TPG licences hint at LTE fixed wireless trial in Bendigo

New 3.6GHz “point to multipoint” licence at existing Vodafone tower suggests trial LTE deployment

Australia’s second largest telco, TPG, was granted a number of apparatus radio licence covering parts of the Bendigo area in Victoria.

These new licences, issued on 21 March 2017 by the ACMA, are in addition to the spectrum licences owned by TPG to operate in the 1800 MHz and 2.5 GHz bands.

Whilst apparatus licence are typically issued for one year, the TPG licences are only valid until late October this year — hinting at a short-term trial.

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Don’t stress: bus timetables aren’t being “scrapped”

Timetables are set to become more dynamic with on-demand complementary shuttle services

Yesterday, the Minister for Transport announced that Transport for NSW will trial “on-demand” public transport next year as part of their Future Transport Roadmap. A number of media outlets reported “New South Wales Government to scrap bus timetables” based on initiatives promised to “transform the mass transit network”.

As one would expect, a flurry of fury followed after the announcement. Punters complained of the inability for current buses to stay within their current timetables as it is. How are they to deliver services quality “without a timetable”?

I don’t think the media did a great job at explaining what the plans were. So, let’s break it down. There are two parts to this puzzle:

  1. Timetables are becoming more dynamic
  2. On-demand services are being introduced

The truth is, timetables aren’t going way but are becoming more flexible. There are also additional on-demand services to help make the trip to timetabled services more efficient.

Hub and spoke model

You may have heard of the hub-and-spoke model. That’s where commuters take a short service close to their homes to a major transport hub to reach their final destination.

This reduces the number of low demand, point-to-point services required to get commuters to and from their destinations whilst still maintaining flexible route options.

The challenge with the current system is that spoke services (the short hops between homes and hubs) have long routes within the suburbs to get to as many pick up points as possible. This means that it could take a long time for commuters to get from their home to the hub regardless of whether all the pick up points have passengers.

On-demand spoke services

The on-demand trial that was being mentioned is about improving commuter connections to and from transport hubs. As the Future Transport Roadmap says:

The future of personalised transport will involve customers being able to book flexible, on-demand local services to make first- and last-mile connections to and from mass transit hubs.

Page 41, Future Transport Technology Roadmap 2016

On-demand services would complement existing “spoke” bus routes with routes being optimised for booked demand.

Diagram showing how a hub and spoke model with on-demand services could work
Diagram showing how a hub and spoke model with on-demand services could work

On-demand example:

Imagine the resident living in the middle of the suburbs, around a 15 minute drive from the train station. Currently, the options may be for the resident to drive their car to the station and commute to work. However, parking spots are limited.

Catching a bus is also an option. However, the closest bus stop may be a 10 minute walk away and only runs during peak hours. Worse still, it’s a bus service which is route is long and stops at many locations within the suburb before reaching the train station.

The on-demand public transport model tries to solve this. A commuter can “book” what is effectively a shuttle service between their home and the closest train station in advance. The route and times for this on-demand service will be generated continuously based on who’s booked a service.

Dynamic timetabling in trunk routes

It’s something that Sydney Trains have been doing for years. Despite having seemingly static timetables, Sydney Trains timetables are generated at least once a day to account for things like track work, special events and “operational issues”.

Some bus routes are also brought in especially in time for special events. For example, an example I know well is the Central to Moore Park shuttle during major sporting events.

The promise made in the Future Transport roadmap is that these dynamic timetables will reach more modes of transport (including buses). These timetables will also extend in reach, modelling patterns based on weather, demands based on day of week.

Using the supply/demand insights, develop an algorithm that optimises the timetable for day-of-week, weather and planned/unplanned events

Page 88, Future Transport Technology Roadmap 2016

It’s also about being able to generate new routes and increased frequency when new demands arise. With the Opal data that Transport for NSW has on their hands, they could potentially generate new high demand, point-to-point routes to cater for new businesses opening up or when new developments are built.

Conclusion

Don’t stress: timetables aren’t going away. They remain very important for the operation of transport services.

The good news is that the timetables will likely be adjusted more frequently based on demand on each route at particular times.

