Thursday, 30 May 2013

NBN: Connecting VDSL to your home: Apples & Apples with Fibre or a "same-same" fudge?

George Fong on connecting GPON/FTTP NBN to your home made me wonder how different the process of connecting the Coalition VDSL/FTTN would be. I suspect there is some terrible "devil in the detail" for the Coalition.

For Fibre (GPON), you get 3 boxes supporting 2-voice + 4-Data , installed for no charge by NBN Co, the Coalition gives you nothing. The "no disruption" rule pushes large additional & untimately wasted costs onto householders :
An Apples-and-Apples comparison of the current FTTP NBN and the Coalition FTTN would include all costs for identical installs, yet the Coalition costings ignore these.

Headline questions for Messers Turnbull et al:
  • Will NBN Co offer a VDSL2 version of the standard 2-Voice+4-Data Network Termination Device (NTD) for customers that request it?
    • Who will be installing these?
    • Who will pay and how much, remembering this is included for Fibre, Wireless and Satellite users?
    • Will customers upgrading from VDSL2 modems and Central Splitters get a rebate on any previous out-of-pocket expenses?
  • Will NBN Co be certifying VDSL2 modems or will it be "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) as implied by Turnbull?
    • DIY installs are notoriously fault prone: how will NBN Co mitigate this problem?
    • Will NBN Co be able to remotely manage, administer and monitor all VDSL2 modems as they will do for all GPON, Wireless and Satellite NTD's? (And is necessary for modern, well-run networks)
  • Will NBN Co mandate the use of Central Splitters for VDSL2 mdoems?
    • If they don't, how will NBN Co manage line faults due to improperly connected or faulty in-line filters?
    • If NBN Co do mandate Central Splitters, who will install them, who will pay, how much will it be on average?
In private communications, Coalition experts have upbraided me over including the costs transferred to the householder by an FTTN. Their stance is "In premises costs have nothing to do with NBN project costs", with which I disagree.

My assertion is that there is a considerable additional cost for VDSL/FTTN users not incurred by GPON/FTTP users. This is deliberately deceptive and inequitable, especially as costs are both unavoidable and not advertised.

There's a lot of detail to walk through, and there are three stages to consider, before 'vectoring' is added,
which assumes all lines are VDSL and covered by the one vector processor. Will new VDSL modems be needed to maximise uplink speed for vectoring? Will new devices be needed for "vectoring"? If so, who will pay for the upgrade?

1. initial cutover: phone + ADSL not affected ('no disruption')
  • is there an "opt-out" clause?
  • what of other copper-line services (door openers, alarms: fire & security)?
  • phone only customers: What impact? What if not Telstra?
  • Telstra exchanges are replaced by node ATA's and "softswitches".
    • Will non-Telstra phone services be handled?
  • will the individual Phone provider "service codes" be preserved or all migrated to new codes?
  • what about 'message bank' and diversions? How will they be handled & moved?
2. transition to simple VDSL2 to get over 24Mbps.
  • Requires new modem/router [cf Adam Internet & 'the precinct' or TransACT] and new filters or 'central-splitter'. (30MHz vs 2.2MHz)
  • are (multiple) in-line filters recommended or available via retail stores for VDSL2?
    • will customers be forced to install "central splitters" for VDSL2?
  • BT in the UK are said to quote "4 hours" for average install of VDSL2 central splitter + modem
    • this is important as splitter is before network edge & must be installed by registered cabler
  • NBN is defined around remotely managed CPE (Customer Premises Equipment), that's a very important detail/design rule.
    • Will TR-069 (DSL remote management standard) be a requirement of NBN Co VDSL2 modems?
  • There are two modes DSL modems can connect to ISP/RSP networks, which will be used?
    • PPPoE, a tunnelling protocol (L3/IP encapsulated in L2 Ethernet or ATM packets) or
    • IPoE, direct IP packets onto ISP L2 network [provided by GPON NTD's]
  • Will customers be able to get IPoE devices if they desire it, or be stuck with lower-performance, single-service PPPoE?
    • Will these modems be approved/certified by ISP or NBN Co?
  • If customers can get IPoE, will they get single VLAN only or get multiple VLAN's?
    • I suspect this could be provided in a similar fashion to TransACT and Cable/HFC services:
      • an NBN supplied VDSL 'box' with 2 connectors: RJ-12 phone-line (Voice) + RJ-45 ethernet (data)
    • customer supplied modem/router/firewall with upline data interace (RJ-45/ethernet)
Stage 2 Questions:

  • Is there a 4-hour average install for central splitter & VDSL modem?
  • Who will organise this? Who will do install?
  • Who will pay for this?
    • Worst case is $250/hr + GST individual 'on-demand' install, paid by subscriber.

