Why is HFC and FTTN still in Labor’s NBN?

The Labor party today released its NBN policy, just three weeks out from polling day.  The party has pledged to ensure around 2 million more homes and businesses will get Fibre to the Premises (rather than Fibre to the Node) — but will retain the HFC portion of the network.

I’m keeping it brief today because of exams… but one may wonder why the Labor party will not also pledge to move some of the HFC premises to Fibre to the Premises.  Further, why only shift 2 million premises to fibre?  That’s because of one word: contracts.

HFC contracts

NBN has already signed numerous contracts with various vendors and companies. Most recently, a $1.6 billion dollar contract with Telstra to rollout the HFC network.  Previously, a $400m contract with ARRIS to provide the equipment for the HFC upgrade.  Not to mention, all of the capital that has already been spent on building out the HFC IT systems (OSS/BSS).

In addition to this — the NBN company, under its Definitive Agreements with Telstra, must also retain ownership of the entire Telstra HFC network as soon as they switch on a single HFC-connected premises. That’s expected to occur within the next few weeks.

So even if the Labor party did pull the pin on the HFC network, not only will the NBN be liable for terminating contracts worth billions — it may also have to maintain a network HFC network (with Foxtel will continue to use) effectively for free even though NBN themselves won’t use it. Now that, would be absolute absurdity.

FTTN contracts

Estimates puts the build contracts signed by the end of July 2016 to be ~2 million premises (according to the leaked November 2015 IDP).  The last corporate plan puts the number of FTTN/B premises by the end of 2020 to be 4.5 million, leaving 2.5 million premises available to be switched to the Fibre to the Premises model.

Being able to switch turn around, complete new all-fibre network designs and sign contracts within one month would be wishful thinking.  This gives them around a 0.5 million premises buffer (mind you, that’s only gives them until October 2016) to turn around new designs and begin signing contracts or risk further delays.

Fortunately, there is no need to renegotiate the definitive agreements with Telstra and Optus again.  However, I’d still characterise the 2 million premises FTTN to FTTP shift as an “optimistic target”.  Good luck with the 4 month turnaround.

LNP backflip: “announcing” FTTN for West Coast Tasmania

NBN and the Coalition backtracks after facing massive community backlash for forcing thousands of homes and businesses in west coast Tasmania onto satellite

It’s possibly the height of hypocrisy.  The Government who led the charge to remove fixed-line communications in thousands of homes and business in Tasmanian West Coast communities is now “announcing” that they’re rolling out Fibre to the Node (FTTN) and Fixed Wireless networks in the townships of Queenstown, Rosebery, Zeehan and Strahan after massive community backlash.

Queenstown, the largest of the communities, already has existing fixed-line infrastructure including ADSL2+ and 4G mobile connections provided by Telstra.  The initial commitment by the former NBN-management was to rollout Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) to Queenstown, Rosebery and Zeehan.  This later changed to Fibre to the Node (FTTN) when the Coalition’s preferred Multi-Technology Mix model was introduced.

However, jxeeno blog’s analysis of the 18 month construction plan last July showed these areas were removed from the Fixed-Line rollout schedule.  It was later revealed in a Senate hearing that these towns were permanently removed after from the fixed-line rollout in favour of the long term satellite service.  This is despite the Coalition’s initiated Strategic Review modelled that the satellite beam servicing west coast Tasmania will likely be “severely oversubscribed”.

Up until this week, Queenstown remained the largest suburb covered entirely by the Long Term Satellite Service — originally intended for remote communities.

After strong community resistance arguing that their “new” national broadband network connections will be worse than their existing ADSL2+ services (in terms of latency and data allowances) and continued questioning by Tasmanian Labor Senator Anne Urquhart in various Senate hearings — it looks like for once, politics and community resistance has finally made a difference to the National Broadband Network’s so-called Multi-Technology Mix.

Now only if the broader outcry for reforming the Multi-Technology Mix is heard.