On-demand services will likely complement existing spoke services to make them more efficient and convenient for commuters.

Hopefully, this will less crowded services and quicker journey times into the future.

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.

Lightning Broadband: what is this shenanigans?

Is this supposedly magical wireless technology really going to supersede the NBN?

Over the recent weeks, a company branded as “Lightning Broadband” has been making waves in Australia.  It’s claiming that for $120 per month, it can deliver an unlimited 100 Mbps connection to residents using its wireless network.  But exactly how does the company plan to build its wireless network?

If you read the “technical explanation” on its website, you’ll realise that it doesn’t make sense.

The company is claiming that it uses fibre to connect to their DC.  It then says DC, in that case, means a DC-HSDPA (effectively 3G technology).  In the following paragraphs, it then goes on to explain that it doesn’t use HSDPA — but rather 24GHz microwave backhaul links followed by 802.11ac over the 5.8GHz band for the final hop to the customer.

However, if you read between the lines and interpret DC as its usual meaning of a data centre, it makes more sense.  The company is effectively using the fixed 5.8 GHz band to transmit a Wi-Fi signal to the end user.  This removes the need for hefty mobile spectrum licences that typical carriers like Telstra, Optus and Vodafone pay to secure their spectrum slice.

How much bandwidth does that give?

In Australia, the majority of the 5 GHz band can either only be used indoors or is subject DFS (Dynamic Frequency Selection) as this band has potential to interfere with radar signals.  The 5.8 GHz slice (5745-5825 MHz) is the only band that doesn’t have these limitations and is what Lightning Broadband is claiming to use.  This effectively gives a single 80 MHz continuous band for the last mile transmission.

The leading data rates and speeds of the 802.11ac standard (256-QAM, MCS 9, Guard Interval of 800ms) gives a maximum theoretical throughput of 390 Mbps.

As for real world performance?  One of the leading “point-to-point” Wi-Fi hardware providers, Ubiquiti, claims its NanoStation M5 (5.8GHz) Wireless Bridge & WiFi AP can deliver 150 Mbps. With a beamwidth of anywhere between 42 and 60 degrees, you’ll have to share the same 150 Mbps bandwidth with everyone on the same sector as you.

Not exactly lightning speed as soon as you have a dozen or so people on the network during peak times — especially when you’re selling an “unlimited” plan.

Nonetheless…

Lightning Broadband has nothing to worry for now. It’s not intended to be a mass-market product, with large number of customers. The spectrum bandwidth simply won’t support it (because, physics). But kudos to them for the concept and to help consumers get connected while the NBN is still rolling out.

At the end of the day, it can only exist in very specific areas — outer metro areas with a tall building with a willing management who will let you install your equipment on the roof. But as soon as you have some other company else do exactly the same thing in your area, you’re screwed.

This type of technology has been used for years by regional and rural folks to relay mobile broadband from a shed to get a decent mobile signal.

So no, this is not going to make the NBN redundant. But it’s a good interim solution to help a small number of users get connected while it’s still being rolled out.

nbn™ logo (large)

Analysis: Is privatising the Multi-Technology Mix the best way forward?

With almost no competition to incentivise an upgrade to its network, can NBN’s monopoly Multi-Technology Mix keep up with user demands or will it become Telstra 2.0?

Infrastructure Australia released it’s “Australian Infrastructure Plan” report today. It’s contents are not exclusively about the National Broadband Network, however, it made a number of recommendations to the Government suggesting that the NBN should be privatised in the medium term.

A bit of background: the fibre monopoly

Since the conception of the National Broadband Network, there had always been a plan and provision to sell company once the rollout is complete. With the original “full fibre” plan envisaged by the then-Labor Government, selling or not selling the fibre network at completion wouldn’t materially affect competition.

Fibre at the premises level is a natural infrastructure monopoly. Much like how water supply companies do not build competing sets of pipes for competition, fibre is effectively a pipe with limitless upgrade opportunities by simply “swapping out the equipment at each end”. It is vastly inefficient to duplicate networks for the sake of competition, and the Optus and Telstra HFC “war” in the 90s was an excellent example of how broadband infrastructure competition can fail.

