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What will the Coalition’s win mean for the NBN?

Even after the dust of the election has settled and the Coalition pushes forward with its mandate from the people, there is still ongoing debate about the NBN from both sides of politics and from within the Telco community as a whole.

The current reality of telecommunications for businesses and consumers is hugely disappointing, being inconsistent in availability and speed, often unreliable and with a myriad of technology complexities affecting delivery.

GCOMM, as a wholesale aggregator of telecommunications services for businesses, is involved with these issues on a daily basis, recommending the best current technology to businesses in their unique physical location. Right now the broadband technology available across Australia is not always consistent; therefore speed, reliability and price are also not consistent. Both sides of the political spectrum have agreed the need for a renewed approach to telecommunications nationally is justified.

With the elections that took place this past weekend and the Coalition’s win, it is important to outline what their plan is regarding the NBN as it will impact businesses and consumers’ ability to gain high-speed broadband in their area and for their requirements.

The key differentiator between the two NBN options (Labor and Coalition’s) centres on 93% of the population. The other 7% remains delivered via fixed wireless and new KA band Satellites for both political parties (not in question by either at this stage anyway).

Where the major deviation in policies lies is the suggestion of the Coalition to re-use the copper network to deliver high speed broadband across Australia. By delivering fibre to nodes in the street (Fibre to the Node or FttN) and then using existing copper cabling for the remaining 100’s of metres into homes and businesses, it will save tens of billions of dollars and deliver the network within 5 years (as opposed to 10+ years, as Labor estimated).

Interestingly, the issues GCOMM and other telecommunications companies currently battle with on a daily basis are very much created by the fact that we are pushing copper networks (installed many decades ago and originally developed a century ago) to the limits of their capability. Varying copper quality and distance of transmission across copper is the very reason why we need a new model.

Whilst new FttN technologies being developed will allow 50Mbps, 100Mbps and even up to 200Mbps to be pushed across copper using vectoring equipment (vectoring alleviates electrical interference on copper cables, which is inherent in copper technology) we shouldn’t forget this is still a fraction of what fibre can achieve (1Gbps, 10Gbps and beyond), particularly if we are looking over timescales of decades and centuries.

Should the Coalition’s NBN be rolled out across Australia the reality of copper infrastructure, being its inconsistent quality, susceptibility to environmental and electronic interference and how far you are actually away from the nearest node, will determine the speed available to you and the reliability of your service.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a big improvement on current copper to exchange based solutions, but is certainly a technological step backwards on the FttP proposal that completely eliminates these problems. The Coalition’s FttN will keep many of the issues we are familiar with today in play:

Service drops out often and unexpectedly? Copper related.

Wet weather affecting your service?  Copper related.

You can’t get a service because of cable shortages? Copper related.

You can only get half of the advertised speed? Copper related.

These common themes will continue under the Coalition NBN and whilst there will be an improvement on the speed available, it will still be subject to your distance from the node and the local copper quality at your address.

For the full comparison of Coalition and Labor’s NBN plans, make sure to check out the original article by Adam Tessieri http://www.thegcommpost.com.au/nbn-left-or-right/


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