It’s official: NBN Co lowers CVC charges

It’s official. NBN Co released details of their amendment to the Wholesale Broadband Agreement signed by Retail Service Providers, revealing that they will lower the cost of their CVC (connectivity virtual circuit) “from $20.00 per Mbps to $17.50 per Mbps effective 1 February 2015”. In their letter to service providers, available on the NBN Co website, the company says they are “pleased to advise that it will reduce the CVC recurring Charge”.

The CVC is a product purchased by service providers, allowing a fixed amount of data (or bandwidth) to pass through from the NBN network to the ISP’s network. End users within a common point of interconnect share a common CVC to pass the data between networks. If an inadequate amount of CVC is purchased, end users may find their connection to slow drastically during peak hours.

MTM technology guidelines: help crowdfund this FOI request!

Update – Crowd-funding Target Reached!
Thank you to everyone who contributed. I’ll have a quick follow-up blog post up soon.

Do you want NBN Co to release the detailed multi-technology guidelines used to determine which network technology (FTTP, FTTN or HFC) in which areas?

Only a very short summary has been released by the company, and in order to better understand their rollout model, I’ve made a “Freedom of Information” (FOI) request to NBN Co to asking them release the underlying technical guidelines behind the summary.

However, NBN Co is intending to charge $245 for the processing fee of this request… and we need your help to make this request possible!

All the funds raised in this campaign will go towards funding the Freedom of Information request. The costs breakdown charged by NBN Co can be found here on the Right to Know website.

Any financial support towards funding this request would be much appreciated. If successful, it will bring about a better understanding of how NBN Co intends to choose technologies around Australia.

If you’re interested to read more about this request, it can be chronicled here on the Right to Know website.

Important note: Just to add, while I think it’s likely that NBN Co will release this information (as they have already released a summary of it), there is a possibility that the FOI request may not lead to a release of information at all. Depending on what NBN Co decides, the full FOI request charges may still be imposed even if the information is not released.

By donating, you understand that you may not necessarily get a refund of donation even if the FOI request fails. However, I will endeavour to the best of my ability to refund those costs if they are refunded to me by NBN Co.

If you had donated prior to this update, and no longer wish to donate, please let me know. I’d be more than happy to refund the donation.

P.S. I had initially intended to run a Pozible campaign — however, due to age restrictions, it became a bit more problematic. Hopefully this method will be suffice.


Fibre rollout may be one-third less than Strategic Review

(analysis) NBN Co may rollout as little as 16% fibre to the premises under new principles released by the company. Their new guidelines reveal that within the fixed-line footprint, only new developments with over 100 premises or areas where fibre rollout are in advanced stages will likely receive Fibre to the Premises (FTTP). Remaining premises will be served by a mix of HFC and Fibre to the Node or Basement in the fixed-line footprint. This is despite the NBN Co Strategic Review initiated by the incoming Coalition government released 11 months ago suggested that at least 24% of premises in Australia will get FTTP.

Calculations conducted using’s extensive statistics reveal that only around 70 Fixed-line Service Areas (comparable to cities, see tables below) around the whole of Australia are “completed” or “in advanced stages” of the rollout (at least 50% of the rollout modules have at least begun build preparation). This accounts for roughly 1 million premises, or 8% at the end of the rollout in 2020. In addition, NBN Co expects another approximately 1 million premises in new developments (known as greenfields areas) with over 100 premises, accounting for a further 8%1. The total of 16% is roughly one third less than the original 24% suggested in the Strategic Review, or approximately 1 million premises around Australia.

The Government’s statement of expectations mandates the company to provide at least 25 mbps download speeds to all Australian premises with at least 90% of premises in the fixed-line footprint able to get 50 mbps or faster download speeds. NBN Co will only consider installing fibre in areas, not individual premises, where NBN Co finds the existing copper infrastructure to be incapable of delivering speeds required by the mandate. NBN Co is also investigating the possibility for installing fibre in limited “high-profit” areas as well as providing an end-user co-funded “fibre on demand” model.

The figure for greenfields fibre rollout may decrease further as the Government considers new rules that encourage property developers to use alternative fibre providers such as Opticomm.

In previous testimony, NBN Co’s CEO Bill Morrow had indicated that the Fibre to the Premises rollout mix may in fact be higher than that modelled in the Strategic Review:

Bill Morrow: In fact, the number that I recall is a bit higher than that in the early stage of the modelling that we are working on right now.

However, it appears that the modelling has reversed in terms of the number of FTTP premises. In less than 11 months, the multi-technology modelling conducted by NBN Co in their strategic review appears to have been proven to be inaccurate.


NBN technicians

Nextgen’s NBN aggregation closes: should we reconsider 121 POIs?

As a wholesale service provider for NBN Co’s “tails”, Nextgen finally fallen to its knees after they announced order halts, price increases and encouragement to their RSP customers to migrate their customers off its “Virtual Connect” product – in essence, they are closing.