NBN: Dimension-based CVC explained

Price signals to more high capacity plans and less network congestion

The NBN pricing discussion has hit full swing again.  The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has just pushed ahead with its proposed “dimension-based” discount on its controversial “Connectivity Virtual Circuit” (CVC) charge.

CVC is a virtual charge imposed by nbn to service providers in order to bring traffic from the “NBN network” to the service provider network (and vice versa).  This bandwidth is shared amongst all of the users on the same provider’s network aggregated at the 121 NBN points of interconnect.  You can read more about the threat of the CVC charge on nbn’s success here.

The newly introduced dimension-based discount sees greater discounts for service providers who purchase more hand-off capacity between the “NBN network” and the service provider’s network on a per-user basis.

The discounts being implemented will range from $0.50 to up to $6.00 per Mbps of CVC, depending on the average amount of CVC purchased per user.

Band-aid to solving two problems

Congestion

This discount is a very significant signal to service providers.

CVC “skimping” is a known problem for many NBN customers, whose Internet connection can grind to a halt during peak hours due to insufficient CVC bandwidth.  Especially with its widely unpopular Fibre to the Node network, NBN simply cannot afford to have negative perceptions about the performance of its network — whether it is provider-induced or indeed, NBN-induced.

This discount not only encourages ISPs to buy more CVC (reducing skimping and improving performance), it will also encourage ISPs to sell higher-speed or higher-capacity plans.  More on that in a bit.

But first — why will it solve congestion? Simply because in many cases, it is cheaper for providers to purchase more bandwidth (thereby decreasing congestion) than to retain their old per-user allocations.

Take an example service provider who provisions on average anywhere between 583 to 600 Kbps of CVC bandwidth per user.  It becomes cheaper for the provider to purchase more CVC than to use the existing bandwidth allocation:

CVC provisioned per user

CVC rate per Mbps
(with dimension-based discount)

CVC rate per user
(A) x (B)

583 Kbps

$16.25

$9.47
(same as 601 Kbps)

600 Kbps

$16.25

$9.75
(same as 619 Kbps)

601 Kbps

$15.75

$9.47

619 Kbps

$15.75

$9.75

Despite purchasing more CVC (601 to 619 Kbps), the CVC rate per user is either cheaper than or is equal to the old CVC rate thanks to the discounted rate.

Higher capacity / speed plans

This discount also encourages providers to sell more higher value plans.

A provider who exclusively sells low capacity plans will naturally have a lower amount of CVC-per-user provisioned.  This means their CVC discount is less, costing them more on a per Mbps basis than a provider who sells a more diverse set of plans.

In contrast, a provider who sells more high-speed or high-capacity plans will have a greater CVC discount. This allows them to sell all of their plans marginally cheaper than the exclusive low capacity provider, even if they’re allocating the same CVC per user.

Thus, providers who diversify and increase the customer base to have more high usage users will benefit the most from these pricing discounts.

So what’s the target CVC-per-user?

Looking at the price modelling, it’s evident that nbn is targeting around the 1 Mbps and 1.25 Mbps per user mark.  It offers the largest and most generous discounts at the 1150 Kbps mark, shaving a whole $1.42 per user by simply increasing the CVC-per-user by a mere 1 Kbps.

Reverse engineering NBN’s 2016 half-year results by combining ARPU and AVC speed tier breakdowns — we can estimate that the current CVC allocation per user across all providers is around 800 kbps.

Importantly, however, this excludes the initial 150 Mbps of CVC that NBN provides for free to service providers at each point of interconnect.

AVC Tiers (Mbps) Percentage (HY2016) AVC+UNI Cost (ex GST)
12/1

33%

$24

25/5

45%

$27

50/20

6%

$34

100/40

16%

$38

Avg AVC/UNI Revenue per user

$28.19

Price component Revenue per user per month
ARPU (HY2016)

$43.00

Avg AVC/UNI Revenue

-$28.19

Avg CVC/NNI Revenue

$14.81

Estimated Avg CVC^

~835 Kbps

^ excluding initial 150Mbps credit per provider per CSA. Assumes an NNI cost per user to be ~20¢.

