100Mbit/s will be slow in 2017

Kevin Rudd’s announcement that the government will build a network that delivers a 100Mbit/s fibre to the home Internet service, within 8 years, has lead to a flurry of analysis in relation to commercial viablity. However I have not seen much discussion about the technical aspects of the proposal. To be sure a 100Mbit/s home Internet connection would be a fast connection today.  The top of the range home Internet service is typically around 24Mbit/s at the moment and you pay a bit for it. Usually such a service is delivered via ADSL2+ technology using traditional copper pairs. Services with a similar speed are also available via Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC ) from Optus or Telstra (which is also the delivery medium for most Pay TV services). Relative to these existing services 100Mbit/s looks fast. Over 4 times faster in fact. However Kevin Rudd’s broadband network is not a service being delivered to the market today. This is a service that if built may not be available at your home for up to 8 years. So the question is will 100Mbit/s still be fast in 2017? I very strongly suspect that it won’t be. Here is why.

Firstly lets look at the pace of change. Network speeds are today increasing in much the same way as computer processor speeds have been increasing for the past 40 years. In 8 years time it is not unreasonable to expect network speeds to have double four times over. Or in other words it is not unreasonable to expect network speeds to be 16 times faster than they are today. Under such a scenerio that would mean that the top of the range 24Mbit/s service will be replaced by a 384Mbit/s service. Just as the top of the range home Internet service 8 years ago (in 2001) was 16 times slower than it is today at 1.5Mbit/s. And 8 years prior to that (1993) we would have all been thrilled if we could have had 94kbit/s although only if we had know what to do with it.  

Some will counter that ADSL services are surely reaching the technical limits of copper. However there is no reason to believe this is the case. Just 18 months ago the University of Melbourne caused a global sensation with news that one of it’s research students had figured out how to build an ADSL service that delivers 100Mbit/s. And 2 years ago others were suggesting that the theortical limit of copper telephone wires might be around 100,000 Mbit/s. That suggests that there is a lot more juice to be squeezed from the copper network. And none of that entails digging up my drive way.

What about the HFC networks? Well we know they can go a lot faster because a month ago Telstra announce that HFC home Internet services in Melbourne would all be increased to 100Mbit/s. And this won’t even be a small fraction of the capacity that can ultimately be squeezed from this medium.

However fibre can run a lot faster than 100Mbit/s I hear you say. Well yes it can. Which kind of makes the point that what the government has announced is actually the construction of a rather slow network. 

For all the talk from the neo-socialists about privatisation of telecommunications been a bad thing because it leads to duplication of infrastructure, all of a sudden a government plan that delivers a slow network via a huge duplication of infrastructure is somehow a good use of taxpayers money.  For all the talk about private broadband services being too expensive suddenly a service that is going to be even more expensive is better because it’s government built. Will the wonders of neo-socialist spin never cease?

38 thoughts on “100Mbit/s will be slow in 2017

  1. I saw a segment on Lateline Business with Paul Broad slamming the economics of the proposal and seeming to agree a lot with JCs post. Transcript here.

    There was a later segment with someone else who’s name I missed but who strongly favored what he referred to as ‘bundled copper’ which I assume is the high speed ADSL service. The transcript is not up yet.

  2. I’m using the tag ‘neosocialist’ as well. It’s a good label to get out there as there doesn’t seem to be a label for modern Labourite thought, probably because there isn’t a consistent philosophy behind it. Once we give it a tag we can start attaching things to it, like the fact that it’s ineffectual and without real substance.

  3. it’s light pipe so it’s not stuck at 100 Mbit

    you can upgrade the network just by swapping the boxes at each end, the cables themselves don’t need to be replaced

    the great shame is that we didn’t start moving beyond copper 8 years ago

  4. Twisted pair copper is an electrical pipe. You can upgrade the network just by swapping the boxes at each end, the cables themselves don’t need to be replaced. The great shame is that some people are ideologically opposed to copper.