3. Transition to multiple RSP or in-premises ATA and voice over NBN. "Traffic Class 1" not "Traffic Class 4" (data) service. (TC-1 & TC-4)
  • This is akin to 'naked' ADSL service
  • I.e. will NBN Co supply 2-voice + 4-data Network Termination Devices (NTDs) for DSL/FTTN identical to GPON/FTTP and wireless NTDs?
  • Who will pay for the NTD and install of VDSL modem and removal of phone points, change of house wiring and removal of central splitter. [installed in 2nd stage]
  • Can customer skip straight to stage 3?
This leaves an important question open, showing, I believe, the decision is driven by a Political factors  ("no disruption") not good Engineering Design or Judgement:

  • How much is being wasted by pushing ATA's (Analogue Telephone Adaptors) into Nodes, making them identical to Telstra RIM's?
  • Wouldn't a pure-digital VDSL/FTTN design be cheaper, technically superior and more robust/reliable in operation? 

Stage 1: Initial Install:
  • After building approval installing foundation, ducts, node cabinet + line cards, fibre, power and tie-cables back to node patch panels:
    • what happens next?
    • there has to be line testing, or does there? Especially to determine is working filters/splitter is on-line.
    • Who does that?
    • Who pays for that?
    • This requires someone at the customer-end, why not get them in the home as well?
  • Who determines your service is "cost-effective" DSL or Fibre? Using what standard criteria/formula?
  • network line remediation:
    • what can get done? amount of service disruption that will happen.
  • Cutover to node:
    • what does it involve? [Many hours of labour at node, pillar and exchange/NBN Co node control?]
  • just when will the line back to the exchange get cut? [after you're all configured?]
    • Important detail for the large number of people served by ULLS.
  • For the "no disruption" claim to work, just what does your phone & ADSL get connected to in the node?
  • how does this new infrastructure get configured so you don't get impacted?
  • what happens to your ADSL modem/router so your ISP login credentials don't change?
  • What impact does cutting the cable have on your services if you are using a ULLS provider (phone or ADSL), such as provided by OPTUS, iiNet, PowerTel, TPG, BroadbandNext, et al.
  • What if you are connected via a non-Telstra ADSL2 DSLAM?
    • How does cutting the exchange line work?
  • What if you are a "naked" ADSL service with no PSTN service?
  • What now happens to your billing for ADSL and phone calls?
  • What 'plan' are you flipped on to?
  • What happens if you are with a small ISP that is either slow to move to NBN or will never move?
  • Do ISP's with ADSL2 DSLAM's get compensated for 100% write-off of asset?

What happens if your Node connection doesn't work properly? [think wiring error & cross-connection]

  • what's the fail-back procedure? [Is there one?]
  • how will anyone know there's a fault on your line?
  • Is it up to subscriber to report and follow through?
  • Will a NBN Co Tech test the line in your house?
    • By definition, can't be done remotely if service is faulty!
  • When would this be done? Would it only be triggered by a customer complaint?

The most common & pernicious mass-cabling fault is an "off-by-one". I had something like this done to me with OPTUS DSLAM... Couldn't get the fault recognised or corrected. More than 6 mths...

The white (common) wire of my pair is connected to your pair (on the right) and the white to the left of me is connected as my common. i.e. - take 2 cables/frame {A, B} with 3 services named {1, 2, 3} with
twisted paired wires {Col + White}. [My apologies. This would work much better with a diagram].
- A.1.Col <-> B.1.Col
- A.2.Col <-> B.2.Col
- A.3.Col <-> B.3.Col
- A.1.White <-> B.2.White
- A.2.White <-> B.3.White
- A.3.White <-> B.4.White

Depending on what services are connected and how the miswiring is done, different customers affected in a group will experience different faults.

  • What redress do residential or business customers have if their services are disrupted and fail to operate as advertised or at all?
  • How quickly will NBNCo, contractors or Telstra be required to fix service and what will be deemed "fixed"?
  • Currently ADSL service min level is 1.5Mbps. NO value on errors or noise.
    • What happens if there is high-power electrical devices/transmitters/radars that do bad things to your line? Just put up with it? or flip (for free?) to Fibre?
    • How does an ordinary subscriber even know or document this?
The current legislated Service Guarantee is only for telephony, NOT for broadband.
  • What legislative changes, if any, will be enacted for VDSL/FTTN service guarantees?

