Australia’s National Broadband Network hasn’t even been finished yet. But NBN upgrade paths have already been laid out. And that’s hardly going to surprise anybody who understands the technology and the challenge of building such a vast infrastructure project. Indeed, the NBN’s troubled deployment stems directly from changing from installing Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) to relying on a mix of old, current and future technologies so it can be built “faster, cheaper, sooner”. It’s like trying to interbreed a Shitzu with a German Sheperd. You can certainly do it, but why the hell would you want to?
With the resignation of Mr Bill Morrow as NBN Co’s CEO, it now falls to his replacement to work out which upgrade path to take. An upgrade plan for 2023 and beyond has been revealed in terms of last-mile access methods. However, this will not include Fibre To The Node (FTTN) – which is totally inadequate for the future – and the satellite systems (which aren’t exactly easily accessible for upgrades).
Some NBN upgrade paths to connection methods are already being baked into current deployment plans. Fibre To The Curb (isn’t it KERB in Australia?) is being rolled out. This technology runs fibre up and down the street, but doesn’t touch the final connection whether it be copper or whatever you already have. This eliminates much of the speed deficiencies inherent in FTTN technology.
There are other potential upgrades, many of which would be more applicable to business applications. By 2019, it would be possible to upgrade FTTP services to 10Gbps up and downstream. A few years after that, speeds of 25Gbps would be possible. Unfortunately, this kind of speed would be limited to FTTP services, because the Frankenstein’s Monster mix of access technologies run out of steam eventually. Even the second best technology, Fibe To The Curb, will only be able to reach 5Gbps in 2020.
An NBN upgrade is coming. And the fact that it’s coming so soon is unsurprising. The politics of this nation-building project have been mismanaged. Rather than listen to the technological experts, a self-admitted technological dunce (actually, Tony Abbott is a complete dunce) ruined Australia’s chance at having a unified, coherent telecommunications infrastructure. And for what? Nobody knows. But it does feel like a lot of wasted money, time and effort. So much for “cheaper, faster, sooner”.