  5. Q1. Is the 100Mbps Synchronous or ASynchronous. (ie single fibre to the home or fibre pair)

    Q2. How many people will share a single fibre (can be split 64 times but degrades capacity and hurts upgradeability).

    Q3. How much extra to upgrade to 1 or 10 GBps links. (Since this scheme is supposed to help small and medium business)

    Libertarian downside – This network will enable a massive network of live video surveillance across the entire country. I expect the police, council, security services will be the biggest network users ahead of the mentioned health and education benefits.

    Libertarian upside – This network will make it very easy for people to attach and share public wifi increasing the ability for anonymous net access. Though the pessimist in me expects to see legislation and/or regulation against sharing your connection.

    ONE FINAL QUESTION

    Once the network is in place who will be responsible for connecting new properties. ie: will this new company have a new universal service obligation to supply 100Mbps where possible or will they just slap on a satelite dish because it’s easier and there are no more fibre connections down your street.

    Like everyone I suppose I just want to see the business plan.

  6. Q1. Your statement in brackets leads me to suspect that you actually meant to use the terms symmetrical or asymmetrical. Synchronous and asynchronous relates to how the signal is clocked not whether transmit and receive are on the same fibre. And in fact rather than symmetrical or asymmetrical you would be better off using terms such as full duplex and half duplex.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asynchronous_circuit

  7. Once the network is in place who will be responsible for connecting new properties. ie: will this new company have a new universal service obligation to supply 100Mbps where possible or will they just slap on a satelite dish because it’s easier and there are no more fibre connections down your street.

    This weekends Australian Financial Review has an article in page 30 stating that ‘buried in the detail of the announcements on Tuesday is the requirement that all developers will have to lay fibre optic infrastructure all the way to the home or office for greenfields developments to win planning approval after July 1 next year’. The article estimates that the increase in price on a new house will be $3500 to $5000.

    Unintended consequences, eh………..

  8. Yes Michael

    Although fibre is the best available pipe and has been getting cheaper, it is still very expensive.

  9. VDSL2 is good technology but the speed it offers drops off quickly as the length of the copper pair increases. Which is why for consumer services in the suburbs ADSL2+ is still the Internet solution most widely used across twisted copper pairs. In Australia the length of our coppers tends to average quite a bit more than some other nations. Fibre to the node would shortens the distance that VDSL2 type services need to operate over and so they could achieve the higher speed. And Telstra would already be building fibre to the node if not for the fact that their property rights would subsequently be walked all over by the regulator and competitors.

    Irrespective of all this I think ADSL3 or ADSL4 (or maybe VDSL3 and VDSL4) when they come along will start to make many of these issues less relevant. I won’t be the least bit surprised if in ten years time we are pushing 500Mbit/s through twisted pairs.

    Ultimately I think fibre to the home is going to be a good idea. I just think the Rudd plan is premature and wasteful.

  10. p.s. As a regulatory minimum Telstra should be given full control over infrastructure they build for a number of years even if not forever. Eight years would probably do it.

  11. Twisted pair copper is an electrical pipe. You can upgrade the network just by swapping the boxes at each end, the cables themselves don’t need to be replaced. The great shame is that some people are ideologically opposed to copper.

    It’s not an ideological objection. There are real advantages to fibre.

    At higher bandwidths, interference becomes more of a problem. Copper is much ‘noisier’ than fibre is, due to electrical interference. ADSL might theoretically go as fast as 24Mbps, but you won’t get that speed unless you live quite close to an exchange.

    I live about 2km from my exchange. My DSL syncs at 7Mbps. I still have to pay for the full 24Mbps.

    Even if you can theoretically get DSL up to 100Mbps, it’s a) only a theory, without any available hardware, b) still slower than current and future fibre technology and c) even more sensitive to noise.

    The fact is that fibre is the best technology for the fast and reliable transmission of data, bar none.

