Could TPG end up partially subsidising NBN for Qantas Wi-Fi?

NBN Co placed in a potential conflict of interest under new regional broadband tax

Earlier this year, I made a submission to the Government’s consultation on the Telecommunications Reform Package.

I’ve been meaning to write a summary for some time.  I thought I’d whip one up together after it was announced that the Government planned to introduce the legislation next month despite not responding to the submissions.


As part of the reform package, the government planned to introduce a $7.09 charge per line to most fixed line “superfast” broadband services (defined as 25 Mbps download speeds or greater).

This is to help subsidise the cost of nbn’s fixed wireless and satellite networks — primarily servicing regional and remote communities around Australia.

The NBN fixed line footprint is expected to be the primary contributor of the tax.  However, other operators such as TPG with its fibre to the building network will also be hit.

NBN Co’s commercial interest

The problem is that the NBN satellite network is no longer solely about the delivery of broadband services to regional areas.

It now has other commercial interests — including the Satellite Mobility product which allows commercial entities like Qantas to tap into the satellite network for the delivery of in-flight Wi-Fi.

This could mean that a provider like TPG could be paying taxes which help subsidise the provisioning of Wi-Fi services on a Qantas aircraft.

No restrictions on subsidy for regional broadband only

The proposed bill had no restrictions that the funding must only be used to provision broadband services to regional areas — as I explained in 2.1.5 and 2.1.6 of my submission.

So, NBN Co is placed in a conflicting conundrum.  It can spend its subsidy funds on improving the quality of satellite services to regional communities like relaxing the Fair Use Policy with no additional revenue.

Alternatively, it could spend it on developing new revenue streams through commercial products like the Satellite Mobility product — competing with the likes of Optus who also have satellites in the sky.

My suggestions?

In my submission, I suggested:

  1. The Bill should make clear that the funding made available through the Regional Broadband Scheme is not available for services where the primary purpose is not to deliver broadband to regional communities.
  2. The strict Fair Use Policy (FUP) imposed by NBN Co on its Satellite network means the quality is still not directly comparable to fixed-line super-fast broadband services.As a condition of the Regional Broadband Scheme funding, the funding recipient should prioritise upgrades to the capacity and service reliability of rural and regional customers over the development of supplementary products like the Satellite Mobility product.
  3. Ensure similar protection is afforded to services delivered by means of the NBN Fixed Wireless network.

Full submission

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!

Inside an NBN node at Umina Beach

Poor NBN FTTN/B design may lead to decades of congestion

“With a measly 2Gbps backhaul per node you can forget about 4K Netflix. FTTN is going to be no different to the current Telstra RIMs”

(analysis) Customers on the shiny new NBN FTTN and FTTB networks may find themselves left with slow and congested speeds for decades because of short-sighted network design decisions made by the company.

Analysis of the latest Network Design Rules for the NBN, dated 30th June 2015, reveals that customers may only be able to reach a committed information rate (CIR) of roughly 5Mbps on a fully loaded node – far short of the 25 mbps that popular internet streaming service Netflix says is required for 4K video streaming and also falls short of the Vertigan panel’s recommendation that 50% of Australians will only need 15 Mbps by 2023.

The calculation:

nbn™, the company responsible for building the NBN, currently deploys 4 Point-to-Point fibres from the Fibre Access Node (similar to an “exchange”) to the NBN node where the DSLAM equipment is located.  However, it also goes on to say that only 2 of the 4 fibres will be used for connectivity, with the other 2 reserved for “future growth or migration activities”.

NBN's Network Design Document explains 4 fibres will be allocated per NBN node with only 2 in service.
NBN’s Network Design Document explains 4 fibres will be allocated per NBN node with only 2 in service.

Each of the fibres will deliver a 1Gbps ethernet connection back to the NBN Access Aggregation Switch (AAS), totaling to an effective 2Gbps ethernet connection between the node and the Fibre Access Node – or 4Gbps if all 4 allocated fibres are used.

nbn™ introduces an Access Aggregation Switch (AAS) to combine traffic from multiple nodes to the POI
nbn™ introduces an Access Aggregation Switch (AAS) to combine traffic from multiple nodes to the POI

Also according to the document, depending on the DSLAM configuration, each of nbn™’s FTTN and FTTB nodes are capable of connecting up to 384 premises.