As one of the first providers to provide aggregated wholesale products to Layer 3 retail service providers, Nextgen initially gained footing as a wholesale platform for providers who wanted a mix of UNI-V products as well as data. They sold fixed quota plans to service providers who also marked up the price for a fixed profit. A pretty good deal to dive into the NBN service provider business with little overhead or risks.

As customer numbers grew, however, Nextgen struggled to scale their network to cope with the demand. No doubt the high cost of transit to the multiple NBN points of interconnect and CVC/NNI charges would have played a massive role in this. From the people I’ve spoken to, the network’s quality continued to deteriorate over the years. I suspect for most areas, they didn’t have the numbers or the capacity to purchase CVC and transit above that of the 150Mbps “CVC credit” provided by NBN Co.

However, as the market for wholesale service providers grew (especially with the rise of AAPT’s Layer 3 National Wholesale Broadband product), many Layer 3 providers began to shift to this alternate platform which gave them control over contention and network capacity. The AAPT product is a whole different ball game with the risk of contention falling right at the hands of the service provider. Also, AAPT’s recent introduction of their “NBNPhone” product meant that Layer 3 providers no longer had to rely on Nextgen to get provide UNI-V services to their customers.

What now?

Well, what now? It’s obvious that without solid customer numbers, a network provider would struggle to get into the game of wholesale service for NBN. With the investment required to get transit and CVC/NNI at each of the 121 Points of Interconnect, it’s unlikely that this will change in the near future.

While I know providers like Telstra Wholesale and Optus Wholesale all provide Layer 2 products for resellers, I don’t know if they provide the all-in-one “Layer 3” product that many start-up RSPs need in order to get started. Start-up providers rely on these Layer 3 products and simply don’t have the funds or resources to buy and set up their own co-lo equipment and their own upstream bandwidth at the IX level.

Final thoughts

With Nextgen now out of the game, this leaves AAPT and (I think) M2 Wholesale in the running to attract RSPs for Layer 3 products. Despite ACCC’s intentions, the 121 POI decision has actually led to decreased competition at the wholesale aggregation level. Oops.

NBN Rollout Map: Newcastle (FTTN)

NBN Co releases FTTN map: but doesn’t distinguish between FTTP

A few minutes after midnight, on a dark and cold Monday morning — NBN Co released their latest update to the NBN rollout map showing areas that are part of the Fibre to the Node deployment trial. This was a long awaited update — speculated for a whole week before the map update. A full list of CSAMs can be found at the end of this post.

However, one of the striking issues when you first look at the map is… there’s no way to distinguish between an FTTN and an FTTP area. The following screenshot of the rollout map shows both an FTTP and FTTN rollout. The area labeled “B” is in build phase, and happens to be FTTP… but can you distinguish which technology is used in the other “P” sites?

NBN Rollout Map: Newcastle (FTTN)
FTTN or FTTP? The sites shaded green are a combination of both technologies!

Hopefully, NBN Co will eventually fix it up and let us know which technology is being rolled out in which areas 🙂


Latest ABS data not transparent enough

(satire) ABS revealed figures earlier today showing that an average household with an NBN internet connection downloads 61GB a month. Spokesperson for the ABS said:

That is roughly the same as 620 feature length films being watched on a TV, or 310 feature length films watched on two TVs.

However, the spokesperson was unable to confirm the nature of these films:

Because the ASIO powers that issues warrants to access the entire Internet only came into force after the results were collated, the ABS is unable to confirm which movies were downloaded.

When pressed if the movies were likely downloaded legally nor not, the ABS spokesperson denied to comment.

As individuals who made submissions to the Attorney-General department regarding online copyright infringement consultation would know, the Government is not interested in providing a balanced consumer view on these issues. You will have to wait several weeks for us to respond for a comment on these issues.

When asked about the implications of NBN’s multi-technology mix on these figures in the future, the ABS spokesperson said:

The data downloaded would fit in 44 million floppy disks. That would fill an entire Olympic-sized swimming pool. It is unlikely that there will be enough Olympic-sized swimming pools in an average consumer to fill to store these floppy disks over a year’s time.

Geoblocking, now is the time to ditch

(opinion) Now is the perfect time to kill content geoblocking for all, and here’s why.

The world has almost reached the point of IPv4 exhaustion. The final blocks of IPs are being carted around all over the globe, across countries, to places where IP addresses are falling short. That means that IPs are increasingly become more portable and are no longer specifically associated with the country.

Recently, APNIC (responsible for the IP allocation in the Asia-Pacific region) handed out one of the last few /24 blocks to its members. Most of these IPs were originally assigned to a Japanese locations. As service providers (ISPs) began assigning these IPs to their customers, streaming services began to break. Error messages started popping up… as if it say the internet is breaking apart. A long process of forcing third-party of change in geographical lookups for IPs will begin.

Sure, CG-NAT (carrier grade Network Address Translation) and eventual migration to IPv6 is supposed to fix all of this… but in the interim, IPs will become increasingly portable.

