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NBN Connection Takeup And The ‘Real Solutions’ Broadband Statement

Here’s an article by Angus Kidman about the takeup of the National Broadband Network; how many connections have been made to the NBN versus how many are available, and it includes reporting on the Opposition’s new policy titled Real Solutions with reference to the NBN.

NBN Co has updated its internet connection figures for the National Broadband Network (NBN), revealing that as of December 2012 34,500 premises had been connected to actual NBN services. In the same week, the Federal Opposition has released its ‘Real Solutions’ policy document, which contains some details of its own plans for the future of broadband — a future where the NBN’s role is somewhat uncertain. Let’s try and make sense of the NBN data and the new Coalition claims.

The numbers are bound to trigger predictable rhetoric from NBN opponents along the lines of “we’ve wasted all this money and no-one wants it”, while making broadband enthusiasts who aren’t connected yet wonder what’s holding back all those people who could be on the network but aren’t. That’s the nature of NBN discussion. But what have we learned this week?

At the end of December 2012, 34,500 people had connected to the NBN. That number is up considerably from June 2012, when the figure was 13,600. The vast majority of those users to date (23,100) are on satellite, which has the advantage of being instantly available to qualified users if they install suitable receivers. By June 2013, NBN Co is predicting those scales will have tipped, with 54,000 fibre connections against 47,700 satellite and wireless broadband connections. But that’s a prediction, not a current number.

Actual adoption is very different again from potential access. Earlier this month, NBN Co said that it had begun construction in areas with a potential reach of 784,592 premises. By June this year, it is due to have actually passed 286,000 premises — just under 10 times the number of active internet connections right now. The takeup total will presumably be higher at that point, but it will be a long time before it even approaches 50 per cent at this rate.

Read More: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2013/01/understanding-nbn-takeup-and-the-coalition-real-solutions-broadband-statement/

Australia has a broadband vision – do we?

I spent Christmas and New Year visiting friends in Australia and I took the opportunity to catch up on what was happening with their National Broadband Network (NBN) Co.

In March 2009 I was representing Ofcom at the Commsday Conference in Sydney speaking on standardised Wholesale Ethernet Access when the Labor Government announced that, rather than continue increasingly frustrating negotiations with an aggressively incumbent Telstra, they were going to build the fibre network they believed Australia needed, themselves.
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There was near universal agreement that this was a bold and visionary stroke, but there were also concerns over the price tag of around $AU 40 Billion, and the technology choices made – Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) plus fixed wireless and satellite. And both the principle and the practise – should the state be building a network and even if it should, could it do so in time and to budget?

And would anyone use it if they did?

Over Christmas and New Year I met with Stephen Conroy, Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, Shadow Minister for Communications, as well as the CEO and CCO of NBN Co and other stakeholders to see where they were in providing answers to these questions.

Well, they have just completed their target of having construction commenced or completed in areas covering 758,000 premises before the end of 2012. They are on track to achieve their end of June 2013 target of 286,000 premises passed. After a ramp up over the next eighteen months they expect to level out at approximately 6000 premises passed per day until 2021.

The network is Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) FTTH to 90% of the country with the rest guaranteed 12 Mbits through fixed wireless (not mobile) and satellite. Controversially NBN Co is also paying Telstra and Optus to decommission their hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks and migrate those customers to the NBN. These HFC networks cover about 20% of the population – the richest, densest, easiest to get to 20%. NBN Co argue they need those customers to make the overall economics of what is a natural monopoly work.

NBN Co will be a purely wholesale play, no retail, and only offering a ‘simple’ layer 2 ethernet service which, not by coincidence, looks something like the standard wholesale access that I was promoting when I worked for Ofcom. This Active Line Access has been formally standardised by NICC – although BT still do not support it.

Australia has a unique network topology, 85% living within 50km of the coast and density is good for networks costs. However, 76% of Australian homes are detached houses as opposed to only 22.5% in England, making for lots of long local loops.

Each home will have a box like today’s Virgin Media or Sky boxes, to enable the delivery of a wide range of Ethernet based services from home movies to telemedicine. Importantly though, each of these set-top boxes will have four Ethernet ports, so the customer doesn’t have to be ‘captured’ by one provider for all services.

At $Au40 Billion it is costing about £2000 per home. In the UK, by contrast, we are spending approximately £2 Billion of public money to deliver FTTC to the ‘final third’ that is around eight million homes. So that’s £250 per home, one eighth what the Australians are spending.

But it is not a fair comparison – firstly there is just the sheer size of Australia – roughly 32 times the landmass of that of the UK. This size has a direct impact on the costs of rolling out Broadband infrastructure in Australia, with the costs to deliver the last 30% far greater to that of the first 70%.

Read More: http://www.computerworlduk.com/in-depth/public-sector/3420910/australia-has-broadband-vision-do-we/

Broadband on way

Work is well under way to bring the National Broadband Network to Corrimal, Dapto and central Wollongong, including Coniston, Mount St Thomas and Mangerton.