Table of NBN Copper DSLAM options
Table of NBN Copper DSLAM options

Taking all of the above into consideration, in a worse case scenario on a  fully-loaded node at peak hour, customers may only reach 5 Mbps if all traffic was distributed evenly:

Number of DSLAM ports Fibres used for uplink Entire node’s effective uplink (Mbps) Committed Information Rate (CIR, Mbps)
48 2 2000 41.7
192 2 2000 10.4
384 2 2000 5.2

Network design wreaks havoc for binge watching season

If a mere 21% of all premises connected to a node starts streaming a 4K stream on Netflix, the node will exceed its capacity.

As many saw with the launch of popular internet TV streaming service Netflix in Australia, telecommunications companies failed to predict the demand of the service leading to heavy network congestion across Australia’s major ISPs.

For some of Netflix’s popular productions like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, the company releases all the episodes of in their series at once.  This results in a brand new network usage “profile” that Australian ISPs and network providers like NBN have seen little of before… where customers continuously watch (binge) and subsequently stream content for hours on end.

If a mere 21% of all premises connected to a node starts streaming a 4K stream on Netflix (21% of 384 at 25 Mbps), the node will exceed its capacity.  This will leave zero bandwidth for the remaining 75% of customers potentially connected to the node.

While it can be expected that NBN’s QoS (quality of service) management will balance the load to prevent a small number of customers hogging the entire link, all customers across the board will suffer from congestion issues because of it.

With the increasing prevalence of Internet TV in Australia, the limited design of the NBN FTTN and FTTB networks will have lasting implications on what Australians will be able to do with their Internet connection.


 

FTTP upgrade path, uncertain

nbn™ has also indicated that they will only deploy 12 fibres up to an NBN node, making it difficult to upgrade an NBN FTTN or FTTB node area to fibre without significant downtime or extensive civil works.

nbn™ is introducing the star topology for the MTM rollout to save money
nbn™ to rollout 12-core fibre to each node, rather than the existing 36 to save money

Assuming a fully loaded 384 port NBN node is to be upgraded from FTTN to FTTP, with 4 fibres already allocated to the FTTN DSLAM for connectivity back to the Fibre Access Node, 8 fibres are remaining to potentially deliver fibre services all the way to the customer’s premises.

However, the 8 fibres will only be capable of delivering GPON services (the FTTP technology that the NBN currently uses) to a maximum of 256 premises (each fibre can be split into 32 premises, 8 × 32 = 256).

Without causing massive disruption to all customers connected to the current node, it may not be possible to transition to FTTP on high-capacity nodes other than by rolling out the network from scratch again.

This means that even if nbn™ decides to upgrade the network, they will likely continue using copper-based technologies for the years ahead to avoid large capital costs again.

(edit) further reading: You can read nbn’s side of the story in their blog post here.

NBN Fibre to the Node Trial at Umina Beach

nbn™ releases MTM network design rules

Following the adoption of the Multi-Technology Mix, the company responsible for building the network – nbn™, has released an updated version of the Network Design Rules document which dictates how the NBN is designed across all technologies.

In the document, dated 30th June and released today to the public, the company outlines changes to the network planning process for the MTM.  Below are some highlights:

NBN removes protected fibre paths

With the implementation of the MTM, the company has done away with the original “ring topology” in the distribution fibre network, which was designed for fault tolerance allowing at least two paths for data to flow to and from the end user in the case of damage to the fibre network.

nbn™ states that a “star DFN topology” will be used instead, citing cost efficiencies in construction:

The Star DFN topology is the default for the Fixed Access build (post-Multi Technology Mix) to achieve cost efficiencies in construction.

nbn™ is introducing the star topology for the MTM rollout to save money
nbn™ is introducing the star topology for the MTM rollout to save money
NBN has now phased out the fault tolerant "Ring Topology" DFN  used in the existing GPON FTTP network
NBN has now phased out the fault tolerant “Ring Topology” DFN used in the existing GPON FTTP network

In addition to the shift to the star topology, by default, only a 12-fibre core sheath will be used to connect an NBN node in a NBN Copper Access environment. This may limit the company’s ability to swap out copper nodes for a passive fibre rollout in the future.

