Why not wireless?

The numerous mainstream media articles on the NBN (and particularly the comments sections) are invariably littered with statements like “Wireless is the future”, “Everyone knows fixed lines are dead”, “fibre optics are being made obsolete” etc etc.

And no-one more than I would love that to be true. I’m sure we all would. The thought that we could obtain superfast data speeds without the need for wires is a tantalising concept. Unfortunately, it’s just not possible for the majority of users in urban areas. That’s not to say wireless networks won’t continue to improve. Of course they will. But they will never approach the current or future speeds possible via fibre-optic cables. Wireless towers/base stations themselves are connected to the broader internet via fibre-optic cables.

Statistics from the ABS reinforce the fact that fixed line networks continue to do the “heavy lifting”, with no shift towards mobile networks.

Wireless is a great complementary technology for deployment alongside fast fixed networks, and is also useful for delivering broadband to a small number of users in remote areas. But it is incapable of doing so in densely populated urban areas.

Let me make one fact absolutely clear from the beginning: Despite what you may have read from certain clueless commentators, there is not a single country or telecommunications company anywhere in the World that is attempting to replace fixed networks with wireless in urban areas, or even planning to do so in the future.

The concise explanation
  • Physical limitations prevent practical wireless speeds from approaching those available over fibre-optic cables.
  • There is insufficient radio spectrum to allow wireless to replace fixed networks for a larger percentage of the population in urban areas.
  • To even partially overcome the above limitations, we would need to build over 75,000 new mobile transmission towers across Australia
  • Wireless network connections are prohibitively expensive, typically being 3-4 times more expensive, for less data volume and at a slower speed.
The detailed explanation

Fibre Vs Wireless speeds


Commercially, fibre-optic cables are being used to carry data at speeds of about 2 Terabits per second (Tbps). Experimentally, trials are now achieving over 69Tbps over a single fibreoptic strand.  (A Terabit is 1,000 Gigabits or 1,000,000 Megabits).

While the NBN will not be equipped to deliver such massive speeds initially, like all fibre-optic networks it is highly upgradable should greater speeds be required in the future. Speed increases only require upgrading of the transmission equipment with the fibre itself being unchanged.


Current 3G and 3.5G wireless networks (eg: Telstra NextG) offer theoretical speeds of up to 42Mbps. However, practically that network falls to a maximum of about 8Mbps, even under ideal conditions. Experimentally the 4G/LTE Advanced consortium is achieving about 1Gbps (per cell), as is the competing WiMax consortium.

So let’s compare wireless and fibre, with all speeds converted to Gbps:

Experimental Current Theoretical Current Actual
Fibreoptic (per strand) 69000 Gbps 2000Gbps 2000 Gbps
Wireless (Per cell) 1 Gbps 0.042 Gbps 0.008 Gbps

As it currently stands, fibreoptics are achieving speeds that are 250,000 times faster than wireless. In the experimental stages,  fibre can carry 69,000 times more data than the entire bandwidth delivered by a wireless tower!

Other wireless speed limiting factors:


Speeds quoted for wireless networks are per cell, not per user. The total speed must be divided amongst all the users on that cell. So unless a user has their own personal cellular tower, the quoted speeds can never be achieved. For example, if 100 people are sharing a 1Gbps wireless network, they will each only obtain 10Mbps.

Topography, distance and other obstructions:

While data travels fast and essentially unobstructed through the glass of fibre-optic cables, the same is not true of wireless. Every obstruction along the way obstructs wireless data. From buildings, to hills, to trees, to rain. Even the air itself slows the effective speeds we can achieve wirelessly. These are unassailable limitations of the technology and they are one of the major reasons why “42Mbps” wireless networks usually operate at a tiny fraction of that speed.

Clearly, there is no hope for wireless to offer speeds approaching current fibre-optic technology, let alone fibre speeds which are under development.

They say a picture tells a thousand words, so here are several thousand, comparing the speeds achieved using a fibre NBN connection to those using Cable, ADSL and 3.5G wireless networks:

The comparison above clearly demonstrates the practical limitations of the various technologies.

Below is a graphic showing the effect of distance, which is particularly important in a large country such as Australia:

The Spectrum Shortage

The biggest issue currently facing wireless data networks isn’t the obstructions. It’s another physical limitation: Radio Spectrum.

Every user added to a wireless network uses more radio spectrum. Every speed increase also uses more spectrum. For example, the 4G/LTE consortium reports that they can deliver a 300Mbps network using 20Mhz of spectrum per site. But delivering 1Gbps requires 100Mhz of spectrum per site (See page 12).

So why does it matter how much spectrum we use? Can’t we just add more? Well, no. Spectrum is a finite resource, which is already being stretched by the low volume of data being transmitted over mobile networks. It is also used by numerous other services, such as radio and television broadcasting and other radio traffic, which reduces the amount that can be allocated to wireless broadband services. The United States Federal Communications Commission chairman has stated that wireless broadband is already “in peril” due to spectrum shortages, while the CEOs of Vodafone and RIM (Blackberry) have stated that wireless broadband is reaching crisis point. Meanwhile, industry experts have advised that the spectrum shortage will be debilitating by 2013. And all these warnings are just assuming wireless broadband remains as a low volume complement to fixed broadband, not as a replacement for it. Even if additional spectrum is allocated to wireless broadband services, there simply isn’t enough radio spectrum in existence for wireless to approach fibre-optics.

A single strand of fibre-optic cable can carry 20,000 times more data than the entire radio frequency spectrum combined.

Mobile Towers

Even if the spectrum issue could be overcome, for wireless to deliver superfast broadband to all of Australia it would require a huge increase in the number of mobile phone towers, and we all know how popular they are!

Australia currently has about 10,000 mobile phone towers across the country. To build a 4G/LTE Advanced network that could achieve a similar level of performance to the fibre-optic NBN, we would need to build approximately 75,000 additional mobile phone towers (Assuming 10M premises, 1Gbps per cell, 6 cells per tower, delivering 100Mbps to 50% of premises simultaneously).

Of course, all of those towers would have to be connected using fibre-optic cable.

Isn’t the world going wireless?

There is a perception that everyone is changing to wireless, but they’re not. They are adding it. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of mobile broadband internet connections grew by ~40% in Australia between 2009 and 2010. But the total amount of data downloaded over the wireless networks actually fell, despite the greater numbers. Conversely, the amount being downloaded over fixed networks is still increasing by about 50% every year.

South Korea, a country that already has a 100Mbps fibre-optic NBN, has announced that they are spending $US26bn upgrading their fibre network to a speed of 1Gbps, to compliment their WiMax (4G) wireless broadband networks.

Just as you can’t replace a regular oven with a microwave, you cannot replace a fast fixed network with a wireless one. The two are complementary technologies, not competing ones. To have a successful wireless broadband network, you must build it on the back of a fast, high volume fixed network.

What about cost?

The other big issue preventing wireless networks replacing fixed ones is the enormous cost difference between the services, despite the vastly inferior performance.

For example, the largest wireless broadband plan on the Telstra NextG wireless network is 12GB of data for $89.95 per month, where Telstra quote speeds of “between 1.1 and 20Mbps in metropolitan areas, with lower speeds outside metro areas”. (see here) By contrast, on the NBN you can get 20GB of data for $29.95 per month, at a speed of 25Mbps. (see here) For another $9.95, you can add a phoneline with all local and national calls for free.

So it’s possible to have an NBN connection and a phone, free calls, twice as much data at a higher speed, plus a smartphone with a gig or two of data (on a ~$45 mobile plan) for less money than a mobile broadband connection alone.

What about DIDO?

The ink was barely dry on the sketchy DIDO wireless white paper when the anti-NBN brigade began touting it as something which will imminently make the optical fibre of the NBN obsolete. So what is DIDO?

Well, right now it’s vapourware. There are no technical specifications, detailed explanations or independent tests of the technology, outside the self-published and extremely basic white paper linked to above.

DIDO is a series of grandiose promises from a small startup technology company in the USA, who are trying to raise capital after failing to generate interest in the concept. The promotor claims that the system can overcome one of the limitations of regular wireless technologies, being the massive speed reductions that occur as more users join the network. They claim that the entire capacity of the wireless network can be delivered to each user at the same time. Sounds rather unlikely. Is it just another example of Silicone Valley’s too-good-to-be-true Next Big Things?

You never know though, DIDO might do everything they say it can. But at this stage it’s very much in the early experimental stage. Right now, DIDO has only been tested in a laboratory with 10 users, and outdoors with 3 users. They claim from these tests to be able to scale up to 100 or 1000 users. I’m not kidding. On the basis of claims by a venture capitalist that this technology works in this limited environment, mental giants like Andrew Bolt are declaring the NBN to be dead and buried!

So let’s give DIDO the benefit of the doubt, and assume it can do everything they say it can, what would that mean for the NBN?

  • There is many, many years of research to be done. Scaling from 10 users in a lab to a network that can serve 13 Million connections is a huge task. Expect a decade of research.
  • There is currently no regulatory approval of the system, including testing alongside other users of radio spectrum. The US regulator has so-far refused to grant even an experimental licence for the technology.
  • DIDO doesn’t overcome any of the other limitations of wireless, such as distance, signal loss and obstruction penetration.
  • It has not been tested at all with moving receivers, and it has not been tested at long range except using ridiculously low frequencies of 3-5MHz, requiring the signal to bounce off the atmosphere, creating more potential interference and latency.
  • It has not been tested at all in a “cellular” system, which would be required to achieve fixed-network replacement.
  • Each DIDO base station must be connected to a datacentre by a fast internet connection (ie: Optical fibre). So even if DIDO works, it will happily plug into the NBN, just like WiFi.

So while it’s true that there is huge potential for DIDO if everything they say is accurate, it will be a long, long time before it will be commercially available. So how does this affect the NBN? Should we just sit back and do nothing until this particular Next Big Thing arrives? Then what? Do we then sit around for another 10 years waiting for the next one? Let’s also not forget that it still doesn’t solve some of the biggest problems of wireless communication.

It should come as no surprise then, that no telecommunication engineers or physicists have come out saying DIDO will make the NBN redundant. Even the developer itself only promotes DIDO as a cellular replacement, not a fixed network replacement. That job is left to the usual band of technologically-clueless commentators, who -as always- apparently know better than people who actually possess some qualifications on the topic.

More DIDO reading:



191 thoughts on “Why not wireless?

    1. Wireless has it’s benefits, but without the copper and fire optic infrastructure, there will be no wireless. Just sayin. JEff

    2. Satellites will be the way of the future but many existing problems with raising the capital for an expensive fibre optic network and the cost of repairing a break in any deep ocean trench may seem ok at first, but lets wait and see if the winner is the grinner.

      1. There are numerous problems with satellites, many of which cannot be overcome with improved technology. The primary issue is latency: The time it takes for a signal to go from the satellite to the ground and back again. This is a result of basic physics, and cannot be reduced. Every time you visit a website or download a file, signals bounce back and forth numerous times. This is what makes even ‘fast’ satellite connections seem so slow. If you’d ever used a sat connection and compared it to a terrestrial connection, then you would;t be thinking that satellites were the future.

        There’s a reason why not a single country on the planet is building a satellite data network to replace terrestrial networks for anything but remote areas, and a reason why international satellite data links have been all-but replaced by undersea cables.

        1. Quite correct, its “horses for courses”. Latency is important for some applications but not important for others. Clearly, there is scope for a hybrid network with cable, repeaters and satellites each being more cost effective in different scenarios.

          1. Tom,

            Take it from an network engineer who’s used everything from 300baud acoustic modems to fibre to the node equipment and having personally owned a two way satellite system, you cannot overcome the physical delay associated with the speed of light and the associated distance to the satellite. If you examine any network communications, you’ll note that most TCP/IP protocols and software transactions have been designed to originally work on fixed lines networks and are inherently ‘chatty’. To establish a TCP/IP network connection you need to initially send a request, then an acknowledgement and then a follow up acknowledgement. If you were to send that via a terrestrial link, it would finish in microseconds, whereas each path delay to the satellite introduces a half second delay. So just to set up a single HTTP session for example, the difference is microseconds to one and a half seconds. Multiply that by all of the ‘chatty’ comms and you’ll see why satellite will never work for anything but ‘streaming’ type protocols (such as TV etc). Another example is remote desktop. Try that via satellite. Every keystroke response is delayed by seconds.

            If you don’t believe me, load the free ‘WireShark’ network protocol analyser on your PC and capture some network traffic and then add 0.5 seconds delay to every packet that is initiated and you’ll quickly see how much impact there would be if that same connectivity went via Satellite. Sure there are clever compression algorithms that try to compensate but at the end of the day, the signal still has to travel to the satellite and its travel time is limited by the speed of light,

            Maybe when (if) Google runs wireless from balloons hovering at 15km, it may be more practical, although you still have 0.1 ms latency to add for each packet transaction header just for the round trip transit delay.

    3. You are WRONG WRONG WRONG, it’s so funny now it is becoming clearer and clearer even to the dumb you are WRONG WRONG WRONG 5G IoT is the future even now I can get 50MBs on Optus for 70GB for $79 10 times faster than broadband spees and 2-3 times faster than NBN ha ha ha ah a haa haaa ahaaaa ah ha, you arrogant person. Qualcomm CEO said 5G is the biggest invention since electricity not FTTP ha ha ah hahha aha ha

      1. Hmm. Let’s see. If you’re getting 50Mbps on 4G, then you’re the only one. Average 4G speeds are closer to 10Mbps, and generally getting slower. The FTTP NBN meanwhile is currently capable of 1,000Mbps and upgradable to 10,000Mbps using currently available technology. So, I think you can see which one is the horse and which one is the Ferrari. Then there is congestion…. If you are getting 50Mbps on Optus, then the reason is because almost no-one near you is also using it. They are doing their downloading over fixed lines. If your neighbours moved to Optus 4G, then you’d quickly drop to a crawl. Same will apply to 5G, although technological advances will mean it will be slightly less of a crawl than 4G. I imagine Qualcomm’s CEO would say that, since they’re trying to sell 5G equipment. In other breaking news, the CEO of Mobil says that petrol powered cars are the future….

        FYI, here’s what Optus actually say on the topic:
        “I hear lots of things from companies that don’t even own wireless networks, let alone have spectrum, and [from] other companies who are clearly lobbying very hard to get government subsidies for rolling out those wireless networks, that wireless is in fact the way forward. Optus has a very great faith in the future of wireless and in its ability to offer greater broadband capability and, in particular, mobility attached to that capability. But it will always be a complementary service for fixed broadband. There are a range of shared network issues, spectrum et cetera that will make it a complementary service. It’ll lag fibre in technical capability over time, and it’s unikely to be suited to many future applications requiring dedicated and symmetric high capacity access to multiple end users.”

        1. Simple question, do you drive an electric car and are you fully recharging it only with solar? They’ve been around for years after all, arrogant and hypocritical I suspect, anyway the future most important innovation of cars is not electric it is self driving networked cars, which cannot drive around with a cable sticking out the rear end. News flash, capitalism is driven by what people will pay for and they pay for the best useful things, that’s how you know whether it really is useful or just some arrogant individual’s opinion.

          1. I didn’t say I had an electric car. I just used the analogy to illustrate the stupidity of using a quote from a wireless company as evidence that wireless is replacing fixed lines. No comment from you on what Optus had to say on the issue, I see?

            Anyway, your other point seems to be “What are people willing to pay for?” Is there a trend with people moving away from fixed lines to mobile (as opposed to people adding mobile services to their fixed lines). You tell me: ABS data Australian Internet average volumes Dec09-Jun16

          2. Here’s an interesting stat for you…. The volume of data consumed over fixed lines increases each month, on average, by 3x the total data carried on wireless networks for that month. Just to make that clearer… If you added up every gigabyte served over every wireless network in Australia via phones and dongles etc, then you looked at just the increase in data served via fixed line networks for that month, then the increase alone is 3x more than the total volume carried by all the wireless networks combined for that month.

            Wireless networks are already struggling to keep up with demand, and you believe they have the capability to increase their capacity by 3-fold every single month? To say nothing of the 60-fold increase that would be required to take on the current fixed network load?

          3. Tick Tick Tick, that’s the sound of the clock ticking for you and the other Fixed Line Luddites my friend. 130 GB on a $70 Optus plan getting 40Mbps now. Tick Tick Tick Tick. Every six months the clocking ticks further and further away towards your and the fixed line Luddites eventual obvious foolishness being revealed.

          4. It’s ironic that you that say “Every six months the clock ticks further and further away” from fixed lines, considering that the ABS release internet data stats six-monthly. Unfortunately, those stats only make you look increasingly foolish.

            I would have thought following the massive growth in streaming, that the “mobile will replace fixed lines” people would have climbed into a hole and kept quiet, lest they embarrass themselves further. But I suppose there’s always one…

            Mobile data use is growing certainly. Nobody ever said it wouldn’t. But fixed line usage is growing much faster due primarily to the growth in streaming and catch-up TV services etc. Mobile data continues to be a complementary service.

            Let’s look at a few facts about usage (from the ABS) and capability:

            The number of fixed line connection in Australia grew by 2.6% between 2016 and 2017, compared to a population growth of 1.4%. So much for people abandoning fixed lines.

