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nbn introduces DOCSIS 3.1 NTDs this month

No high-speed tiers to accompany launch of higher speed network

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, is set to begin installing new HFC Network Termination Devices (NTDs) at the end of this month to allow them to connect to the upgraded DOCSIS 3.1 network.

nbn’s NTD is a customised CM8200B DOCSIS 3.1 modem from Arris, who successfully won a tender to supply the network equipment.

nbn's new HFC Network Termination Device capable of DOCSIS 3.1
nbn’s new HFC Network Termination Device capable of DOCSIS 3.1 (Source: nbn co)

nbn had initially planned to begin deploying its DOCSIS 3.1 NTDs in December 2016. This has been pushed back by a month to the end of January 2017, with the company issuing an amendment to its Wholesale Broadband Agreement (WBA2).

In their notification letter to Access Seekers, nbn states that it intends to “introduce the new CM8200B (DOCSIS 3.1) HFC-NTD deploying on all HFC installations from end January 2017”.


No speed increase despite upgrade

Despite touting the speed capabilities of the new DOCSIS 3.1 modems, nbn will not launch new speed tiers to accompany the launch of the new modems.

In November 2015, nbn’s Chief Technology Officer penned a blog post saying that new modems by Arris will be capable of delivering “a stunning 5Gbps downstream and 2Gbps upstream”.

However, the maximum speed tier nbn will offer over the HFC network will remain at 100/40 Mbps. The January 2017 Integrated Deployment Plan also shows no future plans to introduce higher speed tiers already available the NBN Fibre network.

DOCSIS 3.1 promises to provide improved network performance and speeds through increased modulation orders and wider spectrum utilisation.

The new NTD will also have a second Ethernet port, however, the port will be disabled and covered by a sticker at launch.

LTSS Base Station: Sunset

NBN HFC self-install to become default

HFC installation premium for customers with existing lead-ins amongst changes in latest NBN product roadmap

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has updated its product roadmap for the third quarter of 2016. Here is a summary of some of the key changes:

HFC product

nbn’s HFC product launched at the end of last month in a limited footprint in Redcliffe region in Queensland (PR044). The company also recently signed a contract with six delivery partners to upgrade and rollout the existing Telstra HFC footprint for nbn’s use.

Self-install to become default
As part of the current rollout strategy, nbn will send an installer to install the HFC Network Termination Device (NTD) at the customer’s premises when a service is ordered. However, the company plans to implement an RSP install and customer install option by the end of first and second quarter of 2017 respectively (PR112, PR129).

Once this process is implemented, nbn will begin charging customers who already have an existing lead-in a professional NTD installation a fee if they request for one.

Other HFC planned products
Deployment of DOCSIS 3.1 NTDs remain on-track for upgrade by the end of 2016 (CE045).

nbn also plans to introduce service transfers on HFC by September 2016 (PR121), as well as various diagnostic capabilities for Traffic Class 1 services.

The company does not plan to offer business grade “Traffic Class 2” tiers over HFC until 2018 or beyond (PR118).

NBN Satellite Service

ISS migration period extended
The migration of nbn’s existing Interim Satellite Service (ISS) customers to the new “Sky Muster” Long Term Satellite (LTS) service has been extended out until February 2017 (PR023). nbn had originally planned to migrate all its existing ISS customers to the Long Term Satellite solution by the end of 2016.

However, teething issues appeared to have hampered the originally anticipated activation rate — shifting the expected end date for the migration by two months.

There have been numerous reports of missed appointments, inability for NBN NTD modems to reconnect after a power reboot and most recently, the decision to retain the existing ISS satellite service after an LTS installation and retrospectively visit the customer to remove the ISS dish.

Consultation on “Managed Services Education” over Satellite
nbn is investigating the possibility of providing enhanced services for distance education students. The company has listed a number of possible products including a managed unmetered data service and multicast video broadcast services over its LTS service. Consultation on this service is expected to begin in September 2017.

Consultation on “Satellite Mobility” which could enable services like on-board Wi-Fi or Internet access for emergency services in remote areas has also been pushed back slightly to September (PR123).