FTTN and FTTB won’t have an NTD, HFC will

The company’s updated network design rules also provides insights into the CPE (Customer Premises Equipment) for the new technologies being introduced into the network.

For customers on the Fibre to the Node (FTTN) or Fibre to the Basement (FTTB) networks, nbn™ will not provide the VDSL2 modem required to connect to the network:

A VDSL2 modem (provided by the Access Seeker or end user). This is on the customer side of the nbn™ network boundary and is not discussed further in this document.

However, NBN Co will provide an NTD for customers in the HFC footprint.

The HFC NTD terminates the incoming physical coax cable at the end-user premises and provides one User to Network Interface (UNI). The HFC NTD will have the following:

  • 1 x coax interface
  • 1 x UNI-Data interfaces

The HFC NTD has not yet been finalised and will be the subject of an RFP.

Unlike the NBN Fibre, NBN Fixed Wireless and NBN Satellite footprints, the HFC NTD is expected to only feature one data port and no voice ports.

NBN copper nodes to include 48, 192 and 384 variants

nbn™ has listed that DSLAMs with 48, 192 and 384 ports will be used in the FTTN and FTTB network, with “further DSLAM sizes, are currently under investigation”.

Table of NBN Copper DSLAM options
Table of NBN Copper DSLAM options

The company says they will prioritise interconnecting their network with the existing copper plant “directly into the pillar” where possible, or alternatively, inject the VDSL2 signals into existing or new downstream and upstream joints.

Each DSLAM will also be served by 4 point-to-point fibres, with at least 2 spares for migration and expansion purposes.  Each fibre is configured to aggregate 1GE of traffic back to the newly introduced Access Aggregation Switch located at the Fibre Access Node site, typically housed at an existing Telstra exchange.

nbn™ introduces an Access Aggregation Switch (AAS) to combine traffic from multiple nodes to the POI
nbn™ introduces an Access Aggregation Switch (AAS) to combine traffic from multiple nodes to the POI

NBN Co’s updated Network Design Document can be found here.

 

nbn™ logo (large)

nbn™’s blog struggles with balance

Bias or truth? nbn™’s official blog just can’t stop attacking the former Government’s Fibre to the Premises policy. Does this fall foul of the GBE guidelines?

Along with last year’s flashy redesign of the then “NBN Co” website, the company introduced a “blog” section to their revamped site.  Whether you liked it or not, at that point the NBN rollout had transitioned to the Multi-Technology Mix strategy. However, it became evident quite quickly that this site is being used to trash the former Labor Government’s NBN policy while parading the current Government’s policy of the “Multi-Technology Mix” rollout.

I’ve completed an analysis of all 127 blog articles posted on the nbn™ blog, as at the morning of 24th June 2015.  The results are not surprising (see the table at the bottom for my full results):

Clear evidence of bias

Not an FTTN party pooper

For example, nbn™’s blog is all too happy to spruik British Telecom’s (BT) headline up-to speed of 76Mbps download.  The figure pops up numerous times in nbn™ blog posts, including here and here.  But when it was revealed that 74% of households could not reach the headline 76Mbps speed at all, nbn™ was silent.  One might say, it’s bad to push a negative impression of its rollout own rollout strategy to the community.  But then, why would nbn™ be more than happy to trash the Fibre to the Premises technology on its blog, given it accounts for almost a quarter of the MTM rollout.

FTTP? Neverrr!

Likewise, even when there’s positive news about a particular FTTP rollout, the company blog always takes a negative spin about the topic on hand.  For example, when Singapore announced nationwide 1Gbps speeds over FTTP – nbn™ immediately went on the negative focusing on the issues of the aggressive competition in Singapore.  Keep in mind, these issues will never affect Australia as no incumbent telco has the money to roll out such a network across such a vast landmass… which is why the NBN existed in the first place.

(more…)

NBN Fibre to the Node Trial at Umina Beach

It’s official: MTM takes over

Today, nbn™ updated their rollout map to include new areas where build preparation commenced last month.  As predicted on jxeeno blog last month, this month marks a milestone in the company’s implementation of the Multi-Technology Mix rollout methodology with all 152 of the new Serving Area Modules added set to MTM.