Of course, the way that NBN constructs its product means that providers will always want to purchase more CVC. Whether or not they can afford it is another problem.

Going forward, NBN must maintain an open dialog with service providers to ensure that the pricing is adaptable to the bandwidth demands of Australians.  Whether it’s a complete rethink of the pricing structure or continual discounts — this pricing model is vital to the success of the network.

DOCSIS 3.1 coming to nbn at the end of the year

Company to retrospectively replace end user equipment to enable higher speeds using new cable broadband technology

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has updated its Integrated Product Roadmap — revealing that it will be upgrading its HFC network termination device (NTD) to the DOCSIS 3.1 standard in the fourth quarter of 2016.

nbn is still yet to officially launch their HFC product, which is still scheduled to launch in June 2016. Last month, the company revealed at a Senate Committee hearing that they still have not signed construction contracts for the HFC rollout and the initial launch will be limited to a pilot area in Redcliffe, Queensland.

Initially, nbn will utilise DOCSIS 3.0 technology to deliver services to end users. Since HFC is a shared medium, traditionally, cable networks have heavy congestion and severely reduced speed during peak hours.

DOCSIS 3.1 promises to increase capacity through increased spectral efficiency, thus easing congestion.

In-flight satellite consultation in June

NBN will also be consulting with its service providers over “a mobility solution” which will include “a wide range of applications” including in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity, emergency services and health and education.

This consultation comes as Qantas announced it will team up with ViaSat to trial in-flight Wi-Fi services by utilising the NBN satellites on select domestic flights.

Detailed analysis of the proposal conducted by jxeeno blog found it would likely have minimal impact to existing satellite congestion due to the short periods of time a plane flies over a particular NBN spot beam.

Enterprise satellite consultation in third quarter

Separately, nbn will also be consulting on the delivery of enterprise services over its satellites. While the roadmap provides no further detail on this consultation — at the last Senate Committee hearing, company executives had alluded potential use of NBN satellites in the defense department or other enterprise applications.

NBN Mobile Backhaul and TV over fibre delayed

Initially slated for launch in the first quarter of 2016, nbn has delayed the launch of the NBN cell access service (mobile backhaul over the NBN) and its inclusion of TV signals over fibre in new developments till May this year.

NBN Fixed Wireless Antenna (close up)

NBN expands 3.4GHz Fixed Wireless trial

15 existing towers in NSW, VIC and SA retrofitted with new radios

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, appears to have expanded its trial of the 3.4GHz band to deliver fixed wireless to outer metropolitan fringes.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has updated its Register of Radiocommunications Licenses.  It has replaced the Scientifically Assigned licenses, first assigned at the start 2015, with fixed site licenses on existing towers.  The towers now listed in the register include:

The current rollout, which currently relies on TD-LTE technology delivered over the 2.3 GHz band, has mainly been limited to regional areas where nbn holds the licence for the frequency.  Mobile provider Optus owns the licenses spectrum in areas closer to capital cities.

The ACMA was ordered by then-Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, to allocate the 3.4 GHz spectrum to nbn to enable the company to complete its fixed wireless rollout.  The so-called 3.4 GHz band encompasses the 3425-3492.5 MHz and 3542.5-3757 MHz spectrum allocations.

In March 2015, the nbn company had engaged NetComm Wireless to develop fixed wireless equipment for the new band.

Inside an NBN node at Umina Beach

NBN: 5 drop outs daily “acceptable” on new FTTN network

Leaked internal documents detailing the fault resolution process on the FTTN/B network suggests a nightmare process awaits millions of Australians

A leaked document from the company responsible for building the National Broadband Network (nbn) has revealed insights into the fault ratification process for its Fibre to the Node and  Basement networks.

The freshly leaked document, first published by technology publication Delimiter, is the latest addition to a string of damaging leaked documents from within the company within the last few weeks alone.