    This issue is not about technology, it’s about whether the government should be spending $43Bn on providing such a service. Arguing about the nuts and bolts is besides the point.

  12. >> p.s. As a regulatory minimum Telstra should be given full control over
    >> infrastructure they build for a number of years even if not forever. Eight
    >> years would probably do it.

    Telstra (or ‘Telecom’) built that infrastructure via initiation of force. They used government force to threaten, and convict anyone who tried to build competing infrastructure.

    Saying that Telstra are entitled to full control of that infrastructure is like saying that thieves have the right to fully control their stolen property.

    Eventually Telstra’s only real asset (the monopoly on the last mile of copper into homes and businesses) will be worthless because it will be overtaken by competing systems. Until then, Telstra can put up with external ‘management’ of ‘their’ infrastructure.

    And don’t take this as an endorsement of Kevin ‘Cable Guy’ Rudd’s idiotic fibre proposal – all he is doing is trying to repeat the whole 20th century fiasco into the 21st century by creating Telecom-Mark-II. Idiot.

  13. Strawman – Telstra was privatised and the current owners paid full price. The current owners are not responsible for the sins of the past. If you think we should take property off people to correct the sins of the past, sins they had no part in, then you’re on a very slippery slope.

  14. Jacques – You are right that fibre is a brilliant technology with huge bandwidth capacity and is subject to negligible noise compared to copper. However fibre is not always the best technology if price is a factor. Especially given that copper is already in the ground and installing fibre involves digging a lot of trenches.

    It may make sense to put fibre to your home. However I already have access to 20Mbit/s services via HFC and that will provide services at 100Mbit/s soon enough. Why dig up the flowers in my street? Why impose a one size fits all solution across the entire nation involving a massive duplication of infrastructure at taxpayers expense. It makes more sense to augment existing arrangements with emerging technologies (eg ADSL3 when it comes) and selective upgrades (eg Fibre in some places) as and where demand dictates. In time most of the network will be fibre because of the superior qualities you refer to, however we can get there with out the big bang.

  15. Terje,

    What does ‘paying full price’ for stolen property actually mean?

    On the one hand you refer to Teltra’s infrastructure ‘THAT THEY BUILT’, and on the other hand you refer to the rights of shareholders that didn’t actually do it.

    I hate to sound like a leftie (Allah forbid), but you are entitled to the wealth you have created through hard work, ingenuity, consensual trade or love. That doesn’t apply in the case of Telstra.

    Even if the shares in Telstra were issued equally to every Australian you could argue that it was a reasonably way to untangle the sins of the past, but it wasn’t even that.

    A slippery slope? Welcome to the real world. If you think that the 820m^2 that my home is built on should fit in the same category, then let me know who the rightful owner is, and I’ll compensate them for the fair price for 820m^2 of unimproved value with no infrastructure and a state-of-the-art 18th-century hospital within just 6 months of easy travel. (I think that would come to considerably less that a week’s dole payments to any of the traditional owners).

    Telstra is an organization based on theft. The normal rules do not apply. Every shareholder knew they receiving stolen property, and should be regarded accordingly.

  16. Strawman – does that apply to the shareholders of Qantas the Commonwealth Bank, the Power Stations in Victoria and similar such privatisations of government owned enterprises? And is it okay for the government to sell something and then claim that the new owners have no property rights. That seems to me to be an odd form of morality. What you are essentially saying is that nobody should buy government enterprises with any expectation of ownership. And nobody should feel obliged to pay their Telstra phone bill. And yes that does make you sound like a crazy lefty. I don’t share your outlook on this at all. .

  17. p.s. More to the point I was talking in reference to a hyperthetical fibre to the node network that Telstra might have built if given at least a few years guaranteed control.

  18. Terje writes:

    >> Strawman – does that apply to the shareholders of Qantas
    >> the Commonwealth Bank, the Power Stations in Victoria and
    >> similar such privatisations of government owned enterprises

    Terje,

    The issue with Telstra is that they have an infrastructural monopoly, which other parties can’t compete with on an equal footing. The same does not apply to your examples of the Commonwealth Bank and the Victorian power stations.