            In the last quarter, fixed lines downloaded an average of 131GB per month, growing at an average of 46% compounded per year since 2010. By contrast, mobile growth was only 10%pa over the same period. And now mobile growth includes NBN fixed wireless and satellite, inflating the wireless figures.

            In fact, the growth alone in fixed line data is thirteen times greater than the total usage via mobile data. Let me put that another way…. In the last year, the fixed line network increased by thirteen times the entire volume carried by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone combined.

            Mobile data represents just 1.96% of all data delivered in Australia. A figure that has barely changed over the years. And Optus only have a 22% market share of that, so only 0.39% of total data. Their 4G network is supposed to deliver speeds of 150-300Mbps. Yet (according to you), it’s only delivering 40Mbps. Indicating that it’s already unable to cope with the demands being placed upon it. Given mobile bandwidth is shared and spectrum is finite, how do you think Optus’ 4G would cope if you increased the load on their network by 4,894%? That’s what would be the case right now if you transferred average fixed line usage to mobile. Plus, you’d need to increase that capacity by another 46% every 12 months to allow for growth.

            Tick, Tick, Tick? I’d suggest you buy a new clock, because yours is clearly not telling the correct time.
            ABS Internet average volume Dec09-Jun17

      2. Mark is a typical end user who looks at the speed he/she gets on his device and thinks the rest of the supporting infrastructure can simply go wireless. Mark has no concept of the shared wireless spectrum limitations. Mark is simply a troll here.

        1. Tick, tick, tick, Optus Launches 5G unlimited data plans 15% of households have no fixed, Optus estimates another 15% will join them in the near future with release of 5G. If telling the truth to a small group on their little website is disturbing you I can’t imagine what the real world must do to you.

          1. Ho hum. First it was 3G that was going to make the fibre redundant. Then it was 4G. Then 4GX. Now, apparently, it’s 5G. Meanwhile, wireless data growth is still flat and fixed is still growing at 50%pa. Optus’ 5G home trial isn’t mobile wireless, it’s fixed wireless. It’s $70/month for 50Mbps. So about the same price as an unlimited NBN plan at double the speed. And being shared, as soon as there’s a few people in a cell on it, evening speeds will plummet. Just as they always do in The Real World.

  1. “Just as you can’t replace a regular oven with a microwave”

    Love the article, however wanted to let you know this is a poor technology. I have used a convectiion microwave oven to replace and oven, when I first moved out of home there was no oven so got the microwave which worked quite well for cooking roasts, cakes e.t.c.

    1. Ahh, but that’s a convection microwave. ie, it gets hot like a regular oven.

      Anyway, the point is that there would be a few people who could replace an oven with a regular microwave. But for the vast majority, the two technologies are complementary, not competitive.

      1. Great article. Thanks. You nailed it with your term “complementary technology”. The two are not mutually excluding “alternatives”. I was blown away by your objective discussion on the options available today.

        If you are the future of NBN, bring it on.

  2. Thanks for writing this. I never thought wireless would make a great alternative to fibre – it’s simply ridiculous. Wireless is fine for gadgets and mobile devices (iphones, ipad, hand held game devices, etc), but not for consistent “at home” connection or work connection.
    I can’t wait until NBN comes by my neighbourhood and replaces the idiotic copper connection that runs through the RIM in my area (and I won’t have to be subject to Telstra either!).

    1. You’ve never used a wireless router?

      1. Wireless over a small distance (<50m) is MUCH more reliable than wireless over large distances, thanks to the inverse square law (a connection 10 times further is 1000 times weaker); not to mention the fact that the same dozen very wide channels are reused over and over in small areas transfer MUCH more data each than many thin channels over a wider area…

        The physics of radio waves are NOT in our favour when it comes to using them as data transfer mediums.

        1. Just to correct: 10x d = 1/100, and not 1/1000.

          Yes, I know that path loss is a sq law, like any other any RF engineer.

          It’s fair to say that wireless presents great challenges, but it’s also fair to say that we’ve taken up those challenges and are advancing the cause at a rate that was unimaginable back when “Group Speciale Mobile” was born.

          1. I agree. I remember being told the theoretical maximum that our copper could carry due to the noise levels. That was in 1992. We’ve smashed that maximum repeatedly since then, and the same is being seen with wireless. When no possible way to get higher throughput is visible, somebody finds one. And the key point for me, is that the bandwidth possible stays JUST ahead of our actual immediate requirement. Having terrabytes of bandwidth would be useless to me right now, and would be for years to come. By the time I need it, technology will have moved on, and I bank on wireless giving me what I need at that point, and not tied to one location either!

          2. Wireless data is massively expensive compared to fixed line. That’s why most people have both. They use their fixed lines at home for the ‘heavy lifting’ of video, software updates etc, and they use mobile for low volume mobile use.

            There was no physical reason preventing copper form improving speeds, it’s just that the tech (such as ADSL) had not been invented. That’s not the issue with wireless. With that, we are bumping into physical limitations of radio bandwidth. Unless the laws of physics are re-written, there’s no hope that any wireless can ever approach the capacity of optic fibre, because the light spectrum is 20,000 times larger than the entire radio spectrum. And every strand of fibre can use the whole spectrum, but with wireless the available spectrum must be shared by every type of user in an area (radio, TV, CB, satellites, private radio networks), and by different carriers and users on each cellular network. So in practise, it’s a tiny fraction of 1/20000th the capacity of fibre.

            Wireless is only “just keeping ahead” of needs because it’s being artificially limited by price. Carriers know that they need to force people to limit their use of data on mobile networks to keep them from collapsing. 4G wireless is only as fast as it is because people can’t use it for high volume downloads because of cost. If Telstra gave everybody 1TB a month on their 4G network, it would slow to a crawl. By limiting people to a few GB per month, they can ensure that everybody can get a half-decent speed most of the time.

            And yet even with these artificial limits, 4G is not even close to the current capability of the NBN, let alone what it can actually deliver.

  3. Vivian Crompton 19 April, 2011 — 4:50 pm

    Great article – explains the issues perfectly and much more clearly than I have been able to in the past – I have usually had to resort to analogies of people talking all at once across a room compared to talking on phone lines to each other. I will be definitely redirecting others to this site next time I get into a discussion of the merits of wired/fiber vs wireless.

  4. A great solid article with well articulated points.

  5. Ahhh the never ending story of “more is better”. In practice I could add rockets to my car and it will go much faster than the internal combustion engine, however I have no practical need to do so. While your article does call out the difference in theoretical maximum through-put it fails to address the point that the average user will have one connection per device and that will not require much more through-put than that used all over the country right now. Let’s face it, video bit rates of around 2meg sustained provide more than acceptable viewing quality for even 1080p screens. As long as compression technology continues to evolve, fibre will stay where it belongs, doing the heavy-lift backhaul to get the data to the mobile towers we will not be able to live without.

    1. First, it’s not just “more is better”. Yes, that is a part of it and history tells us that required bandwidth and per-user volume will continue to grow, thereby requiring higher speeds. Both have been growing since the beginning, and are showing no signs of slowing down.

      Per-connection volume has been growing by at least 50% every year (compounded) since 2001, according to ABS stats and the Cisco reports. To think this will suddenly stop is naive.

      Telstra have just launched their “4G” mobile broadband service, and the largest available plan is a paltry 15GB per month. Clearly this is totally insufficient as a fixed-line replacement for an average user, when you consider that as at June 2011, the AVERAGE ADSL/Cable connection in Australia is downloading 47GB per month.

      Then of course, there is the price. That 15GB (at maybe 10Mbps) will cost a whopping $100 per month. For the same money on the NBN, you get 1,000GB at 100Mbps. 10x the speed, 67x the data for the same price. And yet you expect that every device will have a wireless connection. So in your World, that’s $100 per month for the TV, another $100pm for the desktop. $100pm for the laptop, $100pm for the iPad….. So far we’ve spent a total of $400 per month, for a total capacity of (maybe) 40Mbps and a total volume of 90GB. Who in their right mind would pay that much, when the NBN is so much faster and cheaper? Your utopia also ignores the fact that wireless is a shared medium, so the more users the slower it gets.

      The FACT is that there is not a SINGLE telco or country anywhere in the World advocating replacing their fixed networks with wireless in urban areas. Because no Telcos are stupid enough to think it’s possible. They understand that the physical limitations of the medium prevent it. That’s why Telcos everywhere try to offload as much data as possible to WiFi and the fixed networks, because cellular nets are already beginning to collapse under the tiny load they now carry.

      If you think 2Mbps provides sufficient quality for 1080p screens, then it’s time to visit the optometrist. A minimum of 5Mbps would be a closer estimate of reasonable quality using H.264 at 1080p. But resolutions will continue to grow alongside the size of TVs, and I suspect we;’ll be seeing HDR and 2160p resolutions, which will quickly absorb any advances in compression tech, and then some. But that aside, it’s not just about a single user, it’s about multiple simultaneous use.

      All that said, I agree that cellular wireless is something “we won’t be able to live without”. Which is exactly why it’s so important that we have a fast fixed network to do the heavy lifting of home and business use, leaving the cellular systems to take the low-volume convenience side of the market. It’s not The NBN OR wireless. It’s the NBN PLUS wireless.

      1. I see the two networks as complimentary too, but in a different way. Wired networks already do the heavy lifting perfectly well and will continue to do so on long hauls for commercial use. If we have fibre to the node, and the nodes are plentiful and close together, then wireless for the last leg should be a short run will minimised contention. NOW USE THAT FOR MOBILE TOO! So rather than having several competing commercial vendors like Telstra, Optus, and Voda, all consuming bandwidth over longer distances, we have a national infrastructure that pools all that bandwidth for maximised throughput, with minimised contention, and your phone battery life will improve too. If anyone doesn’t like the performance they get, they can seek a wired connection for their last leg (and see if they get any actual performance improvement anyway). I think most of the time the bottlenecks elsewhere, and the number of times they are accessing data away from their premises, will mean they have wasted their money,

        1. Hi Ross,

          While it sounds nice in theory, there are a number of issues with your plan.

          In practise, it just won’t work. There is not a single country on the planet where such a network is being proposed by Governments or telecommunication companies. That alone should tell you something.

          Even if all the available radio spectrum were forcibly taken from the existing carriers and pooled into one network, it would not even come close to delivering the required bandwidth. Currently, wireless only carries about 6% of internet traffic by volume. And it cannot cope even with that tiny portion. Australian internet traffic volume is increasing by about 50% per year, every year for the last decade. The growth rate is actually increasing, and the capability growth of wireless technology is not coming close to that sort of an increase. So given that wireless cannot cope with 6% of today’s volume, how do you think it could cope with 100% of the volume in, say, 5 years? That would represent 7500% more volume than carried by wireless networks today. Even smaller cells could not allow a tiny fraction of that sort of capacity.

          Another practical issue is wireless base stations. NBN Co are only covering 4% of the population with wireless by building about 1500 towers, yet they are having huge amounts of trouble getting them approved. Imagine trying to install 60,000 towers. And no, you can’t put them at street level if you want decent performance. You’d need to at least install them on a pole.

          Then there is cost. Wireless data is incredibly expensive, because everything to do with it is expensive. Buying 15GB of data on Telstra 4G costs $100 per month, but for $100 a month on ADSL, cable or fibre gets you around 1000GB of data.

  6. The fibre vs ADSL vs 3G graph is fantastic! Any chance of an updated one with 4G speeds?

    1. Haha, no it’s not. They have clearly hand picked the speed results that benefit them.

      My ADSL2+ speedtest sits at 17Mbps and my 4G phone connection is 40Mbps. I only had 2 bars of signal strength when I did the test.

      On my ADSL2+ I can stream 1080p video with surround sound audio in much faster than real time. More than good enough for video conferencing and this hyped up healthcare at home.

      5G is coming by 2020 and is already doing 100x faster than 4G.

      More is not better. Better isn’t even better otherwise we would’ve had Betamax instead of VHS, OS2 instead of Windows etc etc.

      Consumer trends is to use mobiles and tablets with sim cards to connect. Ignore this at your own peril.

      1. 1. The average speed of ADSL2+ in Australia is 8-9Mbps. You might well get 17Mbps, but most people don’t get anywhere near that. ADSL speeds depend on distance from the exchange, so you obviously live close by. Lucky you. What about the rest of the population?

        2. Your 4G speed is currently that high because there are so few people using the 4G network in your area. Like all wireless technologies, the available bandwidth is shared. Each cell can deliver 150Mbps, so for you to get 40Mbps means that there were only 2-3 other users on the cell at the time. However, wait until there are 100 users all trying to share it. This is already happening in the USA, and 4G speeds have dropped to under 10Mbps in metropolitan areas.

        3. You ADSL2+ can only stream 1080p downstream. You cannot send it upstream, because even the maximum theoretical speed of ADSL2+ upstream is 1Mbps. So it is not possible for you to have a 1080p HD video conference, because while you can receive a stream you cannot transmit one.

        4. There is no draft 5G standard in existence, let alone one that is “100x faster than 4G and coming in 2020”. In fact, Ericsson recently said that there is little prospect of a 5G in the foreseeable future, because they have no way to improve substantially on 4G. There is LTE-advanced coming soon, which offers about 6x more speed than 4G (LTE). However, it uses considerably more radio spectrum, and will therefore suffer the same issues of 3G and 4G as more users connect.

        5. The consumer trend is to add mobile connections, not to replace their fixed line connections with mobile. This is clearly evidenced in both the ABS stats and those in the Cisco annual reports.

        I suggest you do some more fact-checking, Jan.

        1. Personally, I see reliability as the biggest advantage of last mile fibre over FTTN or wireless. To compare the theoretical speeds of fibre and wireless is rather spurious IMHO. What is valid is to compare speed with requirement. The assumption being made that requirement for future user bandwidth can only be met with fibre (FTTH) is far from correct.

          FWIW I spent 12 years as a wireless network planning engineer with a large telco, and that included 2G, 3G, and 3.9G (OFDM)
          I can say with great confidence that wireless has a big future ahead. Not just because of more radio spectrum but also because of MIMO, SDR, battery technology, processing power etc. The future isn’t large telecommunications towers in every street but rather it’s pico cells and wi-fi hot spots which are small enough to be invisible. Wireless capacity isn’t just proportional to RF spectrum, it’s proportional to the number of cells. More cells = less users per cell = higher throughput, and this is exactly the means by which wireless networks have grown capacity over the past 30 years. Naturally you still need fibre backhaul for a wireless RBS but that may or may not be NBN co infrastructure. The big telcos own their own SDH fibre transmission networks to support their wireless networks.

          In summary, yes, NBN FTTH is probably desirable for reliable internet in the home and yes it does provide future proofing for bandwidth requirements yet to be conceived but I also have confidence to state that the sky will not fall in with a coalition victory and a FTTN solution. FTTN’s can be deployed much faster and with VDSL it will provide for bw requirements as they exist today, and together with wireless can provide our needs for a couple of decades at the very least.

          For me personally it’s not a big election policy. A labor win and FTTH is nice but I will be waiting until about 2022 before the NBN co trucks come to my suburban street. In the meantime I have wirelss 4G and very slow ADSL to see me through.

          1. ” also have confidence to state that the sky will not fall in with a coalition victory and a FTTN solution. ”

            4 months on and the sky fell in over the Coalitions FTTN solution. 😛

          2. @ Joey Joe Joe , correction, 4 months on it fell in on Labor’s lies about cost and roll out delays. Labor promised it in 2007 and in 2013 was still making excuses and spinning. The joke is on Labor.

          3. To be fair, the 2007 NBN was very different to what eventually happened. It fell apart because then Telstra management (appointed by the Coalition) refused to participate in the planned FTTN network in 2009. That left Labor with essentially no option but to bypass Telstra’s copper with fibre. So began the FTTP NBN in 2009, with various trials across the country. Full rollout couldn’t begin until the (new) Telstra management agreed to infrastructure access. These negotiations took a long time, greatly delaying the FTTP rollout. Telstra’s poor efforts to make the infrastructure NBN-ready (asbestos removal) further contributed to delays. The other portions of the NBN (Transit, wireless, satellite) are all on time and budget. Even the Coalition’s review document says that FTTP can be done for $41bn capex (Not including the $3bn in extra contingency fund they added), and be complete by 2023. That’s only $2bn and 2 years later than Labor said.

            By contrast, the cost of the Coalition’s FTTN network has increased by 33% in just 3 months, and the “25Mbps to 100% by 2016” promise has been cut to just 43% by that time.

            It should also be noted that the Coalition’s NBN cost and performance promises are based on getting free access to a network they don’t yet own (or have access to), don’t know the condition of, and have not conducted any testing on. What could possibly go wrong?

          4. @NBN myths, it remains that Kevin07 made a promise he could not deliver on. And now you are admitting that everyone knew Telstra was an obstacle to that promise.

            If Telstra (Coalition appointed?) was a show stopper, why did Labor promise it?

            Leaving out who appointed Telstra’s management, you are glossing over the not so trivial issue of Telstra share holders. Why should Telstra be coerced to give up a commercial advantage just so Rudd and (hardball) Conroy can look good?

