In Volume I of What If: Future Scenarios, we analyse an alternate future of a pure Fibre and FTTP National Broadband Network if the Labor party won and carried out their version. What would be different if the whole scenario we have today was made topsy turvy and the NBN was of a singular vision of just pure fibre all the way through?

Year 2013, Labor party leader Kevin Rudd announced plans of connecting majority of Australia to the National Broadband Network. It is the fastest and most reliable broadband service that will replace the older copper network which has a short lifespan for broadband service. Aside from obvious speed differences (with maximum 1000Mbps as the highest available speed), fibre is also widely more reliable and sturdier. It is also expected to provide more than 60 years of service with no issues regarding heat, water, interference, and many environmental concerns.

Possible Predictions, and Impact

The lead-in flagship NBN connections for majority of Australia will be entirely made of pure fibre connections, in a bid to realise the party’s vision of pure fibre broadband all throughout. As earlier disclosed in public discussions, the budget needed is much bigger than expected, since this involves an all fibre connection starting from NBN source lines and POI (Point of Interconnect) locations to the premises. It will involve even more supplies of material, planning, and labor. This is where we can project possibilities and compare them to what we actually have in terms of roll out results so far.

However, unlike the extra adaptability and lesser work load with Liberal Party’s FTTN led version of the NBN, an all fibre based NBN broadband service will take more than 2 weeks to 2 months as variable timeframes, on average for a connection to be completed. This does not include premises and locations that have difficult factors involved, and involves all basic connection work with no other complications.
We don’t have a current speed of completion ratio to put against the speed and effectivity of the current roll out, against a projected all fibre roll out, but with the latter’s methodology and program, it instantly doubles most roll out and installation time frames, sometimes even more.

With FTTN and Multi Technology Mix NBN, there is no need to do extensive work in the premises and immediate areas, as the copper components are preexisting. The average two weeks completion timeframe is applicable to most connections once it is deemed NBN ready. An FTTP connection will involve taking out the copper and / or creating a new fibre based lead-in, and other possible physical processes.

This is where some of the bigger disparities begin. Although pure fibre connections will provide the 1000Mbps (within range) speed rates, roll out will be slower, and will not cover as many areas compared to the coverage area range we have today. There is the within-premises work and the extra work needed for bringing an all fibre source connection right down to the premises.
One of the arguments between Labor and Coalition were the speed rates of FTTP versus FTTN which runs at 25 to 50Mbps per average Australian home or small to medium business connections. It has been deemed as good to go and enough to address data demands. Although up to 1000Mbps rates are ideal and the most technologically advanced, most needs and demands of subscribers are adequately provided by these lower numbers, in exchange for faster and much significantly lower costs.

  • a. significantly faster NBN service hitting advertised speeds of 1000Mbps
  • b. slower processes for NBN connections
  • c. costly pricing
  • d. slower roll out campaign
  • e. lesser coverage areas due to difficulty in getting the fibre to remote locations
  • f. significantly less remote, rural, regional, outback and offshore location availability (see e. and d.)

With respect to these major changes, the only advantage we have seen is a. which is major game changer. But the fact that the argument for the normal speed rates of 25Mbps to 50Mbps being sufficient is applicable to most subscriber situations, and can be placed against each other as a possible counter argument to it.

However, this version of the NBN is not all of pure fibre Fixed Line NBN. We have to remember that the plan is pure fibre, but also includes Fixed Wireless and Satellite NBN too. It is quite possible that due to bigger budget cuts, lesser emphasis will be given to these facilities, or slower establishment of equipment.

Overall, the level of activity and access afforded to these distant areas will greatly affect their standing in terms of the lifestyle changes, and all broadband assisted benefits we see today in these areas. While this doesn’t mean it will eventually catch up, the progress will definitely be slower, as Fixed Line fibre will still be the priority of the government and the NBN Co.

This means less presence of Fixed Wireless facilities, and / or slower creation and installation, not enough to meet roll out campaigns for 2018. Our current placer as a global leader in Fixed Wireless broadband speed and quality might not be met. While overall quality will probably not suffer (the fixed nature of Fixed Wireless is only limited to its corresponding set or fixed coverage area) it won’t be as available and widespread as we have it at present time.

Another point of contention is the significant budget to launch two Sky Muster satellites, which would mean the possibility of having only just one operational satellite by 2018. This will mean limited satellite coverage and slightly slower speed rates as well. While similar in principle with the available presence of Fixed Wireless to its “set” or fixed coverage area and not really affecting overall speeds and performance in a significant way, satellite coverage will also be much limited to the actual orbit area.