Now is the time to kill off geoblocking once and for all. We can all (except for those who like to rip Aussie consumers off) live a better and easier life 😉

Data retention, it’s not about terrorism

For those unaware, the concept of data retention has been floating around for a long while now. These plans are likely to have bipartisan support from both the LNP and Labor Governments. The former Labor Government introduced plans for data retention last year, but shelved it in June last year as the Government approached election-gear. Just yesterday, the Prime Minister Tony Abbott re-announced the plans of data retention which have been rumoured for some time now.

What is data retention?

But what is data retention? The details are still sketchy at the moment, but we know that the current plan involves asking internet service providers and mobile phone carriers to keep so-called “metadata” on its customer’s traffic and network use for up to 2 years. This data can then be accessed by Government and law enforcement agencies without a warrant. I’ll come to what this “metadata” is further down… but I’ll focus more on the internet side of things as that’s a far more relevant component of society especially in terms of crime.

It’s not targeted at terror groups!

The thing is, however, data retention is not targeted at terror groups. Terror groups who are seriously concerned planning on committing malicious attacks will not be using standard web traffic to share their plans. Quite simply, visiting a secure website (like your internet banking) would circumvent the data retention because of the strong encryption present. Downloading simple tools like Tor or using VPN (virtual private networks) will also circumvent this data retention completely. Considering setting up a network browser like Tor takes little over one minute and a few clicks, I have no doubt that a terror group or organisation would be able to circumvent this without issue.

So, if we’re not targeting terrorists as Prime Minister, Tony Abbott was implying at the presser yesterday… why are we storing all this data when circumventing it simply requires downloading a small piece of software? It’s not about terrorism, it’s not about fighting crime… it’s about invading the privacy of all Australians. I’m envisaging this data would be used to solve petty crimes… who downloaded “copyrighted material” from the internet, who bought performance-enhancing drugs from an online store?


NBN Co’s irrational love for PDF

For a Government that criticised the former NBN Co management for not being transparent enough while in opposition, NBN Co is faring quite poorly to date under this new Government and new management… especially in the accessibility of information.

We’ve seen improvements and streamlining of metrics – moves I’m truly supportive of and commend. At the same time, however, we’re seeing a massive shift in information culture from NBN Co… and for the most part, it has left my head scratching. While I’m supportive of the publications of the weekly rollout metrics and the monthly rollout regions list, they’re both published in such a way that’s completely inaccessible and non-manipulable.

Take the 82 page long monthly rollout regions list, for example. For a list of that magnitude, NBN Co chose to publish the information in a PDF document… of all formats. If you compare this to other telecommunications providers, be-it Telstra (locally) or BT/Openreach (UK), they all use formats that make sense in the context. Long lists will always be published in an accessible format like an Excel spreadsheet or a CSV (comma-separated values) spreadsheet. The whole point of having these files is to be able to do quick filters, quick calculations and a quick understanding or overview of the rollout. But NBN Co’s illogical choice to use the PDF format defeats the whole purpose of the file. The irony in all of this is that the PDF file was exported from Microsoft Excel… yes, it was an Excel document to start with!

nbn™ publishes their weekly communities in rollout spreadsheet in PDF to annoy the shit out of people
nbn™ publishes their weekly communities in rollout spreadsheet in PDF to annoy the shit out of people

Likewise, the weekly rollout metrics is published in a PDF file – again. Having a grid of figures in a closed and inaccessible format is another layer of inconvenience deliberately designed by NBN Co for people who actually want to make use of the data. Your ordinary Australian is not going to go onto the NBN Co website to see how many premises were activated last week… that information is intended at analysts and for meeting Government objectives. But how is a PDF document of numbers a convenient format for analysts and followers of the NBN? The answer: it isn’t.

What we’re seeing from NBN Co is something quite unusual (in industry terms). On one hand, Government directives want them to be more transparent… on the other, they make it as inconvenient and as hard as possible for anyone to get anything useful out of the data they publish.

I still haven’t covered the data they’ve removed from their website, or the completely closed off spatial for network boundaries. Transparency at NBN Co can be improved so much if they just made data available to people in the format that is most logical for the intended audience… and PDF is clearly not here.

In my honest opinion, the culture of transparency has worsened at NBN Co, and I’m worried that it will only continue to deteriorate.

Government launches Open Data initiative

Earlier today, the Government launched its National Map Open Data initiative — to coincide with the GovHack 2014 event starting Friday this week. The map aggregates existing Government datasets and presents it in a centralised mapping tool for viewing.

I’m glad to see that the Government is taking initiative in making this kind of geospatial data more readily available to the public for analysis. Government-geospatial data has become progressively more accessible, especially since the establishment of, and it looks like more and more datasets should become available into the future.

A few downfalls though —

  • Hopefully, once some licensing kinks are ironed out (with Pitney Bowes), the MyBroadband analysis fully accessible as features, not images.
  • NBN Co rollout boundaries are still unavailable

Overall, an excellent initiative — great to see the Government take an open government approach to at least some aspects of their policies. Only hope the same level of transparency is carried out across all departments *coughs* on-water matters *coughs*.