There is a case for small amounts of network duplication in inner metropolitan areas. However, it becomes hard to compete (at least within the fixed-line space) with a network that’s already built to the scale that NBN would have.

Selling, or even long term (99 year) leases of the fibre network based on geographical areas would have made sense. Like water companies, telco infrastructure entities wouldn’t spend too much time duplicating each other’s network. Upgrading networks to user demands would incur minimal capital expenditure, as it’s a matter of swapping equipment at two ends. Competition will continue to exist, but only in the retail/service delivery component of the network by Internet Service Providers.

The Multi-Technology Mix

But things changed. If you haven’t noticed, the NBN is no longer rolling out fibre to the majority of premises. The Coalition Government’s policy of a Multi-Technology Mix fixed-line network creates new challenges policy makers in the future will need to deliberate carefully before pressing sell in parliament.

On the upside, a Multi-Technology Mix is an effective way to drive infrastructure competition. However, it doesn’t work when it’s being built by a single entity — especially not a Government-owned enterprise.

No incentive to upgrade, unless split up and privatised

As a monopoly, investing large sums of money on upgrading technologies like VDSL2 over copper where upgrade paths is not as simple as “swapping out equipment” presents an ongoing burden for the NBN company. As user bandwidth demand grows, many telecommunications companies would upgrade and extend their networks to meet user demand. Or else, they would risk a competitor coming in to take over their market share. That’s what happens in areas with healthy infrastructure competition — such as Hong Kong.

But like Telstra before it, NBN wouldn’t have a business case to upgrade its networks — even if user demands skyrocket. The company would stand to lose money (at least in the short-term) by investing to upgrade its network, while it would keep a steady revenue if it just maintained the network as it is and not upgrading at all! Civil costs to push fibre out further into the field to meet user demand isn’t cheap, especially when it’s done in successive truck rolls (which is what the current policy is).

We can say that the current NBN policy focuses on short-term policy objectives — lowering the short-term capital expenditure costs, while risking medium to long-term operation costs — in other words, leaving it for policymakers of the future to deal with.

Privatising the Multi-Technology Mix by its technologies would make sense — provided the necessary regulatory instruments were put in place. Consider privatisation by splitting the NBN into a FTTx, HFC and Wireless/Terrestrial entities. These three entities could lend themselves to infrastructure competition in areas where there is sufficient network overlap. In metro areas for example, failure to upgrade the copper-based VDSL2 solution used by the FTTx entity would see the threat of an adjacent HFC footprint grow to meet user demand (and vice versa).

In regional and rural areas, the viability of infrastructure competition is not immediately obvious. Improvements in fixed wireless technologies could threaten the market share of the FTTx entity, but the fixed wireless network would need to grow substantially to be of real competition. In addition, wireless and terrestrial (satellite) solutions tend to be more expensive. So is it possible to create healthy competition, or would those areas have to rely on Government subsidies to promote upgrades?

Even if competitors are identified, each of these entity would need to have equal opportunity to grow its footprint into their competitor’s existing footprint. Having equal access to things like duct and pipe, Tier 1 and Tier 2 facilities, power and potentially many more aspects is crucial before any privatisation goes ahead.

Then there’s the issue of vertical integration

Looking at the current telco market in Australia, obvious candidates with enough capital for purchasing parts of a privatised NBN would be Telstra, Optus, the TPG Group and the M2 Group. Companies like Nextgen or Vodafone could still take a share.

But all these companies I’ve listed, bar Nextgen, already hold a retail front: Telstra, Optus, TPG and Vodafone are obvious by name. M2 owns Dodo and iPrimus.

Currently, the unique nature of NBN is that it is entirely wholesale only with no vertical integration, driving substantial retail competition in the service provider front. In my opinion, this needs to stay as is. Infrastructure companies should stay structurally separated from its retail front to ensure innovation within the “service” sector and ensures equal pricing regardless of who owns the network.


Conclusion

In a privatised world without a ubiquitous network of natural monopoly (like fibre), the only way networks will meet user demand is by infrastructure competition. Infrastructure competition requires network duplication (or at least the threat of) to stimulate investment to upgrade. So the question is: do we want this duplication? Isn’t it blindingly inefficient to have networks that do the same thing being built two or three times over just to keep with user demand?

