September 7, 2013 – it’s a day which will decide many things. No, we’re not talking about who gets booted out of the footy finals. It’s the day Australia goes to the ballot box and decides who they want to lead the country for the next three years.
More than ever before, we’ve been taking a keen interest in the national political landscape as one of the biggest discussion points this election is the National Broadband Network.
Both major parties have committed to building the National Broadband Network (NBN) – but as you would no doubt be aware, each political side has a different outlook for our future broadband landscape. So, as the clock to Election Day 2013 counts down, we thought we’d have a look at each of the two main possibilities for the NBN.
Fibre to the Home (FTTH)
If the current government is re-elected to serve a third term, then the current NBN rollout seems set to continue. If they stay with their current plan, this means that 93% of Australians will have brand new shiny fibre optics delivered straight to their houses, while the remainder of Australians will rely on fixed wireless or satellite for internet delivery.
By delivering fibre directly to your house, internet performance, including both upload and download speeds will increase. The current top speed available from iiNet is up to 100 Mbps, however greater speeds are planned to be available in December 2013.
Fibre to the Node (FTTN)
On the other hand, if the coalition is elected, a Fibre to the Node design will be implemented. Instead of delivering fibre-optic cable directly to homes, the cable will only be run to the end of your street, where it will connect up with the existing copper wiring from your house in a secure street cabinet. The last section of copper connecting your premises will remain in situ.
While FTTN performance won’t be able to match those of FTTH connections, speeds greater than those currently possible on copper connections should be attained, with some uncertainty – house by house – on the actual performance to be delivered. This uncertainty is a side effect of the retained copper.
So why the political bickering? Well, cost is an important factor. The Coalition’s FTTN plan is expected to cost the taxpayers less in the short term and its rollout is expected to be completed much earlier than the FTTH rollout.
So what do we think?
We can see both sides of the debate. We’re on record as saying we have a preference for the increased performance, reliability and standardisation that the FTTH model would bring if it were to be continued. After all, we’re a company which provides access to the internet to millions of Australians and many businesses. We want the best performing technology to be available to as many of our customers as possible. This isn’t to say there aren’t advantages for the FTTN plan. The flip side of the debate is that the FTTN model may actually result in lower costs to iiNet and – providing the delivery occurs more quickly than the FTTH option – then the financial advantage is with FTTN.
Whatever the delivery method for the NBN, increased performance, reliability and availability are an important and positive change for all Australians, including businesses and those in regional areas. Under the Coalition’s model, we are promised that a larger number of our customers will receive access to faster internet in a shorter period of time.
From a technological standpoint we think that the existing copper infrastructure is in need of an upgrade. Copper lines across the country are decades old and in disrepair, with many deficiencies in the copper network needing urgent attention. Those deficiencies create uncertainty and below-spec performance and reliability. Line faults are frequent and susceptible to changing weather. The existing copper has served us well, but it is a poor foundation for a twenty-first century economy. The constant need to maintain these lines, which will add to the cost of a FTTN NBN, also means that they will have to be replaced at some point, anyway.
Ultimately, the decision is yours. Whichever party is elected, the National Broadband Network will continue to be built. In what shape or form, we can’t be certain until the final ballot is counted.
What’s your preference? Would you prefer the best possible technology for your internet connection, or are you willing to compromise on performance in order to receive an improved connection earlier?
For more details about the NBN – head to our dedicated NBN site.
Photo credit: yewenyi