NBN Co, which is delivering high-speed broadband throughout Australia either by fibre optic cables, fixed wireless or satellite services, has started construction in Corrimal, Dapto and central Wollongong.

This means NBN contractors are doing detailed design and survey work in those areas for the installation of the fibre optic cables. On average it takes between 12 and 14 months from the start of construction to when residents and businesses can order NBN retail services from an internet service provider.

In the Wollongong council area, the NBN will be provided through fibre optic cables. Rollout maps for Corrimal, Dapto and Wollongong have been released and it was likely residents in those areas would be able to order an NBN service from the end of 2013 or early 2014.

‘‘For any information on where we are with the rollout in the Illawarra, if people go to nbnco.com.au it will give them an indication of where we are constructing at the moment,’’ NBN Co external relations manager Trent Williams said.

‘‘If their area isn’t indicated yet, it means they’re not in our current three-year plan. It doesn’t mean they’re not getting fibre optic cable necessarily.’’

Mr Williams said the NBN had been completed in Kiama and Minnamurra and 45per cent had taken up the service– one of the best rates in Australia.

‘‘So far Wollongong has been very, very positive about the NBN. It really gives that area access to internet speeds and reliability you typically only got in Sydney recently. It’s breaking down the tyranny of distance.’’

Read More: http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/1238898/broadband-on-way/?cs=320

NBN rollout on track

NBN Co, the government owned organisation responsible for building the NBN says that it has exceed its target to have construction commenced or completed in areas covering 758,000 premises before the end of 2012.

The total number of premises was 784,592 by year end, although NBN Co notes that construction commencement is measured when the company issues instructions to its contractors for a Fibre Service Access Module (FSAM), not when the contractor actually starts laying fibre.

The company did not say how many users had been connected to the NBN, which so far have been a disappointment. The company says it usually takes 12 months from the start of work until homes and businesses can connect.

In December last year, Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy said the take up rate was around 25%, or 1 in every 4 people. Opposition MP, Malcolm Turnbull has criticised the government suggesting that 75% of people haven’t been convinced to switch over, and the take-up rate is well below the NBN’s corporate plan released in 2010.

For telecommunications companies including the big four, Telstra Corporation (ASX: TLS), Optus – owned by Singapore Telecommunications (ASX: SGT), TPG Telecom (ASX: TPM) and iiNet Limited (ASX: IIN), the NBN offers an opportunity to provide faster services to their customers, but also a complication.

With wireless broadband services becoming ever popular, and the speed of 4G networks even outpacing copper ADSL broadband, users may opt to pass on fixed broadband, and use wireless instead. Despite the NBN’s predominantly fibre broadband being able to offer much higher speeds, users may choose the flexibility of wireless over speed.

Read More: http://finance.ninemsn.com.au/newsbusiness/motley/8591964/nbn-rollout-on-track

OPINION: National Broadband Network rollout proving to be a costly failure

IN April 2009, the Rudd-Gillard government announced its plans to build the National Broadband Network.

The fibre-optic network is supposed to pass 12.2 million premises around Australia by 2021.

More than three years later, as at June 30, 2012, it had passed just 38,914 – less than one third of 1 per cent towards the finish line.

Yet NBN Co’s corporate plan, issued in December 2010, promised to pass 317,000 premises by June 30, 2012. Another comparison: in 1994, Telstra announced it would build a national hybrid fibre coax network. By June 1997, three years on, the network passed 2.1 million homes.

NBN is doing equally badly on the number of services being delivered. There were 3867 fibre services in operation as at June 30, 2012; the corporate plan promised 137,000.

More recent disclosures at estimates hearings in October show little improvement. One component of the fibre rollout, brownfields, had risen from 29,000 in June to 32,295 and fibre services in operation were at 6400.

Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy and NBN Co have tried every trick in the book to disguise the poor performance. They abandoned the original corporate plan and issued a new one in August this year. The goal of 317,000 premises passed by June this year was changed to 39,000.

The goals for later years also dropped sharply. Originally the network was to pass 1.27 million premises by June 30 next year; that has fallen to 341,000.

Next, they made comparisons as difficult as possible. The original corporate plan gave target numbers for five different categories of premises: three types of fibre, wireless and satellite. The new plan, and the 2011-12 annual report released recently, now gives numbers for two types of fibre and a merged number for wireless and satellite.

Third, they tried to shift attention away from hard numbers by introducing a new statistic: premises where there is construction commenced or completed. NBN Co’s March 2012 media release promised that by 2015 “construction of the fibre optic component of the network will be under way or completed in areas containing 3.5 million premises”.

This statistic – which is not used by private sector telecommunications companies such as Telstra and Optus – is meaningless. They count a home as having construction commenced from the moment a contract instruction is issued to the contractor.

But several further steps are required, including the Telstra commencement notice and the final contract instruction. On average, it will be 12 months before the work is completed. A fourth trick is to quote total subscriber numbers across fibre, wireless and satellite.

