Beginners guide to the NBN

There has been a lot of confusion and speculation in the media about the Tasmanian FTTH segment of the National Broadband Network. Here are some of the concerns and questions that we have seen and some answers and explanations.

“It won’t come to my exchange.”
The fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network does not use existing Telstra exchanges. It is a new network comprised of fibre optic cables (instead of copper wiring, as Telstra’s lines are), connected via Aurora’s existing power distribution infrastructure (poles and underground ducts), and connecting to a brand new network.

“Why is the internet so important?”
The FTTH network is an infrastructure project, not an internet project. The network will be capable of delivering the following services to home users:

  • Internet access (initially at 10x the average ADSL2+ speed, scalable in the future)
  • Telephony services (at VoIP rates – national calls for fixed rates of 15-20c, any time)
  • Free-to-air TV (standard definition and high definition)
  • Pay TV (currently delivered by cable, wireless or satellite)
  • Broadcast radio (AM or FM radio)
  • Internet radio (choose from thousands of speciality genres)
  • Video on demand (similar to ABC’s iView or renting a DVD)
  • Services that don’t even exist yet!

For businesses, schools and hospitals, they can gain access to all of the above, plus things like:

  • Video conferencing
  • Specialist medical services

Another benefit to consider is the different methods of distribution of the above services. Radio spectrum, copper wiring, coaxial wiring, satellite, wireless, or even physical media (in the DVD rental example). Towns or premises which currently can not receive some of the above services, will, with one fibre optic cable, be able to get all of them.

“They’ll try to force their filtering plan onto it so that we can’t get around it”
Since (to the best of our knowledge) the government owned company that will be operating the NBN will only be running the physical/wholesale network – not at the retail level – this should be difficult or impossible to do.

“Tasmania will never be the first”
The Tasmanian Government (and its state-owned businesses) already have a lot of the necessary infrastructure and experience:

  • Basslink – Aurora has a contract to provide services over Basslink
  • TasGovNet – the Government owns the on-island fibre linking the four major cities and George Town
  • Distribution method – Aurora Energy already had a network of poles, wires and ducts
  • FTTP experience – Aurora has already been operating a FTTP trial, formerly known as TasCOLT, for over two years
  • A detailed proposal was submitted to the Federal Government at the start of the NBN tender process

“This is only cutting edge till the next boffin solders two wires together and presto its obsolete.”
Fibre optic cables have been being laid for decades and we still do not know the maximum capacity of a fibre optic cable because we haven’t invented devices that can send data down it fast enough!

In the same way that a copper phone line which carried a 56k dial up link was able to carry a 1.5Mbit ADSL link by replacing the equipment at either end, a fibre connection installed now will have its capacity increased many times over during its life.