            In fact, Labor emulated Churchill at Gallipoli where the original plan was stupid. Now they want someone to blame.

          5. You’re making a straw-man argument Tom. It wasn’t known that Telstra would be a show-stopper before the election. That wasn’t discovered until they failed to submit a complying bid for the FTTN RFP. As the Coalition have now discovered, it’s not really possible to negotiate deals before you’re in Government.

            Management change aside, the Coalition now find themselves in almost the same position as labor had in 2007: They need access to Telstra’s copper network in order to enact their policy. Worse, they assume that Telstra will give them access to that network at no additional cost. Speaking of Telstra’s shareholders….If you were one, how would you feel about Telstra giving away what is (now) a valuable asset, for nothing?

            In case you haven’t noticed, the Coalition have also made a promise that they cannot deliver on . Turnbull and Abbott made a “bulletproof” promise before the election that they would deliver 25Mbps to 100% of the population by 2016, at a cost of $30.4bn. Here we are 4 months later, and the cost has gone to $41bn, and the coverage has dropped by 57%. And even those new targets are pure guesswork, since they admit they have done zero testing, have made zero allowance for copper access cost and have zero data on network condition.

            If Labor’s original FTTN plan was “stupid”, then why is the Coalition’s current plan any less so? And how are the Coalition’s delivery promises any better, given the revelations of the last week?

          6. @NBN, are you saying that the fact that the coalition appointed Telstra had nothing to do with Telstra’s intransigence to Rudd and Conroy? If so, why mention it in your post?

            I don’t buy Kevin07’s ignorance of Telstra’s stance as an excuse for making an undeliverable promise.

            If Telstra were going to oppose whichever side was going to upset their monopoly, why didn’t Kevin07 do some reconnaissance?

            (The same reason Kevin 07 promised to end the health “blame game” by transferring state control of health to the Feds. Wall to wall Labor, but state governments were never going to hand over their empires to Kevin07. No reconnaissance there either. It was a fatuous promise from the “whatever it takes” spin doctors.)

            Abbott’s only excuse is that he was locked into the hype and expectation that had been created by the “tomorrow-world” vision of NBN. I half agree with you, I don’t think NBN will deliver under either government.

          7. I think that the former management of Telstra (the so-called three amigos) were much of the reason why FTTN never went ahead. However, there was no public indication from them prior to the election that they would not participate in the project.

            If Abbott was serious about leading a truthful Government, he would have made accurate statements about the cost, capability and timeframe of his alternative project. He failed. Nobody with a modicum of knowledge on the topic thought their “25Mbps to 100% by 2016” was even close to being deliverable. Yet he held on to it right up to (and beyond) the election. “Being caught up in hype” is hardly an excuse.

          8. @Tom – “Abbott’s only excuse is that he was locked into the hype and expectation that had been created by the “tomorrow-world” vision of NBN.”

            Your excuse for 41 billion on a half-baked plan is that Abbott is gullible? It’s got nothing to do with the fact it is a reasonable, affordable (<1% GDP) investment for the future does it?

            And within that "hype and expectation" he is willing to spend $41 billion on a half-baked promise? …that half baked promise which coincidentally (inevitably) will have to be upgraded, at a bloody cost, to what had already begun rolling out?

            Not to mention pouring billions into HFC – which again… will have to be replaced soon enough.

            I wish you guys would hold the same standards for liberals as you did for labor… you even called labors 2007 plan stupid… which again coincidentally is the Libs 2013 plan.

            If labor's FTTP plan, FYI under a liberal-appointed NBN co board (eg Ergas), blows out by 30 million and 3 years its apparently/ obviously Labors fault.

            If the Liberal's own plan ( The FTTP 25%, FTTN 30%, FTTB 12% & 'no upgrade for you' HFC 30% plan) blows out by $12 billion and fails to meet the "100% guranteed if elected" promises by a whopping 57%… while claiming it will still be done on time…. i guess under a liberal-appointed NBN co board it is again labors fault?

            Not to mention the stupidity in essentially cutting 30% from the "NATIONAL" broadband network while shouting "look – we saved 30%!" and instead upgrading the technology used under foxtel.

            FFS – each parties are as useless as the next…
            hold the same standards to both and stop playing ignorant to the fact the liberals manipulating the data and lying through their teeth as they see fit.

          9. Unfortunately, it was Rudd and Conroy who created the hype in the first place in a clever clogs election manouvre to wedge the LNP.

            If Abbott went to the election saying something like “I will dump NBN because it is a non-delivering political motivated white elephant (which is the truth), the LNPs got howls of ill-informed mob driven hysteria about being “luddites” and “sending us back to tin cans on strings”.

            It is interesting that none of the techos on this site ever passed comment on Conroy’s total lack of IT knowledge, yet howled like hyenas at someone Turnbull on IT understanding. Conroy’s argumentative, throw money at the noise makers, “whatever it takes” style shows where most of the pro NBN advocates lie – on big money, empire building, power and rolled-golled geek solutions. Most are not objective and have a lazy presumptuousness and sense of entitlement to taxpayers’ money. Your NBN? Of course you prefer Labor.

            Joey, Joe Joe, it is a bit rich talking about “half baked plans” when Labor refused to release any rigorous detailed costing / revenue projections for public scrutiny for the first 4 years of NBN. Even then, they repeatedly lied about the actual roll outs and their projected roll-outs were the stuff of snake oil salesmen. I am surprised any of you still seek to justify Labor against the LNP on such matters?

          10. I wonder if you comprehend the irony of using the internet to claim that a project to deliver better internet is a white elephant?

            A white elephant is something that’s neither popular nor useful. Yet (outside the conservative right), there are few saying that about the NBN. The average takeup rate after 12 months availability is about double the projection (42% v 20%), with some areas on 60%. That compares to 3% for ADSL after 18 months of availability after it was launched. Additionally, the takeup rate of the top 100Mbps plan is also about double the forecast breakdown. Every public poll taken on the NBN has found it’s an extremely popular policy, with a majority of Australians supporting it. If that’s what you think a white elephant is, best go look at a dictionary.

            Few people criticise Turnbull for being a tech incompetent. That jibe is usually directed at Abbott, and he admits it. Conroy may well not know a great deal about the technology, but he has the vast majority of sector experts on his side. He accepted advice from the experts in the field, and made a policy on that advice. Abbott and Turnbull went the other way, and before their policy has even begun, it’s already starting to unravel. It seems to be a standard fault of the Coalition: Ignore the experts. They ignored the economists on the economy; climate scientists and economists on climate change policy; ITC experts on ITC policy.

            The NBN’s cost/revenue projections were released in the first NBN Co corporate plan, which was released in December 2010. About 18 months after the FTTP policy was announced. The actual rollout figues have always been accurate. The projections should have been possible, once the volume rollout commenced, and they are currently doing quite well. They were (and are) well within international standards for similar projects. Even the Coalition’s review policy says that FTTP can be completed by 2023, which is only 2 years later than Labor promised.

            Would you care to explain why the LNP are performing any better on this matter? The Coalition’s own NBN review says that both plans will take 2 years longer to complete than the respective parties promised. It also says that Labor’s FTTP/wireless/sat version can be done for $54bn peak (20% over Labor’s promise), while the Coalition’s FTTN/HFC/FTTP/wireless/sat version will cost $41bn (33% over the Coalition’s promise).

          11. @Tom – in case you did not notice … my last point was each party is as useless as the next – all I am saying is hold the same standards to the liberals as you did labor.

            “@NBN myths, it remains that Kevin07 made a promise he could not deliver on.” But Abbott’s promise ( to those in the know – a blatant lie) you still feel the need to come up with every excuse under the sun as to why his BS is actually labors fault.

            Politics is politics – each party as BS as the next. My argument here is in the technology… but that is some how lost in the Anti-Everything Labor Rhetoric being spewed here.

            The ONLY thing that is ‘set in concrete’ in this debate is the stupidity of FTTN over FTTP… and pouring billions into HFC . The only thing that is guaranteed to work for everyone is going all Fiber – not ‘ a bit of this, a bit of that – depending on conditions/ the current state of the copper’. 93% FTTP by 2024 is not a farce – and I bet if the liberals actually focused on it – and not manipulate the data to support their own political agenda – they would estimate it to be completed “sooner, cheaper and more affordable”.

            By 2020 South Korea (A+ rating) would be 70% FTTP – that is roughly equivalent to double what 93% is to us. New Zealand (AA raiting) is expecting 75% by 2019. Argentina has been developing FTTP in its capitols since the year 2000 – credit rating CCC+.

            And what are we as a Triple A country expecting by 2020? 22% of 25 million people because we are apparently too poor to do it properly now. However we are still capable enough to install 60,000 nodes around the country – and then pull them out and throw them away when we again have to upgrade. We are also somehow rich enough to pour billions into Foxtel’s HFC.

            Why are we putting 40 billion dollars into a plan in which by 2016 47% of premises will be receiving speeds in which they should have been theoretically receiving 10 years ago via adsl 2? It’s the copper that slowed it down then – its the copper that is the problem now, the reason we need a new network in the bloody first place – and in its further degraded, rotting, pathetic state it is going to be the bottleneck and downfall of anything FTTN in 2020.

  7. I really hope you can present this excellent article to the next LNP National Conference.

    One thing some of your readers dont realise is that with higher speeds, services like video conferencing and familty video phone calls become the norm for day to day communications. To be effective this requires equal download/upload speeds, something current ADSL plans throttle so upload speeds are slower.
    I have heard this is something to do with the International Overseas Cable consortium, owned in part by Singtel/Optus and Telstra, charging higher fees for upload data.
    Can you clarify if the consortium is a party to an NBN deal for connections to International traffic and will they allow equal two way speeds at normal charges.

    1. Video conferencing is supported with UMTS 3G and 4G wireless and has been available to most people since about 2006. Oddly enough, people haven’t embraced it and globally there’s been a further fall in video traffic over the past few years. In spite of heavy promotion it’s non-use remains an anomaly.

  8. Love your work. It was a real eye opener. I hope the people can get the facts before the next election or we’re doomed.

  9. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing “nbnmyths”..it is apparent you are not an expert in the matters you profess and you ignore relevant aspects of the information you present which creates bias;

    1.You compare the “experimental” speeds of “Fibreoptic (per strand)” with the current cellular technology, i.e. 69Tbps to 1Gbps.

    2 You don’t mention that the experiments quoted require hundreds of lasers or expensive ($50k) water cooled research lasers to achieve these speeds. Let alone that the technology to modulate these setups requires a full 2m cabinet of electronics. You will NEVER see these speeds at home. It’s the “laws of physics” as Conroy likes to say repeatedly.

    3. You clearly have no idea where the technological, theoretical or “experimental” limits lie , what they represent and why.

    4. The NBN is a network with many inherent limits, you cannot simply assume that a speed achieved in an experiment is technically feasible, let alone economically feasible. Did you know that there are different types of fiber with different transmission and dispersion characteristics and that the lasers used at the premises are matched to the fiber?

    Realistically over time the NBN, despite the massive investment, will become relativily obsolete – meaning that it will need significant upgrades to support the latest technology. I believe the notion of anything being “future-proof” is the most dangerous myth. It encourages over-investment in today’s (or yesterdays) technology while discouraging organic replacement.

    The basic problem is not technological but economic. Technology is invented and becomes cost effective when there is consumer demand.

    Broadband prices are too low to cover the replacement cost of the infrastructure – due to the cost benefit of the copper network which was already a sunk asset at the birth of the Internet. Historically, either infrastructure was subsidised or technological progress eliminated the capital bottleneck.

    It is unfortunate that the choices that may be available to us are now so politicized. Let’s hope that reason prevails.

    1. I’ll ignore for a moment the rather large conflict of interest you have, working for a company that promises “Metropolitan Scale Gigabit Wireless Broadband Networks”, and concentrate on the content of your comment:

      1: Commercial Gigabit cellular is no more “current” than 69Tbps over fibre is. Especially considering this page was written a year ago.

      2: No I didn’t mention any of that, because I don’t see why it’s relevant. It’s experimental, of course it’s large and expensive. Although I too doubt that we will see 69Tbps bandwidth to homes in the foreseeable future, one should never say never…. Who knows what technological advances are around the corner that will require such bandwidth, and what innovations will enable it to be mass-produced. The fact is that fibre can deliver it if required. You cite the fact that it requires a “full 2m cabinet” to deliver. So what? The computing power in the cockpit alone of a Boeing 777 wouldn’t have been able to be carried by a Boeing 707, 30 years earlier. If you had told Corning 40 years ago that they would be selling fibre to install gigabit connections to almost every home in Australia today, they’d have laughed at you. 60 years ago, IBM thought there was a world market for 5 computers. Need I go on?

      3: If you say so.

      4: Yes, of course it has limits. All networks have limits. Yes, I do know there are different types of fibre.

      Rest: Yes, over time parts of the NBN will become obsolete. But the largest cost (the installation of the fibre itself) is the most future-resistant option available to us. That fibre will in all likelihood satisfy our needs for the next 50 years or more. Conversely, look at wireless. In the last 10 years alone, how many times have the cellular carriers replaced their wireless infrastructure? Twice? Three times? Four times?

      Perhaps you’d like to suggest what technology the NBN should use, or how it should be done differently?

      1. Most people putting a case have a bias, not necessarily a conflict of interest. Or are you trying to gag any comment that does not accord to your own world view.

        The moment we read your comments we notice your pro NBN, pro Labor bias. That does not stop me benefiting from your formidable knowledge on the subject.

        Can I suggest that you open your ears and eyes to what your political opponents are saying and deal honestly with their concerns rather than trying to get one up on them? Surely you have some faith in your product to do this without constant use of ad hominems.

        1. Anthony Wasiukiewicz 24 November, 2012 — 7:25 am

          NBN Myths writes;
          “….working for a company that promises “Metropolitan Scale Gigabit Wireless Broadband Networks”

          Why do you think NBN Myths wrote this comment when it is not mentioned in the post above?

          Is it because it was mentioned in a different post?
          Is it because NBN Myths has conversed with this poster before?

          I’m sure if NBN Myths was trying to ‘gag’ the above (or any) poster, he would just ‘moderate’ them (as Bolt and Jones do), or delete the comment. That would be ‘Gagging’.

          In saying that I don’t think you understand the realities of the situation. We have the opposing party saying that they can build ‘The NBN objective’, and do it ‘cheaper and faster’, yet ‘pause’ it.

          Mr Turnbull has also suggested that he has ‘engineers’ that support his opinion, however has failed to illustrate who they are. The closest thing we have gotten to identity was a tweet yesterday that suggested:

          “Malcolm Turnbull‏@TurnbullMalcolm

          @topher_1976 you should get in touch with most of the world’s telcos who would not agree with you.”

          By that very statement he thinks that FTTN is suitable for Australia. One can always add in to the argument that FTTH “might be suitable for ‘select’ locations inside a ‘dense’ population centre, with ‘good’ copper, as a ‘short term’ measure.

          Alas, he doesn’t say that.

          He could also suggest that HFC, is suitable, if you ‘bought’ Optus and Telstra networks (and any others), and ‘merged’ them, and then spend ‘billions’ on them (and connect the streets and houses and appartments that both Optus and Telstra missed), as a ‘short term’ measure.

          But alas, he doesn’t say that.

          He say’s:

          We can build it ‘cheaper and faster using a mix of technologies’, and his boss says ‘It’s a white elephant’ that ‘needs pausing’.

          Tom I’m unsure if you have ever looked up White Elephant in the dictionary, however, if the NBN was one, you wouldn’t want to ‘pause’ it.

          This conversation has become (and always was) very political, this is why peoples posts often resort to ‘liberal vs labor’ position. (Hell, the NBN FTTH was actually the Nationals idea!! Part of the coalition!!!).

          One has to remember, if the opposition government has any credibility with what they are saying, they would release details.
          And details that would suggest, to get FTTN to have any sort of decent speeds, they would have to replace the remaining copper, which means manpower. And 75% of the current build is currently manpower. So why would you replace copper with copper, when you could replace copper with fibre?

          Australia is a country of the Victa Lawnmower and Hills Hoists.
          We have a distance issue unlike any other country. A distance issue that greatly hampers FTTN without significant repalcement unlike other countries. (NZ ditched if for that reason. It didn’t deliver speeds as promsed).

          There are 3 key points that one needs to remember when assessing the NBN rollout.

          *NBNco is trying to get rid of Telstra as a monopoly Wholesale and Retail provider. By creating one ‘Wholesale’ monopoly. that all the ‘retail’ guys on can compete like crazy on.

          *FTTN is only good in select areas, including MDUs. Which negates a whole chunk of the country. And then has an ‘up to’ speed issue depending on the exact length of the copper. Up to around 80mbps, as opposed to 1000mbps..

          *HFC, needs billions spent on it. Of which both Telstra and Optus have publicly stated they don’t want to spend. They have stated don’t want to upgrade the network. It was designed for TV, not internet. And it will return to TV once NBNco has built in it’s areas..

          If you punch the numbers (as many in the industry have), there is no way whatsoever, that the coalition can deliver the ‘NBN objective, quicker and faster’.