Cell Site Access Service

As reported earlier, nbn concluded its initial Cell Access trial and has begun offering a Cell Site Access Service (CSAS) test service in Beaudesert, Queensland (PR039).

fixedwirelesstower_1043

NBN begins second Cell Access trial

National broadband company continues to develop product to allow mobile carriers to tap into their fibre network

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has released details of its proposed Cell Site Access Service (CSAS) — designed to allow mobile carriers to connect their mobile towers using NBN infrastructure.

This comes as nbn finishes their first round of trials with their customers which started at the end of 2013 and continued through till June this year. However, given the duration of this second trial which is not expected to end till July 2017, it appears that initial plans to have a cell site access product available to customers by the end of the year will be pushed back further.

Former CEO of Vodafone Australia and now NBN-CEO was once a strong advocate for the introduction of the backhaul service. However, the company recently signed a deal with TPG telecom to build out its fibre network to all of Vodafone’s cell sites.

According to the updated testing agreement, nbn will trial the CSAS at a “mobile complex” in Beaudesert, Queensland where the company has begun rolling out its fibre to the node and fixed wireless network. As part of the service, the carrier will receive a network extension quote equivalent to one from the company’s “Technology Choice Program” to extend the fibre network (FTTP) to the designated cell site.

During the trial, the company will not charge the participating carrier for this network extension or any associated costs with this service including the Access Virtual Circuit (AVC), User Network Interface (UNI), Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC) and Network-Network Interface (NNI) — however, it says it will intend to do so once the trial is completed.

The test agreement also makes mention of potentially co-locating the cell tower with towers used by NBN’s Fixed Wireless service as part of a facilities access agreement with the access seeker. The NBN company will also determine the network traffic class used during the trial.

The CSAS trial is expect to continue until 1st July 2017.

Source: Cell Site Access Service, Testing Agreement

LTSS Base Station: Sunset

The irony of NBN’s satellite numbers

After spending millions on consultants to criticise past decisions in the 2013 NBN Strategic Review, the company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, NBN Co, has repeated supposed past mistakes in a metric definition.

The review was highly critical of the former management of NBN Co when it stated that its Interim Satellite Service (ISS) had passed 250,000 premises when the satellites only had capacity to service 48,000 premises:

NBN Co has previously reported Satellite premises covered as 250,000, however the Independent Assessment considers that it is more appropriate to report 48,000 Premises Passed given the contractually limited capacity of the ISS.

NBN Co Strategic Review, Page 50

Consequently, the review revised the company’s performance figure down in the review — stating the former management had missed the target of 250k premises by 80% (page 40) by reclassifying the meaning of the metric.

Strategic Review says that NBN Co has missed their Corporate Plan target by 80% by "reclassifying" the meaning of Satellite Premises Passed
Strategic Review says that NBN Co has missed their Corporate Plan target by 80% by “reclassifying” the meaning of Satellite Premises Passed

Yet, three years later — here we are again with the company using the total satellite footprint as their headline “Premises Passed and Ready for Service” figure.

NBN Co’s weekly progress report, which provides a high-level summary of premises passed across Australia, says 404,064 premises have been “covered” by the Long Term Satellite service. Yet, in the 2016 corporate plan, the company states that satellites only has the capacity to service 250,000 premises at a time.

Following the footsteps of the Strategic Review, NBN Co will technically miss its corporate plan satellite target by around 50%.

NBN Co reports 404,064 premises covered by satellite as at 16th June 2016, yet the satellites can only handle 250,000 premises.
NBN Co reports 404,064 premises covered by satellite as at 16th June 2016, yet the satellites can only handle 250,000 premises.

The hilarity of it all

What can I say? Metrics are arbitrarily defined by those who want to portray a specific outcome. Criticism of metric definition is moot, and really occurs only when trying to pursue a line of argument intended by those writing it. The Strategic Review is an excellent example of this.

Perhaps unnoticed by many at the time, the numbers in the review favoured the Multi-Technology Mix even though there was no increase in capacity for the satellite.

The review considered only 206,000 premises passed by FY16 in the “revised outlook” — however, it magically jumped up to 340,000 premises passed in the adopted “multi-technology” case without any physical changes to the satellites.