None of the areas added this month will use purely Fibre to the Premises – however, it is expected parts of some Serving Area Modules may use FTTP where economically feasible as part of the company’s established MTM deployment principles.  The majority of premises in the listed areas are expected to get a Fibre to the Node or Fibre to the Basement connection.  A further breakdown of technology-by-area or premises is not available on the company’s public website.

This comes as the company revealed that customers in the FTTN footprint will only be guaranteed 12/1 mbps during the transition period while ADSL services still exist on the copper network.

(more…)

NBN Fibre to the Node Trial at Umina Beach

nbn™: criteria for copper remediation revealed

Service may only reach the speed range once within 24 hours

The company building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has released details how it proposes to classify premises where “remediation is required”.

In the most recent draft of the Wholesale Broadband Agreement (WBA 2.2) released Access Seekers for FTTN Business Readiness Testing, nbn revealed that “NBN Co will designate that Remediation is required” where “25 Mbps downstream and 5 Mbps upstream for all bandwidth profiles other than 12 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream”.  The company also included an exception clause for the Fibre to the Node network where the speed is limited to 12/1 Mbps during the co-existence “transition” period.

While a premises is being designated for remediation, nbn™ says that speeds may be “significantly less than” the speeds ordered by the customer.

NBN Co outlines how premises that require remediation are classified
NBN Co outlines how premises that require remediation are classified

The company has also revealed for ranging speed tiers such as those used for the Fibre to the Node and Fibre to the Basement products, the performance criteria for the Peak Information Rate (PIR) may only be reached the specified range “once” within a 24 hour period.

NBN Co outlines its speed performance criteria for Peak Information Rate (PIR)
NBN Co outlines its speed performance criteria for Peak Information Rate (PIR)

However, this performance guarantee applies only applies to the network that nbn™ provides to the service providers.  Additional factors such as service contention set by service provider may further degrade services received by the end user.

Inside an NBN node at Umina Beach

nbn™: FTTN limited to 12/1 Mbps during transition

While legacy services such as ADSL2+ exist on the Telstra copper network, speeds will be limited to reduce interference.

Despite what the documentations says, nbn™ has now denied (on the record) that they will “limit” speeds to 12/1.  Please refer to this post here for more information.

In the most recent draft of the Wholesale Broadband Agreement (WBA 2.2) released Access Seekers for FTTN Business Readiness Testing, nbn has revealed that speeds will be limited to 12/1 Mbps during the so-called “Co-existence Period” on the Fibre to the Node network.

During this period, all bandwidth profiles will be restricted to reduce interference with existing legacy services that run on the Telstra network.  A similar limitation will apply to Fibre to the Basement, however, the maximum speed will be limited to 25/5 Mbps rather than 12/1 Mbps.

Table showing the speed limitations for FTTN/FTTB during Co-existence Period
Table showing the speed limitations for FTTN/FTTB during Co-existence Period

In the document, the company said that the speeds will continue to be limited until “NBN Co is satisfied that Downstream Power Back-off is no longer required”:

11.5 Co-existence Period
NBN Co will disable Downstream Power Back-off in respect of an NBN Co Node when NBN Co is satisfied that Downstream Power Back-off is no longer required in respect of that part of the NBN Co FTTB Network or NBN Co FTTN Network (as the case may be). The Co-existence Period for Ordered Products supplied by means of that NBN Co Node will cease at such time.

FTTN BRT Special Terms – WBA 2.2 Draft – NEBS Product Description

Despite explicit wording of the documentation, however, a spokesperson for nbn™ has denied to technology publication ZDNet that they will limit speeds.  Instead, they have indicated that they will guarantee speeds of at least 12/1 mbps.

During the period when NBN is upgrading a suburb with ADSL to VDSL2 speeds will not be limited to 12/1Mbps. During this so-called ‘co-existence period’ line speeds on the NBN FttN service will still be substantially faster than those being delivered via ADSL2+ from the exchange

For customers who live close to the exchange, the speed attainable over the Fibre to the Node network may actually be lower during the “Co-existence period” than what’s possible over their existing ADSL2+ service.  The typical theoretical maximum speed for ADSL2+ is 24/1 Mbps and is delivered from the Telstra exchange.