    If I don’t like the service that the Commonwealth Bank offers, I can simply close my account, and get a (nearly identical) service from many many other providers.

    If I don’t like Former Victorian Power Generation Ltd I can (in principle) instruct my Victorian provider to provide power from one of the others. I believe that there is (or was) an option for Victorian electrical consumers to specify ‘green power’ and such like.

    In short, anyone can open a bank, and advertise for customers. Anyone can build a power station, and wire up to the grid. We can argue about the level of government regulation they would have to meet, but that is a different argument (and probably one which we agree on).

    Telecom on the other hand built up a very insidious infrastructure. They ran the only cabling as the suburbs were being built. Not because they were especially smart and no-one thought of it, but by threatening anyone with prison who wanted to do the same thing. I can’t compete with Telstra without digging up people’s front yards.

    30 years from now, new technology will overcome their last-mile-of-cable advantage, and we can all just move on from the fiasco having learned that government monopolies are bad institutions. But until then, they should have the same status as thieves holding stolen property.

    Your suggestion that they should be given full access for ‘at least the next eight years’ is the wrong way around. In the long term they can have full ownership of their rotting strips of copper. In the short term they should be regulated like thieves.

    I would have the same objection to a privatization of water, gas or electricity grids and suburban roads, These are not privatization opportunities or revenue raising opportunities. They are government monopolies which require careful dismantling.

    Telstra should have been split into a retail and wholesale arm. The retail arm should have been privatized (it would probably be bankrupt by now because the company structure, management and employees are all basically useless). The wholesale arm should have been retained by government, or regulated to the extreme until the last-mile-of-copper was superseded by other technologies.

    Telecom should be remembered as the socialist fiasco it was – not as a new-century investment opportunity for hard-working Australian mums and dads.

  19. I forgot to mention Qantas, but the same thing applies. Nothing to stop me setting up an airline and competing with Qantas, and many parties have done just that.

    All of these should have been privatized by share distributions to all Australians, but that’s the way it goes.

    Having the government sell stolen property is undesirable, but is probably the best way to minimize the evils of previous governments.

    But selling Telstra was effectively selling the right to continue stealing.

  20. Telstra possibly has a monopoly in the provision of residential voice and data services via copper twisted pairs. However there are lots of other ways to get voice and data including HFC and wireless. And there would be a lot more alternate infrastructure if not for the regulated access regime. It is simply wrong to suggest that Telstra is without competition.

    The new proposed national broadband network is under your definition also theft. Does this mean you disagree with it’s construction or is theft okay in this case?

  21. >> The new proposed national broadband network is under your
    >> definition also theft.
    >> Does this mean you disagree with it’s construction or is
    >> theft okay in this case?

    Of course I disagree with it. Do you think I’m stupid?
    It’s not only theft – it’s wasteful theft.

    But there is a difference:

    If Telecom hadn’t had a government enforced monopoly, then many others would have invested to fill the gap. But no-one is interested in spending 43 giga-dollars on RuddWeb.

    The ‘value’ of Telstra (ie the money got for selling the right-to-steal) represented a good return for the thieving government. The loser was the consumer (getting screwed for an overpriced poor quality service).

    The ‘value’ of RuddWeb will be less than the government (opportunity costed) investment. Therefore the loser will be the tax-payer (being forced to invest in something which won’t get a return).

    Ironically I may be one of the few people who actually use RuddWeb. I have a data-centre in my office and my home, and actually have a business use for 100Gbps. So I have no personal interest in saying RuddWeb is a really stupid idea. KRuddy is desperate to be remembered for something. Anything. He isn’t going to get a war, so he has to try to waste money on monuments. This network is just a monument to Uncle Kev.

