JUN 01, 2015 1:24PM

There are fewer than 400,000 premises actually connected to the national broadband network. Where can the government go from here?Dr Rob Nicholls, research fellow at Swinburne University of Technology and the Centre for International Finance and Regulation, explains.

The policy rationale behind a national broadband network is two-pronged. The first is a broadband infrastructure that ensures that Australian homes and businesses have broadband at a level that does not limit the national competitiveness compared to its trading partners. The second is to ensure that this broadband service is universal.

The policy challenge is that this was never the original policy rationale and that current policy positions in the national broadband network are inconsistent with a deregulatory stance.

The policies associated with the national broadband network are trying to solve a very broad range of problems, and most of these do not fit in with delivering a telecommunications network. Even the title of the policy is misleading. The term “national” is associated with universality. However, the national broadband network is actually a set of access networks and the connectivity between these access networks is provided by commercial players.

One of the problems with policy clarity is that there are technology debates that can cloud matters. There are two ways in which broadband services can be delivered: fixed line and wireless. In the wireless space, delivery can either use a territorial system, in the same way that mobile broadband is delivered, or via satellite. Fixed-line delivery uses a combination of optical fibres and (optionally) copper wire of some type. Current ADSL (which is a mercifully short acronym for asymmetric digital subscriber line) uses the copper pairs that historically delivered telephone services. The closer the fibre is to the premises, the higher the bit rate that will be able to be delivered. This is a result of the fact that copper pairs are not good at supporting big bit rate services. Coaxial cable is much better at delivering services over longer distances.

These issues lead to a set of acronyms and the need for standardisation. The existing Telstra copper network has two segments. The first is between the exchange building and the pillar in the street. The pillar typically provides about 300 copper pairs for about 150 premises. These premises are the “distribution area” (DA). The copper between the exchange and the DA is usually in very good condition, as the cables are kept pressurised with compressed air to prevent water ingress. The copper in the DA may well have moisture issues and these can limit the data rates that can be delivered. When the fibre runs all the way to the premises, the technology is called “fibre to the premises”, or FTTP. If the fibre runs to a new box of electronics serving a DA, this is “fibre to the node”, or FTTN. If the last part is coaxial, using the cable which can deliver cable television, then this is a hybrid of fibre and coaxial, or HFC….


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REFERENCE ARTICLE: http://www.crikey.com.au/2015/06/01/how-can-we-fix-the-nbn/