At the October estimates hearing, NBN Co said it had 24,000 customers. But of these, 17,000 were on satellite – and more than half of them were customers of an existing government program, dating back to Howard government days, to subsidise satellite broadband in rural and remote areas.

The rollout is chewing up taxpayers’ money at an alarming rate. By June 30 this year, $2.832 billion of taxpayers’ money had been put into NBN as equity; of that more than $900 million had vapourised in three years of accumulated losses. (In 2011-12 alone, NBN Co lost $520m.)

Total equity contributions – entirely taxpayer funded – are projected to reach $30.4bn by 2021. This is almost $3bn more than the Rudd-Gillard government had previously disclosed.

NBN Co is splashing around money with abandon. It pays extremely generous salaries. Average remuneration cost per head was $172,000 in 2011-12, more than 50 per cent higher than the comparable figure at Telstra.

Read More: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/opinion/national-broadband-network-rollout-proving-to-be-a-costly-failure/story-e6frg9if-1226529240654

ACCC asks for comments on NBN pricing plan

The competition regulator has called for public consultation on the latest plan by the national broadband network (NBN) builder on wholesale broadband pricing.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released its first consultation paper on the special access undertaking (SAU) lodged by the network’s builder, NBN Co, on September 28.

The undertaking sets out the terms of conditions and access to the NBN’s fibre, wireless and satellite networks until 2040, while providing the framework for NBN Co to deliver wholesale broadband prices across Australia.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the ACCC would assess the SAU before it could determine whether it was reasonable and promoted the long-term interests of retailers and consumers.

Read More: http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/accc-asks-for-comments-on-nbn-pricing-plan-20121112-297jq.html

ACCC approves Telstra structural separation plan

The ACCC have officially announced their approval of Telstra’s structural separation plans by today accepting their revised undertakings.

Prior to this announcment, the competition watchdog originally knocked back Telstra’s first submission by suggesting the Telco had not done enough to ensure they were going to play fair in both wholesale and retail operations after they were structurally separated.

More specifically, the ACCC were concerned with Telstra’s commercial interests involving wholesale ADSL contracts with competitors, and promoting wireless services that would compete against the NBN.

Today’s ACCC announcement now alleviates all these concerns and opens the way to a finalised Telstra-NBN Co agreement and has essentially signalled a major shift of structural reform within the Telecommunications industry and will thus strengthen competition as a result.

ACCC Press Release – ACCC accepts Telstra’s structural separation undertaking

Regional residents oppose NBN wireless towers

Australian regional councils that do not allow the NBN Co’s fixed wireless towers will have to resort to slower Satellite services for broadband connectivity on the upcoming national broadband network.


Many residents who reside in Yendon, about 16kms out of Ballarat Victoria, complained to their local council about the introduction of fixed wireless towers due to potential radiation concerns. Some scientist believe that radiation levels emitted from these towers are too high so they should be kept well away from permanent residential areas.


Installation recommendations of wireless tower locations state they shouldn’t be erected within 500 meters of a school, however the proposed locations for Yendon are believed to be within 150 meters of the closest occupied house while a further two houses are located an additional 50 meters after that.


Although plans for the NBN’s fixed wireless service extend to only 4% (which you can also compare at Youcompare) of houses and businesses in some regional areas, it’s still represents a large proportion of the population and appears to be another hurdle for the NBN Co to climb over.


Read more at theage.com.au – Tower ban regions face slower broadband

Telstra wireless green light for NBN

The ACCC have thwarted previous plans by the NBN Co to force Telstra’s hand for a non-compete clause that would stop the Telco marketing it’s wireless broadband plans as a substitute for NBN fibre.


It’s believed that Telstra will pledge not to mislead or deceive consumers in anyway that their wireless broadband services will be an effective substitute for the National Broadband Network and attempt to migrate their customers across to their own Telstra Next G wireless Network.


“We were very concerned about that because we believe there should be no prohibition on Wireless competition to the NBN.”
– ACCC chairman Rod Sims


Read more at theaustralian.com.au: NBN loses Telstra wireless battle


NBN Co to offer ISPs tailored SOHO support

Plans designed to assist two million Australian Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) businesses with tailored national broadband network services was announced by the NBN Co at a forum in Sydney recently.

The initiative which aims to provide service providers with new high speed wholesale broadband services is expected to assist small businesses by reducing costs, bolstering efficiency and reaching new markets.

“Our research indicates that many home office/small office operators and small businesses are currently using standard residential services for their telephone or broadband, or opting for business-grade offerings over copper-based ADSL2+ services. Beyond this, for larger small businesses, there is a quite a big jump to business-grade fibre-based services”.

“Using NBN Co’s new services, telcos and ISPs have potentially more flexibility in putting together packages that give small businesses access to big business functionality at affordable prices,” said NBN Co Head of Product Development and Industry Relations, Jim Hassell.

Read more at the NBN Co – NBN Co to offer new services to ISPs tailored to small businesses

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