I think we’ve put ourselves in another telecommunications policy nightmare in Australia. Time and time again, successive Governments — in their short sightedness — have failed to realise the consequences of their policy decisions. The NBN was meant to solve the issue of a lack of infrastructure investment that resulted from the privatisation of Telstra. It still could, but potentially at the cost of inefficient network duplication.

Yes, I’d still argue that a Fibre to the Premises model would have been the ideal model. It would have made privatisation easier, it would have been far more elegant. But what’s done is done.

Some would argue it’s a good thing. Infrastructure competition could work well for companies who have substantial capital while also owning large amounts of existing network assets.

Currently, TPG is the disrupter in the market. The rollout of inner-city Fibre to the Basement network is a good example of what healthy infrastructure competition could look like.

So yes, in conclusion, if done correctly — splitting and selling the NBN is probably the best way forward for Australia. But as Malcolm would say, “it’s not the way we would have done it”.

What do you think?

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.

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.

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?

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Mobile Broadband is fast becoming the new printer industry

Dirt-cheap printers, sky-high ink costs. Australia’s prepaid mobile broadband market is replicating the printer industry’s business model.

When you compare monthly mobile broadband plans with the starter kits you can get at your local supermarket or technology store, you would find an unfortunate truth.  Starter kits, often including a Wi-Fi 3G modem, are comparatively cheaper than your monthly access cost.

Last month, I saw an excellent deal.  I bought two Vodafone 3G Pocket Wi-Fi + 3GB SIM (with a bonus 8GB SIM with 90 day expiry) for a mere $38 from Harvey Norman.  That’s 22GB over a total of 240 days.

Compare that with the closest prepaid plan in terms of cost: the $40 Vodafone Mobile Broadband recharge — which will only give me 4.5GB over 40 days.

The 22GB offer Vodafone currently provides online is $200, albeit with an expiry of 365 days.  That’s a whopping 5x more expensive!

Invoice summary showing my Vodafone 3G Modem + data purchase. 22GB for $38!
Invoice summary showing my Vodafone 3G Modem + data purchase. 22GB for $38!
Purchase option Total data Expiry Total cost Cost per GB
2 × Vodafone 3G Pocket Wi-Fi + 3GB (+ bonus 8GB) 22 GB 240 days $38 $1.73
1 × Vodafone $40 MBB Recharge 4.5 GB 40 days $40 $8.88
1 × Vodafone $200 MBB Recharge 22 GB 365 days $200 $9.09

We haven’t even accounted for the cost of the Wi-Fi modem that comes with the starter pack.  A Huawei-made Vodafone Pocket WiFi R207.

Original packaging of the Vodafone Pocket WiFi 3G
Original packaging of the Vodafone Pocket WiFi 3G

This is perhaps one of the most extreme cost differential examples — however, this same phenomenon is replicated across all major carriers.  Telstra and Optus both have the same tactic of selling mobile broadband dongles for below-cost and bundled with a generous one-off data bonus.  Sounds awfully like a printer company, am I right?

What’s the catch?

The business model that the major carriers are using promotes the mass purchase of SIM cards and mobile broadband devices.  What’s the problem?

Firstly, Australia is fast running out of mobile phone numbers with the ACMA projecting phone numbers will be exhausted in 2017.  If each person in Australia simply buys new SIM cards with new phone numbers to take advantage of these deals, the depletion of mobile phone numbers further accelerate.  Luckily, the 05xx number range has been reserved for future expansion — nonetheless, getting new numbers for each new SIM purchased is unsustainable.

Secondly, it’s an account management nightmare.  Each new SIM would need a new account login on the mobile carrier’s website to check and keep track of data usage.  It would be a pain to have to change this every month.  Also, Australian’s are expected to declare how many phone services they have active under their name — this could be massive if we end up buying new SIMs every month.

Lastly, we have the same environmental issues as printers — we’ll end up with far more mobile Wi-Fi modems that we’d possibly need.  Personally, I’m currently in posession of 5 mobile broadband modems while I’ve been taking advantage of these deals — three Telstra modems and two Vodafones.  Most of these — I don’t use and to be honest, I’d be happy to give away.  It just goes to show how much waste there is in electronics these days.