NBN's satellite apparently passes 340k by FY16 premises in the MTM model
NBN’s satellite apparently passes 340k by FY16 premises in the MTM model
... yet in the revised outlook, only 206k premises are passed with satellite even though there are no changes to the satellite
… yet in the revised outlook, only 206k premises are passed with satellite even though there are no changes to the satellite

Remarkable isn’t it? Just goes to show how a metric can be reclassified to portray missed targets, then rapidly reclassified again to make your own rollout model look better 😉

Widespread delays plague Multi-Technology rollout

Analysis: Some areas delayed by up to 8 months, with 290k premises delayed by at least a month

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network has updated its rollout schedule, revealing wide ranging delays of over a month in 105 multi-technology mix (MTM) rollout areas around Australia, affecting around 290,000 premises.

These rollout areas predominantly uses the Coalition’s preferred Fibre to the Node (FTTN) technology, where the company rolls out fibre to the neighbourhood and reconnects with the existing copper to the home.  Despite promising rollouts using the FTTN technology to be faster to complete, the company had reportedly been facing issues including slow rollout design approvals from power companies who will have to power the nodes in the streets.  The reasoning behind the latest set of delays is unknown.

The areas worst affected by the delay are Cygnet in Tasmania and Mornington in Victoria, with a delay of 8 months shifting completion dates from late 2016 to mid 2017.  The is followed closely by another rollout area in Mornington, Victoria as well as South Hobart and Margate in Tasmania and Garfield in Victoria with delays of between 6 and 7 months.

The rollout in Fletcher, NSW and suburbs near Claremont, Hobart, Tasmania have been set back by around 5 months.  Another 8 rollout areas, covering around 22,400 premises in parts of Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales have been delayed by 4 months.

For a full list of affected areas, refer to the table below.

Another 22 areas, not listed below, were delayed by less than a month.