          And there is even less of a chance that they could do so if they ‘paused’ it.

          Especially when they have also stated ‘we will honour existing contracts’ (there is a 5 year contract for fibre alone…..)

          So although you might not agree with the way NBN myths holds his dialogue (and, with due respect, if you were abreast of the situation, you would understand why he holds his position), it isn’t without cause.

          The coalition haven’t delivered 1 ounce of data that suggests that the bulk of the network can be delivered any better than it is currently, and do so cheaper and faster.

          People ask them every day, to provided details, and they just don’t. Because for the most part, there is nothing to provide.

          There just isn’t any data to support their position. And most abreast of the situation understand this. And they have to refutre the claims on a day to day basis, To their friends, to their collegues, to their family, to the press. Commentators like Bolt and Jones (and (Malcolm and Abbott) tell the people there are other options. When if fact, if other options were taken, we’d still have a very antiquated network for decades to come.

          The network being disigned, has options for gigabit speeds. Any further upgrade upon that, just needs the switches on either end of the fibre changed.. This covers the 93%, with the ability for the network to naturally grow to cover move of the country, as the copper did around 50 years ago…

          And if you follow NBNmyths projected speeds graph (laid down by Jakob Nielson) you will see we will need gigabit in the not too distant future.

          And that is why we are building the FTTH NBN.
          As all the other options won’t suffice..
          And we get a new network to boot
          And we fix the Telstra Vertically Intergrated Monopoly issue created by the Howard government.

          All in one go.

          Anthony Wasiukiewicz

  10. Is there any reason you have to start your sessions with insults such as “clueless commentators”? It makes me highly suspicious that you are just another blinded Labor ideologue. Wouldn’t it be better to engage rather than inflame people who ask questions.

    I suspect most of the people asking these questions are better qualified on the subject than Conroy. Would you insult him like that?

    1. I’m referring to people like Jones, Akerman and Bolt as such, because they are clueless when it comes to the NBN. We’ve had Akerman, Devine, Bolt and others all claim that the US are doing a wireless-in-lieu-of-fixed-line NBN (Which of course they aren’t). Then we had Alan’s embarrassing “laser beam” effort. If the shoe fits…..

      1. Yes, but does it help your cause to attack them? Wouldn’t it be better to specifically deal with their comments when they make them and move on?

        1. Ah, the tone argument. The argument you make when you’ve clearly lost the actual argument.

          1. Anthony Wasiukiewicz 24 November, 2012 — 7:32 am

            However you can still have a tone, when all the data suggests your findings are correct.
            You could just be constipated.
            Or Hung over
            Or that time of the month.
            Or tired of refuting the same claims to the same people day in and day out.

            Especially ‘clueless commentators’ that truely are clueless.
            You can find out much of the facts with a half hour google search, however ‘shock jocks’ don’t have a job by agreeing with the mainstream. They have a job with writing something that opposes that mainstream. That is what they are paid to do.

            And the rest of the guys have to spend the day explaining why what they said isn’t true…

            Do the maths guys..
            And then understand the shoes from the other foot.. 🙂

  11. You need to amend you statement in red type about that not a single telecommunications company in the not a single country or telecommunications company anywhere in the World that is attempting to replace fixed networks with wireless in urban areas, or even planning to do so in the future.

    Telstra is attempting to put a 31.4 metre 3G wireless tower in to a semi-rural area at Samford to provide services to over 5000 in the area. We are only 25kms to the centre of Brisbane’s CBD, and the old copper network is horrendously insufficient. But they are proposing this as a solution. Perhaps you could look into this?


    Samantha Keegan

  12. Following on from Sam (posted 21 July, 2012 at 10:45 am). Sam says Telstra is attempting to replace failing copper with wireless in Samford. Well they’re doing the same thing out west of Sydney too.

    My parents live quite literally next door to the subexchange there. We’ve always had perfect 24mbit down speed etc. Suddenly the speeds have dropped to being a touch faster than an ISDN connection. Called Telstra and they explained that the exchange is having problems however they won’t be fixing it as it’s become obsolete. They then moved my parents onto wireless, sent them a 4g modem etc. Asking around, they have done the same to a few other neighbours in the street.

    Telstra seems to be moving people off fixed line onto wireless. So I believe that we now have a Telco doing the whole wireless thing. I’d also like to point out that they put my parents onto the 15gb plan however at a massively reduced price (from the $100 per month cost I read in one of the comments here). I believe they are paying $30 per month. The speeds seem really good tho, I believe they are seeing an average 12mbps down (for email, facebook and booking holidays this is overkill haha).

    Anyway what do you think of Telstra trying to undercut the Labor NBN by moving people onto wireless? Does this make the FTTH essentially wasted money if they’re pushing it to houses that will not even use the line at all? I personally wish that wireless could be used right now as an FTTH alternative (if it could reliably achieve speeds of 100mbit) but obviously it needs a bucket load of investment before wireless gets to those speeds (reliably with multiple users).

    Some good info in this article but still not enough to sell it to me, I personally don’t like the idea of a government run and controlled internet (especially with Labor in charge with their net nanny filters and their poor project management track record) and regardless of peoples beliefs on data usage I still think FTTH is oh so much overkill for the majority of the population.

  13. Anthony Wasiukiewicz 9 December, 2012 — 10:47 am

    No, they just aren’t fixing the exchange as it’s likely in your case it will be no longer needed (the internal equipment at the least).
    Telstra have a USO agreement (becoming TUSMA) to provide a connection to everybody.. And obviously, they have to reduce the price to stop an outcry.

    There is no way Telstra could continue to do this on a broad scale.
    And until the 700mhz spectrum is released in 2015, they are unlikely to be able to do this on a broad scale. And even then, capacity will be limited.

    Then you have to ask yourself the question, Why would people accept such a ‘restricted’ service, once they have access to NBN fibre for around the same price?

    You can guarantee that Telstra won’t be able to keep the prices that low to make a profit.


    “Some good info in this article but still not enough to sell it to me, I personally don’t like the idea of a government run and controlled internet (especially with Labor in charge with their net nanny filters and their poor project management track record)”

    There is more to this than you read in the papers.
    Labor’s track record is actually pretty good sans boat people (though you would never read about it in the papers).

    Have you observed how many policy changes ‘Federal’ Labor has managed to get through even with a ‘minority’ government?

    If that doesn’t say anything, than I’m not sure what does.


    On that, there is heaps more information on the topic.

    * Here are some starting points.

    “Is wireless serious competion for FTTP”


    * These are good:


    1 - Mobile Wireless
    4 - Wifi
    3 - Satellite Wireless
    2 - Fixed Wireless


    * We currently have around 16000-18000 mobile towers currently (depending on the source you use and the definition of ‘tower’). So we would need 52000-54000 more of these:


    If you need more information, please don’t hesitate to ask.
    Anthony Wasiukiewicz

  14. Phil from brisbane 24 March, 2013 — 6:33 am

    I’m in SUBURBAN Brisbane – i guess that is classed as an URBAN area – I am 26km from the CBD and 8km from another city of 300,000 and the NBN have clearly stated that we will be having FIXED WIRELESS – not fiber.The copper adsl network is already rotting away and i have had no phones for 8 weeks , so you are right they are not replacing the copper network with the NBN , they are just letting it rot away.The FIXED WIRELESS is almost line of sight ONLY due the very high frequency spectrum it uses , and the fact that we are in a hilly area requires an outside antennae.This is another risk if there is a lightning strike or bird damage. Issues we already regularly have with our tv antenna as it is a high lightning risk area..Some people may not get any signal at all if they are behind a hill and will have to go satellite.We can also look forward to yet more ugly towers , whereas the present copper is mostly underground.The NBN is so slow to rollout it will be obsolete before it is even completed. I predict a change of government in 2013 and the NBN will be nothing like it is now.

  15. Before 1999 we had 64k connections that dropped out frequently and downloading a large file was a stop start all night affair. At the time the technology was a miracle to me. We have come a long way.
    Optus came with new coaxial cables which were much more reliable and still today it is Telstra that brings the internet into my house with the coaxial cable.
    I have never had ADSL1 or 2 but again a miracle invention that enabled copper telephone wire the carry much higher speeds. My experience with ADSL is away from home at friends or clients and when I travel. As a rule I am relieved when I come home and use my own pc and the cable and find that everything works.
    My mobile is pathetic and I only use it rarely for the internet. The iphone is better but still tedious.
    My system works at 18mps currently and is quite good. The NBN has not prioritised my area because of the relative high speeds available to us and rightly so focuses on connection to remote towns.
    AS soon as the NBN fibre optic comes near my house I will sign up immediately as I have always done in the past and embraced the best available. In my opinion the fibre optic, another miracle invention and the back bone of all large computer networks and communications networks is clearly the future.
    Wireless inside the house is handy but most of my serious connections run through cat5 cables or via the power points.
    Politics and infrastructure. Internet is much like water out of a tap, stormwater systems, electricity supplies, gas supplies and is part of modern day life and put the world into your house. Infrastructure is paid for by the nation and in the end by the users. Labour Party will think in terms of everyone, young and old. Liberal will only think about the people that can afford it, in fact they do not want to have anything to do with infrastructure and let commercial forces sort it out. The Capitalist model. The only reason why they have any comment is because they are in opposition and all of it is negative and waffle. There is no vision from the coalition and if it was up to their foresight we would still be cranking our telephones.

  16. You mention costs to the end-user; why not an analysis of cost/benefit to the mug tax-payers who have to pay for this white elephant – $40bill (minimum) and off-budget?

    1. Anthony Wasiukiewicz 6 April, 2013 — 7:46 pm

      It is off budget for a reason. Because it makes sense. The current copper network costs about $1billion a year to maintain, and will likely cost more into the future given it’s age. This cost is incorporated into your Telstra end user pricing. As in, your bill. The bonds issued to build NBNco have interest applicable. This is the cost the Taxpayer has to pay in the interim until NBNco inevitably makes a profit. This ‘on budget’ ‘loan repayment’, starts off around a couple of hunderd billion in the first years. It then scales up to around the $1.5 billiion mark, before is scales back down again to zero as revenues from the network come in and are returned to the government coffers. Basically what we are talking about, is that you are leasing a car at $400 pcm for example, and the cost of leasing that car (Telstra) is about to rise. So instead of paying Telstra more (the car lease place), you then take out your own personal loan to buy your own car. The cost to buy your own car is close enough to on par as you were already paying the company you were leasing from.
      In laymans terms, the government kicks in a bit of on budget money to get NBN started (because the copper is ageing and getting unreliable for modern day communications). We then pay nearly the exact same amount of money to get a brand new network, that we would have been paying anyway to maintain the old one.
      If you look up the definition of White Elephant through google, you will see it actually describes the coalitions attempt at a policy.
      I hope that makes sense?
      If not, please don’t hesitate to ask for clarification on any point.
      Sincerely and in good faith

    2. David,

      The premise of your question is wrong. The “taxpayers” aren’t paying for the NBN, they are only guaranteeing the funding until the user revenue pays back the debt. Ultimately, it is the monthly subscription fees that pay for the entire NBN, plus a 7% return on investment. This is essentially the same way the current copper network was built by the Government-owned PMG/Telecom/Telstra.

      The NBN is not off-budget, it is treated as an investment on the budget rather than expenditure. This is in line with standard accounting practise, as has been accepted as such by both economists and Malcolm Turnbull.

  17. I’m interested to see your analysis of the coalition broadband “policy” which was released today… http://lpa.webcontent.s3.amazonaws.com/NBN/The%20Coalition%E2%80%99s%20Plan%20for%20Fast%20Broadband%20and%20an%20Affordable%20NBN.pdf

    For a so called policy document, it’s incredibly light on technical detail and heavy on attacking the Labor NBN.

  18. Zzzz… what a load of self-serving gas.
    There are many more wireless technologies than 3G/4G and WiFi.
    Specifically for this rant – spread-spectrum gig capable short-haul, femtocell based technologies (SSFC).
    Use the opposition proposed Fibre-To-The-Corner (FTTC) – then serve a limited number of (typically ~100) endpoints from each corner served with SSFC to guarantee service / performance benchmarks.
    These ‘micro’ cellular wireless connections have limited footprint and guaranteed capacity between overlapping cells. Your TV, internet, phone and mobile – all use this bandwidth directly or through your residential SSFC gateway (SSFC router). Walk or drive out of the house – and into another cell – and your (TV, internet, phone and mobile) are still connected as you travel to wherever – move to Cairns or Perth, and your gateway goes with you to the new house – V3x and other mobile technology platforms are supported with a mobile SSFC gateway (like a 3G/4G mobile router).
    Existing routing and network technologies support this today at speeds well into the specs promised by the NBN.
    No physical / trench / overhead last mile connectivity at all – just your NBN-SSFC subscription wherever you are.
    But will it feed the political cronies ? Perhaps not – we’ll need a new bunch of bloodsuckers.

    1. Oh – by the way – due to the relatively short range coverage, and low-power/frequencies used – the suggested SSFC technologies do’t require a *tower* – simply a *small* antenna array slightly above ground level – the whole cell around the size of a single-door refrigerator.

    2. Perhaps you’d care to provide a link to a specific product (with specifications), which you believe could provide the required capability? Also, if you could provide a list of countries where this technology has been, or is currently being, deployed.

      I look forward to receiving the link and list…..

      1. Thanks – with a quick search – here are some of the more recent references… One of the least documented topics I could find on the net (my earlier references weer to technical journals I stumbled over during other work) the key phrases seem to be WiGig, Fi-Wi and Fibre-over-Wireless (FoW).

        While there are manufacturers mentioned in this list – it seems some of the products I’ve seen demonstrated may still be in “defence hands”.

        Main article: IEEE 802.11ad
        IEEE 802.11ad “WiGig” is a published standard that is already seeing a major push from hardware manufacturers. On 24 July 2012 Marvell and Wilocity announced a new partnership[17] to bring a new tri-band Wi-Fi solution to market. Using 60 GHz, the new standard can achieve a theoretical maximum throughput of up to 7 Gbit/s.[18] This standard is expected to reach the market sometime in early 2014.



        Click to access J14_JLT2010.pdf


        Click to access Alwyn-Seeds_jun05.pdf


        Cheers – generally these refernces are older, but it *is* out there in the battlefield today – I guess we have to wait a few months before it ranks on Google!

        1. OK, so your links go to:
          A list of projects of various old/current wireless technologies, deployed in a variety of small LAN environments such as businesses and schools.
          A link to a draft paper from 2010, summarising the research that has gone into mm wave wireless networks, but not covering anything that is actually available for the purpose you suggest.
          A powerpoint presentation from 2005, detailing a laboratory experiment of mm waveform transmissions.
          A wireless LAN in a Navy ship

          mm waveform technologies have physical limitations. At the “low power” implementation you mentioned in your previous post, the range is “typically less than 10 metres”. They are also highly susceptible to atmospheric conditions, such as humidity, rain or fog, any obstructions (including foliage).

          In short, you referenced nothing that is tested/available for a deployment anything like what you are suggesting, let alone one that has actually been deployed anywhere in the World. Almost all references I could find for mm waveform wireless only talk about 100m) mm waveform tech. There is most certainly nothing even close to being available to be deployed in lieu of the NBN, and even if there ever is such tech available, it will (by necessity) be extremely high power to overcome the physical limitations of the wavelength. Not only would this mean very high EMR both at the node and the premises, but also vastly increased power usage, making it rather expensive to operate and very environmentally unfriendly compared to FTTP.

          WiGig is something different again (being an evolution of the current WiFi technology) and not designed for the sort of deployment you are advocating. It uses a very limited amount of unlicensed spectrum to provide a total maximum theoretical bandwidth of 7Gbps, still subject to contention and to interference from adjoining-base stations. It is described as “an extremely short range” technology, and the only mention of range on the alliance website is that it “exceeds 10 metres”. Another reference gave a range of “up to 80 feet (26 metres). Doesn’t sound very promising for a neighbourhood deployment to 100 premises, covering ~300 metres, through brick walls!

  19. I was a bit dissapointed at the “cost” section. While it’s true that Fibre optic’s performance is without a doubt better than wireless, have we thought about the cost of rolling them out ? I still think that people roaring for the NBN are mostly techies and didn’t really take into account the financial side of things. Australia is going broke. This should be well accepted. Any financial adviser when faced with such a situation will look for avenues to save money to avoid sinking. A wireless network tower can serve hundreds of home, cheaper and faster to deploy, whereas the fibre solution requires the NBN to lay fibres to every single house. I think there should be a compromise in which regional and remote areas should be given wireless NBN and only premises in and around the CBD are given fibre optics. Just my 2 cents.

    1. Hi Howie,

      Smaller regional and remote areas do get the NBN via either wireless or satellite. It is only towns with over 1000 premises that get the NBN via optical fibre, or 500 if they are located along the transit network.

      Wireless is really only suitable as a fixed line replacement for such small towns with low population densities. Outside these areas, even ADSL2 delivers better performance than wireless, because wireless slows down the more users are connected. There would be little point installing wireless NBN in larger towns that already have ADSL2. To assess your suggestion that a wireless tower could serve “hundreds of premises” a 4G wireless cell serving 300 premises could only deliver 0.5Mbps to each premises simultaneously. Even if you assume only 10% simultaneous usage, that’s only 5Mbps per premises. Why would you bother?