Effect on Businesses with multiple lines, ISDN or Digital copper-line links?

  • Effect on SHDSL customers, what option on Nodes? (No VDSL2 equivalent of Symmetric speeds.)
  • Will all business, in residences or not, be migrated for free to Fibre or billed?
    • at what rate?

  • Will wholesale pricing for FTTN and FTTP subscribers be identical?
  • FTTN is an inferior service, that should be reflected in price and options, otherwise how do ISP/RSP's differentiate plan pricing?

If there is a node problem or uplink congestion problem, what recourse do customers have?

  • What options will ISP/RSP's have with NBN Co about congestion & latency issues?
    • think 200 svc @ 25-100Mbps [5-25Gbps] sharing a single 1Gbps uplink...
    • Gungahlin RIM nightmare all over again.

VDSL 2 Install:
  • Will this be a two-device install like HFC or TransACT?
    • Telco supplied modem with phone-line in and ethernet out?
User supplied
  • Will the ISP/RSP be required to supply modems or will NBN Co have a certified list?
    • what about the T'bull "$50 VDSL modem" claim?
  • who will remotely control, monitor and manage the CPE VDSL modems?
  • Will Central Splitters be mandated?
    • who pays for the install? how much?
  • What about line-testing and remediation? Who pays? How initiated?
  • What will be the "Cost Effective" decision point for Fibre replacement?
  • will there be a subscriber fee?
  • Will these services be PPPoE or IPoE?
  • If IPoE and NBN Co modem, will VLAN's be an option?
  • will IPoE multicast be an option?
  • WIll IPv6 be available?
These details need to be addressed in a complete Coalition NBN proposal as they push substantial costs onto subscribers and inflate the Total Project Cost (NBN Co + Subscriber) by more than the $4 billion savings projected.

Stage 3: NTD Install:
  • will this even be available as an option?
  • who will pay for the device (NTD)? NBN Co or Customer? At retail prices?
  • removing the phone service from the copper line requires removing the ATA connection at the node and swapping services to the ATA within the NTD. Requires technician to change physical link.
  • who tests the line/service afterwards? Who pays for that?
  • Can the central splitter be removed and line improved for DSL-only use?
    • who pays? subscriber, ISP or NBN Co?
    • will this be a DIY install? [could be if the stage-2 was Telco supplied modem]
  • will battery backup be an NBN Co option for DSL-NTD?

Links and References
The internal NBN fibre equipment includes an NBN Connection Box, power supply unit and wall outlet.
User Guide with NTD photo pg 5.

NBN Co supplies: Premises Connection Device, Fibre Wall Outlet, Network Termination Device and Power Supply Unit; first battery; external cabling from the street network to the Premises Connection Device; and internal cabling up to the Network Termination Device. This equipment remains the property of NBN Co. NBN Co boundary of responsibility stops at the data (UNI-D) / voice (UNI-V) port. From there, the service on that port is the responsibility of Internode, if you choose to purchase an NBN service with us.


  1. Steve, your patient , detailed and extremely perceptive approach to questioning the looming disaster that is the LNP proposal obviously makes you a HUGE thorn in the side of Turnbull. This is why he won't answer you! Your blogs should be disseminated as widely as possible so that the great mass of the population can see exactly what is being proposed!

  2. Steve,

    Your many posts constitute a comprehensive argument in favour of FTTP and an equally comprehensive argument against FTTN.

    The problem is, there are so many posts, and so much detail, that it's virtually impossible to keep track of the overall argument.

    As a matter of urgency, you should revise all the posts into one long structured essay. Here would be a real test of your writing skills.

    We need persuasion - and for that some rhetoric - to go with the bare facts of the case. And as a repository for those of us who need to counter-argue the fallacious specifics of our oppponents, we need order and clarity.

    Revise, distill, give it some order, and publish something which is definitive.

  3. Dedalus,

    You're exactly on the money. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. Much appreciated.

    I've been thinking about something along those lines, a concise statement of what I'm trying to say, for a week or so...

    Have a number of pieces still in the pipeline . Will have to prioritise. Have that :-(

    Thanks v. much for the push.



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