Service Area Module (SAM) Locality May completion date June completion date # of months delayed Approx number of premises affected
7CYE-01 Cygnet Oct-2016 Jun-2017 8 600
3MOR-02 Mornington 12-Aug-2016 Apr-2017 8 3400
3MOR-05 Mornington Sep-2016 Apr-2017 7 2300
7HOB-12 South Hobart, Wellington Park, Fern Tree Oct-2016 Apr-2017 6 1000
7MGT-01 Electrona, Lower Snug, Margate, Snug, Coningham Dec-2016 Jun-2017 6 2000
3GAR-01 Garfield, Longwarry, Bunyip 05-Aug-2016 Feb-2017 6 2300
2NLT-01 Fletcher Oct-2016 Mar-2017 5 3700
7NWT-02 Chigwell, Berriedale Oct-2016 Mar-2017 5 2800
3TAG-04 Traralgon Oct-2016 Feb-2017 4 2600
4IGH-01 Ingham Oct-2016 Feb-2017 4 3000
6RKH-01 Safety Bay, Rockingham Sep-2016 Jan-2017 4 3100
6RKH-04 Rockingham, Safety Bay, Cooloongup Sep-2016 Jan-2017 4 3500
6ARM-02 Cardup, Byford Nov-2016 Mar-2017 4 4700
7BUI-04 Hillcrest, Montello, Park Grove, Parklands, Burnie Jan-2017 May-2017 4 1800
7HUL-01 Huonville, Ranelagh, Franklin Jan-2017 May-2017 4 2600
2GUL-01 Gulgong 15-Jul-2016 Nov-2016 4 1100
2NRN-01 Spring Farm Nov-2016 Feb-2017 3 800
7DER-04 Don, Stony Rise, Devonport Nov-2016 Feb-2017 3 3000
4SHF-02 Trinity Beach Sep-2016 Dec-2016 3 3200
2SHH-04 Flinders, Blackbutt Jan-2017 Apr-2017 3 3300
7ETD-01 East Devonport, Ambleside Dec-2016 Mar-2017 3 2600
7DSF-01 Dodges Ferry, Forcett, Lewisham, Primrose Sands, Carlton Dec-2016 Mar-2017 3 4300
7DER-03 Miandetta, Quoiba, Spreyton, Stony Rise, Tugrah, Aberdeen Jan-2017 Apr-2017 3 2900
3TAG-06 Traralgon 19-Aug-2016 Nov-2016 2 3400
2GLB-03 Run-o-Waters, Goulburn 22-Jul-2016 Oct-2016 2 2600
4WUR-09 Minyama, Buddina 08-Jul-2016 16-Sep-2016 2 3400
3MOE-03 Newborough, Moe 29-Jul-2016 Oct-2016 2 2800
2GLB-02 Goulburn 29-Jul-2016 Oct-2016 2 3200
3CRB-06 Craigieburn 29-Jul-2016 Oct-2016 2 4400
2GLB-04 Goulburn 22-Jul-2016 23-Sep-2016 2 2900
2ALB-01 South Albury, Albury 29-Jul-2016 30-Sep-2016 2 3600
7BUI-01 Emu Heights, Havenview, South Burnie, Wivenhoe, Burnie Dec-2016 Feb-2017 2 1200
3TAG-03 Traralgon East, Traralgon Sep-2016 Nov-2016 2 3100
4EDG-08 Kanimbla, Whitfield, Brinsmead Sep-2016 Nov-2016 2 2600
4FRV-01 Norman Gardens Sep-2016 Nov-2016 2 3300
7HOB-11 Moonah, New Town, Lenah Valley Sep-2016 Nov-2016 2 3000
3WBO-01 Warrnambool Sep-2016 Nov-2016 2 3700
7HOB-10 Sandy Bay Oct-2016 Dec-2016 2 3000
2BUP-03 Doyalson, Wyee, Blue Haven Nov-2016 Jan-2017 2 3100
2NRN-06 Harrington Park Nov-2016 Jan-2017 2 1800
3RYE-01 Rye Nov-2016 Jan-2017 2 4000
4BWE-01 Bowen Nov-2016 Jan-2017 2 2200
5MIC-01 Millicent Nov-2016 Jan-2017 2 2600
3CBR-64 Coburg North,Preston (Vic.),Reservoir (Vic.) Sep-2016 Nov-2016 2 1200
2BUP-01 San Remo, Buff Point 05-Aug-2016 Oct-2016 2 3200
3COL-02 Colac East, Elliminyt, Colac 05-Aug-2016 Oct-2016 2 3900
2MAI-09 Maitland, Telarah, Lorn 15-Jul-2016 09-Sep-2016 2 3300
3WAN-01 Wangaratta 15-Jul-2016 09-Sep-2016 2 3000
2MAI-06 Bolwarra Heights, Largs, Mindaribba, Bolwarra 22-Jul-2016 16-Sep-2016 2 2200
2ALB-04 North Albury, Albury 05-Aug-2016 30-Sep-2016 2 3400
2AVA-02 Avalon 05-Aug-2016 30-Sep-2016 2 2900
2MAI-01 Windella, Rutherford 12-Aug-2016 30-Sep-2016 2 1000
3MOE-04 Yallourn North, Newborough 19-Aug-2016 Oct-2016 1 3300
