Switkowski’s Dubious Claim

Meet Ziggy Switkowski: nuclear physicist, ex-Telstra CEO, liberator of bits!

Well, that’s the image that the Liberal party would love us to have, unfortunately, as an ex-Telstra employee, I can’t say I feel the same. I worked there during his reign and saw some of the poorest decisions made, all in the name of a little cost cutting.

That story is for another day, and really, the only part of Ziggy’s past I need to bring up is that under his reign at Telstra, there were plans to run FTTP to greenfields sites to save on future upgrades. I’ve mentioned this before, it still exists under the name Telstra Smartcommunity (previously Telstra Velocity).

With this in mind, I find it strange to see Ziggy claim that everyone in the ICT sphere has some “great misunderstanding” of what constitutes a smart decision on technology when rolling out a network.

It really doesn’t matter which technology is used to bring fast broadband to your home. The important issue [is] it delivers the speeds people need today and it can be upgraded as demand requires.

Ziggy Switkowski, 12/03/2014

To my amazement the man tasked with deploying the NBN would make such a false and misleading claim. The statement on its own seems to make sense, until you actually understand what determines speed and capacity for upgrades.

When talking about technologies it’s easy to get caught up in the nitty-gritty, this is true, but this is technology, the nitty-gritty is where the decisions on technologies come from.

Poor Logic and a False Premise

Firstly, let’s talk about speed. The speed of the service you receive is 100% based on the technology. There’s no two ways about this, and we’re experiencing it as I write.

Please Ziggy, tell me again how I can get 100/40Mbps on my ADSL2+ connection. Maybe you can explain how I can get the same on a dial-up modem. When put like this, we can see that there is no way that anyone could make the statement that the technology doesn’t matter in one breath, then proceed to state what matters is speeds that people need.

The problem with the assertion that “speeds people need today” are important but an upgradeable rollout is also important is that they are contradictory statements. If the important thing about internet speeds was what we need today, then in just 18 months we’d need to rollout a redesigned new network that’s twice as fast, and 18 months after that four times as fast, and so on.

The capacity to upgrade a network is wholly dependent on the technology, when we look at the limits of technological upgrades it’s easy to see what’s the smarter choice. With dialup the point was v.92 (the last 56Kbps modems with increased upstream), with ADSL it’s G.992.5 (ADSL2+ Annex M), with VDSL2 it’s Vectored VDSL2 with Phantoming, with fibre its… well, we don’t know what it is.

Sure, you can upgrade Vectored VDSL2 with Phantoming to G.Fast/G.now, but we’re talking about another rollout (civil works), not just a simple act of upgrading endpoints and minimal equipment in the field. Moving from GPON to XG-PON is trivial, and while TWDM-PON does require more works, it’s merely a case of replacing a passive splitter.

Customers Ignored

So we can see, that technology does matter to both speed and a network’s capacity to be upgraded.

But what do users really want? It’s quite simple: higher speeds, stable service, and coverage (when it comes to mobile services). I’ve lost count of the research articles that show this, many commissioned by governments around the world. It’s clear that Switkowski and his team have paid no attention to any of the research that went into the EU’s broadband directives, the US’s National Broadband Plan, or even what went into the National Broadband Network that’s on a fast track to becoming a colossal disaster.

A network can’t possibly survive without customers, and when companies like TPG are talking of $69.95 unlimited 100Mbps FTTB, how can NBN Co compete, especially when NBN Co’s own trials will offer 40Mbps to 100Mbps services on Vectored VDSL. Not exactly something to get excited about.

The key is, by the time the Coalition Broadband Network is finished, we will be consuming 16 times the data we are today. That’s a conservative estimate, as ABS data shows data use starting to edge towards doubling every 12 not 18 months.

Where To From Here

It’s clear there’s no place for logic or facts in Switkowski and Turnbull’s NBN Co, especially after the poor excuse for “data” that “My Broadband” is. Many are pouring over the data cube at the moment and finding some laughable statistics. Apparently 16000+ Distribution Areas receive 20Mbps or more. Even more disturbing is the occurrences of “8Mbps” DA’s. Could that be a copy paste job to all the ADSL1 only exchanges where people are lucky to get 1.5Mbps services?

If anything, this is just another nail in the coffin of the NBN, especially now that the Productivity Commission report is pointing fingers straight at NBN Co. The laughable thing is this was put to tender, no one submitted a serious tender, which seems to be par for the course in Australia. Telcos love the idea of owning a network, but don’t much like the idea of building one.

This is no longer a debate about what the best way to approach a broadband rollout is, but an exercise in misinformation. To what end I’m unsure, but the result will not be pleasant for Australians the country over.

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