The Week: A Real World Issue

The NBN provided, as ever, the Kerfuffle of the Week, specially the parts of the NBN that may or may not be deployed in Tasmania in the short, medium or long term future (details are sketchy). NBNCo executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski last week revealed that Tasmania will no longer enjoy a full FttP NBN deployment, but will instead be serviced by a multi-technology mix (MTM) solution. In real terms this means the extensive use of copper, which in real terms is both slower and less reliable than fibre.

Of course, Switkowski doesn’t believe those are real terms: "We can have an intellectual argument about the benefits of fibre versus copper, but I think it is quite academic. I don't think it's a real world issue." Doggedly singing from the same songbook as the minister who appointed him, Switkowski argued that it is debatable whether copper – ‘high-speed copper’ he whimsically termed it – is truly inferior to fibre: "The reality is that using the existing copper network, in this case, will give most people a speed experience vastly in excess they can actually use." As far as I can tell, most users tend to use all the available bandwidth they have. Does anyone worry that their internet speed is vastly in excess of their usage?

To complete the picture, we were once again fed the line that no one really knows where the technology will be in ten years anyway: "You'd be naive to believe that you can anticipate how this technology, whether it's the technology of the infrastructure or the applications that you can foresee what they're going to be 10 years out.” Yesterday Google announced that their 1Gbps Google Fiber service might be extended to 34 new cities, since they've "long believed that the Internet’s next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds..." How naive of them. 

It was only a few days earlier that Google announced the development of 10Gbps services, remarking that although speeds like this may be organically arrived at over the next decade, “why wouldn’t we make it available in three years? That’s what we’re working on. There’s no need to wait.” Wherever the technology is in a decade, physics will still work much the same, and fibre will remain a far sight quicker than ‘high-speed’ copper. The thing we cannot predict is precisely what applications will be around in ten years, but history has shown that they’ll always be more effective and developed sooner on better infrastructure. Hardware and software drive each other. As Google remarked: “That’s where the world is going. It’s going to happen.” Except in Tasmania.

The Tasmanian Labor premier Lara Giddings lavished her outrage on the media - both local and tech - claiming that Tony Abbott had reneged on an election promise that the Tasmanian portion of the NBN would be rolled out in full under existing contracts under an LNP government. Minister Turnbull countered that no one promised it would be completed using fibre. So in essence, the election promise was that Tasmania would indeed get an NBN of some kind at some point, which wasn’t really much of a promise at all. He also decried premier Giddings’ ‘rather pathetic attempt at scaremongering.

State Liberal Party leader Will Hodgman confessed that this may well cost his Party the next state election. Turnbull declined to assess Hodgman's attempt at scaremongering. He did maintain that most of the fault for the stalled rollout lay with private contractor Visionstream, and of course the previous government.

 

Last week I mentioned that Telstra had taken Optus to court for alleged false advertising. They claimed that Optus, through the sophisticated use of graphics, had implied that their mobile phone coverage was almost geographically equal to Telstra’s.

The ruling is in, and it was in Telstra’s favour. The upshot is that we no longer have to place the word ‘alleged’ before ‘false advertising’. Optus has pulled the ads from Youtube, but apparently they’re still running on television. Telstra has called the ruling a win for consumers, although it did not specify precisely how.

Optus’ counterclaim that Telstra had more or less pulled the same stunt with a similar graphic was held by the judge to be of ‘marginal, if any, relevance.’ Optus is ‘disappointed’. They don’t believe it is a win for consumers. The full ruling can be read here.

 

There are rumblings that Telstra is about to completely overhaul its retail mobile plans, retiring the existing range of Freedom Connect plans. One wonders if they will be a win for consumers.

Gizmodo has some details - apparently obtained from internal memos, secret sources and haruspicy - suggesting that there will be six pricing tiers, starting from $30 per month. Currently there are four tiers beginning at $60, and ending at an unlimited option that costs seven cows and your first-born child. Word is that call inclusions will go up, and that excess data costs will drop from 10c per Mb to 3c (meaning a 1Gb blowout would now cost $30 instead of $100, unless you’re overseas, in which case it will still cost you your second-born child).

There’s no word on whether the actual data inclusion will increase, but we'd say it is very unlikely. These plans are undoubtedly intended to compete with the latest offerings from Optus and Vodafone, both of whom are traditionally more generous with data allowances, but who’re themselves proving less generous as time goes by. The industry trend is towards more paltry data allowances, in direct opposition to the trend of increased usage.

Of more interest (arguably) is the murmur that these new Telstra plans will feature a 12 month contract, an exciting prospect for those eager to replace their hardware on a yearly basis.

Dog and Bone will provide more details as they come to light.