2MSV-03 East Bowral, Bowral 15-Jul-2016 26-Aug-2016 1 3500
2ALB-03 West Albury, Albury 29-Jul-2016 09-Sep-2016 1 3700
3SHP-09 Kialla West, Kialla 29-Jul-2016 09-Sep-2016 1 1500
2MTT-01 Mittagong, Willow Vale, Braemar 12-Aug-2016 23-Sep-2016 1 2000
4EDG-07 Earlville, Mooroobool, Bayview Heights 26-Aug-2016 Oct-2016 1 3400
3WAN-02 Wangaratta 15-Jul-2016 19-Aug-2016 1 2900
3WGU-04 Drouin East, Drouin 22-Jul-2016 26-Aug-2016 1 3400
7DER-01 Devonport 05-Aug-2016 09-Sep-2016 1 1800
2ERN-03 Green Point, Erina 12-Aug-2016 16-Sep-2016 1 3200
2KTB-02 Leura, Medlow Bath, Katoomba 12-Aug-2016 16-Sep-2016 1 3400
3WGU-05 Drouin 19-Aug-2016 23-Sep-2016 1 2800
4NEW-06 Cranley, Gowrie Junction, Torrington, Wilsonton, Wilsonton Heights, Cotswold Hills Dec-2016 Jan-2017 1 3300
2SHH-01 Shell Cove, Shellharbour, Dunmore Jan-2017 Feb-2017 1 3000
2NRN-05 Narellan, Narellan Vale, Elderslie Oct-2016 Nov-2016 1 2900
2PKE-05 Lake Heights, Berkeley Oct-2016 Nov-2016 1 3900
5GPC-05 Pooraka, Para Hills West Oct-2016 Nov-2016 1 3700
2PKE-02 Lake Heights, Warrawong, Cringila Oct-2016 Nov-2016 1 3700
3LOR-20 Lorne Oct-2016 Nov-2016 1 2500
3RMS-01 Romsey, Lancefield Oct-2016 Nov-2016 1 2700
3SUN-01 Sunbury Oct-2016 Nov-2016 1 3300
2NRN-03 Narellan Vale, Smeaton Grange, Harrington Park Oct-2016 Nov-2016 1 3800
4BDA-20 Babinda Oct-2016 Nov-2016 1 800
4FRV-03 Koongal, Lakes Creek, Nerimbera, Frenchville Oct-2016 Nov-2016 1 4300
4SAR-01 Sarina Oct-2016 Nov-2016 1 1900
6RKH-05 Waikiki, Cooloongup Oct-2016 Nov-2016 1 3700
6RKH-03 East Rockingham, Hillman, Rockingham, Cooloongup Dec-2016 Jan-2017 1 3300
6RKH-06 Waikiki, Safety Bay Dec-2016 Jan-2017 1 3500
6RKH-08 Rockingham, Peron Dec-2016 Jan-2017 1 3900
7CLT-01 Campbell Town Jan-2017 Feb-2017 1 700
5GPC-07 Mawson Lakes Jan-2017 Feb-2017 1 3600
3WDG-01 Wodonga, Leneva Sep-2016 Oct-2016 1 2700
3WAN-03 Wangaratta, Waldara Sep-2016 Oct-2016 1 1700
4NEW-09 Drayton, Harristown, Darling Heights Sep-2016 Oct-2016 1 3100
7EXE-01 Exeter, Gravelly Beach, Lanena, Rosevears, Swan Point, Blackwall Sep-2016 Oct-2016 1 900
4BUD-05 Palmwoods Sep-2016 Oct-2016 1 2100
4ROT-01 Rockhampton City, Depot Hill Sep-2016 Oct-2016 1 1400
4RED-01 Mount Cotton, Carbrook Sep-2016 Oct-2016 1 3000
4SHF-01 Trinity Beach, Trinity Park, Kewarra Beach Sep-2016 Oct-2016 1 1900
7NOL-01 Magra, New Norfolk, Lawitta Sep-2016 Oct-2016 1 2900
5BDT-20 Bordertown Nov-2016 Dec-2016 1 1600
7BIC-01 Bicheno Nov-2016 Dec-2016 1 900
5BRR-01 Berri Nov-2016 Dec-2016 1 2500
6ARM-01 Byford, Darling Downs, Haynes, Hilbert, Mount Richon, Wungong, Brookdale Nov-2016 Dec-2016 1 4000
6ARM-04 Forrestdale, Haynes, Seville Grove, Armadale Nov-2016 Dec-2016 1 3600
3MOE-01 Trafalgar, Moe 22-Jul-2016 19-Aug-2016 1 2700
6MDR-10 Erskine 27-May-2016 24-Jun-2016 1 2500
3PTO-05 Portarlington 15-Jul-2016 12-Aug-2016 1 2200
3PTO-06 St Leonards 15-Jul-2016 12-Aug-2016 1 2800
3OCG-02 Breamlea, Barwon Heads 22-Jul-2016 19-Aug-2016 1 2800
3SHP-10 Kialla 29-Jul-2016 26-Aug-2016 1 1300
7BUI-03 East Cam, Ocean Vista, Park Grove, Parklands, Shorewell Park, Cooee Feb-2017 Mar-2017 1 2900
7ETD-02 Latrobe Feb-2017 Mar-2017 1 2000