      Australia is far from “going broke”. We have one of the lowest debt:GDP and debt:revenue ratios of any country in the World, and are one of only 8 countries with a universal AAA credit rating. On top of that, the NBN is funded from user revenue, so the debt associated with it is repaid by the users anyway.

      1. Just a point of correction.
        The NBN co’s 4G Fixed wireless is a speed capped service with a guaranteed rate. The Radio access network is dimensioned such that the number of concurrent users does not affect the throughput of any individual user.

  20. “A single strand of fibre-optic cable can carry 20,000 times more data than the entire radio frequency spectrum combined.”

    I don’t doubt you, but I’d love to see some kind of calculation of the data speed for the entire radio spectrum combined (assuming we lived in a world where we didn’t need tv, radio, etc, and there was just one person in the world who wanted to watch videos of cats on youtube).

    1. Good arguments on both sides. I would like to throw my 2 cents in.
      I have been working in the IT industry for the last 14 years and in that time wireless has never been a replacement for a direct cable installation. It has always been slower and less reliable.
      That doesn’t mean it might not catch up in the future. However when it does you can be sure that cable network will also improve.

      I don’t think you can use the argument about what the general person will use the network for. For technology that is limited no users can make it do what it fiscally can’t do there for you are limited.
      Let me give you an example of what I mean.

      If 10 years ago when everyone was using 56 k modem you said let’s try downloading a 4 gb movie or stream some video from the web it will take 6 days to do, no one can wait that long. So it is hard to relise the potential of a service that is not pshically able to provide.

      One last point I might add is that I play allot of Internet games. And for me a direct cable connection in terms of reliability and performance has always been the way to go. Sure wireless is fine for the general user downloading some Facebook or what ever but for the people who use these connections in other ways you can know the potential until the service can provide it.

      Not sure if that made much sense 🙂 my spelling is bad cause I am on my iPhone.

      1. So the mug tax-payer forks over $36bill so you can play computer games, uh-huh?

        1. Not just for games. But, online games aren’t going away. They are getting bigger and bigger and they demand low latency connections.

          But, yeah. NBN just for online games.

  21. No country has ever suffered from good infra structure, I think the opposite is true. The so called “mug tax payers” are simply good citizens thinking about the future and strengthening the technological skills required for the future and to move with the times. Difficult to imagine no running water, no sewage system, no electricity. No free ways, no roads, no trains. Infrastructure sets the more mature countries apart from the aspiring countries. Money invested on such a wonderful internet system with its obvious benefits. The money invested finds its way into the economy and employs and feeds the population. Will enable country town to survive. The initial investment will than be payed of by the users that will all be grateful for a system that works and can be upgraded for a long time into the future. As always it takes a Labour Government to initiate such a large infrastructure programs and to get it started. I for one am not looking forward to the wreckers around the corner.

    1. Plenty of countries, however, have suffered from spiv politicians who promise “good infra structure” and fail to deliver it.

      1. A projects such as the NBN which is so large that cannot be done by private enterprise normally starts with a vision, followed by a feasibility study, followed by a promise of implementation, backed up by funding from a willing political party and white anted by an opposition political party. If they are spiv politicians I do not know. The best sailors are usually on the land!

        1. ..except the funding doesn’t come from a ‘willing political party’; it comes from tax-payers, most of whom may not want a multi-billion $ white elephant; who can say?

          1. Investment = jobs
            Car subsidies=jobs
            Boat people=jobs
            Community care=jobs
            Funny enough the NBN will play an important part in all of those.

  22. I almost never comment, but I read a great deal of responses on this page Why not wireless?
    | NBN MYTHS. I actually do have a few questions for you if you
    do not mind. Could it be simply me or do a few of the comments come
    across like they are written by brain dead folks?
    😛 And, if you are posting at other online sites, I’d like to follow you. Would you list of every one of all your shared pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

  23. It’s worth noting that there are many myths applicable to both NBN’s being proposed. It’s far from being one sided.

  24. Cool, Korea is upgrading their Fibre to a very high speed…. noticeably Korea is a very small country with a large population and is quite rich….. translate that to Australia with huge distance, small population and small GDP and how the hell do we pay for it? NBN Co can’t perform to deliver. You article is biased and fails to translate the issues to the unique Australian envoironment.

    1. Our GDP is about the same as South Korea’s, although it’s true our population is much smaller and our area is much larger. Our GDP per capita is about double SK’s. Our net public debt is about 1/3 that of South Korea’s as a % of GDP, according to IMF figures. We also have a lower % of our population living below the poverty line. So, we too are “quite rich”.

      While we have huge distances, this doesn’t really matter in the context of the NBN, because the FTTP portion of the NBN is only installed in urban/suburban areas. In rural and remote areas, the NBN is wireless or satellite.

      SK is just one comparison. There are over 60 countries around the world installing FTTP to one extent or another. Because of our larger distances, FTTP is ideal for Australia because there’s no speed drop off over distance. Conversely, with FTTN (the Coalition’s policy) you need to build a cabinet every ~500m. In a country like SK, that might mean a cabinet for every 200 premises. In suburban Australia, you’ll need a cabinet for maybe every 20 premises.

      How do we afford it? Easy. The NBN is paid for from user revenue, in exactly the same way as we paid for our electricity, water and telephone networks etc. And all of those networks were installed in the same large, small population country.

      Finally, what would you suggest we do instead?

  25. DIDO is not even vaporware – it’s a SCAM outright.

    It’s designed to fool people who know lots about IT, computers and digital electronics and maybe a bit about wireless, but don’t have a background in antennas or electromagnetic wave propagation.

    It starts off by explaining the existing technology (cellular) and some of its short comings (sharing of spectrum) and shows how an alternate technology (actual MIMO and MISO) gets around that. It omits to mention that MIMO is already used by WiFi and 4G networks. It shows how 3 towers can provide 3 times the capacity (so does cellular, but they omit that) and then makes a bold unwarranted leap in asserting that they can scale this up to 1000x just by using cloud technology.

    They then confuse the reader by mentioning that DIDO can work on any frequency band (so can any other modulation and multiple-access technology) then lists the benefits of using

    a) long-wavelengths (over-the-horizon) while omitting the need for large antennas and high power, and

    b) low-power and short-wavelengths (smaller antennas and transceivers) while omitting to mention that this contradicts (a)

    and makes the reader think that it can do BOTH at the same time.

    The experiment done by Rearden was NOT done in a lab, but in a paddock where cows kept knocking the antennas over. The antennas were BIG.


    1. forgot to mention that the long-wavelength implementation leads to really low bitrates, but they just gloss over that.

  26. In the Picture (inserts) above showing Speed Comparisons, you have shown ALL tests with the exception of Tasmania in “Mb/s” and Tasmania Mbps! there is a difference of Decimal placing that needs to be considered. This is a non-bias opinion, as I for one would like a faster broadband service, BUT facts are the basis of decisions to move forward in life.

    1. Darrell,

      Mbps and Mb/s are two different ways of writing exactly the same measurement: Megabits per second.

      Perhaps you’re confusing MB and Mb (Megabytes and Megabits), which are two different measurements.

  27. For a better and stronger OZ 6 November, 2013 — 10:44 am

    Thanks NBN Myths for your work on this subject.
    It makes the mud a little clearer for me the the home user with a business. It is clear you have done a huge amount of research and testing and for this I appreciate. Clearly both side of politics have not really done the same in implementing or rolling out the technology and this has caused a lot of issues.
    However, fibre, copper and/or wireless we need to fix the old and extremely expensive copper network we have used to a degree effectively for many years. But lets face facts though it is impractical and cost effective to maintain its use and the best alternative we have for now and even 50 years time is Fibre with its beneficial partner wireless. I presently use both wireless 4g and have fibre/wireless network in home which allows me and avg of 7 – 30mbps and can’t wait for the 100mbps service with NBN. As the cost to my lower productivity waiting for high graphic files is expensive. For big business and especially medical services are truly holding Australia back. Lets face it if we Australia get inline with the world we will not fall behind like other countries. The old network is run down due to Telstra and our great political system,so do we go on with a system that is extremely expensive to run to avoid paying for a system now? Then after all this we go ahead and change it which we have to at some time, which then will be much more expensive than now. In the meantime we have paid probably a huge amount more to have a far more useles system and fall behind the world, have more limitations on our lives all for a Political driven propaganda campaign to suit the pockets of politicians and the board members of large corporations.

    I could go on with this for days, but lets face up to reality, we need to replace the copper with fibre, that is it in a nut shell. Wireless is not capable and for productivity reasons we have little other options over the next 20 or maybe 30 years. You can reply with all the techno-garble and dreams from all the research in the world, but there is nothing possible now or over the next ten years that will be near as cost effective as replacing the copper with fibre. If so the USA, Uk or many other more financial vastly smaller countries than Oz would be implementing these systems and so far I haven’t seen or heard anything to prove otherwise.
    SO why are we wasting time on holding up and complicating this now critical change for Australia, I don’t know. “NBN Myths” thanks again for this unbiased forum and please get someone in Canberra to actually get some brains. The opinions of idiots like Jones and other shock jocks that only have an interest in creating conflict to build ratings to fill their own pockets need to be removed from the airwave. The NBN is a great plan as was copper telegraph lines and then phone lines. These were extremely expensive to install then, but we loved the function of being able to pick up a phone and call an ambulance. now we can do so much more and have entertainment at our fingertip with far more productivity, just compare the old dial up days.
    Please people put aside your political and technical agendas and get me and Australia NBN with 100mbps PLUS ASAP.
    We need it for today and tomorrow we need a bucket load more as we advance. Even if wireless gets close to fibre speeds in 10 -20 years, the fact is Fibre is just simply more reliable and immediately and for the next 10+ years it is simply how we must go.

  28. “That’s not to say wireless networks won’t continue to improve. Of course they will. But they will never approach the current or future speeds available via fibre-optic cables.”

    back i nthe 1950’s they said heart transplants could never be done.

    it is called the ostrich approach and you have it in spades. Total load of crap this item.

    1. No Phil, it’s called physics. Wireless bandwidth isn’t limited by technology, it’s limited by the physical bandwidth of the radio frequency spectrum. It’s finite, and you cannot make more. It’s also limited by the physical properties of radio waves, for example their ability (or lack thereof) to pass through solid objects, and their range. None of these limitations can be effectively overcome with improved wireless technology.

      Of course, the bandwidth of optical fibre is limited by the size of the light spectrum. But the light spectrum is much larger, and because the light is contained within a fibre it’s not subject to the same levels of loss or interference as radio.

      This is completely different to people saying in the 1950s that “heart transplants could never be done” (if they did indeed say that). There was no scientific laws preventing them from occurring, we only lacked the knowledge and equipment to perform the procedure. For wireless to ever approach the capability of optical fibre, we would need to rewrite the laws of physics. An extremely unlikely prospect, and one which no telco in the World is betting on occurring. It’s also likely that any method to increase the size of the radio spectrum could also be applied to the visible spectrum, and therefore further increase the capability of optical fibre as well.

      Surely you must ask yourself why there isn’t a single telco on the planet proposing to replace urban fixed networks with wireless?

      1. Urban? Hang on there, a bit narrow, “NBN”. A fundamental tenet of NBN is to get non-urban users something closer to equity. Or have you forgotten?

        Yet one by one these Telcos are providing more mobile phone services at the expense of their fixed line services. Yes, customer convenience beats the rolled gold geek solution every day of the week.

        People in droves are installing wifi routers rather than the quicker ethernet cables in their homes. iPads, tablets etc are slower in communications than a desktop on an ethernet cable. Yet Australians are shifting to them (even in urban areas).

        It is quite clear the argument does not lock into an absolute comparison between speeds and never should have in the first place.

        Phil is correct, the geeky religious fervour towards FTTP and anti-wireless is narrow and “ostrich like”.

        1. Tom,

          Outside urban/suburban areas, the NBN is not FTTP, it’s LTE or satellite. The point is that LTE (or any wireless) is only suitable as a fixed-line replacement in areas with a low population density. That’s why the NBN (and Telcos in other countries) only deploy it as a fixed line replacement in small towns.

          If you’d like to see what happens to mobile broadband in moderate to high population density, just attend a major event and try to upload a photo or video. Now imagine that sort of performance every day at home, because that’s what you’d get if a sizeable portion of the neighbourhood tried to change to mobile broadband at home.

          WiFi plugs into the fixed network, not the mobile network. And while its slightly slower than ethernet, it’s still faster than ADSL which means the ‘bottleneck’ is not the in-home medium. It’s the connection to the wider internet. For anyone on anything less than FTTP, there’s almost no difference in the practical speed of a computer connected via WiFi or ethernet cable. So why not use it in your home? I do unless I’m running a rendering cluster.

          If you think I’m anti-wireless, you’re mistaken. I use 3G and 4G wireless every day. I’m just saying that it is not suitable as a fixed-line replacement in urban and suburban areas. Which you’ll find is the opinion (and practise) of Telcos all around the World. Fixed and wireless networks are complementary. We need both.

          1. Cool, I think we both agree.

      2. I’m always amused when people talk about the physical disadvantages of wireless.
        Sure, RF is attenuated by man made and natural structures, but It shouldn’t be dismissed that the disadvantage of FTTP is that it requires an optical fibre to be installed before it can actually work.

        The wonder of wireless is that it doesn’t actually need a dedicated transmission line, and yet this is somehow (mis) represented as a disadvantage.

        1. There are pros and cons to every system.

          The pros of wireless are mobility and convenience. The cons are cost and capacity.

  29. So naïve.
    As wired Ethernet ports on laptops are being phased out, you think cable is the future. It is ridiculous. Everyone is connecting wirelessly even in the home, and more likely people ant the internet when not at home. What good is fibre for the wireless future?
    Yes a fibre optic infrastructure is needed for the backbone of an upgradable wireless system.
    Wireless technology is moving in leaps and bounds. Home WiFi is already past gigabit speeds with 802.11ac. By the time the NBN rollout would be complete, the mobile wireless technology will be fast enough to stream HD video. How much faster do you need in your home?
    Fibre now would be nice, but the rollout is very slow, and the cost of fibre to every home is unnecessary.

    1. Naive indeed, Mr Fat Controller.

      The existence or not of ethernet ports on laptops is not even vaguely related to the delivery system of broadband to premises. That said, specific ethernet ports are not required anymore, because laptops have other methods for wired connections if required (such as Thunderbolt and/or USB-ethernet adaptors).

      Improvement to WiFi is an argument for fast fixed networks, not against them, because WiFi is a short-range wireless system that plugs into the fixed line network at your home or business. 802.11ac (which uses the 5GHz band) has an effective range of only 50m with walls in the way, meaning it cannot effectively be used to deliver from a node into a premises. Additionally, to achieve gigabit speeds, there is only sufficient bandwidth for 5 160MHz channels (ie 5 simultaneous users within range of the router). Again, making it totally unsuitable for wide-area service provision.

      For wide area wireless, you would use something like 4G/LTE, not WiFi. And all the drawbacks listed on this page apply to it. Like all wireless systems, it is incapable of delivering high bandwidth to a large number of users. It’s got nothing to do with the technology, and everything to do with the physics of radio waves.

      Mobile wireless can already deliver a single HD video stream. Several simultaneous streams, in fact. 4G/LTE can deliver 150Mbps per cell, and a 1080p stream uses about 15Mbps. But that 150Mbps cell actually serves several thousand customers. To serve 1,000 simultaneous HD stream connections, mobile wireless would need to increase its capability by 10,000% (to 15Gbps), assuming zero signal loss. With the limited amount of radio spectrum available, such an increase is highly improbable within our lifetimes, if ever. And what would we do when 4k and 8k TV reaches critical mass, with a single 8k3D stream requiring ~300Mbps?

      And that, Mr Fat Controller, is one of the reasons why not a single Telco on the planet is proposing to replace metro fixed networks with wireless. Wireless is complementary to fixed networks, not a replacement for them. We need both, not one or the other.

      1. I agree. One has only to look at the ISO communications model and the proposed architecture of the global network set out in the ’80s when all the basic machines and protocols had been invented to see how the whole she-bang fits together.
        . The network must be robust. Not affected by traffic volumes or within reason, acts of nature or people, or distance.
        . The human interface must be portable and natural. This means conversational voice and AV output at a minimum.
        .Information farms store and manipulate data.
        .Peer level interconnected work nodes perform user generated activities and store user data in a network raid scheme. The nodes form a vast interconnected network with each other that is difficult to disable. Nodes have a private network and OS as do all levels.

        Nodes aren’t big. A home unit must be able to serve everyone if the network fails. When the network is up, users interface with a nationwide supercomputer.

        This final level is due any day Have to wait for people to accept cloud storage. The point is that work nodes generally use fixed line and the user interface is wireless to the work node network.

