Is NBN just a political football?

The model continues to morph with ongoing debate around the choice of technology, the speed of the rollout and how much it ultimately costs. But it’s also one of the coolest major projects underway in Australia.

guide to the nbn

A renter’s guide to the NBN will discuss:

  • A bit of background behind NBN;
  • The need for speed;
  • What you said about the internet; and
  • But what’s with all the tech stuff?

Part 1:

A bit of background

So, what is NBN really? For the last 15 years (about when we started to get into Broadband and shift away from Dialup,) we’ve relied on the copper wires to our houses as our path to the internet. ADSL technology was – and still is – used, allowing the internet to be carried on the same physical line as our traditional telephone.

Now this works well, but it relies on the telephone line to your house being in good condition and your house not being too far away from the local telephone exchange. Poor quality lines and / or a distance over about 2 kilometres and the speed (or the amount of internet you can pump over your connection) starts to drop off quickly. In fact, a survey NBN ran a few years ago, across all of Sydney metro found the average speeds to be around 10mbps.

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The need for speed

But that’s not all! Another thing that’s been happening over the last 10 years is the rapid expansion of the internet. More specifically, it’s the rapid growth of what is available online and our seemingly insatiable desire to consume it.

Think about that for a moment. What were you doing on the net 10, 5 or 2 years ago, and what are you doing today? If you are like 99.9% of the population, then your consumption increases every year. We’re not only talking in terms of the time spent online, but also in terms of the volume of data that we download, stream and browse.

And while we consume much of this on our mobile devices and tablets, when we’re at home this is generally over a WiFi connection that is linked to your fixed line solution

So, these two factors (limited speed and our desire for more) started the idea that we needed something different, something that could serve Australia into the future and keep up with what consumers (that’s us) will be demanding.

What you said about the internet surveyed its Renter audience about the importance of the internet in late 2016, revealing a few interesting statistics:

  • 67% of users surveyed said they couldn’t live without the internet
  • When asked to rank the following items in term of importance, users ranked in the order of:
    • Speed;
    • Data quota;
    • Price;
    • Technology (e.g. ADSL, ADSL2, NBN, etc); and
    • Provider
  • Overwhelmingly, users said they would immediately want to sign up if NBN became available in their area.

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But what’s with all the tech stuff?

Australia is not the first country to go down the path of providing a next-generation internet, but we do have some unique challenges to manage:

  1. Budget – i.e. how much are we going to spend
  2. Size: Australia is a really big country with a lot of space between places.

Even in our cities, our density (how many people per square kilometre) is quite low, compared to other countries. It would be great if we could run fibre to everyone’s house, but it’s simply not an economic reality.

So, given these constraints, NBN ends up as a patchwork of different technologies. Your property’s location will determine what is available to you.

There are four different ‘fixed line’ technologies, and two different ‘wireless’ ones. Here’s a graphic to explain:

Figure 1 -
Figure 1 –

Now, no one argues that Fibre to the premises (FTTP) is the preferred solution when it comes to great speeds now and into the future. In fact, this is what about 25% of us will get straight away. Over time, the other fixed line technologies will be upgraded or changed to keep pace with needs.

The final plan? Within some economic boundaries, everyone will get access to decent internet.

But let’s ignore all the technology types for a moment. At the end of the day, you don’t get to choose it – you get what you’re told based on the location of your property.

In Part 2, we’ll look at the different plans / providers and what to consider.

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