  22. No I don’t think you’re stupid, although presumably that was a rhetorical question.

    Back to the original point of diagreement. If Telstra should not be free to control what it builds (and hence refuses to build stuff) and if Ruddweb were halted then what ought to be done in terms of the regulatory regime? I’ve suggested giving Telstra control of what it notionally owns in order to provide clear incentives to Telstra and competitors however I presume you have some alternate course of action in mind. If you were the government how would you proceed from here?

  23. >> I’ve suggested giving Telstra control of what it
    >> notionally owns in order to provide clear incentives to
    >> Telstra and competitors

    Giving Telstra the right to continue stealing does not provide a clear incentive to competitors (at least not the type you presumably mean). Telling the competition that stealing is okay hinders progress in many areas.

    >> however I presume you have some
    >> alternate course of action in mind. If you were the
    >> government how would you proceed from here?

    The way forward is simple: continue to regulate the last mile of copper, and allow others to compete in the new technology spaces.

    Eventually the last mile of copper will become worth so little that you let the ‘owners’ keep their rotting booty.

    By the way, do you think that I should be able to buy the (only) road in front of your house, and then insist that:

    >> As a regulatory minimum I should be given full control
    >> over infrastructure I built for a number of years even
    >> if not forever.

    It’s not like I would have a monopoly or anything. After all, you could use a helicopter, or a rocket ship, or a teleportation beam to access your property. And it’s not my fault if you don’t have those things.

  24. How about letting them control the copper when there are viable alternative in place. In my street I can get Internet via HFC, copper or wireless. If Rudd gets his way I’ll have a forth option. None of these options seem even remotely as extreme as using a helicopter to get to my house. And in the worst case I live without home Internet (quite comfortably I suspect).

  25. >> None of these options seem even remotely as extreme as
    >> using a helicopter to get to my house.

    Now who’s on a ‘slippery slope’? 🙂

    >> In my street I can get Internet via HFC, copper or
    >> wireless.

    Good for you. Unfortunately HFC (I presume you mean ULL?) is still (in my case) ‘owned’ by Telstra, and wireless will not meet my requirements. I am still at the mercy of those thieves.

    >> And in the worst case I live without home Internet (quite
    >> comfortably I suspect).

    A luxury that I wish I could afford. I would have to make significant (and expensive) changes to my business if Internet were not available to my home, and if Internet were not available to my business, I wouldn’t have a business.

    Telstra has a geographical monopoly built on government force. Buying Telstra shares was like buying a right to steal. It’s like buying a slave. No such right exists.

    Bear in mind, I am not begrudging other parts of Telstra’s infrastructure such as the (excellent) Next-G network, which I am using now as I write this reply. Telstra invested the money, built the infrastructure (post privatization), and they are getting my money. The price is a little steep, but access (from a business needs view) is excellent value for money.

    I have been thinking about what _SHOULD_ have been done with Telstra:

    * The retail arm should have been split off and privatised (it would have been gobbled up by another more efficient provider by now, and be merely a memory of a warm inner glow to the old guard baby boomer socialists).

    * The copper into people’s houses and businesses (including the copper back to the nearest node (ie street junction box) should have been given to the building owner (‘my house my cable’).

    * The wholesale arm (the mile of copper between node and exchange) should have been retained by government, or regulated to the extreme, and other parties should have been allowed to compete with it or lease multi-core as appropriate.

    * New suburbs could have operated the same way, with conduit owned by the owner of the road, and space in the
    conduit leased to interested parties.

    I think that would have delivered the best outcome .. but I haven’t really thought it through – feel free to comment.

    Regardless, it’s too late now. Little Johnny had to pay off the 96 billion dollars in debt that Paul Keating left him, and Telstra was sold to maximize the sale value.

    Next time, the coalition will inherit an even greater mess. And I for one am going to watch it unfold in full glorious 100Mbps high definition colour!

    .. assuming this white elephant ever actually gets built of course. Which I doubt.

