Friday, 23 August 2013

The Confabulous Mr Turnbull: 1925 airships, not Big Jets, are "leading edge" technology

Confabulate: fabricate imaginary experiences

All you have to know about the copper Telephone services that Turnbull is so desperately trying to protect even though he doesn't own them, is they were specified in 1925 to carry voice 4,000 Hz signals only, not the 17,000,000 and 30,000,000 Hz needed for VDSL2. They don't cut it for any modern uses.

This standard is now called "category 2", although Australia generally uses very thin conductors which are much poorer at this higher speeds due to the "skin effect". For around 15 years, cheap 100Mbps and 1Gbps copper services have been available on copper: it's the Ethernet in all your computers. It's limited to 100m, but only works because it uses a suitable spec cable:  "category 5a" or the higher "category 6" and then four pairs, not just one. (two pairs 'up', two pairs 'down')

Turnbull knows all this very well. If you want reliable high-speed over copper, you need much, much higher spec cable and you're limited to 100m. 1Gbps over copper is no more "leading-edge" than an airship.

Turnbull also knows very well that to actually deliver his promised 100Mbps with upgrades to his fabled 1Gbps requires replacing all the Telstra cabling, 215-250,000 kilometres of "10-pair", with cat-5a or cat-6 cable. It's cheaper to run new fibre than drag out all the old cat-2 telephone cable and replace it with what's needed. We know this because nobody, anywhere, uses cat-2 telephone cable for their internal data networks commercially. Not even Telstra, that owns the copper and has the most experience in using it and getting the most out of it.

The analogy in aviation would be for rigid airships, which the USA abandoned in 1925 (Germany kept their 'Zepplins' until the 1937 Hindenburg disaster). While there are airships around now, and they are "high-tech" plus comparatively faster than those from around a century ago, they are curiosities, only viable for stunts, sight-seeing and flying TV cameras around cricket grounds for 5 days.

Compare those airships to modern fourth generation jet aircraft, the "Big Jets" like the A380. They may have "closed the gap" on speed by 20%, from 50 knots to 60 knots, but that's so laughable as to be absurd.

The Comet and 707, 1st generation passenger jets, beat the pants off the pinnacle of fifty years of development of petrol engined passenger & transport aircraft. The A380 and 787 'Dreamliner' beat the pants off those 1950's aircraft in every dimension but one. Their top-speed is 2-5% lower, but their greater range shortens long-haul trip times. No more landing to refuel every two hours.

Anyone who, like Turnbull, seriously argued that the world of commercial passenger aviation was going to be revolutionised by "leading-edge" airship technology, would be laughed down. It is such an absurd proposition as to be lunacy.

I've cited Turnbull before on his confabulations, with quotes taken from a Business Spectator article.
Five years ago, there was a "very big difference" in service level between ADSL2+ and fibre to the premises, he said.
But in recent years, "that difference has compressed".
"There is a point at which increases in speed cease to have any marginal utility."
Turnbull's flight of fantasy may be technically accurate, ADSL and VDSL have closed the speed gap on GPON, but is wholly misleading, incomplete and irrelevant. All the speed improvements come at an increasingly high cost for every declining returns. Even if you were given the copper for free, as Turnbull expects, it's a really expensive option that continues to consume boatloads of money with comparatively nothing to show for it. Increasing from 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps for $200 each end is very expensive. The sly dog that he is, Turnbull doesn't mention extra costs he'll force onto consumers.

For that $400, paid for completely by NBN Co not forced onto customers, you'd expect next generation Fibre for Customers Access to run at least at 40Gbps, already widely in production. Turnbull will buy 50Mbps for $400, while real broadband, Fibre, will deliver one thousand times that, for the same price or less. Is this the best political con job Australia has seen? I reckon so!

The reason the GPON standard hasn't bothered to define transceiver speeds higher than 2.488Gbps is not technical limits, like the ADSL/VDSL pushed by Turnbull, but because there's no demand yet from Telcos.

When there's demand from Telcos for Customer Access Network rates higher than 1000/400Mbps, the same Fibre infrastructure can be quickly, cheaply and transparently upgraded, not by just a few percent, but by 10,000 times right now.

Fibre Optic links have two parts:
  • An incredibly clear glass conduit that carries any signal pushed down it, both ways at once, and
  • Optical transceivers at either end, that are cheap and quickly/easily upgraded for higher speeds.
I've written about current production transceivers, with CISCO selling a 100Gbps system that supports 96 simultaneous colours for 9.6Tbps. Unlike Turnbull's claims of systems "in the Lab" that may possible be available in 5-10 years, these are in production now.

This is the real future of Broadband: "adequate" speed, guaranteed for the next 50 years, with nothing more to do that swap out a transceiver or replace the customer terminal.

Copper was a good temporary solution when it was posited by Sol Trujillo in 2005 and the Howard ministry that Turnbull was in, did nothing, and continued to do nothing and actively oppose broadband past the 2010 election until now. Copper is now so dead that even the vultures aren't circling anymore.

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