  30. As early as 1994 Australia’s CSIRO reviewed worldwide research on the effects of radio and microwave frequencies on the human body. The report of this review was authored by Dr Stan Branett from CSIRO’s Radiophysics Division. The 150 page CSIRO report listed many well documented adverse biological effects from exposure levels well below the current safety limits. The report stressed the need to investigate the biological effects to ensure public safety in a rapidly developing wireless technology market.
    Although early reports such as CSIRO’s have highlighted the potential risks and the high level of what is unknown about radiofrequencies on the human body, untested wireless technologies continued to be developed and introduced into all areas of our daily lives.


    1. These minor inconveniences are nothing compared with the radiation frequencies and quantities thereof, we receive from the Sun. The immediacy of mobile connections augmented by a robust high speed National network will change our behaviour more than any concentrated burst of radiation on random targets.

      1. So EMR from the Sun is the same as the EMR from man-made devices?

        Wrong. Fundamentally and hopelessly wrong. The exposure standards for UV-B and man-made EMR are both set at 200 micro watts/ cm2.

        Both burn at that level. But man-made EMR is pulsed. Near an EMR tower, exposure is both DAY & NIGHT exposure. The Sun exposure is considerably less and clothing, being inside, sun screen and a hat can protect you and limit this exposure well below 8hrs.

        You cannot readily reduce your exposure from manmade sources of EMR.

        As you know, UV-B does not have to burn you to cause damage to skin cells and the collagen and if current science is accurate, the same applies to EMR from towers and wifi.

        What IF humans mistake man made EMR for sunlight and the body cannot repair at night time because the Pineal Gland cannot produce the required levels of Melantonin?

        Yes, this is the current explanation for a variety of major health concerns around low-level, long-term EMR exposure from towers, wifi, cordless phones and cell phones.

        1. What about the rest of the sun’s energy?

          The energy from the sun is actually 1000W/m2 at the sun’s zenith. This is 500 times greater than the Arpansa PUL limit for RF radiated field strength. Both sources are E-M.

          1. Again, at the risk of repeating myself, sunlight does cause damage as we well know. By definition, sunlight occurs during the day.

            The pineal gland is light sensitive and regulates the immune system , hormonal balances and anti-oxidant release when the sunlight stops.

            Man made, pulsed magnetic flux electromagnetic radiation may be sufficiently similar to ‘sunlight’ that the human body mistakes it for being sunlight – thus impairing the bodies ability to operate cellular repair functions at night time when exposed to man made radiation 24x7x365.

      2. Here are new Health Warnings from ARPANSA that you never heard of:


        But ARPANSA – the Standard authority that issued this ‘secret’ warning also states on it’s website “There is an extensive world wide research program into the possible health effects of low level RF exposure. ARPANSA will review the limits of the Standard if evidence does emerge of a causal link between low level RF exposure and adverse health effects in humans.

        The Standard incorporates a “precautionary approach” which requires owners of RF sources to minimise unnecessary exposure of the public to RF fields. Australian regulators and codes of practice will decide how this statement is applied. ”

        So man-made EMR has NOT been proven to be safe and ARPANSA leaves the Industry to decide how to implement a Precautionary Approach – which allowed NBN Co to try to install a Tower 50 meters from someones living room (MacLeans Ridges, NSW) – and 2,400 more towers across the country wherever they want too.

        Something is very wrong with this ‘experiment’ on the Australian Public.

        1. Typically, the field strength from a mobile phone tower @ 50m is equivalent to that of a TV / FM broadcasting tower @ 5000m.

          This so called “experiment” has therefore been in operation for about 50 years.

          If you’re worried about the environmental RF levels, perhaps you should move into a remote rural area.

  31. Great article. really great. If its ok with you I’d like to share on my business Facebook page and my website?

    I’m sure I will be coming back to this article as a reference for years to come since that’s how long it’s likely to take to get FTTP, or FTTN for that matter, on Phillip Island.

  32. Time and again I see articles espousing the virtues of the NBN but what I don’t get when I see you speed test showing an optus cable getting 9Mpbs then I do a speed test on Optus cable and get 98Mbps I got to wonder if someone is trying to misrepresent good ol’ copper. I mean if it was that bad it wouldn’t need to be misrepresented? would it?

    1. A few things there David. First Optus cable isn’t exactly “copper”. It’s hybrid fibre-coaxial cable. Only available to about 20% of the population, since the rollout ended about 15 years ago.

      HFC is a shared medium, which means the speed available varies based on how many users are connected to the network in an area, and how active they are. That’s why HFC speeds vary widely during the day, and why some users get high speeds while others get very low speeds. Optus have recently upgraded parts of their network to a new standard, which allows higher speeds. But their website still says only that 80% of users can get >8Mbps.

      HFC also has extremely slow upload speeds. Check for yourself, and compare your upload speed to the NBN’s ~40Mbps on the 100Mbps DL plan.

  33. All good and well with this superhigh speed and all but… what do you do with it? Downloading a 2 hour full HD movie in 3 seconds flat sounds great but how is that an advantage over a system that streams slightly faster then the two hours that it takes to actually watch the movie? A two hour movie takes two hours to watch, just as a 10 minute drive to work takes 10 minutes regardless of whether you have a car capable of 60km/h or a car that is capable of 460km/h – i.e. you are limited by traffic, speed limits and safety.

    I do get that the old dial-up was pathetically slow took 10 minutes to download a single picture, but…

    And what about 5G and the use of a multitude of micro towers?

    1. There are several answers to your questions:
      – For the entire history of the internet, uses have been found that require increasing levels of bandwidth. You assume that HD video is the highest quality/data rate that will ever be required. Yet standards for 4k and 8k TV have already been ratified, which require 4-8x more bandwidth (more for 3D) than current HD. As screens continue to grow, so does the need for higher resolutions to maintain picture quality. What more is around the corner? Holographic projections? Interactivity? Who knows.
      – What about multiple concurrent users (Mum & Dad are watching a 4kTV movie, while the kids are completing interactive homework in the next room, or playing a game)?
      – Due to physical limitations of distance, topography and technology, many users on ADSL2+ and 3G/4G wireless cannot obtain sufficient speeds to download or upload even SD video streams, be they a movie or conferencing, telework etc.
      – For wireless (be it 5G, 6G or whatever), the issues of shared bandwidth and cost remain. The cost of wireless is a function of the limited spectrum available, which makes that spectrum extremely expensive. This means telcos have to charge high fees to limit usage, ensuring their networks remain usable. It is simply impractical and uneconomical to use wireless as a fixed line replacement for high volume usage.

      1. Are you confusing fixed wireless with mobile wireless, where there are no guarantees for instantaneous bandwidth? 4G Fixed wireless is very much an integral component of our national broadband network last time I checked. Indeed, the bandwidth provided by fixed 4G wireless to a single user could support the entire bandwidth requirements for any capital city’s terrestrial DTV broadcasting.

        Re HD TV, it’s a pity that the terrestrial broadcasters do not see the demand to which you refer. HD TV has been going backwards in this country for about a decade now.

        1. Yes, fixed wireless for a limited number of users is a part of the NBN. This article is related to the erroneous belief that mobile wireless is a suitable replacement for fixed lines.

  34. I find it suprising that so many people have said that wireless technology will NEVER beat wired technology….. How ignorant!

    Assuming the human race lasts another 1000 years – and let’s be honest that seems rather unlikely at the moment – but let’s assume they do. In 1000 years who knows what kind of technology will be available. For starters there are already companies researching wireless data transmission using quantum entanglement (which has already been tested at a range of 10 miles – albeit under strict and impractical conditions, but with zero lag) literally instantaneous data transmission (not limited by the speed of light). Obviously a network run or connected by quantum entanglement based hardware will be limited by the processing speed built into said hardware (but that is no different than today’s networking equipment).

    Although new materials and the use of multiple frequencys can dramatically improve transmission speed, for the most part It is not the medium through which data is transferred but the processing hardware &/or software that is currently limiting the speed of networks. For example faster fiberoptic speeds come from improvements to the equipment on either side of the cable not the cable itself.

    1. It’s true that you should never say never when it comes to new technology.

      Data transmission via quantum entanglement is far from a sure thing. The current research is over 10 feet, not 10 miles. It’s still to be verified even over that short distance, and the ‘data’ being transmitted isn’t data in the traditional sense. As of last year, the university team that first claimed to have demonstrated entanglement was only planning to try it over 1.3km. They haven’t done so yet. That’s not to say it’s totally impossible, or that it won’t form the basis of some new form of communications (or even transport) in the distant future. But such a breakthough isn’t so much about technological improvement, but rather the demonstration and understanding of changes to the accepted laws of physics. In the context of debate surrounding the NBN and whether we should deploy optical finre or current (or even foreseeable) wireless technology, the choice is clear.

      Raw network speed isn’t the issue for wireless per se. The issue is congestion, and user speed is a factor of that. We’re already seeing that user speeds on 4G networks have halved over the past 12 months, as more people congest the networks. The new technology and additional spectrum isn;t keeping up with demand, even though wireless still only represents ~5% of total data usage. Now imagine what would happen if we tried to dump the other 95% onto it.

  35. The day that the little light at the end of the cable comes through the door must be as exiting as the first release of windows 95, I can’t wait.

    1. Windows 95? You mean Mac 84?

  36. Yeh! Cool

  37. Sensible approach 29 December, 2015 — 5:25 pm

    I think this author misses the point
    Anti nbn people aren’t advocating a full wifi network with giant towers everywhere.
    What is sensible is FTTN and then various innovative approaches to the last mile
    Most people have wifi in home and you can pick up close neighbors – this means a neighbourhood can share a wifi modem
    You can put daisy chains from the node down suburban streets and add modems for black spots and to increase speed
    And innovation can ru wild
    See problem solved for a fraction of the cost
    1 you don’t need to enter the premeses
    2 flexible technology
    3 most people in rural oz have bad internet so eves adsl wifi would delight them
    4 businesses can pay for their own optic (or we can give assistance eg rural businesses with demonstrated need

    FTTH fails all regulatory principles is expensive, limited and invasive

    1. What you’re advocating wouldn’t work for a number of reasons:

      – The NBN is an open-access, wholesale-only network. It is neither designed nor legally permitted to have retailers jump in to the network at a point before the user to implement their own delivery method. So your ‘solution’ could make no difference to the regulatory situation.

      – There is nowhere in the World using WiFi as a ‘last mile’ solution, because it wouldn’t work. WiFi has a very limited range and a very limited number of channels. WiFi modems within range each other interfere and reduce the available bandwidth to each. So if you placed WiFi out on the street, it would reduce the capability of the in-home WiFi of everyone in range. Extending that network with more WiFi (‘Daisy chains”) further reduces the bandwidth (because each extender uses two channels just to relay). So adding modems decreases speed, it doesn’t improve it. If you had multiple ISPs all offering their own WiFi from a node, that would further reduce the capability for everyone. Every jump between the user and the internet adds latency, greatly reducing the apparent speed of the connection. In short, everyone would get terrible service and the more dense the population of an area, the worse it would be.

      – It certainly wouldn’t be ‘a fraction of the cost’. FTTH needs a ‘node’ for every ~300 premises (with no power). FTTN has a node for every ~120 premises (with power), and WiFi would need a node for every ~4 premises (with power). So, compared to FTTH, you’d need ~75x more street cabinets and every one of them would have to be connected to the electricity grid. You think that would be cheap? WiFi also uses about 10x more electricity than FTTH, so the opex would be far higher.

      – Rural areas of the NBN were never going to get FTTH, they were (and are) getting either LTE wireless or satellite.

    2. “FTTH fails all regulatory principles is expensive, limited and invasive”? Have you not been paying attention?The majority Fttn plan has currently proven to be as expensive + on going costs. The original ftth plan was far from limited. And what do you mean invasive? Because they have to replace the crappy corroded copper in your yard?

  38. NBN Co. Signal Tech 4 January, 2016 — 8:16 pm

    Fixed line nbn (fiber optic) is shit house.
    Wireless 4g download/upload speeds outperform almost all fixed lined (wired).
    Only strength of wired is its ping rate.
    I have over 10,000 test records in the state of Victoria with multi positioned signal readings.
    These have been documented, submitted and published. Your findings are rubbish.

    1. Really? So with no name, no evidence and using a fake email address, we’re just supposed to take the word of an anonymous person that documented 100Mbps NBN connections are inferior to 4G, even though publicly available information shows that 4G speeds have fallen 50% over the last year? http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/mobiles/australian-4g-download-speeds-slump-20150319-1m2qal.html Feel free to provide links to your “10,000 published tests” though.

      1. Are there any factual unpoliticised comparisons (speeds, costs) within NBN or do NBN supporters rely on ad hominems to silence dissenting views?
        If “Signal Tech” is genuine, his job would be at stake for not towing the corporate line. Whistle blowing in “true believer” organisations such as NBN is a very dangerous past-time. Hence the fake email address. “Published tests”?

        1. “NBN Signal Tech” (who used a fake NBN Co email address), claimed he had completed and published 10,000 tests. No evidence was provided of this.

          There are numerous speedtest.net results from NBN users, which almost always show a result close to the advertised speed for the plan in questions (i.e. 12, 25, 50 or 100Mbps). Conversely, 4G speeds are typically well below the advertised speed, which is well below the advertised speed of FTTP in any case. I provided a link to data showing that 4G speeds have fallen substantially over the last 12 months, from a point where they were already far below that of FTTP. Given the physical properties and limitations of the technologies, it is thoroughly implausible that 4G delivers better speeds than FTTP unless the FTTP connections are faulty.

          “NBN signal tech” is making the claim, it is up to him to provide evidence to support it.

          1. You are also making claims on this site. Please provide the evidence.

          2. I have provided or linked to substantial evidence that FTTP is faster than wireless. It’s a well established fact. The anonymous poster claims the opposite is true, and that he has ‘published 10,000 tests to prove it’. So let’s see them. I won’t hold my breath.

    2. Also nbn co signal tech derp 11 January, 2016 — 3:09 am

      Check it out, I’m also a nbn co tech and I have over 1 billion tests to prove that 4g wireless, despite being slow and inconsistent on your smartphones, is proving to be faster than the speed of light over fibre optics! I means its beyond all reason and ignores the laws of science but go look at my published tests over there. Derp.

  39. It’s now 2016, the year of 5G, so we’ll start to see wireless speeds exceeding FTTN / cable broadband.

    5G is mostly just 4G on steroids, employing a combination of enhanced MIMO and spectrum aggregation, but there’s also the addition of antenna arrays in cell bases which provides for beam steering capability. This means that for each user’s timeslot(s), the base station optimises individual elements in the sector array to focus the antenna power at the specific user, rather than spray the power over a wider (120 degree) arc.

    The advantage is the elimination of interference as well as power gain, both of which allow for higher order modulation schemes, which translates to greater (virtual) channel bandwidth.

    1. We shall see, but that’s the same promise we heard about 3G and then 4G. Like previous and current generations, 5G speeds will fall the more use they get, so we’ll continue to have small data caps and high prices to keep the wireless networks ticking along. 4G struggles currently, yet is only carrying 3% of data volume in Australia. So unless 5G provides 40x more bandwidth than 4G, it can only continue to be a complementary technology, as it has been all along.

  40. Mobility is what people want though, as testified by the absolute number of connections. Average throughput is roughly half of what it was when 4G was launched which is a very good indicator of demand for mobility.

    To say that wireless is “complementary” misses the point that wireless broadband usage is not predominantly for entertainment purposes as is the case with home broadband.

    1. Perhaps that is the case for home broadband, but in my experience it is also the case for mobile, unless social media isn’t counted as ‘entertainment’. But either way, who cares what it’s being used for? The point is that is is being used.

      People want both, which is evidenced by the massive growth in fixed broadband volume compared to mobile. Average volumes June09 - June15

  41. For small ISP wireless is becoming magic. Just finished up some testing with ubiquiti 802.11ac PtP antennas and got 450Mbps over 9km without breaking the 4W EIRP limit in the LIPD Class licence. These antennas have built in radios for only $120 each. I don’t know why this isn’t utilised in rural areas where the 5ghz spectrum is barely used. Although it will never be as good as a wired connection still a very good option to start up an ISP with these as backhaul and then find a high enough place to fit a omni ptmp antenna and then service phones in town with LOS and fixed client alot further away with an external antenna if more capacity needed replace omni with sectors and then use WPA2-Enterprise for client auth. Over a year it would take only one customer to pay the equipment off your only problem is getting enough customers to cover the cost of whole internet and backhaul from Telstra or so.

  42. So, for the dunderheads in the audience (ie. me!) I was searching for what happens to the speeds when you put the nbn through a wireless router at home…. I’m assuming that what you are talking about is getting the connection to the home, not how it is used inside? How does the speed get affected inside the home once an ordinary user like me attaches a wireless router or uses the usual blue (adsl?) cable? Or should I be looking for fibre optic cabling to run from my NBN box to my devices and tough luck for my wireless ones? Thanks 🙂

    1. If you use a modern wireless router (i.e. 802.11n or 802.11ac standards), then it should deliver whatever speeds your NBN connection can provide throughout your home, albeit with a very slight latency (lag) compared to using ethernet cable. So if you have a PC sitting next to the router, better to connect it with a cable. For the rest of the house wireless is fine, so long as you don’t have double-brick or concrete everywhere, which could slow things down a bit.