  26. The “somebody might build a road around your house and trap you there” argument is a bullshit argument. You can’t base public policy on absurd life-boat examples.

    It’s also possible that people may not help their family, friends and charities… but the only sensible basis on which to base public policy is to look at what happens in reality.

    Making policy based on absurd life-boat examples leads to absurd policies, and huge government which is there to protect you from every made up emergency the politicians can think of.

  27. >> The “somebody might build a road around your house and
    >> trap you there” argument is a bullshit argument. You
    >> can’t base public policy on absurd life-boat examples.

    Sorry, if someone thinks the road outside my home should be privatized, then I will object to it unless the proposal guarantees me usage at a reasonable rate forever.

    >> the only sensible basis on which to base public policy is
    >> to look at what happens in reality.

    Agreed. And the reality here is that there is no real substitute for the copper that runs into my home.
    I love my wireless links – they give me a freedom that didn’t exist a few years ago. I probably spend twice as much time out of town as I used to because I can fix things that break while I am on ‘holiday’ with the family. Both productivity and time with the family increase. Win-win.

    But it doesn’t meet my networking needs. I need 8-9GB/month for business reasons. And copper is the only shop in town.

    That’s reality.

  28. HFC means Hybrid Fibre Coaxial not ULL. And in my case the infrastructure is owned by Optus. It’s the stuff they hang of electricity poles and use to provide pay TV. They let me push 20Mbit/s.

    Not so relevant to the politics of this discussion but you can get a Next-G service with 10Gbytes of included data for a flat $380 per month (or 50G for a flat $1500 per month).

    http://tinyurl.com/telstradata

    I’ve used these plans on occasion in conjunction with a Next-G router as a rapid deployment remote WAN solution (you can set them up to connect back through to your Telstra corporate WAN rather than direct to the Internet). You should be able to push 7Mbit/s through such a solution but relative to a direct connection the latency sucks. Whilst this is still Telstra it does show that copper is not the only shop in town. Although it may be the cheapest shop in town.

  29. >> Not so relevant to the politics of this discussion but you
    >> can get a Next-G service with 10Gbytes of included data
    >> for a flat $380 per month (or 50G for a flat $1500 per
    >> month).

    Surely you are not serious. $1500 per month, and it’s a cost effective alternative for copper? One of us has forgotten their tin-foil hat.

    This argument is getting silly. Some of us have real world issues to deal with.

  30. >> In terms of how fast can we go on wireless the following
    >> is two years old but it points to where wireless services
    >> are heading:-

    I suspect that wireless-from-the-node would be the most cost effective way to re-‘wire’ the nation. Erecting line-of-site aerials is probably cheaper than doing a bunch of digging.

    All good reasons why

    1. KRuddy shouldn’t waste our money on KRuddWeb.

    2. The last mile of copper should be regulated until a costs effective alternative is commercially available.

  31. Existing mobile networks are essentially “wireless from the node”. Where node = mobile base station. And the density of the nodes generally increases where the demand for the service is high.

  32. In debates, the term ‘straw man’ refers to a fake argument, introduced to falsely make your opponents seem what they are not, and to boost your own arguments- just as communists used to call their opponents Hitler-lovers if they didn’t worship Stalin!
    So I would not take these as serious arguments. (But then, I am learning astral travel, so I’ll be able to escape the road anyway!)

  33. Perhaps my heading for this article is wrong. Rather than saying “100Mbit/s will be slow in 2017” perhaps it should have said “100Mbit/s will be slow in 2028”. At least according to the following news report:-

    http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25898529-664,00.html

    IT WILL take at least 18 years for most Australian homes to be connected to the Rudd Government’s National Broadband Network, according to financial services giant Goldman Sachs JBWere.

    In a 92-page report on the NBN, Goldman analysts say it will take until financial year 2017 before 50 per cent of homes are passed by the network, and until 2028 before 85 per cent of homes are connected.

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