Company does away with CVC, but will charge two pricing levels based on metro or regional classification
The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has released an interim agreement for its Cell Site Access Service (CSAS). As previously reported, this product is designed for mobile service providers to connect its cell towers through the National Broadband Network fibre network.
The agreement includes a price list, indicating nbn’s intention to provide cell towers with blended traffic class product including a traffic class 1 and traffic class 2 access virtual circuit (TC-1/TC-2 AVC). All access products include a 5 Mbps TC-1 AVC, with varying amounts of TC-2 bandwidth from 50 Mbps to 900 Mbps.
Unlike the residential/business focused product offered by nbn (NEBS), the CSAS price list and product specification bares no mention of the contentious connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) — the charge imposed by nbn to allow traffic to be carried over from the NBN to the provider’s network.
For the first time, nbn has offered differential pricing based on the classification of the point of interconnect. Access components in metro and outer metro areas will be charged at a lower rate compared with regional areas.
For example, the base product which includes 5 Mbps TC-1 and 50 Mbps TC-2 comes in at $910 in metro and outer-metro areas. However, the access charge will increase to $1,245 for cell towers connected to regional points of interconnect.
CSAS Network Termination Device
nbn will be providing a specialised network termination device (NTD) for customers of the Cell Site Access Service. Unlike the standard NTD available for residential connections, the CSAS NTD will only have one User Network Interface (UNI) which is accessible through a copper or optical port.
The customer is expected to produce 3 RU of rack space for the installation of the NBN fibre tray, power supply and NTD.
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.
Cell Access Service will allow mobile carriers like Vodafone to use the NBN’s network to connect mobile towers. But has this come too late?
Vodafone has long campaigned the company building the National Broadband Network, nbn, to open its fixed-line network to mobile carriers like itself to quickly and relatively cheaply connect mobile towers. Vodafone and nbn had begun trialing such a service since mid-November in 2013. According to the latest Integrated Product Roadmap released this month, nbn intends to continue trialing the service until the end of 2016 when it expects to officially launch its Cell Access Service product:
The Cell Site Access Service will provide connectivity between cell sites and nbn Points of Interconnect.
The Cell Site Access Service will provide connectivity between a network operator’s mobile cell-sites and nbn’s Points-of-Interconnect and also nbn’s fixed wireless ‘hub’ sites where they are connected to the nbn Points-of-Interconnect by fibre. The service will initially be offered within the FTTP and FW footprint, with the potential for it to be expanded to include other parts of the Multi Technology Mix network in the future.
But is it too little, too late? Earlier this week however, Vodafone and TPG announced that as part of a $1 billion dollar deal — TPG will provide fibre for the mobile carrier to connect its mobile network towers for the next 15 years. It’s unclear if this is an exclusive deal where Vodafone must only use TPG as their only backhaul provider, but it may significantly reduce nbn‘s prospect in profiting from such a service.
Last month, I wrote about how NBN could transform the mobile transit market. While it may still ring true — with Vodafone now seemingly out of the game for NBN-based mobile transit — one must wonder how much nbn could realistically expect from its new product offering.
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.
Telstra’s 3G/4G outperforms Optus along NSW’s regional railway route.
Regional train trips used to be occupied by staring out into the vast NSW country side and marveling at the single-rail track first built over a century before. But in this day and age, I try to make good use of the 6 hours I spend on the XPT between Sydney and Taree. After spending a solid week and plus a train ride with the trusty Telstra 4G USB+Wi-Fi Plus dongle and my OnePlus One with a Vaya Mobile sim card running on the Optus network last week, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about my experience on both the Telstra and Optus network.
The train trip
Perhaps unsurprisingly, both Optus and Telstra have solid 4G coverage in metropolitan Sydney. In the first half hour as I travelled north through Central, Strathfield, Epping and Hornsby, both networks allowed me to do basic work – access my Google Documents and some development work without issues. But as the train journeyed past Hornsby, towards the Central Coast – the networks began to differentiate themselves.
Optus’ signal began to drop in and out frequently, while for the most part, the network connection on the Telstra network was relatively stable. My phone struggled to get reception until we approached built-up areas along the Central Coast and Newcastle stretch, often defaulting to “Emergency Phone Calls Only”.
Meanwhile, on the Telstra network, things continue to run smoothly. I even received an SMS saying I was passing one of Telstra’s new “4G only areas” where there is data only, and no voice services.
However, once we passed Maitland and headed north-west towards Dungog, both network started to struggle. To put some of this into context, for those unfamiliar with the train journey from Sydney to Taree, the train travels inland a fair bit. It’s no surprise that coverage struggled in some of these areas – not only was there very low population density in some of these areas… but the train tracks were often installed in trenches that were dug out of the rocky and hilly terrain. For a lot of the journey, we would have been below the line of sight of most towers even if there were any.
However, I was not dismayed – I continued my experiment! I found that the Telstra dongle managed to pick up the occasional 3G and even 4G signal as we approached nearby towns or passed a tall mountain in the distance with a reception tower… while the Optus phone: well, let’s just say there wasn’t much to report on. Even as the train was approaching the major settlements of Wingham and Taree, my Optus phone got a bar of “E” at best – just enough to send an SMS. I suspect the trees and foliage had a major factor in dampening the Optus network signals which has relatively lower transmission signal compared with Telstra’s NextG.
But the pleasant surprise awaited me at the station…
4G in Taree, 4GX in Forster-Tuncurry!
Unlike Optus who still hasn’t upgraded their mobile networks around Taree, Telstra has 4G coverage in the majority of the built-up area around Taree. Their 4G coverage even extended further east than what their coverage website indicates. Whereas I’d sometimes struggle to load my emails or even load Google News on my Optus phone in surrounding towns of Taree, I found that I was able to consistently load pages without an issue. It was really nice to see!
The neighbouring towns of Forster and Tuncurry were fortunate enough to have received the 4GX upgrade, and so as you can imagine – a speed test was in order:
Overall, I’m thoroughly impressed with Telstra’s coverage and network speed in and around Taree. If I still lived there, I would be seriously contemplating a switch from Optus to Telstra’s network right about now. It’s something I’m going to consider when I finally decide to get a new phone, for the convenience when I’m back home.
While both Optus and Telstra’s network struggled in parts of the train trip from Sydney to Taree, Telstra’s network was clearly in front in terms of coverage. It had solid coverage between the Central to Newcastle segment, and an admirable effort in the really sparsely populated areas between the settlements of Maitland, Dungog, Gloucester and Wingham. But where I thought Telstra’s network really shone was the coverage as we approached rural towns. Approaching Wingham and Taree, Telstra’s network “just worked” while Optus’ required quite a bit of arm flailing even to get “one bar” of 2G signal.
Optus still has a fair bit to catch up in regional Australia – and with no successful bids in the first iteration of the Federal Government’s Regional Blackspots Program, I see that it will be hard for them to catch up with Telstra.
As for Vodafone? I didn’t get to test them this time around, but I’m definitely planning a future comparison between Telstra and Vodafone for my next train trip.
Also, a review of the Telstra 4G USB+Wi-Fi Plus dongle is coming soon 🙂
Note: I am part of Telstra’s Influentials Program. The Telstra 4G USB+Wi-Fi Plus dongle was provided by Telstra, however, it is important to note that Telstra has no control over my editorial content. The experience above is based on my personal experience using the following devices for the respective networks:
Telstra 3G/4G/4GX: Telstra 4G USB+Wi-Fi Plus, using Wi-Fi to my laptop
Optus 3G/4G: OnePlus One, tethering from my phone to my laptop