Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Turnbull Government problems - the NBN

I haven't felt like writing about recent developments in Australian politics. It isn't so much the developments themselves, but the chatter that surrounds them that leaves a sour aftertaste in my mouth.

Prime Minister Turnbull is finding, as Julia Gillard found before him, that when things go wrong they keep going wrong. When the wheels come off, the billycart keeps grounding on bumps in the road that, with wheels, would be whisked over in a second. Almost nothing is going right.

The NBN (National Broadband Network) is about to roll out in my area. This means that I am getting  promotional material from re-sellers seeking to sign me up. For the first time, this includes guaranteed minimum download speeds. These struck me. With the exception of the most expensive package, the maximum guaranteed down load speed was 12 mbps.

Australian may remember that in the political debate over the future of the NBN, Mr Turnbull said that the maximum download speed that the ordinary household needed was 50 mbps and that this would be guaranteed by his mixed technology solution. There were two elements in Mr Turnbull's claim. One related to what the mixed technology could deliver. That was an engineering judgement. The second related to household needs. That was a market judgment.

While Mr Turnbull is very knowledgeable, he is neither an engineer nor a market expert. When he ventured into this space for political reasons, he took ownership of the NBN and the resulting outcomes. In doing so, he delivered hostages to fortune.

I am presently on a high end and expensive 50 mbps package using ADSL and twisted copper wires. The best download speed I can actually get is a bit over 6 mbps. Sometimes, it drops to 3 mbps. One of the things we have to do, my daughters tell me, is to get you onto a decent broadband service.

The difficulty is that the old infrastructure in the area where I now live will simply not support the higher speeds I am paying for. . If the NBN can offer me a guaranteed 12 mbps at a lower price, then that's good value. It's not what Mr Turnbull promised, but I will at least be better off. However, there may be a problem here.

The latest NBN rollout plans say that the NBN will become available here early next year. However, there is an apparent problem. The rollout in this area depends on Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC), one of the mixed technologies.  According to the latest news reports, technical problems with the use of HFC means that NBN HFC rollouts have been deferred for six to nine months.

In the words of an old Telstra ad that has entered Australian folklore,  not happy Jan. One can debate the economic implications of the NBN, but one could at least expect it to offer a decent engineering solution. I was just putting up with my current poor download speeds, but now all this has forced me to focus on what i have and how much I am paying.     .    

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