ADSL and special services will "co-exist" with FTTN/FTTB during the transitional Co-existence Period
ADSL and special services will “co-exist” with FTTN/FTTB during the transitional Co-existence Period

However, since the duration of the Co-existence period varies depending in the area still using ADSL or special services – customers who experience greater speeds over ADSL2+ (greater than the 12/1 Mbps offered) would still need to migrate to NBN before NBN Co can declare the “Co-existence period” over.

Once the Co-existence Period is over, nbn™ will provide 12/1 Mbps and 25/5 Mbps speed profiles similar to those on Fibre to the Premises with higher speeds only available as an “up-to” range.  However, NBN Co also states in the document that it is considered acceptable if the customer only receives speeds set out in the PIR or PIR range “once” in 24 hours.

Table showing the FTTN/FTTB AVC speed ranges in the draft of WBA 2.2
Table showing the FTTN/FTTB AVC speed ranges in the draft of WBA 2.2

FTTN BRT Special Terms – WBA 2.2 Draft – NEBS Product Description (PDF)

The end of an era: FTTP rollout comes to an end

Multi-Technology Mix replaces the full Fibre to the Premises rollout

It’s been known for some time that the Fibre to the Premises rollout will come to a head. As expected after the introduction of the Multi-Technology Mix (MTM) rollout strategy as directed by the Government’s Statement of Expectations to nbn™, the FTTP rollout era is expected to end next month in June. According to the 18 month rollout plan released to service providers in March, there will be no more FSAMs (Fibre Serving Area Modules) expected to commence build beyond June 2015 encompassing a “pure” Fibre to the Premises rollout.

The past two months (March and April) saw a consecutive lows of 4 FSAMs entering into build preparation phase. The 19,900 lucky premises over the past two months are one of the final groups of communities to get the full FTTP rollout. Provided that nbn™ doesn’t remove them from the map again, these areas are expected to commence build within the next 2 months.

One final rollout region, somewhere in the Wollongong Fixed-Line Serving Area, is expected to be the final FSAM to enter into the build preparation phase this month and appear on the rollout map in June. From there on in, it is expected that nbn™ will transition to the MTM, dropping the word “Fibre” from “Fibre Serving Area Module”, releasing Service Area Modules (SAMs) that will encompass multiple technologies in a single module.

(more…)

NBN Premises Switch options

NBN Co releases new Technology Choice Policy

NBN Co is set to give consumers more choice over the technology being rolled out. They have released their new Technology Choice Policy which will allow individuals or whole areas to switch from NBN Co’s designated technology under the Multi-Technology Mix model to an alternative technology type at a cost to the consumer.

This is a much anticipated component of the revised rollout policy after NBN Co’s switch to the Multi-Technology Mix — allowing consumers to purchase a “fibre-on-demand” product. However, there are no details or estimates on the expected cost of upgrade build.

As part of the application and network design process, NBN Co will charge individuals $600 (ex GST), and at least $1,000 (ex GST) for a quote to network switch over a large area. According to the NBN Co website, the final costs for each the different technology upgrade “can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars” for an individual premises switch and “can range from tens of thousands of dollars to several millions of dollars” for a switch of an entire service area.

While absent from the actual policy document, NBN Co’s Chief Customer Officer John Simon indicated to ZDNet’s Josh Taylor that the fee for the application will be refunded if the extension goes ahead.

NBN Premises Switch options
Pricing details show the application and design costs for the Technology Choice Policy

At launch, NBN Co will allow applications to switch an entire area from FTTB, FTTN, Fixed Wireless or Satellite to a full fibre network (FTTP). Starting April, individuals be able to make an application to switch from FTTB to FTTP; and following from that, the switch from FTTN to FTTP will be available in July 2015.

However, the possibility of a HFC to FTTP upgrade is still being considered and developed by NBN Co.

 

The new policy, released this week on Friday*, replaces the existing Network Extension Program which enabled individuals or communities who were slated for Fixed Wireless or Satellite to upgrade to Fibre to the Premises or Fixed Wireless (respectively).

Clarification: Policy was intended to be released on Friday by NBN Co, but was made available on its website on Thursday night. Because NBN Co did intend to release it on Friday, the date when this policy was “released” will still say “Friday” in this post