nbn in the Valley – a data drought to come?

With the nbn rollout coming to the Shire, there’s been much debate about what technology will be rolled out and where. 

There’s also many in the community very concerned the scheduled IT service is not good enough for the residents, businesses and institutions now or into the future.

The Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun asked a number of stakeholders to have their say.

  • Please note: At the end of the article there are some terms defined for those not 100 per cent IT-literate.

Concerned resident, Jason Errey

With the recent announcement of 100Mbps to be rolled out next year and 1Gbps currently being trialed, we thought it important to brief the community.

Council should seek an equitable roll out of FTTP or FTTC across the business and residential centres of the shire. High speed, reliable communication services are vital to the economic development of the shire.

Indeed Nambucca council has sought to vary the roll out to FTTC or FTTP due to the published issues with FTTN. While the nbn trials 100Mbps up to 1Gbps, South Korea commenced rollout of 10Gbps and is trialling 100Gbps.

Residents on FW in town are reporting average speeds of 8Mbps. This is likely due to signal attenuation caused by trees and the ridge between them and the tower. While higher speeds are planned, a higher 3.5GHz signal is required, and this frequency is inherently more fragile than the 2GHz frequency currently in use.

In addition, when all lots are finally cut over, there will be greater competition for limited bandwidth that will slow the system for all users. If the system cannot provide the mandated 25Mbps now, due to signal attenuation, it cannot and will not, provide better signal later, regardless of theoretical performance.

Today’s economy could not exist with dialup speed of 20 years ago, just as the economy 20 years from now will not operate on ADSL2 speeds. Right now is when we will define the future economy of the Bellingen Shire for our children.

nbn is proposing to roll out nbn to the townships of Dorrigo and Bellingen starting Q1 2018. Under the current plan, approximately 1/3 of each town will be FW, 1/3 FTTN and 1/3 FTTC.

FTTC is the desired technology solution and is approximately the same cost of FTTN, especially considering the poor state of the copper in the area and the known upgrade path to FTTP.

nbn will also preferentially lay new copper in FTTN areas instead of fibre despite the known advantages of fibre. We are therefore asking the council to demand an equitable FTTC rollout for the entire town, and to include the areas of Bellingen and Dorrigo within the townships that are currently FW, to be included in the rollout.

The nbn is not just about Netflix and games; it is about successfully working from regional areas and attracting young entrepreneurs to small towns. Business will only come to areas with effective and fast communication. Big data is the future. Used effectively, big data greatly improves our decision-making processes.

However, large datasets and online services come at a price of large centralised storage systems and effective communication systems. With fast internet, we can transmit this data around the world and collaborate in real time with experts of our choosing. Considering education, our high school students can access in real time, supercomputers based in Melbourne or Perth for projects we have not thought of yet.

Yes Netflix is fun, but fast Internet is so much more; and the faster the Internet is, the more possibilities there are. The nbn is a $60 billion investment in our future; the only problem, is that the majority of the infrastructure being rolled out is already obsolete and will provide very little, if any return on investment in its current form.

The replacement of the copper network should be the key data backbone of the next generation. The development of the nbn should be compared to other great science and engineering feats of this country; like the Snowy Hydro scheme, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the refrigerator and WiFi.

One of the main benefits of copper is that it is standalone and supplies its own power so is very simple. FTTP, FTTN and FTTC are also relatively simple, but require a separate power supply for the modem and router. FW and Sky Muster however are more complex. Not only do you need to power the modem and the router, but you also need to power the transmission devices. Similar to mobile handsets, the weaker the signal, the more power the system will require. During power outages, nbn systems will not work. Due to the complexity of FW and Sky Muster systems, nbn do not supply battery backup systems, instead the end user must sort this for themselves.

Given the complexity of dealing with nbn, the importance of the wired rollout to the future of the town and the difficult environmental conditions in the Valley, it is critical that the council assist the ratepayers by insisting on an equitable, future proofed and robust delivery for Bellingen and Dorrigo townships. Including the areas of Bellingen and Dorrigo currently relegated to FW, to the FTTC rollout.

nbn spokesperson 

The nbn network is an upgrade to all of Australia’s broadband services, both phone and Internet. It will bring improved access to education, health services as well as new market opportunities for businesses to help our country remain competitive in the global economy. To date, more than 4.5 million homes and businesses across Australia are able to access the nbn network, with more than 1.4 million of those in NSW.

The progress is thanks to nbn’s multi-technology mix approach which involves using a range of technologies to rollout the network to all Australians by 2020 in the most efficient and cost-effective way. The choice of technology is decided area-by-area based on the best solution for the location with several factors considered, including geographical location, existing infrastructure, cost and time to build. All nbn technologies will result in fast and reliable broadband and will have upgrade paths to meet future demands.

To date, more than 70 per cent of the build has been in regional and non-metro Australia which is in line with our continued commitment to bridging the digital divide. This includes more than 2,000 homes and businesses on the outskirts of Bellingen and Dorrigo that can connect to the nbn network through the fixed wireless technology providing access to Internet speeds and bandwidth not seen before in the country. Many premises in the more remote areas of the region are also eligible to connect to the nbn network through the Sky Muster satellite service which has been available since April last year.