  43. Time to update this article with 4G/4GX network speeds. I’m not saying wireless is going to replace a fibre backbone, but to say high speeds are not possible is short sighted at the very least. Alphabet announced they will demo next year new high speed wireless network – this is BIG news. There is also new faster wireless network tech like pCell (up to 35 times faster) and ideas like high-altitude balloons and flying drones. It’s inevitable that wireless speeds are going to very much increase and at a very fast rate – especially considering users habits, with more mobile devices than fixed and more traffic over mobile devices (requests etc). In terms of raw data volumes, of course users at home streaming TV shows are going to use more data. But to think that the tech is just going to sit still and be limited by available radio spectrum you are very much mistaken.

    1. High wireless speeds are possible. But not if the wireless networks are expected to carry more than a tiny fraction of our data needs. Unless we find a way to bend or break the laws of physics, and there is no technology on the horizon to manage this feat.

      The real-world speeds achieved by wireless networks are not increasing at anything like the headline promises, because as the original article says, speeds are dependent on usage. All the technological advances are barely keeping up with the increase in demand. Average 4G speeds in Australia have actually halved since the networks were launched. Despite headline speeds of 150Mbps, Telstra’s 4G network only delivers an average of 13Mbps. See this article: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/mobiles/australian-4g-download-speeds-slump-20150319-1m2qal.html

      Even this speed is artificially high thanks to high mobile data pricing. If mobile data was cheap (causing higher usage), speeds would plummet. 3G/4G wireless networks are currently carrying only 4% of Australia’s data volume (the remaining 96% is on fixed-line networks). This share has been stagnant for 7 years. Now if Telstra’s 4G network cannot manage 1/10th of it’s headline speed currently, how do you think it would go with 20x more data on it?

      Drones, balloons and pico cells are mobile solutions, which don’t really overcome much. Alphabet’s concept isn’t mobile wireless, it’s point-to-point, much more like current microwave systems than 3G/4G etc wireless systems. It would only be an option where there is direct line-of-sight between a tower and each premises. No doubt useful in some areas, but it’s essentially just a different way of delivering a fixed service.

  44. Personally I think short term fibre technology rules. Many ISP’s use what’s called WDM technology and back when I was working in Optus we started rolling out 100GBps and trialing 400GBps links for backhaul. The 400GBps SFP module type cassettes were over 120k AUD each NODE (end) from memory and the reason for that, is that each cassette had WDM technology built into it, making it a very complex bit of equipment, so it’s going to be a while from a cost perspective that they’ll come down, maybe another 5 years to a more viable amount.

    Anyway, I think over time as mobile data becomes more mainstream for home users, there will need to be significant equipment upgrades within the mobile backhaul and capacity requirement here in Australia and because we have such a large spread out country there are cost implications with that, but I believe it won’t be as expensive as fibre.

    1. My guess is that by 2030, 5G will have evolved sufficiently to be a viable broadband solution for many in urban areas. Essentially, wireless is a FTTN technology, so it’s just a matter of providing enough backhaul bandwidth as well as Nodes – eNodeB’s in LTE lingo.

      Future eNodeB’s will be installed on power / light poles for local area coverage for 100 homes or thereabouts.

    2. We are increasingly using 3G and 4G data while on caravan trips often to remote areas. Mobile data is very convenient and coming down in price. Email, basic news and occasional Facebook use can all be done on 3G or 4G.
      At home, we recently shifted from ADSL @ 11-12 Mbs to NBN FTTN and are getting 14-15 Mbs. Clearly Netflix etc need bigger bandwidth than can be provided through mobile data, however they were comfortable with ADSL.
      This leaves the nagging doubts in my mind. Is NBN the stuff of pariahs and electronic revheads and would the world have really suffered without NBN?

  45. These experimental speeds are great, but the fastest speed being offered by the NBN is a paltry 100mbps. I’ve been a longtime fan of fibre and wired internet, but by the time my home is due to get the NBN (maybe 2020, if I’m lucky?), 5G will be out and my phone will have better internet than my home PC/network.

    Which leads me to believe the NBN will be a massive waste of time and money. How much will it cost them to upgrade to 1Gbps, or higher?

    1. The original FTTP sections of the NBN are already capable of 1Gbps. As for the Coalition’s FTTN sections, who knows what the cost and timeframe of a 1Gbps upgrade will be. Hopefully, they will now move to their new FTTC option, which will be readily upgraded to higher speeds in the future. Don;t forget that there is also a cost involved in upgrading wireless networks (and devices) to 5G, 6G etc. The cost of those upgrades are built into the monthly bill you pay. I suspect it’s unlikely that you’ll get real-world urban speeds of 100Mbps over any wireless network anytime in the near future.

  46. You seem to have missed the obvious point that fibre is great for long haul backbone routes, but 5G is the only way to go for the last mile to the user. The last mile is what destroys the economics of fibre because it costs so much to cables in the ground, link them to homes and keep maintaining those cables year after year. 5G solves the last mile problem.

    1. No, it doesn’t. 5G (or any wireless technology) is a shared medium, so its capacity is shared by everyone within range of the tower. There is no telco on the planet proposing to provide wireless as a ‘last mile’ solution to replace cable infrastructure in urban areas. Because it can’t do it, at least using current or predicted technology (including 5G). For example, there might be 1000 people living within range of the tower, and it isn’t possible for a 5G tower to serve anywhere near that many people a reasonable amount of bandwidth to act as a fixed-line replacement. It’s also not as simple as building another tower, because there is a finite amount of radio spectrum available. Wireless networks only carry about 5% of current traffic. That percentage has not increased, because demand for data is increasing much faster than wireless capability. 3G->4G->5G has only barely managed to keep up with demand for mobile use. It doesn’t come close to covering the exponential growth in the overall demand for data. Maybe if torrents, netflix etc had not arrived, then mobile might cope. But even our current demand for video is well beyond being served in urban areas by 5G, a technology that hasn’t even been deployed yet. Given compound data growth of 50% every year, how do you think 5G will cope when it’s actually deployed in 3-4 years time, and data demand is 300-500% higher than it is currently?

      1. NBN Myths has missed the point that 5G is not simply a higher capacity 4G. It has been allocated bands up to 60 GHz, which means the bandwidth available for cells is huge. Moreover, these frequencies are in the millimetre range, which mean they get reflected off virtually every surface. Hence they are inherently short range, so a 5G network will seem more like a WiFi cell (except with enormously greater bandwidth and bit rates) than a 4G cell.
        This makes it ideal for the last mile from the fibre node to the home or office. Each cell will be extremely small, allowing huge numbers of people to share the same frequency bands, of which there will be very much more due to the 20 to 60 GHz 5G band having so much more space than the 0.9 to 2.8 GHz 4G band.

        1. You’re getting ahead of yourself a bit. The 5G standards aren’t even ratified yet, so it’s a bit hard to speak with any certainly as to what they’ll be.

          However, if we assume it uses the 60GHz+ band… There are big issues with path loss at those frequencies. This will require extremely complex antenna systems to overcome and/or large increases in power consumption. Both options are an issue. It means devices will be larger and more expensive due to more complex antennas and/or needing larger batteries. Then there is the potential safety issues associated with higher power radio transmitters.

          You also seem to miss the major downside of 60GHz, which it it’s extreme inability to penetrate solid objects. You cite reflection as an advantage, but that’s only useful within a room. You completely ignore the penetration disadvantage. 60GHz signals won’t even penetrate a single brick wall and have major trouble with glass and doors. So how do you think they will get from a cell site 200m up the road, through the wall of your house/building, and to your device? You’ll need an external antenna. More expense, more inconvenience, and the need to then use WiFi inside your premises in any case. Is it raining? Sorry, rain causes massive interference with signals in that band. But I guess, if you live in the desert and leave your front door open, it could be a wonderful technology to replace fixed lines…..

          Then you have the cost and amenity issues associated with rolling out an entirely new wireless system, which will require 100s of times more cells than existing networks. Essentially you’ll need to run fibre down most streets in any case to connect all the microcells together. That will be expensive. I would hazard a guess, that it would be no cheaper than doing a FTTK setup using existing copper from kerb to house.

          1. It is very silly to state “You completely ignore the penetration disadvantage” of 5G. Fibre has the same penetration disadvantage in that can’t penetrate walls without drilling a hole through them to let the fibre through.
            I have had NBN FTTH for 2+ years but I would have much preferred to have had single small dish antenna on my roof instead of a cable from the stobie pole outside to an exterior wall, a big box bolted to the outside wall of the house and then another two boxes on the interior wall where the connection comes in.
            As for rain, well this is also a big problem for all buried cables such as fibre and HFC, which are prone to damage during storms. Without fail, I lose Foxtel (delivered via HFC) whenever a big storm comes through, and it can take several days for the problem to be repaired. At least with wireless, the problem goes away when the storm passes.

          2. But this major disadvantage of 5G at 60GHz completely destroys the only advantage it has over fibre (mobility). Why would you waste spectrum delivering something that is going to deliver a slower (and shared) service compared to fibre, have higher latency, consume enormous amounts of electricity compared to fibre, be more expensive and complex to upgrade and greatly add to EMR (which may or may not be a health issue)? You will need a line-of-sight dish on your roof (ugly), then wiring down to a box and backup battery inside (no different to fibre). Performance will always be lost or degraded in rain.

            Fibre does not suffer the same issues with water as HFC or copper pairs. And the issue is a fault, so if installed correctly should not occur. In the case of 60GHz, it is a physical limitation of the technology, so failure or degradation of performance is inevitable.

    2. I worked for a while as a 3G and 4G planning engineer and calculated the cost of providing everyone in urban areas 50 Mbps DL.

      Not surprisingly it’s cheaper than FTTP NBN but still > 10 billion dollars, although with hardware costs falling steadily it will become increasingly cheaper into the future.

      You are right about the last mile though, and there are some operators around the world who are interested in rolling out 5G fixed wireless networks as a viable substitute for FTTP.

      Those who point out that radio spectrum limitations present a hard capacity limit are only correct to a point, because radio frequencies are reused at every base station, so capacity can be increased by building more base stations with smaller coverage footprints.

      5G has the potential to dramatically improve spectrum efficiency, and more so for a fixed wireless network where the end user device is fixed and connected to a directional antenna. A 5G base station utilises an active antenna array, so it too produces a highly cardioid pattern that’s reconfigured for every user in the TDMA frame.

      From my pov as a wireless cell planning engineer, I definitely believe that the future is wireless – in various forms, although I may well be slightly biased.

  47. Hmmm interesting ariticle and I would have to agree with it. Fibre will always be faster than wireless. And its pritty simple physics really. We all know that nothing can travel FASTER then light.

    1. Only light travels as fast as light, which means that wireless transmissions also travel as fast as light.
      According to wave theory in physics, radio waves are the SAME as light waves (they are both electromagnetic waves, the only difference is their frequency), so they both travel at the speed of light in a vacuum (denoted by the constant ‘c’). This was established by James Clark Maxwell and described by the famous Maxwell equations in the late 1800s. EM waves are orthogonal vectors of electric and magnetic fields which propagate in the third dimension, which is how light (and hence radio transmission) is able to move as though it was a wave.
      By the way, light travels slower than the “speed of light, c” when not in a vacuum and therefore so does RF energy. The energy contained in a particle of light is E = hf, so the higher frequency, the more energy in the particle (visible light is EM at a much higher frequency than RF). This means that more energy is required to generate a beam of visible light than is required for the same number of photons at RF.
      So, in short, fibre is not faster than wireless since they both carry EM waves. In fact, for multi-mode fibre at least (all high capacity fibre links are multi-mode), EM probably travels slower than wireless because the fibre medium is higher density than the wireless medium (air).

      1. What about the speed of light over glass vs the speed of light through concrete, trees, metal and what have you? How is wireless ever going to compete with that?

        1. It’s actually pretty close either way. It’s not the speed of the signal that makes wireless slower than fibre, it’s principally the lack of available bandwidth. The more bandwidth you have, the more data you can send/receive, thus making your connection ‘faster’ from a practical perspective. A single strand of fibre has a greater potential bandwidth than the entire radio spectrum, let alone the small portion available for wireless networking.

  48. Fibre DOES have problems with water ingress, even though it is not made of copper, because it still requires amplification (even state-of-the-art light amplifiers still require copper to bring in power) and it is prone to failure where fibres are spliced together. Fibre must be buried in the ground for decades to be cost justified, so there is plenty of time for back-hoes, vermin, fires, floods and other sources of damage to occur. Each repair is not only expensive but also reduces the lifetime of the cable. Each fibre joint increases the amount of reflection, which degrades signal quality, eventually requiring the whole length of fibre between two amplifiers (repeaters) to be replaced.
    It is so much easier and cheaper to replace a small microwave dish antenna than to dig up the road or footpath with a back-hoe looking for a section of fibre to repair.

    1. The FTTP used by the NBN is a passive network (i.e. it does not have amplifiers everywhere). Fibre can carry data for hundreds of km without amplification. A 5G microcell system with fibre backhaul would have just as many powered components as a GPON FTTP network such as the NBN. And each of those powered components would use a LOT more of it. If it’s a backhaul cable that’s damaged, then microcell 5G would be just as susceptible to being damaged as FTTP. As for ‘digging up footpaths looking for damage’… First, you can exactly find the location of damage to a fibre cable by running a test along the cable, so your implication that people would be randomly digging up the footpath looking for a fault is untrue. They’d know exactly where it was. Second, most buried FTTP cables are in conduit, so no need to dig it up. Just pull it out through the conduit and repair or replace it.

  49. Oh no! Even American providers are abandoning FTTP in their droves! It seems no one is interested in this 1980s solution to a 21st century problem except you guys here who all believe in the simplistic premise that “fibre has the widest bandwidth therefore it must be the best solution for everyone everywhere”.

    Have a read here: http://www.zdnet.com/article/fiber-broadband-is-it-a-waste-with-5g-and-elon-musks-satellites-on-the-horizon/?loc=newsletter_large_thumb_featured&ftag=TRE17cfd61&bhid=25556448092757571786458853624604

    1. I wonder whether you actually read that article before you linked to it? Let’s analyse the content and compare it to the situation here.

      First, it talks about a slowing of FTTP rollouts in the US. Fair enough. But then it notes that the US already has 60% population coverage with [superfast] HFC (in addition to the unmentioned FTTP coverage provided by Verizon FiOS (10%), AT&T and Google fibre, plus the also unmentioned VDSL2 networks). If Australia had coverage like that, then there would be no need to do the FTTP/FTTN/FTTdp NBN rollouts. But here, most people are stuck on ADSL2 or even ADSL1. Most people don’t already have access to the 100Mbps+ cable and FTTP networks that already exist over there. I agree that when you have existing super fast networks like that covering the majority of the country, doing a FTTP overbuild would be less important. But, again, that is not the situation in Australia.

      It talks about Comcast upgrading their HFC to Gigabit. Great idea. If only we had decent HFC here instead of dilapidated ones covering a fraction of the population.

      It mentions that Google Fiber has paused expansion while they investigate new technologies. But doesn’t really say what they may be.

      The problem faced by Google Fiber, FiOS, and AT&T’s fibre programs isn’t wireless competition. It’s the fact that most of the country already has access to super fast fixed broadband. So their rollouts are duplicating existing networks, and they need to compete with other fixed line networks. Once again, that is not an issue here.

      It mentions Elon Musk’s plans for worldwide satellite broadband, but details are scant. Sounds more like a product for global travellers than a replacement for fixed-line broadband. Each satellite beam covers a radius of ~1000km, which (in an urban area) could easily mean 5 million connections. Current state-of-the-art broadband satellites can serve ~100,000 connections at a speed of 12Mbps with a reasonable contention ratio, so not even the most optimistic wireless fanboy could imagine that within 5 years technology would allow one to serve 5 million connections at ~100Mbps. That’s asking for a performance improvement of ~450000%.

      It mentioned AT&T experimenting with power line-delivered wireless (which being 60GHz means external antennas and low penetration), but it’s only an experiment that hasn’t even started field trials yet, let alone a tech ready for widespread deployment.

      5 or 6 years ago, I was having exactly this debate with people who said the NBN would be killed by 4G. Nobody would be using fixed lines, because 4G would deliver 100Mbps. And yet, here we are with fixed line usage through the roof and 4G lucky to deliver 20Mbps, despite its theoretical capability.

      Here’s a few questions for you…. Given that all the wireless ‘alternatives’ you’ve been promoting as being better than fibre are years away from being deployment ready, and even then are highly unlikely to provide anywhere near the capability of fibre, I wonder what your suggestion is in the interim? Should we just do nothing, and sit back with ADSL2 for another 10 years?

      We started the NBN 7 years ago. It will be finished before any of these wireless services are available. And by the time they are available, 6G will be on the horizon. So then, should we deploy 5G, or wait until 6G is ready? Because, you know, it will be better. Why waste money now, when the next big thing is only 10 more years away?

      Finally, since you apparently didn’t read past the first paragraph, you might appreciate the conclusion:

      With all this in mind, what’s the advantage of gigabit fiber? Top notch fiber connections have much lower latency than any other type of connection — as low as 2ms. That opens up new possibilities for telepresence, team collaboration, and virtual reality and augmented reality over the internet.