And the printer…

Yes. I also bought a printer. Harvey Norman was also selling a multi-function inkjet printer for $17 that I couldn’t resist but buy.

Harvey Norman selling the HP Officejet 2620 All In One Printer for $17
Harvey Norman selling the HP Officejet 2620 All In One Printer for $17

The printer even has clicky buttons, an LCD screen, fax functionality and a document-feeder scanner.

I’m yet to use any of its ink, I bought it purely for its document-feeder scanner to move towards a paper-less environment.  I think I have broken their business model.

How the NBN could transform mobile transit

4G/5G mobile growth will not undermine the NBN business case.  It should actually help boost NBN revenue.

(opinion) Phone towers aren’t magical.  They need to be connected back to a datacentre in order to process calls, send texts and most importantly — connect you to the Internet.

There’s no doubt that one of the greatest cost barriers for mobile phone companies to increase coverage is the cost of backhaul to mobile phone towers.

Telstra has always had a natural advantage in the mobile coverage race due to its extensive fibre network laid out between its telephone exchanges.  Optus is not too far behind, but certainly lacks the robust network Telstra has especially in rural areas.

But let’s think for a moment about Vodafone, or potentially a theoretical fourth national mobile carrier which may or may not start with the letters TPG.  The National Broadband Network can play an extraordinary role in helping these companies not only expand their network coverage size, but also create denser and higher bandwidth coverage to ease congestion.

Dark fibre vs managed services

Traditionally, a carrier may opt to roll out their own fibre to a tower — but that could come at a huge capital cost which may not be viable for carriers with comparatively lower subscribers.

Alternatively, they may rent dark fibre or purchase a managed transit service from the likes of Telstra or Optus and pay back a recurring fee for the amount of bandwidth they want delivered through the service.  Unfortunately this means even if only a small number of customers are connected to a tower at a given time, the carrier would have to pay for the full bandwidth they’d purchased from their transit provider.

How the NBN could change the game

But the NBN could change all that, and this could mean enormous transit cost savings for leaner carriers who don’t own as much transit network infrastructure.

Early last year, the company revealed that it began conducting trials for “Cell Site Access” — giving mobile carriers like Vodafone access to the National Broadband Network to connect towers.

AVC+CVC works well for mobile transit

The two-part access and connectivity charge (AVC+CVC) that nbn currently uses means that the carrier can pay for a relatively low cost for a high bandwidth Access Virtual Circuit (say 100+ Mbps) at the tower but only pay for the bandwidth at a regional level (Connectivity Serving Area, CSA) at the point of interconnect (POI).

This means that no matter how many towers they put up, as long as the overall bandwidth that gets transferred across the mobile network doesn’t change, there will only be a minimal cost difference in terms of transit between towers.

Of course, the equipment costs will still exist — but carriers could increase their cell density in a metropolitan area or regional centres by installing small “towers”, but only have to pay some $40 in monthly cost for connecting the towers to the NBN Point of Interconnect.

Great for dealing with peak demand at venues

The flexibility of the two-tier AVC-CVC model for mobile carriers means that if “mobs” of people aggregate at a particular location say for a sporting event — the carrier could simply increase the low-cost AVC component to cope with the peak demand at that particular location.  That, of course, assumes that overall data consumption doesn’t increase which is probably not true from experience.  But it means that carriers will not have to pay massive premiums for high-bandwidth transit during the entire year, when it can cater for occasional high demand by paying a little more in the access component over an NBN transit solution.


I think there is massive potential for NBN to shake up the mobile transit market.  Once the NBN is built, the infrastructure will be there to support high density microcells in built up areas and also for carriers to expand their coverage in more regional areas at relatively low cost.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that growth in mobile doesn’t necessarily undermine the NBN.  4G and 5G networks will still need high bandwidth transit to carry all that data from the tower back to the carrier’s data centres… and it seems the NBN is an obvious candidate for some carriers.

I’m really quite excited to see what mobile carriers may do in the future with the NBN, and I’m sure nbn wouldn’t mind having some extra revenue given current circumstances with the MTM cost blowout.