Construction to connect more than 4,000 local homes and businesses in parts of Bellingen, Dorrigo, Mylestom, Raleigh, Repton and Urunga to the nbn network will follow in the second half of this year. It is expected that people will be able to make the switch in the first half of 2018.

The best thing for people to do is to jump on the nbn website (www.nbnco.com.au) and check their address on the Check Your Address function which allows people to find out when the nbn network will be available at their premise. If not yet available, they can register their email to be notified when they’ll be able to contact their preferred retailer to order an nbn service.

And finally, here is the link to nbn’s Technology Choice program which provides interested parties (whole areas or individual premises) with the option to pay for a switch to their nbn network technology.

Member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker 

Over the last few months I have spoken to nbn Co on behalf of a number of communities, including Urunga, and individual residents who have approached me asking that nbn Co consider alternative delivery technologies for the rollout in the Bellinger Valley. nbn Co has advised that changing the planned rollout in Urunga to FTTC would see the town’s access delayed by 18-24 months. This sort of delay would not be fair to the many residents who are anticipating the upgrade to their broadband services starting early next year. Making them wait until 2020 for construction to start is not reasonable.

nbn Co has a mandate to deliver a minimum standard of high speed Internet access to all Australians in a cost effective way using the technology best matched to a given area. nbn Co makes the final decision about what technology is used based on numerous criteria including cost, timeliness of delivery, topography, condition of the existing copper lines, other existing infrastructure, dwelling density, and many other factors.

Regardless of delivery technology, Australians can be confident that the nbn network will deliver affordable, high speed broadband services. It is also important to note that as demands for data change and increase, the nbn network includes clear paths to upgrade technology and network infrastructure as needed.

Council – GM Liz Jeremy

Councillors and senior staff met with representatives of the nbn this week to discuss a range of issues relative to the nbn rollout. Councillors took the opportunity to advocate to the nbn around resident issues and concerns.

The meeting was constructive with nbn representatives providing detailed feedback and undertakings to engage with Bellingen Shire Residents. This will occur on an individual as needs basis as well as a community drop in session to be held shortly.

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Definitions

FTTP: Fibre To The Premises, the current FTTP network is capable of speeds of 1Gbps up and down, but theoretically capable of much more. The fastest consumer plans offered are 100Mbps down and 40Mbps up as little demand is seen for greater at this stage. Larger plans are available for business users. This is ideal technology and would be suitable for the next 30+years. Most leading countries are establishing FTTP connections.

FTTC or FTTdp: Fibre To The Curb or also known as Fibre To The distribution point. This technology involves running fibre cable from the exchange to the ‘curb’ in front of houses., leveraging the use of resident’s lead-in cable. The four port distribution point, not more than 150m from the (maximum) four houses to be served. This technology is second to FTTP and would offer theoretical 100Mbps and is also easier to upgrade to FTTP. This technology is likely faster to rollout as it avoids any issues with the connection to the premises (digging up gardens, entering the premises etc). The distribution point may be replaced with a 4 way optical splitter and the copper connections replaced with fibre when FTTP is required. It is expected that the upgrade would cost less than $1000/lot.

FTTN: Fibre To The Node: This technology involves placing a node with the ability to serve Internet to up to 384 houses within a distance of 1km. From the node, the existing in-ground copper is utilised. The service is designed to provide theoretical 100Mbps speeds within 400m of the node and theoretical 25Mbps at distances of 1000m. Speeds beyond this distance are unpredictable and unstable. Speeds are also dependent on the quality of the copper within the ground with many users reporting poor connections that are worse than current ADSL. It should be noted that the technology that is used to transmit the data signal from the node to the premises is different to current ADSL. The signal is capable of greater capacity but is not as robust, hence the requirement for high quality copper and a maximum of 1km from the node. Countries such as the UK are currently replacing their FTTN installations as they are no longer fit for purpose. Each node must be connected to grid power and uses the equivalent power of a four-bedroom house to operate each year.

FW: Fixed Wireless. This technology is based on 4G mobile phone technology. The FW signal is fairly robust and will “bend” somewhat, however, it is generally considered to be “line of sight” technology (ie the user should be able to see the tower from the installation point). The signal is disrupted by structures, trees, rain and land formations. To date the technology is only capable of 50Mbps and is a “shared” network, so is slowed down during times of peak use, similar to current phone networks.

Sky Muster Satellite: Sky Muster is the name given to the satellite service proposed to connect premises that cannot be connected by wired or fixed wireless connections. Theoretical maximum download speed of 25Mbps but the major issue is latency. Latency is the time taken for the signal to be beamed from the house, to the satellite, back down and to the recipient. Latency for a wired service (including FW) is about 15-20 milliseconds. Latency for Sky Muster satellite is about 600 milliseconds. The reason for the delay is that the satellite is in medium earth orbit as opposed to the low earth orbit of more common satellite communication systems like Iridium. The implication is that voice connections are difficult and there have been a number of issues surrounding logging onto secure networks.

VOIP: Voice over Internet Protocol. VOIP will gradually replace the voice calls made over the standard copper network.