NBN Fixed Wireless Antenna (close up)

Unlicensed: nbn forgets to renew its radio assignments for over half a year

Assignments at almost a thousand fixed wireless sites have disappeared after 2.3 GHz licence renewal in July last year.

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has apparently failed to renew its radio assignments for the majority of existing fixed wireless towers.

Despite having around 1,200 fixed wireless towers active around Australia, the company’s radio assignment records contains only around 200 radio sites with the 2.3 GHz radio frequency assigned.

nbn uses the 2.3 GHz radio frequency to service areas in outer metropolitan fringes using TD-LTE 4G technology. However, since its licence renewal in July last year, the radio assignments in the majority of its existing fixed wireless towers have disappeared from the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA’s) Register of Radiocommunications Licences.

Contacting ACMA about this issue, the authority revealed that “it appears [nbn’s] devices on this site have not been renewed” after July and that they were “checking with NBN to find out what has happened”.

More to come.

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LTSS Base Station: Sunset

First tranche of nbn satellite premises: see the list

Almost half of the 400 thousand homes and businesses expected to be serviced by NBN’s Sky Muster satellite have been listed in the first tranche of addresses

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has updated its rollout map to include around 160,000 premises which are expected to be assigned to the Sky Muster satellite service launching in this half of the year.

The satellite footprint will ultimately cover more than 400,000 premises, however, nbn has yet to complete detailed design in some areas to finalise the boundaries of the three main technology groups: satellite, fixed wireless and fixed-line.  More addresses are expected to be added to the satellite list over the coming months.

The company also expects the boundary between the technology groups to continually change as the other technologies continue to roll out nationwide.

These initial 160,000 premises includes addresses from all states and territories including Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Norfolk Island. A detailed breakdown of number of premises by suburb can be found at the bottom of this page.

By state

State Premises in 1st tranche
ACT 27
NSW 49,727
NT 3,641
QLD 42,086
SA 18,211
TAS 3,585
VIC 18,156
WA 20,999
Christmas Island 963
Home Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands 146
Norfolk Island 1,385
West Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands 43

By suburb

This list shows the number of premises within a suburb that has been included in the first tranche of addresses. Even if your suburb is listed, it does not necessarily mean that all premises in that suburb will be serviced by satellite. Check the nbn rollout map to check for a particular address.

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LTSS Base Station: Sunset

Here’s a SkyMuster Speed Test

The Australian’s technology reporter, David Swan, has just posted a speed test over the new NBN Sky Muster satellite expected to be launched later this year.

The speed test shows that real world speeds are close to the Layer 2 link speed provided by NBN (25/5 Mbps) — around 23.33/4.26 Mbps with a round trip latency of around 599ms.

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NBN technician splicing fibre in a van

Hundreds of new developments get new copper connections

Changes to the telecommunications in new developments (TIND) policy has led to a sharp increase in new rollouts of copper around Australia

The Department of Communications has updated its registrar of telecommunication providers in new developments, revealing around 420 new developments have been rolled out using copper technology by Telstra.

Last year, the Government reformed its policy surrounding the rollout of fixed line communications in new developments — opening competition for other infrastructure providers from the likes of Telstra or Opticomm to provide new infrastructure while nbn remains the provider of last resort for developments with 100 premises or more. The change in policy also removes the requirement for fibre to be used as the primary technology in these new developments.

Telstra has not revealed whether the ~420 new developments are using FTTN-like technology, or simply being connected the existing exchange.  The company has also neglected to provide premises count in the dataset provided by data.gov.au.  It should be noted that Telstra is the provider of last resort for developments with less than 100 premises.

Since the policy changes have occurred, almost 6,600 new developments have entered the registrar. The majority of these developments remain serviced by nbn using Fibre to the Premises technology — however, other technologies have also begun appearing in the mix:

 Number of new developments FTTP Copper FTTB HFC
nbn 6,003
OPENetworks 36  22
OptiComm 101  4  1
Real World Networks 1
Telstra 2  417

The registrar on data.gov.au also lists a number of additional service providers including Comverge, Frontier Networks, LBN Co, Optic Networks, Pivit, Real World Networks and RedTrain Networks.  However, there are currently no developments listed as being serviced by those providers.

edit: Delimiter has received a response from Telstra regarding these new copper areas.  You can read their response here.

