Julien Goodwin
Why I care about the NBN 
30th-Apr-2013 03:52 pm
southpark cartoon
First of all, yes I'm a general Greens / Labour supporter so it's not surprising that I like the NBN. I work in a tech field (specifically datacomms) that also generally supports the NBN. I have plenty of reasons to support the NBN from those, but here's the "how it affects me" ones.

I live in inner-city Sydney, specifically Ultimo, literally in the afternoon shadow of (probably) the most wired building in the country, the GlobalSwitch datacenter, yet on a bad day I get 1Mb or so through my Internet connection.

I do have two basic options for a home Internet connection where I live, both through Telstra's infrastructure, either their HFC cable network, or classic copper. As Telstra (last time I tried) were unable to sell a real business-class service on HFC I use ADSL, and since I consider IPv6 support a requirement, I use Internode (there's other reasons I use them as well, but IPv6 sadly is still hard to get from other providers). Due to the location of my apartment 3/4g services aren't an option even if they were fast enough (or affordable).

Sadly the copper in Ultimo is in a sad state with high cross-talk and attenuation. I suspect this is likely due to passing underground through Wentworth Park[1] which is only a meter or two above sea level so water damage is highly likely.

Even on a good day I only barely sustain ~8Mb down, ~1Mb up, with no disconnects, on a bad day it can be as low as 1Mb down, with multiple disconnects per hour.

It's the last point I particularly care about, regular disconnects make the service unreliable and are the aspect that is most irritating.

Speed, although people often want it is of limited value to me, once I can do ~20Mb down and ~5Mb up that's enough for me, handles file uploads fast enough and offers a nice buffer for video conferencing (yes I really do join video conferences from home). I suspect I will subscribe to a 50/20 plan if/when NBN is available in my area. In theory NBNco should have commenced construction in the Pyrmont/Glebe/Ultimo/Haymarket area this month (per their map), but I'm not aware of anyone who has been contacted to confirm this.

Because I'm in an apartment complex it's likely that the coalition's plan would have a node in the basement (there's already powered HFC amps in the basement car parks so it wouldn't be unprecedented), this matches some versions of the NBN plan, although the current plan (last I saw) is fibre to each apartment. Once a node is within a building cable damage due to water is unlikely and I'd probably be able to sustain a decent service, but if I ever moved to a townhouse then I'd be back to potentially dodgy underground cable.

I don't believe forcing Telstra & Optus to convert their HFC networks into wholesale capable networks is a sensible idea for a variety of reasons, the two major being would they still be able to send TV, and the need to split the HFC segments into much smaller sections to be able to sustain throughput. Even with the current low take-up rate of cable Internet I know many people in Melbourne who find their usable throughput massively degrades at peak times, something that would almost certainly get worse, not better, if HFC became the sole method of high speed Internet in a region.

I also still maintain my server and Internet service at my old place in Melbourne, and will get at least 50/20 there, should it ever be launched, when I first got ADSL2+ service I managed to sustain 24/2 but now only 12/1, presumably due to degrading lines, which makes me wonder about how fast and reliable a VDSL based FTTN would actually be.

1: The only real alternate path would add a kilometre or more of cable to avoid that low lying area.
30th-Apr-2013 06:40 am (UTC)
Or, you know, run fibre through the low lying area, ensuring that it has a good jacket on it, and none of the active equipment is below the high-water-in-a-flood mark. Under water fibre is easier to keep usable than under water copper. Especially underwater copper with a paper based outer -- that makes a lovely wick for drawing down water...

Here in NZ, at one point via a subsidiary of the same Telstra (TelstraClear; they sold it to Vodafone late last year; it's had 4 owners in the 13 years I've had variations on the service), I've had 10Mbps down, 2Mbps up (via cable), for several years -- and routinely get that across town. 100Mbps down/10Mbps up (on the same cable, AFAIK) has been an option for a while. I suspect they're getting close to FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) these days, but it's been ages since I've spoken to the guy who runs the network planning.

FTTN (with the node in the building, but _not_ in the basement under the high-water-in-a-flood mark!), plus VDSL seems plausible if all you're hoping to achieve is 24/2 or 50/5 or something like that. The runs of copper should be short enough that even older copper should manage reasonable speeds -- and it's much less exposed to the elements than overhead/underground copper. But it seems reasonably short sighted, as in 5-10 years time those speeds will seem slow again.

New Zealand's equivalent of the NBN is basically trenching in ducting underground, with fibre blown in as required. I believe for single-occupancy dwellings the fibre goes to the outside of the building, or something like a garage. I'm not sure what they're doing/planning on doing for multi-occupancy dwellings (there've been some trial areas on FTTH for a few years, but for most of the country they're still at the "digging up the roads" stage).


PS: Semi-serious suggestion: find someone with an office in that building, that faces you (if necessary find another tenant in the building that faces in that direction and offer them "free Internet"). Convince relevant people to let you put a radio link between the two buildings. Patch into data centre. Run fibre/copper in your building, "black ops" if necessary. I have a friend who had that sort of link, in Europe, to an ISP across the road where a friend worked, for years. If you try hard/have connections you can probably get layer 2 into a router you control, that is connected to the Internet, by trading in a few favours.
30th-Apr-2013 08:16 am (UTC)
Sure, under the coalition's plan the fibre would almost certainly be well above the water line, but that doesn't stop the copper in the street from being crap, and if you're going to replace the copper you might as well just install fibre.

Sadly I'm in an inward facing apartment so any form of wireless won't work. PIPE actually have a fibre pit outside the building's MDF, but it's not worth trying to get a circuit there.
30th-Apr-2013 09:04 am (UTC)
My suggestion for wireless was to find someone who is (a) on an outward facing apartment, that (b) is on the correct side of the building. It's a bit more effort, but it doesn't have to be on the same floor. A little reconnaissance and/or social engineering may prove fruitful.

A PIPE circuit or similar would probably only work if you were to start offering network services to other tenants, due to the base cost of such circuits. At least in NZ that's a feasible idea if you own the apartment (and hence have connections with the body corporate, etc), and I know someone who seriously looked at doing it for the building they owned an apartment in. But if you're just renting it's probably an uphill battle.


PS: "Replace ancient copper with fibre" is step one in most feasible plans :-)
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