Tonight I wanted to make a brief comment on the Opposition's broadband plan. You will find the details here, including a link through to the main policy document. As it happened, the ABS released the latest data on Australian's internet usage yesterday. You will find that here.
The comments that follow are simply my attempt to understand the issues.
Existing Australian Use of Broadband
According to ABS, as at December 2012, there were 11.879 million Australian broadband connections. These were dominated by:
- DSL 4.727 Million
- Mobile wireless 5.995 million!
The mobile number is somewhat misleading and I will come back to that later.
Labor's NBN promises connection speeds of up to 100 Mbps for 93% of the population by 2021. The Coalition promises a minimum of 25 Mbps by 2016 rising to a minimum of 50 by 2019.
How does this compare with present broad band connection speeds? The following table sets out the ABS numbers. Note that these are advertised connection speeds, something that I will return to in a moment.
|Speed||December 2011 |
|June 2012 |
|December 2012 |
|256kbps to less than 1.5 Mbps||808||980||609|
|1.5Mbps to less than 8 Mbps||5 115||5 067||4 213|
|8Mbps to less than 24 Mbps||3 985||4 094||5 406|
|24 Mbps or greater||1 214||1 458||1 645|
You can see the decline in the numbers in the lower connection ranges.
The advertised download speed range that recorded the highest number of subscribers at 31 December 2012 was the 8Mbps to less than 24Mbps range, with 5.4 million subscribers, a 32% increase from the end of June 2012. Subscriber numbers in the 24Mbps or greater range grew by 13% since the end of June 2012 and accounted for over 1.6 million subscribers at 31 December 2012.
We don't know the distribution of speeds within the broad categories.
Advertised vs Real Speeds
I have a DSL broadband connection that has a technical download speed of 54 Mbps so I am in the last group. In practice, and as I have complained before, I get nowhere near that rated speed. Further, the connection is unreliable, dropping out regularly. Some of the problems appear connected to the wireless router. but even when I have the cable directly connected, my real spees are very low.
Upload vs download
The primary focus on discussion is on download speeds, but for content creators, upload speeds are very important. My upload speeds are pretty dreadful.
Now what can we say about the volume of material downloaded? The next table shows download volumes measures by terabytes. ABS warns that caution should be exercised in interpreting the numbers. Wireless includes mobile downloads.
|Broadband downloads|| |
December 2011 TB
June 2012 TB
|December 2012 TB|
|Fixed line|| |
|389 130||526 472|
|25 301||28 196|
The numbers show two things. First, the rapid increase in traffic. Second, the way that traffic growth is being driven by fixed line despite the huge number of mobile connections.
I will follow this analysis up in a later posts. Now, I just wanted to get numbers down.
In a speech reported in IT Wire, Mr Turnbull argued new technology such as VDSL (very high bit rate DSL) can deliver adequate speeds: “Very, very high speeds are being delivered on VDSL on fibre-to-the-node, especially with vectoring. All the vendors are talking about it, reaching 100Mbps on the so called rotting, degraded, last century copper wires." Mr Turnbull said.
As I sat there this morning with my DSL broadband dropping out or even when working taking almost a minute to load the front page of the SMH, I wasn't convinced!
A further report on Mr Tunrbull's belief in the possibilities of copper.
Thanks to my inveterate commenter and unpaid research assistant kvd, two further links:
- Ben Grubb, Sydney Morning Herald, Coalition's NBN will need ongoing, costly upgrading, experts warn,
- Asher Moses, Sydney Morning Herald, NBN: how much speed do we really need?
In comments on the second article, kvd found a very informative comment from Jonathan in Melbourne that exactly explains some of the problems that I have been experiencing with my notional 54 Mbps connection:
It's not that difficult Mike, but you do have to understand the TCP transport protocol. Basically all download speeds quoted by broadband providers and Telcos is based on line speed. When Turnbull talks about 25Mbps he is quoting line speed. When you download data the real speed that you are actually getting is reduced by distance, number of subscribers sharing the DSLAM and the quality of the line from the DSLAM to the premises. If we take the optimum scenario of a user with a good quality connection who is less than 1000m from the multiplexer and a line speed of 25Mbps the actual amount of data they will receive on their disk is around 3Mbps. If the user has a wireless router and there are several users in the premises the actual data downloaded will halve again (depending on router and number of users) leaving an actual down load speed of around 1.5Mbps. This is a very very long way short of 25Mbps and is the elephant in the room that everyone is ignoring. If you have four users in the premises and they each are downloading HD video you need a minimum of 16Mbps (actual data not line speed). Turnbull quoted BT in the UK as his source of technical advice. BT have been installing FTTN since 2010 and have upgraded their speed requirements three times. They are currently upgrading to an optional service of 330Mbps. Their existing top of line service is currently being offered at 100Mbps. I think the current price is 26 pounds per month, but you can check their website. Incidentally I have a line speed of 16Mbps and because of slow speed due to high traffic in my area, typing this was a bit of a nightmare.