Thursday, 27 September 2012

NBN: Turnbull's real Challenge - find better Fibre solutions

Being a politician is hard, I wouldn't do the job for anything. I have a lot of respect for Mr Turnbull not just doing the job, but continuing to "make a difference" when he could spend his time elsewhere.

Does anyone in I.C.T. doubt that the NBN is important infrastructure for the future of our country? No.

Do they think that the current FTTP design are the best options possible? Many wouldn't.

Mr Turnbull can add great value to the debate, even create a strong Policy position for the Coalition, by addressing this question:
Can we come up with better local solutions to deploying fibre or temporary fast broadband access to Greenfield and Brownfield areas?
There are three additional solutions I'm interested in.
  • WiFi 'mesh network' transitional networks. Low capital cost, fast deployment, broad coverage and temporary. Ask for a co-payment for subscribers wanting this solution.
    • Whatever happened to the Philadelphia City-wide WiFi network??
  • Explore using existing infrastructure right-of-ways. Google seriously suggested using sewer lines, I presume somehow attaching conduit to the top of the pipes. In Urban areas, this network goes to every house, as does electricity. Can these existing infrastructures, not just the Telstra pits and cables, be leveraged for speed and cost?
    • TransACT famously used the above ground electricity pole network in Canberra to deploy their fibre and "cat 5" cable. Seemed to work well.
  • In the country, there is already an extensive fibre network and a near-universal utility infrastructure already installed:
    • Telstra run fibre to most of their rural (SCAX) exchanges.
    • There is already an extensive 11KV electricity network around rural areas in most of Australia, East Coast at least.
    • The Telecommunications Act does not mandate that NBN Co connect all premises. Any operator can create a network as long as they offer "open access" wholesale services at reasonable rates. "Opticomm" already have a successful business like this.
    • There is room for a joint venture between Telstra and the various rural Electricity Distribution suppliers to create fibre connections to all electricity in the country.
      • As the NBN Co Fibre/Wireless Extension programmes layout, there is no impediment to charging subscribers for services installed.
      • Rural electricity consumers are already familiar with the financial model: consumers pay the full installation cost of their connection and the asset is transferred to the supply company who also assumes maintenance and replacement costs.
So, how many better solutions to running fibre are there?

Can Mr Turnbull come up with a good pure-FTTP model that really will be "Better Broadband - cheaper and sooner"? That would be a great contribution to the debate and our future.

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