Analysis based on NBN Co’s rollout schedule, reproduced by Telstra on the Telstra Wholesale website.  A variety of sources were checked to confirm this information.

LTSS Base Station: Sunset

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 technician splicing fibre in a van

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.

LTSS Base Station: Sunset

Detailed analysis: How will Qantas’ on-board Wi-Fi impact NBN satellites?

Geospatial analysis of the daily Qantas flight paths and NBN satellite beam coverage shows how NBN’s satellite network could be affected.

Writer’s note: Qantas is a customer of ViaSat, not NBN Co. ViaSat intends to trial on-board internet using NBN Co’s satellites — however, they have indicated they intend to launch their own satellites (ViaSat-3) to deliver a long-term solution for on-board Wi-Fi globally. This Qantas-ViaSat-NBN Co deal is dependent on industry consultation being completed in June 2016.

Qantas has recently announced that it plans to offer a Wi-Fi service on board its A330 and Boeing 737 fleet from early 2017 by utilising capacity on NBN’s recently launched Sky Muster satellite.  However, many Australians living in rural and regional Australia have raised concerns that the Qantas service will cause further congestion on an already limited service.

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, had completed a review of satellite capacity in its Fixed Wireless and Satellite review where it identified 31 beams around Australia that would be oversubscribed or severely oversubscribed once a take-up rate of 65% is reached.  As a result, the company will introduce strict Fair Use policies to significantly limit the amount of data to 150 GB (priced at a premium) that can be used by each customer on a 4-week rolling average basis.

Consequently, the Qantas announcement has infuriated many who are within the satellite footprint.  Analysis of flight paths taken by Qantas’ domestic flights using their A330-200, A330-300 and Boeing 737-800 fleets show that all planes fly through at least one congested or severely congested satellite beam.

Key findings:

  • 334 Qantas domestic flights utilise the A330-200, A330-300 and Boeing 737-800 fleet on the day analysed.
  • Every flight flew under at least one oversubscribed or severely oversubscribed beam.
  • 58% of oversubscribed or severely oversubscribed beams will have minimal impact, with at most 2 planes flying under the beam at any given time.
  • The Sydney-Brisbane and Sydney-Gold Coast routes travel entirely within severely oversubscribed NBN Satellite beams (34, 29, 25, 20).
  • The Sydney-Melbourne, Melbourne-Canberra, Sydney-Canberra and Townsville-Brisbane routes travel entirely within oversubscribed OR severely oversubscribed NBN Satellite beams.

Analysis: by congested beams

Over half (58%) of congested beams are not affected or are minimally affected by Qantas planes.  Of the 31 beams considered oversubscribed or severely oversubscribed, 5 of them do not cover any current eligible Qantas flight paths.  7 beams will have at least one flight under the path at some point, and 6 beams will have up to 2 flights under it at the same time (within a 10 minute time frame).

Unsurprisingly however, the beams covering areas immediately surrounding capital cities will have the greatest number of flights under it at any given time:

  • Beam 42 (Sydney Beam) is the worst affected, with up to 7 Qantas flights within a 10 minute time frame travelling under it.
  • Beams 47 (Melbourne Beam) and 20 (Brisbane Beam) come in second, with up to 6 Qantas flights within a 10 minute time frame travelling directly under each of them.
  • Beam 37 (Adelaide Beam) comes in third, with up to 5 Qantas flights within a 10 minute time frame travelling directly under each of them.

It should be noted though, that for the day analysed — the Sydney and Brisbane beams only had the greatest number of flights under it for a single 10 minute time frame (between 8:50am – 9:00am and 7:30pm – 7:40pm respectively).

Finally, by considering the average number of Qantas planes under a beam over a 24 hour period — we see that Beam 47 (Melbourne) tops out at 1.94 planes with Beam 42 (Sydney), Beam 20 (Brisbane) and Beam 41 (Canberra) following closely behind at 1.52, 1.45 and 1.22 planes respectively.