      The other big advantage to fiber over wireless, satellites, power lines, or upgraded cable lines is that it’s much more future-proof. While we’re racing toward 1 gigabit speeds by 2020, by 2025-2030 we’re going to be demanding 10 gigabits. Fiber will find it much easier to scale up to meet that demand than these other types of connections will.

      In short, when these other technologies catch up to fiber broadband’s gigabit speeds in the next few years it will lull us into thinking that the telecom companies that spent a fortune on FTTP only ended up with a short-term advantage of 2-3 years. But make no mistake, the companies that are investing in FTTP today are likely to be the leaders in 2025 when the next wave of technologies — especially artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and mixed reality — will demand much more robust connections from both the home and the office. It’s also going to be critical to the future of the smart home and the smart city, since many of today’s most connected cities across the world have determined that laying fiber is the foundation that many of tomorrow’s most connected services will be built upon.

  50. Again, presumably because you can’t move past the premise that “fibre has the widest bandwidth therefore it is optimal solution for everyone everywhere”, you have missed the point.
    The point is that even in the US, which has a population density about 15 times that of Australia and is the home to world’s largest technology companies, they can’t justify FTTP, so how can Australia?
    There will always be new developments that make today’s “pie in the sky” tomorrow’s reality. So why spend taxpayers’ money giving everyone a free Ferrari now when the majority would be satisfied with a Hyundai or even a bike? It reminds me of the Peak Oil analysis of 10 years ago which said that as the amount of new oil was less than the growth in consumption, supply would fall below demand in 2005, after which the price of oil would sky rocket, to as much as US$500 per barrel. What happened? Technology gave us shale oil (which had been discovered a century before) and the price of fell to less than $30 (it has now recovered to $50 due to the actions of the OPEC cartel).
    And yes I did read the last paragraph, in which the author ignores the facts written before it to let his biased opinion take over.

    1. Nice strawman. But I do not say that fibre is the optimal solution for everyone, everywhere. It is the optimal solution for urban and suburban areas of Australia though, given our current situation. In rural areas, wireless makes sense. And in remote areas, satellite makes sense.

      As I mentioned in my previous post, the reason fibre is harder to justify in the US is because the majority of their urban and suburban areas already have access to superfast broadband. Therefore a fibre rollout in there US must compete with HFC, which is offering 100Mbps. That is not the case in Australia, where HFC only covers about 15% of the population, and even there offers poor performance due to a lack of maintenance and upgrades.

      The NBN is not ‘spending taxpayers money giving everyone a Ferrari’. The NBN is a Government-owned commercial operation. They charge for access to their network, generating a return. It is exactly the same as when Telstra constructed the copper network. But I suppose, had you been around in 1910, you would have opposed the rollout of the copper phone network. After all, why spend taxpayers money on such a frivolous idea, just so people can gossip? When radio had been invented and people could just talk on that. No need to run wires into every house. What a waste…..

      Leaving aside the strawman and the oil red herring, I notice that you didn’t actually answer my questions. What should we do right now, since we have some of the lowest broadband speeds in the world? What technology should we deploy right now to improve our position? Who should deploy it?

      1. Your statement “the NBN is a Government-owned commercial operation” is wrong. It is not a commercial operation because it does not generate a profit or even expect to within a reasonable time frame. Legally, it would be classed as “trading whilst insolvent” (and therefore its directors liable to criminal prosecution) if it were not for the Government (i.e. taxpayers) guaranteeing to pay the NBNs debts “as and when they fall due”. Hence the $49b investment has effectively been written-off by the Government, and the rating agencies (which effectively set Australia’s credit rating and, as a consequence, our interest rates) show it as $49b liability on the Government’s books, not as the asset that a commercial operation would represent. Hopefully, in 30 or 40 years’ time and if a genuine commercial competitor with newer technology does not overtake the NBN in the meantime, the taxpayer might get some of that $49b back, but this is unlikely and certainly from an accounting point of view it has been written off. All we can really hope is that the NBN will in time generate enough revenue to keep operating without requiring more taxpayer funds for the following 3 or 4 decades. The simple indisputable fact is that if providing the NBN was an efficient use of capital, then a genuine commercial enterprise would have built it without the need for taxpayer funding.

        Now to answer your specific questions.

        “What should we do right now, since we have some of the lowest broadband speeds in the world?” Before you can ask that question, you need to state what it is you are trying to achieve. Is the goal to ensure that geeks and gamers can have fun all night long with their peers all over the world? Or is it to keep couch potatoes happy streaming QHD episodes of the latest American sitcom? Or perhaps it is just to ensure that ordinary people can get what they really use (e.g. email, Facebook, Spotify) and which is commercially sustainable for businesses (e.g. B2B, collaboration between worksites)? I would suggest that most people don’t actually need 1 Gbps. Indeed, I work for a US-based multi-national technology company and we have a dedicated fibre link (not the NBN!) between our worksites all over the world. Yet at the Australian site where I work, we only have a 10 Mbps connection to the corporate fibre network (although up to 1 Gbps is available to us) because that is all we need. We do video conferencing every day of the week (with multiple PCs connected individually, not sharing a connection) between Australia, the US and Canada, with very smooth video response. We also share large amounts of data (I transferred 47,000 files totalling about 35GB to Canada on Friday). So once you decide how fast a connection you actually need and not what you want (“well Singapore has 1 Gbps so I want it too”), you can then decide which mix of technologies is the best to satisfy that need and whether it is cost-justified. Personally I would have preferred spending some of that $49b on better educating Australians to use, develop and exploit technology, than to getting 1 Gbps for FTTN so my Mum can watch Netflix or my daughter can play the latest war game with her online friends in America. So what we should do right now is to have a referendum to decide (a) how fast a connection each taxpayer wants and (b) how much increase in their annual income tax they will accept in order to pay for it. From that you will get a specification of a minimum connection for which the taxpayer would provide, and then anything above that would be on a user-pays basis.

        “What technology should we deploy right now to improve our position?” The answer to this comes from the decision made in the previous paragraph, but obviously the most efficient solution is to deploy a mixture of technologies, including fibre, HFC and wireless, but also copper which is currently achieving speeds of 1 Gps in trials. I note that when copper telephone lines were first deployed in the early 1900s, Shannon’s Law, stated mathematically as “bps = W * log2(1 + S/N)”, indicates that speeds of a few kbps would have been the maximum possible, so we can see that modern technology has improved that by a factor of 300,000 and perhaps it can go even further.

        “Who should deploy it?” Obviously genuine commercial operators, not a taxpayer-funded monopoly like the NBN. In this way, each customer could choose not only his supplier, but his preferred connection type (e.g. fibre via overhead cable, 30cm dish antenna, HFC, 5G), add-ons (e.g. WiFi router, standard telephone, subscription TV, battery back-up) and speed that suited his needs and budget.

        1. So much rubbish, it’s hard to know where to begin.

          Every major infrastructure project, be it public or private, runs in the red during the construction and startup phase and usually for many years afterwards. The NBN operates exactly the same way as the PMG/Telecom did when it was first rolled out, or any number of mines, bridges, toll roads etc., to give just a few examples. Both the current and previous Governments treat the NBN as an asset for the purpose of the budget. It will eventually generate a positive return and is already earning half a billion dollars a year, with less than 1/4 of the network operational. You stated that “the credit rating agencies treat the NBN as a liability”. S&P and Moody’s have said no such thing, and they actually give NBN Co an AA- stand alone credit rating (i.e. without a Govt guarantee), so clearly they consider the network to be an asset not a liability. FYI, it was KPMG (and McKinsey) who first proposed the NBN funding model. Nice try though.

          No, a commercial enterprise would not have built the NBN for a couple of reasons. First, a commercial operation wants a return of ~15%, so as to generate a good profit for shareholders. The NBN only wants to just beat ‘break even’ at about 7%. Secondly, as we saw in the 90s, a commercial operation is only interested in highly profitable parts of the network. The NBN’s objective is to provide coverage for all Australians through a cross-subsidy model, where income from the densely populated city areas helps pay for the wireless and satellite services for the rural and remote areas, and everyone pays the same price for access, no matter your location or delivery technology.

          You’re right, not everybody wants a 1Gbps connection. That’s why the NBN offers 12, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500Mbps and 1Gbps speeds. You pay for what you want. The more you want, the more you pay. Which leads to the next point…. There will be no increase in income tax required for the NBN, because it’s the users that pay for it, not the taxpayers as such. It isn’t rocket science. If you want higher speeds, you pay more money. The taxpayers initially provided capital to build the copper network, but the Govt/PMG/Telecom got their money back via monthly line rental. The NBN is identical.

          “The most efficient technology”…. Essentially, that’s what the NBN are doing. Fibre is a no-brainer for greenfields. It’s no more expensive than copper. In brownfields, HFC is only cheaper if it’s already there and in serviceable condition, which is not the case in most areas of Australia. NBN Co have already said they aren’t going to use the Optus HFC because it’s RS. Who knows if Telstra’s is any better. Copper only delivers fast speeds in a lab, over short distances, with new/thick copper. It is showing promise in NBN FTTC trials, where it only runs the ~20m from the curb to the house and is only a few hundred dollars more than FTTN. So that is a tech that looks very promising for cost and performance. In rural areas, wireless is the most efficient, and in remote areas, satellite is the most efficient. And that’s what NBN are using.

          Telecommunication lines, like water pipes and electricity, are a natural monopoly. It is madness to roll out competing copper, HFC, fibre in the one area. Trying to have infrastructure competition almost sent Optus broke in the 1990s. It adds costs for everyone, consumes more resources, more electricity and is ugly. The NBN model, where one operator (NBN) provides the infrastructure and wholesales it to providers makes perfect sense. The retailers can then add whatever service options they like, and offer different speeds and products to different consumers. If you want wireless, then you’re already free to do that now. But few people do, because it doesn’t make financial sense in most cases.

          Would you welcome 2 or 3 different electricity companies deploying duplicate power lines down your street? Or 2 or 3 different water suppliers?

    2. I’m just going to pick on your analogy. The funny thing about your transport analogy is that the Gb/s sort of translate to km/h. Only you have misrepresented the tiers.

      Fibre to the premise does not equal the cost of a new Ferrari to everyone; a second hand 2005 hyandai better represents the cost per premise and it can go 100+km/h. We’re talking $4 to $5000 per premise, not $800k upwards.

      A non-fibre network is closer to the faster speeds of a bicycle @40km/h.

      But the majority of us are getting around on a kids scooter @5km/h.

      Imagine the economic and lifestyle implications if we could only travel @ <40km/h. Why is it so hard to imagine the digital economic implications?

      1. The analogy of the Ferrari was not about speed, it was about cost and about choice. Some people (e.g. greenies) might not want any car at all, others would be happy with a bike (e.g. fitness junkies). With the NBN, you get no choice at all; you have to pay for it (via taxation) even if you hate the Internet and never use it. If I am going to be forced to pay for the NBN, then I should be able to choose a basic option (Hyundai), and not be forced to pay for the most expensive option (Ferrari), even if the Ferrari costs just 1% more.

        1. Your entire premise is incorrect.

          The NBN is funded by user fees, not taxation revenue. If you don’t connect, you don’t contribute.

          Your cost (and NBN Co’s income) depends on what speed you connect at (i.e., whether you want a Hyundai or a Ferrari). If you connect at 12Mbps, then NBN Co charge your RSP $24/month. If you want 100Mbps, then it’s $38/month. If you want 1Gbps, then it’s $150/month. NBN Co wholesale prices 2016

          1. “The NBN is funded by user fees, not taxation revenue.”
            Bwahahah! You saying does not make it true. Let’s run a quick c* detector over that statement.
            NBN Just Got A $20 Billion Government Loan To Finish Its Rollout

          2. Yes, a loan. Which will be repaid from user revenue.

            That said, the problem the NBN has now is that, because the current Government have moved to an inferior technology, revenue from the network will be lower because many customers are unable to connect using the higher speed (higher priced) tiers.

          3. You declined to forecast exactly when NBN would be capable of repaying that $20 billion. You have not addressed the blissful never never that has plagued NBN’s forecasts since the golden years of promising the earth in 2007.
            You are going round and round the mulberry bush here. “Inferior technology?” It has already been established that wall to wall FTTP is a folly, cost wise.
            It has already been established that the “Field of Dreams”, “Build it and they will come” is geeky pipe dream, propaganda and empire building.
            What reasoning business would ever want to take over NBN with all this future baggage?
            By all means keep batting away all reasonable questioning. Just don’t expect hard headed business people to take NBN’s statements seriously.

          4. It’s not my job nor intention to make such forecasts. I’ll leave that to NBN Co, the Govt or whatever qualified analysts are employed to undertake such assessment.

            No, it has not been so established. In fact, it has been shown that FTTP is little more expensive than FTTN to roll out, with fewer problems and a far greater capability. However, since FTTN became the abject failure all the “geeks” said it would be, the move to FTTC is a reasonable compromise and should the rollout continue with that technology, will provide a far better outcome than the disaster known as FTTN.

            The largest “future baggage” of the NBN will undoubtedly be the FTTN and HFC components of the network. They are the least reliable, provide the least capability, provide the least potential for revenue and are the most likely to require future upgrading. If they had only stuck with FTTP, the NBN would be a simpler, more capable, more reliable and longer lasting network than the disaster it has become over the last few years. If the NBN fails to make a profit, the Coalition have only themselves to blame. Experts in the field warned them about FTTN from the moment it was first touted. And all their predictions have become reality.

        2. By your logic – Greenies don’t like cars so why build roads?

          “even if it costs 1% more” – well the liberal rhetoric was it was 150% more which made their argument more justifiable. You’re saying that you would hinder the future communication technology because you can not comprehend its use for 1%?

  51. Sorry to say this, but Keith is right. There is no way the NBN is ever going to make anything ever approaching a profit. Even 4G currently is a massive threat to the NBN, let alone 5G when it arrives or future technology. I’ve simply given up on fixed line phone connections at home. While the NBN is connected in my area, it is so much more expensive and less reliable than the 4G alternative. As a sole-person household, Optus now offers 50gb for $60 a month 4G which is more than enough for most people. My $200 smart phone is much more reliable as a modem for my lap top than connecting it to a fixed line.

    Sure, maybe the NBN may benefit a few people who play a lot of online games or watch a lot of Netflix, but these people should really be paying for the cost the infrastructure themselves, rather than tax payers forking out a massive $50+ billion to subsidise what is going to be a massive loss making operation.

    1. The NBN plan always assumed that there would be a limited number of households that would be wireless only. And you probably fit that description well. A single-person household, which does not use a lot of data.

      However, you are the exception rather than the rule. You say that “50GB a month is more than enough for most people”. But that is a demonstrably false statement. According to the ABS, the average fixed line broadband user is already consuming 131GB per month (as at June 2017). And that figure is growing by 50% every year. So by June 2018, the average will likely be around 180GB per month.

      Online TV (be it Netflix, Stan, Foxtel or just FTA catch up) is growing massively each year. And the more people that use those services, the more income will be generated for NBN Co. Because it is the users of those services that fund the NBN through their monthly broadband subscriptions.

    2. I work in an average sized hospital in which is in no way remote from anything which employs a couple thousand people. People with older generation iPhones, or thick covers on their phones, or arejust unlucky struggle struggle to get a signal.

      Your anecdote, a $200 smart phone being more reliable than your laptop on a fixed line, is not at all representative of everyone’s experience nor is it representative of the market. Plus – there must be something wrong with your home set-up if you think mobile-data is more reliable than fixed line.

      On another note – 50gb for $60 is a joke when current fixed lines allow unlimited plans for $60 (MyRepublic $65- 12 month contract).

  52. CEO of Optus says 5G is ok for high density areas. Telstra exec says fibre is the only long term solution for everyone. Fixed wireless is a hopeless solution for many of the rural areas, it is over subscribed and expensive to upgrade. Fibre is a viable and economically feasible solution to peri urban areas (4 acre size blocks) of hundreds of towns. Original plan was for 1400 towers now we are at 2700 towers and average footprint is 4 kilometres because to save time and complete the LNP order to have it finished by 2016 opps! I mean 2020, NBN have rolled them into relatively highly dense populations. FW is cost effective to serve a couple of hundred homes in a 14 kilometer footprint… but they are being used with just 4 kilometer footprints as they cant handle larger numbers of premises.. hence they had to build more towers!

  53. I think the author of this site owes me a beer…


    The NBN’s fibre-to-the-node technology is holding Australia back, and it will take the private sector’s 5G networks to make the nation’s internet globally competitive.

    That is the view of Singtel Optus chief executive Allen Lew, who on Monday called for the private sector to be brought in to replace ageing NBN technology with ultra-fast 5G fixed-wireless broadband.


    1. The key being in the opening paragraph….”The NBN’s fibre-to-the-node technology is holding us back…”

      Exactly the the obsolete technology that this site (and tech experts everywhere) warned against deploying. Because, surprise, surprise… Its unreliable and already obsolete. Thanks to Malcolm and Tony.

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