these useful => practical => advantageous => time/money saving => almost mandatory applications (health, government, job interviews, you name it) .

Those “without” will be considerably disadvantaged.

A quote from the article to illustrate my point:

Nixon says fibre connections direct to homes, businesses and institutions open the way for direct access to government servers, with the ability to do electronically much of what still requires face-to-face interaction with State agencies.

“I’m talking five or 10 years out. There will be a lot of medical applications, home consulting with webcams – it all sounds a bit dreamtime, but it is coming.”

The promised connection speeds sound fast in today’s terms but won’t seem so by the time they’re delivered, Nixon says. Equally, fibre-optic data transmission rates are continually being pushed higher.

“I jokingly compare it to the old phone with the two jam tins and a piece of string. Once you put the fibre in the ground, it’s like the piece of string – you’ll never have to change it.

“But you can change the jam tins – the electronics at each end – easily.”

A pair of “jam tins” is good for five to seven years before an upgrade is warranted, but the technology is such that the sky’s the limit in bandwidth terms, Nixon says.


One Response to “Moore’s Law key to fibre’s promise”

  • Fibre to the door could be great boost for some small businesses.

    I recall a group trying to get a local fibre network set up for the Dunedin business district and inner suburbs a while back. I’ve no idea if they’re still working on this, but if they are, it could be a great tie-in.