The benefits resulting from the NBN are twofold: Benefits that directly comes from and will be immediately obtained when connected to the fibre broadband network. Other, more important, benefits may only be obtained when applications which make use of the ubiquity, reliability and speed of the network become available in the future.
Direct Benefits (Detailed Below)
- Cloud Computing
- Multi tasking
- Network Maintenance
Indirect benefits (Detailed on separate web page)
- Multi-party Video Conferencing
- More choices
- Smart Grids
- Home Monitoring
- The NBN Transit network interconnects FANs (exchanges) around Australia. This network has been designed in a ring structure to provide a path to each FAN even if one connection is cut or becomes inoperable for any other reason.
- Similar to the FAN ring, each FTH (hub) that serve a FSAM (Suburb) are on a ring which connects them to their FAN. This ensures that all premises in the suburb still have a path open if one connection fails. This will make the network more reliable than the current Telstra network.
- The current copper network is quite old and is becoming more unreliable. A new fibre network will be more reliable and will last much longer than copper.
- The NBN is a passive network which requires no power or cooling outside of FANs and user premises. It is therefore not susceptible to extreme weather conditions and power/battery failures, thus making it more reliable.
- Fibre is not affected by wetness or electrical storms like copper.
NBN Co opened its $32.5 million operations hub in Melbourne on Nov 25, 2011.
The nerve centre of the NBN will be a world class Network and Services Operations Centre (NSOC) which will provide state of the art network monitoring 24 hours a day, 365 days a year of the entire national network. The NSOC will provide a single point of contact for all of NBN partners to activate services, manage enquiries and to rectify any end user service disruption. The NSOC offers a multi-tiered support for customers and the network:
- Customer Operations Team – 24/7 helpdesk support for NBN partners such as RSP’s.
- Network Surveillance Team – 24/7 network monitoring and proactive management of the network.
- Operations Support Team – supports a comprehensive network maintenance programme.
- Orders will be delivered through centralised Service Activation Centres and the network will be supported through field engineering services operating out of strategic depots. These will be established in every State and Territory of Australia, ensuring that NBN has National coverage to conduct installations, maintain the network and rectify any service disruptions.
Having a well-designed, uniform Australia wide network that is centrally controlled and managed must be a huge improvement over the current system with its diverse components (ADSL, HFC cables, some fibre here, some fibre there) all managed by different parties.
It is often mentioned by detractors that the NBN is a monopoly that will prevent competition. This is true for the “last mile”. More importantly, for the services provided on the network, the NBN is a cornerstone for much more competition.
No Competition on the last mile
There will be no competition for the provision of infrastructure that delivers communication from the Points of Interchange to individual premises. To have cables from multiple suppliers all passing the same premises is clearly absurd. To have different suppliers providing cables to different suburbs or cities will make management of the network unwieldy, lead to complexities in charging across boundaries and lead to complex and inefficient interfaces between different types of equipment.
To have this monopoly in the hands of a private company that exists to provide a profit to its shareholders clearly provides the company with the oppertunity to charge excessively for it’s services. In addition, such a company only provides services that are profitable in a way that is profitable. This has been proved in Australia since the privatisation of Telstra, despite efforts by the ACCC to create a more competitive environment.
In most new suburbs built since privatisation, Telstra have implemented a RIM based system which is quite similar to the FTTN (Fibre to the node) systems which are currently being proposed by the Coalition shadow minister of Communication, Mr Turnbull. These RIMs are nodes connected to Telstra Exchanges by fibre, with copper connections to the premises. Because fibre is used from the exchange to the RIM, the RIMs can be much further away from the exchange. The RIM system has significant benefits for Telstra:
- They are less expensive to build than having copper all the way from the exchange.
- The Rims can be further away from the exchange – therefore fewer exchanges are needed.
- They diminish the scope for competition. Telstra was forced to allow competitors to put equipment(DSLAMs) in exchanges. The RIMs negate that measure because the DSLAMs cannot be put there.
Unfortunately, the RIM system has severe disadvantages for users:
- Unless you are a Telstra customer, you cannot get the latest ADSL2+ service. Many people on RIMS can get only 1.5Mbs downstream and .25Mbs upstream.
- Even if you are a Telstra customer and are on an expensive Telstra plan, obtainable limits are 24Mbs downstream and 1Mbps upstream. Very few users can actually achieve these speeds.
- The dependency on copper means that you will not be able to get higher speed in the future. You are also dependent on the quality of the copper and the distance from the RIM. It is only in the most favourable conditions that you will get these speeds.
The NBN will provide the connections from all Australian premises to the 121 Points of Interchange. To connect to the network all retail service providers simply have to connect to these POIs. To do this they can use there own fibre networks or buy capacity from Network service providers. There is no need to place any equipment in Exchanges and there is no danger of being in competition with the company that provides the connections to the premises. This arrangement will provide all retail service providers with a level playing field and significantly lowers their cost of entry into the market.
The expectation is that many new retail service providers will enter the market and that many new services will be available for customers to choose from. These services will not only provide traditional broadband internet access, but new ones as discussed below under Indirect Benefits.