5 drops out a day? That’s “acceptable”

Australians shouldn’t expect their current unexpected drop-outs to be fixed after upgrading to the new Fibre to the Node network.

On page 21, nbn describes how it plans to diagnose a user experiencing drop-out issues on the Fibre to the Node and Fibre to the Basement networks.

A user experiencing on average 2.4 resync events (colloquially known as dropouts) per day as being connected to a “stable” connection. It goes on to explain that connections experiencing up to 5 dropouts a day as being “risky” — yet “nbn regards risky [connections] as acceptable”.

NBN considers 5 drop outs per day as "acceptable"
NBN considers 5 drop outs per day as “acceptable”

The company suggests putting risky connections into a lower sync speed by assigning them to a “stability” profile in the hope of reduced drop-out rates.

Modems must be approved, or faults cannot be logged

The NBN company is insisting that end users must use an approved modem, certified to be working by an NBN service provider, in order for a fault to be lodged.

Despite the requirement of an approved modem, nbn has refused a freedom of information request to provide a list of modems that are approved for connecting to the NBN network to the public. Nor can members of the public request models of modems to be tested for registration.

This forces all end users to purchase the low-end, consumer-grade modem approved by their service providers such as the cheap sagecomm [email protected] modem line-up preferred by some major carriers. The flaw in this is that many sagecomm modems have a ton. of. security.exploits.

$50 No Fault Found charge if problem is beyond the network boundary

Unlike on its fibre network, nbn will charge end users $50 for a “No Fault Found”call-out fee for the FTTN and FTTB network where the technician identifies no faults on the line or if the fault is within the end user’s house (for example, a bridge tap inside the home).

This fee, similar to one currently charged by Telstra, is set to discourage end users from lodging faults and risk paying a $50 No Fault Found charge if a fault is not identified.


So here we are again, folks:

  • It’s okay for this new $56 billion dollar network to drop out 1, 2… maybe 5 times a day — that’s totally acceptable!
  • You’re after a modem that’s higher quality, possibly enterprise-grade, instead than the cheapo modem your service provider sold to you? Not only will we not tell you what modems you can get, you can’t even get new modems approved if you wanted!
  • Finally, think you have a fault? Think again — we can slug you $50 if you complain about the network and we don’t find anything wrong with it!

What a wonderful broadband network this is going to be!

nbn™ logo (large)

NBN: no power resiliency policy for HFC Network

Unlike FTTP, FTTN and FTTB, homes and businesses in NBN’s HFC network will not be provided a power resiliency policy to deal with power outages on NBN equipment

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has revealed that it will not be providing a power resiliency policy to the NBN HFC network — expected to be launched in the second quarter of this year.

In its draft Wholesale Broadband Agreement, released to Access Seekers for HFC Business Readiness Testing (BRT) today, the company states that it has “made the decision that a general power resiliency policy […] will not be implemented for the NBN Co HFC Network” as the “NBN Co HFC Network architecture is different to that of the FTTB/N Networks”.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 11.24.17 am

NBN’s FTTN and FTTB network benefit from having backup batteries installed within the node enclosures, enabling a certain degree of power backup for the active equipment located on the field. NBN’s Fibre to the Premises network is entirely passive in the field — meaning it is not impacted by on-field power outages.

The HFC network, which NBN will acquire from Telstra and Optus, will replace the majority of existing copper phone and ADSL/ADSL2+ services delivered over the copper network. This means that during a power disruption on NBN’s HFC equipment, homes and businesses could be disconnected any fixed-line phone or Internet connection until NBN and its power supplier resolves the issue.

This could be a significant concern for owners of security alarms, medical alarms and lift emergency phones which depend on a resilient phone connection — especially during emergencies.

I’ve written in some more detail in a previous post on the impact of power outages on nbn’s Multi-Technology Mix technologies.  You can read more about it here.

[Source: Draft Wholesale Broadband Agreement – Product Description (HFC BRT)]

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.

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.

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.