Recent Thoughts – Australian NBN and New Zealand UFB

By John Nixon 17/09/2012



National Fibre Optic-based broadband networks are being installed right now in Australia and New Zealand.





I read every day criticism about the slow progress, and even the overall justification of these two major projects.

Typical of this is “Why the NBN could be a white elephant“, published by a reputable news source. This journalist bemoans the slowness of progress and questions whether the fibre network could be left behind by the new 4G (LTE) wireless network.

Another, this time from New Zealand says “UFB nowhere near ready for prime-time“.

And again: “Google’s Fibre channels NBN woes“.

Over and over again these supposed experts are totally missing the point.

A nation-wide fibre-optics based communications network is totally inevitable.

The present telephone network took 100 years to grow to where it is today. However the 600 ohm copper twisted pair has run out of steam and must be gradually replaced with something that will allow us to expand bandwidth-wise into the next century.

This does not have to happen overnight, nor will it. It’s a massive infrastructure undertaking and is bound to be fraught with challenges and set-backs as the spiderweb of fibre grows.

Some of the criticism is constructive, such as: “A chance to bury the power lines“.

This makes total sense, but I have my doubts as to whether much attention will be paid to it.

For those who wish to learn more about the Australian NBN, a free e-Book has just been released which can be downloaded.

Now let me explain why wireless will NEVER challenge fibre in broadband distribution.

The amount of digital information that can be transported is limited by the frequency of the carrier. The carrier frequencies used by wireless (3G, 4G, nG) are infinitely lower than the frequencies of the infra-red light transmitted over fibre. Consequently any wireless system can not attain anywhere near the bandwidth of light transmitted over fibre.

I made my own trial with Telstra’s 3G “Turbo” system here on the Gold Coast. At the outset it worked acceptably well. But as time went by, and no doubt Telstra added many more subscribers to the network, both speed AND the simple ability to connect became unacceptable. I would connect, it told me I was connected, but NO DATA flow! After multiple attempts it would connect but deliver woefully slow bandwidth. Currently there is no 4G service available in my area of the Gold Coast.

I’ve since gone back to ADSL.

Some of the critics don’t seem to realise that both NBN and UFB are wholesale only networks. A client will never deal direct with NBN, Chorus etc. As the network becomes available in more places, more ISPs will offer packages accessing this new national wholesale network.

Right now, ISPs have to install their own ADSL DSLAMS (the ADSL transmitters) in old Telco exchanges or in roadside cabinets. Generally these are not shared, which limits your choice of ISP in each area.

With the new FTTH network, ISPs will simply purchase bandwidth wholesale from the network owner at regulated prices, and package this up in a competitive manner. They no longer need to install their own equipment all over the country.

Yes it’s true that current ADSL and ADSL2+ delivers pretty adequate speeds for the average person’s bandwidth requirement.

But global IP bandwidth usage has increased eight-fold over the past five years and is increasing exponentially. Just take a look at: “Forecast and Methodology 2011 – 2016” by Cisco. Within a short space of time we will be unable to deliver adequate bandwidth without fibre.

Certainly many remote areas will not get FTTH for quite some time, if ever. Wireless and satellite will compliment in these cases, albeit with much reduced bandwidth. And remember that the “cloud” has to get as close as possible to the wireless transmitter, and of course this is done over fibre.

Change of email: I am always happy to hear from readers. My “onefibre” web site and email was wiped by a villain ISP without any apology or compensation. Grrrr…

My best contact is now: