The Week: A Bad Kind of Magic

Story of the Week was Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Communications, implying that the anti-cherrypicking laws included in the ALP’s original NBN legislation were perhaps worthpreserving in some form. These provisions forbade private providers from building infrastructure that directly competed with NBNCo, thus ensuring NBNCo’s monopoly.

This came as a bit of a surprise to everyone, given the Liberal party's traditional distrust of public-owned monopolies. It was especially surprising given the Minister’s well-known insistence that private-sector competition was integral to the government’s revised approach to building a national broadband network, which relies upon a multi-technology mix (MTM), and allows for private sector competition. TPG and Optus were the most surprised of all. Both have plans well under way to build their own high-speed connections into the basements of several thousand apartment buildings. TPG’s share price apparently took a tumble.

The tech press, like the rest of the media not shy of the horrible term ‘backflip’, have rightly queried how businesses can be expected to operate properly in a climate of policy uncertainty. Add to this the fact that the NBN rollout may actually be ramping up, or not.


Brain-scrambling sentence of the week comes from Juha Saarinen at itnews: ‘As part of expanding capacity on LTE-A networks, NSN is presenting a dynamically managed enhanced intercell interference coordination heterogenous small cell solution at MWC14 for improved load balancing with operator's larger macro networks.’ Prose this impenetrable attains a kind of magic, but not the good kind.

The story itself is interesting, however. Nokia and Sprint have managed to achieve a mobile download speed of 2.6Gbps. The trick is in aggregated spectrum (a whopping 120Mhz of it), using time-division multiplexing (TD-LTE-A). This means that information is sent in both directions on the same frequency band, with the sending and receiving channels taking staggered turns. The division is asynchronous, meaning that the downstream channel gets more turns, as in ADSL (because people download more than they upload).

No story of this kind is complete without a reminder that not only is this amazing new tech theoretically possible, but that a version of it is actually being deployed somewhere in the world, usually in South Korea. So it proves here: SK Telecom are even now rolling out a more modest LTE-A network, using 40Mhz of spectrum, and providing a theoretical download speed of 300Mbps. One could therefore insist that such tech removes the need for an FttP network, except South Korea has one of those as well. NBN naysayers take note.

Closer to home, in Sydney, Optus late last year managed a downstream speed of 520Mbps by combining four 20Mhz spectrum bands. Combining two bands yielded download speeds of about 160Mbps, this time in Melbourne. Telstra is naturally running its own LTE-A tests, and claims to have achieved 300Mbps (via carrier aggregation). Bear in mind – please! – that actual commercial users will not see speeds like these. 



Pertinent tweet of the week comes from Cameron Watt, in response to Renai LeMay. Readers will know Renai LeMay as the founder of Delimiter, the popular website for which he conducts fearless tech reporting and analysis, and upon which he lavishes his ungovernable passion for adverbs. On Thursday he took to Twitter to bemoan the coverage of the SPC Ardmona kerfuffle: “Anyone else tired of being blasted w/news about a tiny fruit cannery in rural Victoria? Seriously … why do these companies expect handouts?”

Watt’s response: “Blasted with news yet apparently you haven’t understood any of it. They’re not after a handout, and it is way more complex.”

“Blasted with news, yet understood none of it.” An aphorism for modern times. The tech press is not above losing sight of the bigger picture.