Tuesday, 01 December 2009 11:52

'Fibre is the answer' says telco supplier

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Despite suggestions by some politicians that wireless technology could deliver broadband across Australia, an executive at one of the potential equipment suppliers to the NBN says "fibre is the answer". And that's coming from a company with products for the major fixed and wireless communications technologies.

"HFC and DSL are approaching their maximum potential speeds, and "everyone knows that fibre is the answer, eventually," said Frank Effenberger, director of FTTx at Huawei. The problem is working out how to deploy it at reasonable cost, he added.

The expensive part of the deployment is the 'last mile' from the connection box to individual premises, so it is important to get it right, he said, noting that Verizon spent $US10 billion on its fibre rollout. Once the fibre is in place, subsequent technological improvements can be implemented by changing the equipment on the ends of the fibre.

Running aerial cable is about one-third of the cost of installing it underground, said Effenberger. The ideal situation is to run fibre through existing cable ducts, but relatively few places have those because it was cheaper to simply bury the old copper cables directly in the ground.

But "to make networks cost effective, everyone has to use them," he said, and to that end most fibre operators offer bundles of services to make their deals attractive. For unlimited voice calls, 80 or more TV channels, and 20Mbps Internet (5Mbps upstream), $US95 "is pretty much the going rate."

As for those who claim wireless broadband is an alternative to fibre, Effenberger said "data over wireless in the US has not been that successful."

"There's no way" wireless can provide services such as video (as in TV) to homes without using picocells, so you might as well install FTTH anyway, he said.

However wireless can he useful in sparsely populated areas, Effenberger suggested - just as is being considered for the NBN.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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