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Fibre networking at an NBN Point of Interconnect

Telstra fibre cut over weekend: Dubbo NBN and ADSL services affected

Service providers including iiNet and Internode who use Telstra’s fibre for backhaul have been affected

A Telstra fibre that services the Dubbo exchange has been cut over the weekend, causing network disruptions to service providers who use on Telstra Wholesale as their backhaul service provider in Dubbo.

According to iiNet’s service status page, the break was first reported on Saturday evening and as of Sunday night, has yet to be resolved.  For iiNet and Internode customers, the service disruption affects both customers with ADSL or NBN services.

The latest estimated time to restoration on the fibre repair provided by Telstra Wholesale is reportedly Tuesday morning.

The NBN Dubbo Point of Interconnect services a vast surrounding region including:

  • Blayney (2BLA)
  • Broken Hill (2BNH)
  • Bourke (2BRK)
  • Bathurst (2BTH)
  • Canowindra (2CAN)
  • Cobar (2CBA)
  • Coonamble (2CMB)
  • Coonabarabran (2CNA)
  • Cowra (2CWR)
  • Dubbo (2DBB)
  • Gilgandra (2GIL)
  • Gulgong (2GUL)
  • Kandos (2KND)
  • Lightning Ridge (2LIT)
  • Lithgow (2LTG)
  • Mudgee (2MDG)
  • Molong (2MOL)
  • Narromine (2NMN)
  • Nyngan (2NYG)
  • Oberon (2OBO)
  • Orange (2ORG)
  • Peak Hill (2PKH)
  • Parkes (2PKS)
  • Portland (2POR)
  • Trangie (2TRG)
  • Wallerawang (2WAL)
  • Wellington (2WEL)
  • Walgett (2WLE)
  • Warren (2WRR)

NBN services provided by affected ISPs are likely to be affected by the outage.

Telstra retail services, which use a redundant fibre path, are not affected.

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Opal Ticket Barriers

Frequent travellers penalised under proposed Opal fare changes

Commuters travelling more than 10 journeys per week will pay on average $255 more per year.

In a classic pre-Christmas news dump, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) released its draft report into the review of public transport fares in Sydney and surrounds.

The review’s aims were clear — to remove the penalty commuters currently endure when switching between different modes of transport.  In doing so, the revenue will decline and to plug this revenue hole — a raft of changes about fare caps and rewards have been introduced.

After reading the “thrilling” 106 page report, what becomes immediately apparent after reading the report is that it’s not easy for your average Joe to compare fares and see how it may affect them.

So, knowing me, you’d probably guess that I’d build some fandangled app to do it… and I did: opalcompared.com.

The rest of this blog post will be split into two main sections, for different audiences:

  • a findings (based on some 12 thousand calculations done by visitors) section
  • a technology section (on how the app was built)

Findings

During the short time since the launch of Opal Compared, it had accumulated over 12,000 weekly journey calculations.  Through this, a few interesting trends had started to emerge:

(A small note: the statistics are based on a snapshot of around 12,000 Adult Opal fare calculations made on Opal Compared up till about 27th December 2015)

Travellers with over 10 journeys per week will have the highest fare increase

Probably summed up perfectly in this chart below, the more journeys you take on a weekly basis — the higher the average fare increase.  The less journeys you take, the more you save.


Source: Opal Compared (opalcompared.com)

The point where the average crosses over is at exactly the 10 journey mark.  Commuters who travel more than 10 journeys per week will on average pay $4.90 more per week (or $254.80 per year — if you budget on an annual basis).  Those who travel less will likely pocket a healthy discount of $3.49 per week on average.

This baffles me.  The proposed Opal fares seem counter-intuitive since the proposed fare changes will disincentivise people from using public transport.

It simply doesn’t make sense to reward those commuters who contribute the least to revenue.  Shouldn’t IPART be looking on setting fare structures that reward those commuters who travel the most, encouraging more people to use more public transport thus increasing revenue?