The bulk of the cost of the NBN will be civil works needed to construct the Local Fibre Network ( the connection between individual premises and the Distribution Fibre Network). The actual fibre used is already capable of supporting much higher speeds than what is currently planned for the initial NBN network. The fibre itself has a longer lifespan than the current copper which has in most cases been in the ground for fifty years or longer and is fast nearing the end of its life.
Once the fibre networks are in place, the network will be capable of being upgraded by replacing the equipment at the end points only. All the intermediate nodes are passive and will not need any changes, thus providing an smooth and relatively inexpensive upgrade path. In contrast, the speeds obtainable over copper cannot be improved significantly. In any case, the cost of fibre has come down to the point that it will be more expensive to replace it with new copper than with fibre.
The network speeds available with the NBN will be higher than what is currently provided with any ADSL, HFC cable or Mobile system. More importantly, the speeds provided by the NBN will not be affected by distance from the exchange or by the number of concurrent users in your neighbourhood.
NBN plans vary broadly in speed and cost, but the 12Mbps and 25Mbps tiers are comparable to ADSL2+ pricing in many respects. Speeds approaching 25Mbps are enjoyed by very few ADSL2+ users. To get this kind of speed on ADSL2+ a user would have to live almost on top of the exchange. Moreoever, many ADSL2+ users receive less than 12Mbps and ADSL1 users receive only a maximum of 8Mbps under ideal conditions. According to Akamai Technologies (one of the world’s largest distributed-computing platforms) average connection speed in Australia is 4.4mbps.
NBN plans vary in price, but can be as cheap or cheaper as ADSL plans for the same service. Cheap NBN plans boast similar or better speeds to what some users already receive on ADSL2+.
NBN plans have the potential to be much faster than ADSL2+. The NBN uses a modern architecture that is designed specifically for the high speed transfer of internet traffic while ADSL and ADSL2+ relies on an infrastructure that was not originally intended for more than telephone calls.
The benefits provided by a higher network speed are numerous and are explored elsewere on this site. Some are:
- Better quality video. This in itself enables many applications that are currently not available or not usable like teleHealth, high quality Skype-like video phone calls, collaboration in education, research, business, education, shopping and games.
- Faster downloads of software, software updates, documentaries, movies, and games. It should be noted that Apple, Google and Microsoft are moving to a model where all new software and upgrades are only made available as downloads over the internet.
- Cloud Computing
Cloud Computing is simply a term that describes the trend to use remote, powerful servers for computing services. These services my vary from complete software systems used to run all or part of a large business to merely a place to store a single user’s data, such as photo’s or videos.
The one thing common to all these uses is the need for a fast and reliable communication system with an emphasis on fast upload speeds. Once such a system is available, you will be able to have a slideshow of your own photos (stored in the “cloud”) with a response time similar to what is currently is with your photos on a local disk drive. You will never have to worry about having to take backups, or how high a resolution your photos are.
For businesses and other institutions, the ability to run their systems and have their data on such servers could save them large amounts of money. They would not have to build and maintain their own computers and systems.
With the National Broadband Network, managed IT services are likely to experience growth for various reasons:
- Availability – users require an internet connection in order to access cloud services. The National Broadband Network helps make this a reality through increased internet speeds and capacity.
- Scalability – cloud computing allows users to start small as they only subscribe for services that they require. They can then increase this gradually as their needs increase. This means that people do not need high amounts of capital in order to access managed IT services. This is one of the major reasons why adoption of the cloud is likely to grow in Australia.
- Lower cost –the cost of installing servers, software and hardware, and then maintaining them is usually high. However, with managed IT services, this work is left to the providers who have the capacity and the resources to do so. Also, users only pay for the services that they require and this helps them avoid paying for services that they do not need.
- Fast Upload speeds. ADSL based systems are characterized by low upload speeds which inhibit the use of cloud servers. This limitation still largely exist in the Coalition proposed FTTN network. The FTTP system provides high upload speeds as can be seen in the plans of all ISPs currently offering NBN connections.
Cloud computing is set to grow greatly in Australia. With the National Broadband Network, things are looking up for providers and users of managed IT services because the infrastructure that comes with it can only make things better for companies moving towards the cloud.
One of the frequent criticisms of the NBN is that current network speed is sufficient. This is no doubt true for many things today if you restrict yourself and other people in your home, school or business to doing one thing at a time. You and others must wait until you are done.
Examples of this may be: You are receiving a email with high quality photos, you are waiting for a large PDF file to become available in your browser, you are downloading a new version of Google Street View or a Windows update, etc. These activities often take several minutes and while they happen neither you on your device or anyone else using your connection with different devices can access the internet with reasonable response.
To have two or more such activities simultaneously going will quickly show the need for higher internet connections. If you take into account that the number of devices using the internet in your home is very likely to increase in the future, the need for higher speed becomes clearer. Estimates of up to fifteen devices per household in the not to distant future exist. Many homes currently have six or more. Not all these devices need to be operated by a human, e.g. you may be recording a TV program over the internet on your media system or your house electicity consumption may be monitored.
The cost of maintaining the current copper based network currently is about $750 million per year and will increase as the copper gets older. Replacing it with a modern fibre network over the next 10 years seems like a good idea. Replacing it with a fibre to the premises configuration would mean all copper is eliminated. The passive nature of this configuration would reduce maintenance substantially.