The NBN – Will we use it or need it? #NBN

I lived in Japan a few years back. Broadband there is uncapped, very fast and bundled with a phone and TV service for about $100 per month, it seemed cheap to me.

Still, to my surprise, I met plenty of people who didn’t need internet at home. Or they couldn’t afford it. Working people. Men. Women. Married. Singles. No internet at home.

“But it’s so cheap!” I shouted after coming from 512K expensive speeds in Australia 2006.  “Yes, but I don’t need it, I have my cell phone if I need.” was their reply.  Or “I use it at work if I need the speed and download.”

I was in IT at the time and needed the net at home for work and staying in touch with family overseas.  I needed wanted the Pay TV for the English channels.  I needed the net and liked Pay TV but the super high speed connection speed… it was just a bonus really.  Still, many seemed to be OK without it at all in the home. Saving their YEN for other things like clothing and food and using their mobile devices for net access.

I recently ditched my fixed line and ADSL at home. I bought a Samsung Galaxy tab with Telstra and use the Wifi HotSpot app to provide net usage to the home. $59 for 7GB per month and we take it everywhere. Saved ourselves over $600 per year and just cut back on a couple of browsing and downloading habits.  And now, I’m OK without the massive speed. So would about 80%-90% of the people I know…. and I’m talking 100’s.

Which leads to the question in the title. When the  Australian Government spends billions of dollars to roll out an Optic Fibre based network, will we use it or feel we need it?  I mean really NEED it?

Do I need Pay TV? Or am I happy with the large number of free to air digital channels available to me now? I mean there is satellite too right?

Do I need insane download speeds? Or can I wait a couple more minutes?

Do I need to see the doctor on webcam? Because last I looked, I could do that now if I wanted. Speeds are fast enough… and I don’t do it.

Will my children be part of a learning environment where it’s really needed? I mean what can’t they do now that’s of great value?

Do I need VOIP a phone system on a giant high speed system? Mobile phones remain our choice of voice communication in Australia and you’ll have a hard time convincing us to do otherwise. Besides, VOIP run fine through ADSL.

In my opinion

Should the network be upgraded? Yes, create a sustainable upgrade plan for the next 3 years, and revisit it after that to take into account trends and technology.

Should it be at a huge cost to the population as is currently planned? No, I think it’s overkill. While everyone is talking ‘Green’, ‘Sustainable’, ‘Simple’, ‘Cutting back’ and ‘Future proofing’, the Government is ripping up the pavement to lay a highly volatile form of cabling that may never be used by more than 20% of the population. The cost to the tax payer is incredible. For now, just lay fibre into those places that need it most; Hospitals, Business Hubs, Schools.

I’m just not convinced that across this vast land, optic fibre is the best solution. I would be spending the money on wireless technology and infrastructure. Employing the best minds in the world to develop packet streaming and compression systems that will increase speed and function to the masses and their mobile devices. Perhaps license and sell that technology off to other nations. Seriously, I mean even now, how many are reading this on a mobile device? Did you need fibre to to view it? How many of us spend hours per day on sites that are crippled by ADSL or Wireless internet speeds?

Open to comments and thoughts. BTW, if you’re over 21, still living with your parents, still  in your pajamas, you’re a massive movie thief and online gamer, you can get a life and keep your comments to yourself. 🙂


  1. NBN Myths June 29, 2011 at 11:09 am

    You begin with an out-of-date anecdote. What applied “a few years back” doesn’t apply now, let alone in another 10 years when the NBN will be complete. Looking at Australia, for example, in 2006 the average monthly download was only about ??GB. Today it’s over 18GB. Growth is continuing at the rate of 50% (compounder) every year. A growth rate that cannot possibly be handled by mobile networks. Your $59/month for 7GB barely covers a third of the average monthly usage in Australia!

    Speeds for most people today are not high enough to enable things like online consultations. Sure, the download speed is enough, but the upload speed is nowhere near there. I’d expect at least 1Mbps upload would be desirable, while most ADSL connections in Australia are lucky to get 1/4 of that.

    There are many, many applications for the NBN in education. For example, a school may only have 2 students who want to study German. Obviously they can’t put a teacher on for that, so currently many students miss out on courses they’d like to do. With sufficient two-way bandwidth, those 2 students can be taught remotely from another school. There is potential for massive increases in efficiency and levels of education from a ubiquitous network like this.

    Likewise, remote students or those who are home-schooled can also join lessons remotely, vastly increasing their opportunities.

    What is “highly volatile” about fibre optic cable? To me that seems quite a bizarre statement. Fibre is highly stable and long-lived. Corning have 30-year-old fibre still operating perfectly in their submerged tension test beds, transceiving at speeds much higher that it was ever intended to do 30 years ago.

    Your final point perhaps illustrates that you don’t understand exactly what the complete NBN is. They are not “deploying optic fibre across the vast land”. They are deploying optic fibre to cities and towns with over 1000 premises. Outside those areas, LTE wireless and satellite will be the solutions. Even in the cities, there will be 3 mobile networks to compliment the NBN fibre, just as there should be.

    There’s not a single country anywhere in the World proposing to replace their urban fixed networks with wireless ones. Because it’s simply impossible to do so, especially in the fact of the incredible constant data growth we are experiencing. Mobile networks are having serious problems keeping up with the growing demand from smartphone use, let alone trying to replace the traffic currently carried over fixed networks. According to the ABS, in December 2010 mobile broadband carried a total of 16,000TB of data. Fixed lines carried a total of 174,000TB. Thinking of the shocking speeds of mobile broadband already (42Mbps net gives maybe 5Mbps), what do you think would happen if the load increased by 700%?

    We don’t need fixed OR mobile, we need both. And that’s what we’ll be getting.

  2. David Tensen June 30, 2011 at 7:35 am

    Hey, thanks for the comment and clarity. Agreed, my post wasn’t severely backed up by heavily studied data. It was purely my opinion and take on it. Thankfully we have NBN advocates like yourself who are passionate about it. It seemed my humble post pissed a few people off – cool! Passionate people are pissed off people.

    Even with a price tag of $25bn , this is still a hefty sum don’t you think? By my sums, at $25bn, each Aussie is paying around $1,200 each for this. My single income household of 5 is paying around $6,000 of this in taxes. That is a lot in any man’s books.

    I’m wondering though, do you think current web development and app trends will just be more and more reliant on fat broadband? Video is obvious, but outside of that. Web based content seems to be adapting and OK with average speeds. My office has an ADSL2 connection, it serves 5+ staff plus SIP phone system very well. All our business tools are web based, heck we’re an online training college. We get speeds of around 5MB Down and 800K up. Yes, this is anecdotal but I’m keen to know what you think. Do you have a web development background or keeping abreast with this side of thing also?

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