Beam* Max concurrent
flights under beam
(over 10 min period)
%age of time with
at max plane
under beam
%age of time with
at least one plane
under beam
Avg. number of
planes under beam
over 24 hrs
47 (Melbourne) 6 2% 67% 1.94
42 (Sydney) 7 1% 63% 1.52
20 (Brisbane) 6 1% 63% 1.45
41 (Canberra) 4 5% 58% 1.22
37 (Adelaide) 5 1% 49% 0.86
24 (Armidale) 5 1% 53% 0.83
48 (Omeo) 4 1% 51% 0.76
66 (Perth) 3 1% 51% 0.63
34 (Newcastle) 3 3% 40% 0.57
33 (Bathurst) 4 1% 33% 0.48
25 (Grafton) 2 3% 33% 0.37
46 (Ararat) 3 1% 28% 0.36
3 (Townsville) 2 3% 28% 0.31
15 (Wondai) 3 1% 24% 0.30
29 (Port Macquarie) 2 1% 26% 0.27
36 (Yorketown) 3 1% 22% 0.26
35 (Port Lincoln) 2 2% 22% 0.24
7 (Mackay) 2 3% 19% 0.22
11 (Rockhampton) 2 2% 20% 0.22
31 (Whyalla) 1 15% 15% 0.15
44 (Kangaroo Island) 1 8% 8% 0.08
63 (Guilderton) 1 8% 8% 0.08
16 (Maryborough) 1 6% 6% 0.06
2 (Charters Towers) 1 3% 3% 0.03
1 (Cairns) 1 3% 3% 0.03
51 (Geelong) 1 2% 2% 0.02
49 (Bega) 0 0% 0% 0.00
52 (Inverloch) 0 0% 0% 0.00
54 (Burnie) 0 0% 0% 0.00
56 (Hobart) 0 0% 0% 0.00
68 (Bridgetown) 0 0% 0% 0.00

* Beam name is based on a suburb/town/city directly under the beam and may not be the official name used by nbn

Analysis: by flight

Each flight and its flight path were analysed to see which NBN Satellite beam it flies under. The results shows that every single Domestic Qantas A330 and B737 flight flies under at least one oversubscribed or severely oversubscribed satellite beam.

The most prominent are the Sydney-Brisbane and Sydney-Gold Coast routes, which flies entirely within severely oversubscribed beams (that’s beams 34, 29, 25, 20).  Sydney-Melbourne, Melbourne-Canberra, Sydney-Canberra and Townsville-Brisbane routes fly entirely through oversubscribed or severely oversubscribed beams.

For the full analysis output, click here!

Concluding thoughts…

I find the results of this analysis somewhat inconclusive. Firstly, unlike domestic US services — the number of Qantas flights expected to get the Wi-Fi service is quite small.

With under 350 flights spread out geographically and over a 24 hour period, I doubt the planes would have a material effect on congestion. Currently, the worst case scenario seems to be up 6-7 planes flying under a single beam at any given time. However, in the case of the 7-plane statistic, it happens only once in a 24 hour period. The speed at which planes travel also mean that they will typically fly in and out of narrow beams within 10-15 minutes, meaning any impact should be distributed across multiple beams as the plane flies through the airspace.

On the other hand, the bulk of the flights will fly under already oversubscribed areas. This is especially true for the beams serving the areas immediately surrounding the capital cities, which are all severely oversubscribed (bar-Darwin). These areas also have the greatest number of concurrent flights, represented by the “average number of planes over 24 hours” statistic.

So, no. I don’t think there’s an immediate threat to congestion. However, it does set a precedent. If more carriers get on board… and if international flights get added to the pool as well — things could well change in the future.

NBN Long Term Satellite beams
Diagram showing NBN Co satellite beams and risk of congestion as determined in the Fixed Wireless/Satellite Strategic Review (FWSat SR).

Assumptions made in this analysis:

  • The flight data analysed was from Wednesday, 23rd Feb 2016.
  • Qantas will only install the Satellite-powered Wi-Fi solution on their A330-200, A330-300 and Boeing 737-800 fleet.
  • In all cases where the plane transverses an area with both a wide and narrow beam, the congested, narrow beam is selected.
  • Plane locations are calculated in 10 minute intervals.
  • Congestion (oversubscribed beams) are based on results in the NBN Fixed Wireless and Satellite Review.
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.

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.