Come on Paul, Colin…

By John Nixon 05/12/2009

Paul who? Colin who?
Normally I don’t like talking about individuals, but sometimes I feel the uncontrollable urge to do so!
Paul Budde first. He is a very well known and “respected” expert in Telecoms, broadband, FTTH, NBN etc. He’s a Dutch-born Aussie living not too far from Sydney.
Paul has just issued a public declaration condemning overtly the Kiwi national fibre optic network project.
His argument is that the NZ Government has issued an invitation to tender for the network, but that “half” of the necessary information was missing from the tender document and that no company in their right mind would jump in under such circumstances.
I think that we have to give Paul some points for his criticism, BUT I also think that he should display some diplomacy in his declarations. Robust debate is healthy. We are fortunate to be able to speak freely in our system. If Paul lived in China, even today, he would probably be banished to a collective farm somewhere near Mongolia for such anti-government heresy. We would not want that to happen here of course.
I’ve had the pleasure to meet and converse with most of the MED (Ministry of Economic Development) guys behind the project. I’ve even had a long chat with the new Chair of the Crown Fibre Holdings company. These guys aren’t dills. But none of us have profound experience in this field: the challenge of creating a national high-speed broadband fibre optics network. Nobody has done it before. There are bound to be hiccups. And each country has its own specific parameters.
I’m not saying that Paul is wrong. But there is no point in being scathing when everybody is doing the best job they are able to.
Personally I have my own questions and doubts about the project. It is expressly limited to level one (of seven levels) in the networking stack. There is provision for some level two excursions, but only if justified. Level one is like semaphore or cables without any power. How on earth we can implement a national network at level one beats me. Fibre serves a radius of some 20 Km around each “exchange”, now called a “headend”. There has to be complex gear (read minimum $50-100k investment) in each headend. A 20 km radius is a big area, but many will be needed to cover the 75% of projected subscribers. Nothing to my knowledge has yet been promulgated on this subject here in New Zealand.
And which topology, which standard? P2P active Ethernet (most popular in Europe), GEPON (most popular in Asia), or GPON, (most popular in the USA and for typical residential clients, leaving the others for dead in most new areas).
A level one network in New Zealand just won’t do the trick. Applications are SO important. There is only so much finite space in the headend buildings for people to install their own hardware and solutions.
Anyway, let’s move on to Colin Goodwin.
Colin works for Ericsson in Melbourme, Australia. He, like Paul Budde has visited New Zealand on a number of occasions. He has climbed up on his soap box and made vast declarations about the New Zealand market and technologies. He has been challenged and proven wrong on more than one occasion. He challenged Telecom NZ’s policy on FTTN, dismissing it as useless in the ability to extend to FTTH. WRONG Colin! And you had to apologise publicly about this gaffe.
Now he has been back at work criticising FTTH Video overlay, or the ability to transmit all your current TV and digital radio stations and channels on a third fibre wavelength (1550 nanometres) to offload up to 10 Gbps from the fibre data link, AND the network backhaul capacity. Wrong again Colin! It turns out that Ericsson seems to have nothing to offer in the way of video overlay, so he is trying to destroy the credibility of this excellent option in FTTH. I personally had strong words with him on this very subject at the recent FTTH Council Asia-Pacific meeting in Auckland.
So what am I on about? I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. I am an Aussie by birth. But I happen to live now in New Zealand. So I say to my cousins over the ditch, “go preach to your Parish, and don’t come and tell us we don’t know what we are doing”…
Yes we will make mistakes, as you have and will again in Australia. There are tons of excellent new technologies here in New Zealand. The new exciting breakthrough in cancer research announced by Auckland University yesterday is proof enough.
I am no longer an Aussie or a Kiwi, I’m a proud citizen of the world…
So let’s be a bit calm and kind, even if we have some valid comments or criticisms. Let’s be nice to each other. Don’t hide your strong beliefs, but express them in a way that does not bless. We are all in this together.

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