(more…)

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nbn™ logo (large)

NBN looking for FTTdp vendors

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, is seeking for an expression of interest from manufacturers of “Distribution Point Units” used to power a Fibre to the Distribution Point (FTTdp) network.

FTTdp is similar to the Fibre to the Node technology preferred by the current Government.  It enables faster speeds by bringing the fibre closer to the end user’s premises (often described as “fibre to the curb”).

In its request (found online on its tenders website), the company outlines the key requirements of interfacing with nbn‘s existing GPON solution as well as being able to power the unit from the premises it services.

  • Is designed to be typically deployed at a deeper delivery point in the nbn™ network, than can be otherwise achieved through current nbn™ xDSL technologies
  • Delivers nbn™ services into the premises over a pair in the existing copper lead-in cable via an xDSL interface
  • Is powered from the premises over the same copper pair used to carry service into the premises
  • Connects back towards the Point of Interconnect (POI) via nbn’s existing FTTP GPON solution

nbn expects to use Fibre to the Distribution Point (FTTdp) technology to service areas with longer copper loop lengths where Fibre to the Node cannot ordinarily deliver minimum download speeds of 25 Mbps.

Expression of interest closes on the 22 January 2016.

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NBN technician splicing fibre in a van

NBN releases supply agreements for Fibre TV

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has released a new supply agreement which enables TV services to be delivered over the NBN fibre network in selected new developments.

As reported on jxeeno blog in October, the company began consulting the industry for the potential of such a service.  The agreement released today is intended for content providers who will overlay its own radio signals over the existing NBN fibre network.

The introduction of this service is seen as a competitive response to the government’s Telecommunications in New Developments (TIND) policy which encourages greater infrastructure competition in new developments. Other fibre providers have long provided a similar TV service over fibre including the TransACT network which nbn acquired in 2013.

The product, provided for free to willing service providers, will allow TV radio signals to be delivered over the fibre network using a technology known as Radio Frequency on Glass (RFoG).  Providers must at least provide a TV channels ordinarily available on free-to-air in that area, and may additionally provide its own content or contents from other providers.

New developments with Fibre TV enabled will have a separate RF converter which transforms the signals delivered over fibre to TV signals.

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LTSS Base Station: Sunset

NBN lets down Tasmania, again.

Tasmanian communities of Queenstown, Rosebery, Zeehan and Strahan will be forced onto an already “severely oversubscribed” satellite beam.

The company building the National Broadband Network (nbn) has revealed that they will no longer provide a fixed-line or fixed wireless solution to major settlements located along the west coast of Tasmania.

Up till July this year, nbn has released various rollout plans showing the towns of Queenstown, Rosebery, Zeehan and Strahan as candidates for the Multi-Technology Mix (MTM) and Fixed Wireless rollouts which would have seen Fibre to the Node be rolled out to the majority of premises.  The area was also expected to receive a Fibre to the Premises rollout under the previous all-fibre NBN policy.

  • Queenstown: 1,300 FTTN
  • Rosebery: 600 FTTN, 300 FW
  • Zeehan: 500 FTTN
  • Strahan: (originally planned for NBN Fixed Wireless)

However, when questioned by Senator Anne Urquhart at a Senate Estimates hearing last month — nbn‘s chief executive Bill Morrow revealed that they have re-allocated premises in those areas to be serviced by the recently launched NBN Satellite.  Citing high costs of up to $20 million to build out a second fibre path to the west coast towns, the executive said:

Because of the cost to provide fibre services in the backhaul sense to serve within the FTTN. The area only has one fibre path going out to it, and you need to have two for redundant based services. The cost—and we have looked at it a number of different times—to provide fibre out there in a different path makes it exorbitantly expensive.

The move to satellite has also been independently confirmed using NBN’s internal technology modelling.  However, the towns affected are all currently being serviced by Telstra ADSL/ADSL2+ services, with Queenstown having access to the Telstra 4G network as well.

