Home Business IT Business Telecommunications Current backhaul networks won't support the NBN, says Nortel
Nortel Networks has undertaken extensive modelling of traffic demands likely to be imposed on Australia's long haul domestic and international networks as a result of the NBN and says massive upgrades will be required.

Equally important, according to Nortel Networks' Ryan Perera, is the need for somebody or some organisation to take a holistic view of the NBN, in contrast to the Government's pronouncements to date which have been almost solely focussed on its promise to deliver 100Mbps FTTH services to 90 percent of Australian homes and businesses.

Addressing a meeting of the Telecommunications Society in Sydney last week, Perera said. "We don't know the scope of the NBN Co, or where the [$43b] will be allocated, but the network is much more than the access part. Somebody has to take a holistic view as to how this whole thing will work." He added: "We have never been able to get that view [of how the $43b] will be allocated. I think they could spend that money on the fibre access part alone."

On the basis of Nortel's modelling, which has been presented to the government in a submission to the rural backhaul blackspot discussion paper and in other forums, Perera said he did not believe that the current 10Gbps DWDM technology used in backhaul networks would be able to cope with demand, even if used on more fibres than currently. "Yes you can have multiple fibres but you cannot put all the equipment in some isolated hut: you will have problems with power and air-conditioning."

Perera added that, on the basis of Nortel's modelling for Tasmania the new Basslink fibre would prove woefully inadequate. "We did modelling for Tasmania and came up with unbelievable bandwidth. It would fill Basslink many times over." On the mainland, he said: DWDM "Between Melbourne and Sydney we are expecting 2Tbps of data with 10Gbps it cannot be done.

Similarly, Perera said that Nortel's modelling suggested the NBN would demand 3.6Tbps of international capacity even assuming bandwidth of only 30Mbps per user, not 100Mbps. "We know that the capacity is less than 1Tbps today. The NBN is a massive opportunity.

He said this lack of international bandwidth sufficient to support super-broadband access networks was already evident in Singapore. "StarHub provides 100Mbps DOCSIS 3.0 service but the only way to see that is from the local exchange. They don't have the international bandwidth."

The solution, Perera says is a network wide upgrade of Australia's long haul networks to 40Gbps or 100Gbps DWDM technology, in which Nortel claims to be a technology leader. According to Perera, even very old fibre can carry 100Gbps over multiple wavelengths.

"We can run 100gig on 15 year old fibre. The age of the fibre has nothing to do with it any more, thanks to the dispersion compensation techniques we use."

Nortel's modelling, which agrees closely with work done by AT&T, according to Perera, suggests that over 90 percent of Internet traffic generated by the NBN will come from residential users and that 70 percent of this will originate or terminate overseas. Without massive investments and radical upgrades, the Government's much touted promise of 100Mbps will look very empty.

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Stuart Corner


Tracking the telecoms industry since 1989, Stuart has been awarded Journalist Of The Year by the Australian Telecommunications Users Group (twice) and by the Service Providers Action Network. In 2010 he received the 'Kester' lifetime achievement award in the Consensus IT Writers Awards and was made a Lifetime Member of the Telecommunications Society of Australia. He was born in the UK, came to Australia in 1980 and has been here ever since.






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