Friday, 04 February 2011 12:36

Next G not neutered by cyclone - unlike NBN


The perils of fixed fibre cables flapping about in cyclonic winds has been exposed in Townsville, which was 'almost completely fitted out for the NBN', but due to Cyclone Yasi is likely no longer, while Telstra's Next G wireless broadband network (WBN?) was apparently unaffected.

The NBN, which will be a WBN (wireless broadband network) in some parts of Australia, is still years away from completion, but has already come under attack - this time by Mother Nature herself.

Although fibre cables strung up along power poles are theoretically able to withstand flooding plains and pouring rains, the big bad wolf that has been Cyclone Yasi has reportedly been able to blow down some of the house that is the NBN.

Given that there were upwards of 300km/h winds during Cyclone Yasi, which many have said was far worse than the previous major Cyclone known as Larry, this really comes as no surprise - and makes you wonder why the NBN's creators and proponents didn't take Townsville's cyclone-prone nature into account when building the NBN in the Townsville area.

Too late, now - reports suggest that much of the QLD NBN network that has already been completed will be in for a rebuild, if it was affected during the cyclone, undoubtedly adding to the already gargantuan cost of this massive infrastructure project.

However before any final figures for damage reconstruction are known, more inspections will need to take place, but with photos and video from the cyclone affected areas showing trees, power poles, signs and roofs torn up and off, initial expectations aren't very high.

Senator Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, was quoted as saying that: "Townsville is almost completely fitted out for the NBN. Just like all infrastructure that gets hit by these events, we're obviously going to have to deal with that."

However it is interesting to note that Telstra's Next G network is reportedly unaffected, unlike some of Vodafone's infrastructure in the state, with TV networks using Telstra's wireless Next G network to transmit live imagery from Townsville instead of any fixed connections, according to Computer Daily News via SmartHouse.

That said, Telstra has reported that it did lose a Far North Queensland link due to backup generators going down, although I was able to contact friends in 45 mins south of Cairns near Babinda yesterday by Next G mobile, so perhaps the backup generators were still working at that time, something Telstra is urgently dealing with - in a timeframe that will surely be far faster than NBN repair work needed in Townsville.

Telstra has also announced an assistance package for its customers affected by Cyclone Yasi, which will appear shortly at iTWire details of which are now available here.

So - there's plenty more on-the-ground work to be done before final assessments of cyclonic damage to the NBN can be made, but perhaps it will mean a major rethink of how NBN infrastructure is to be built in areas that can be affected by soaking floods or whipping winds, or whether we'll ever see an NBN-repair levy being put in place by some future government.

While the cyclone is bad news for everyone, it has shown the strength of wireless connectivity as a necessary alternative to a fixed broadband network, no matter how far and wide it reaches, with wireless being the technology that President Obama himself has flagged for next-generation connectivity across the USA, from the country that invented the Internet in the first place.




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