“Severely Oversubscribed” Satellite Beams

The beams servicing this area, number 54 and 56, has also been identified by NBN’s Fixed Wireless/Satellite Strategic Review as being “severely oversubscribed” prior to the redesignation of the fixed-line footprint in July.  Adding another 3,000 premises would not improve the satellite congestion anticipated in those areas.

NBN Long Term Satellite beams
Diagram showing NBN Co satellite beams. Red beams are severely oversubscribed, yellow is oversubscribed. (FWSat SR, 2014)

However, given the availability of existing ADSL/ADSL2+ services in those towns, it is unlikely that residents will switch to the National Broadband Network due to increased latency.  As revealed last monthnbn will implement a fair use policy for the NBN satellite.  While the final policy is yet to be confirmed, the first version released saw a standard quota of 75GB per month… a far cry from the current data quotas on comparable ADSL plans.

Microwave backhaul

A report written by Engineers Australia in 2010 stated that the affected towns (amongst others) were serviced by Telstra using microwave backhaul links rather than fibre at the time it was written.  However, the testimony given by nbn executives at Senate Estimates suggests that a single non-redundant fibre path has been built since the report was written.

Originally, it appears that nbn had planned to build its transit network out to Queenstown (see diagram below, published in March 2014) using a single non-redundant spur fibre path from Sheffield or Burnie.

NBN Co's transit network
NBN Co’s transit network as at 31st March 2014

Opinion

$20 million to build a redundant path to service ~3,000 potential customers does seem unreasonably high.  I don’t think it’s wise to go ahead to do spend that money.

However, it does beg the question why NBN cannot use their own microwave links as the redundancy path to service the west coast communities.  Given there is supposedly already a single fibre path that nbn can utilise, using microwave links as a redundancy path would surely be cheaper than fibre — right?

nbn has effectively neglected these communities. I doubt anyone who lives in an area with existing, well-established communications infrastructure like ADSL/ADSL2+ connections and Telstra 4G mobile reception would opt for a NBN Satellite connection given their smaller data allowances (compared with fixed-line DSL) and higher latency.  This is most unfortunate, given National Broadband Network is supposed to fix and improve connectivity around Australia — not offer a degraded version of it.

I’ve seen isolated cases like this in the past — people able to access existing DSL broadband but placed on the satellite… but not to this scale.  Not entire communities like this.

Yes, nbn‘s current Government policy is to build the network out “at the least possible cost”… but that doesn’t mean putting   thousands of premises into an already severely congested satellite beam!  Our former communications minister, now PM’s buzzword of being “agile” seems to be lost at nbn.  Surely as a special case, there can be alternative arrangements made for the redundant path?

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Fibre networking at an NBN Point of Interconnect

M2’s wholesale nbn could increase aggregation competition

The introduction of M2’s nbn wholesale offering could spark increased competition in Layer 2 and 3 wholesale broadband market

This week, the M2 Group announced the launch of their new “NBN Connect” offering for Layer 2 and Layer 3 providers.  “NBN Connect” will provide three core products to resellers and layer 2 service providers, helping them connect to all 121 NBN Points of Interconnect: “Brand Connect” which is essentially a whitelabel service, “Reseller Connect” an end-to-end Layer 3 network offering and “Network Connect” — a Layer 2 aggregation offering. This comes as nbn appears to be developing an AVC trunking product to help smaller service providers reach more points of interconnects.

M2’s offering competes directly with AAPT’s National Wholesale Broadband product, who also provides Layer 2 or Layer 3 services to retailers over the NBN.  After the closure of Nextgen Network’s NBN “Virtual Connect” offering around twelve months ago, AAPT became appeared to become the Layer 3 provider of choice with many virtual service providers.

M2 could also have a competitive edge with its wholesale offering with its “Brand Connect” product — a bespoke solution which could help manage billing, provisioning and customer service for to end-user customers.  This could be a dealbreaker for customers like major supermarket chains who may not necessarily want to run their own support staff.

One thing’s for sure — increased competition in this space is a welcome sight for virtual ISPs who presumably run on razor thin margins anyway.  The planned M2 and Vocus merger, which recently received ACCC approval, could translate to better performance in the currently debatable quality of the M2 network. Hopefully this translates to greater savings for consumers in the long run.

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