New NBN Report Outlines Future Data Demands

A new report into the 'prudency' and 'efficiency' of the NBN's design and technology by UK-based ICT consultancy Analysys Mason has concluded that Australia's coming FTTP network satisfies all initial criteria, is adequately future proofed, and reflects best-practice.

The report, which can be downloaded here, goes into a reasonable detail about the future requirements of the any such network. It projects that by 2015 internet speed requirements for the average household will be approximately 90Mbps, to account for two standard definition television services, and a concurrent internet service of about 30Mbps.

 Within another 10 years, households would be demanding at least 300Mbps, for faster internet and multiple high definition television feeds. By 2035, however, that demand would climb to almost 1Gbps per household, in keeping with anticipated ultra-HD television, and a concurrent internet connection of 300Mbps.

The report anticipates that these speeds may well be achievable initially via upgrades to the existing Gigabit Passive Optic Network (GPON) architecture, which is the network architecture that NBN will use to serve residential customers. PON networks offer a point-to-multipoint solution, meaning that a single optical fibre can service multiple users (currently 32-64, but increasing over time), via unpowered (passive) optical splitters. 

Later developments would likely continue with GPON, but would require a dynamic reconciliation between wave- and time- division multiplexing, which is still many years away. The report anticipates that this may be possible by about 2025, and is therefore a very long-term prediction.

Nevertheless, the constant in all this is that by laying fibre now, and running it into every building in Australia, future performance upgrades, even radical ones, will be achieved by upgrading network hardware, and not the fibre itself. It's a simple point to make, even though it remains too complicated for the federal Opposition: it will be a very long time before the fibre itself becomes the limiting factor in any network solution.

Malcolm Turnbull has naturally rubbished the report, primarily because it did not exceed its mandate, which was only to assess whether the NBN's design and roll-out is indeed optimal. He claimed that it made no mention of whether the Opposition's policy would do the same. It is hard to argue with this claim, since it is true - the report really didn't explore the Opposition's NBN policy. First of all, there isn't one. Secondly, the scope of its investigation were very specifically laid out. Arguing that the report failed to cover this territory represents the kind of moribund politicking that never allows any debate to progress, by seeking to mire everything in first postulates.

We should have moved on, but apparently in politics we cannot. The answer is that the Opposition's 'policy', an as-yet ill-defined thatch of FTTN and vague assertions that wireless will carry the day, will not supply the kinds of bandwidths that this report suggests people will expect in the next twenty years. You don't have to commission a report to tell you that. Just walk down Burke St and try to surf the web on your phone.