Feb 23, 2015

‘This is not a second-rate product’: NBN contractor defends cable

Defenders of the government's mixed-technology NBN plan say fibre isn't that great anyway and that existing pay TV cables will do just fine.

Paddy Manning

Crikey business editor

Will the coaxial cables that bring pay TV and internet to about a third of Australian homes deliver a second-rate broadband service, compared to fibre-to-the-home? No, says the chief technology officer of Arris, the firm awarded a $400 million contract by NBN Co this morning to design and deploy the “next-generation” Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial (HFC) cable network. But sceptics remain.

Today’s announcement — supposedly embargoed until noon but reported this morning by The Australian Financial Review — is not an especially big deal in itself, being the logical follow-on to the selection of Arris over Cisco last December to supply the cable modem termination systems (CMTS) to the HFC component of the government’s mixed-technology NBN.

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17 thoughts on “‘This is not a second-rate product’: NBN contractor defends cable

  1. Glen

    So we retrofit both HFC systems, in roadside boxes often right beside each other, in each street? Both cables are looking pretty tired physically, at least where above ground. So we maintain — even progressively replace — both? Clever.

    It may be amusing to revisit political speeches from when this enduring fiasco was imposed on us, all those years ago. The information superhighway that never was. Cue Yogi.

  2. Wexford

    13 years ago I was on Telstra cable for my home internet. Even that long ago it was clear that, as soon as one of my neighbours hopped onto Napster (or whatever we were using back in the day), my own speed was impacted.

    If the problems with this shared medium were obvious in 2002, given the relatively low demand (a few MP3s), I don’t see how HFC could possibly be seen as a solution today. Its only inclusion should be “utilise the HFC with a minimum investment whilst you upgrade copper to fibre” as mooted by Mark Gregory.

  3. Sixer

    DOCSIS has the same problem as ADSL i.e upload speed of less than 10% of download speed.

  4. Coaltopia

    Adding to Wexford’s point, fundamentally HFC isn’t dedicated bandwidth. So it *is* a second-rate network unless these guys can refute this.

    From NBN explained:

    – GPON, the standard used in the NBN network, shares 2.5Gigibits between 32 users (GPON can be shared to more than 32 user, but NBN has choose a limit of 32).

    – DOCSIS 3.0, the standard used by various Australian HFC networks, shares ~343Mbps to as many users as connected to the CMTS (we don’t know how many users Telstra and Optus put on their CMTS). Telstra and Optus use 1200 premises per cabinet. TransACT use 400 premises per cabinet.

    – Killer network applications like High Definition Video Conferencing (HDVC) send data in two directions. HFC is very limited in its upload speeds.

  5. Wexford

    Thanks Coaltopia, those are useful numbers to have in mind “for my Liberal mates”.

  6. Graeski

    With all due respect, Mr. Eum scarcely qualifies as a disinterested party.

    It’s strange – in all of the articles I’ve read about the NBN over the last few years I can’t recall one (in the popular press, at least) that was written by an actual independent professional data communications expert. Plenty by economists and lawyers and business people and politicians, but none by anyone with relevant technical qualifications to underpin their arguments.

    It’s water under the bridge now, I suppose. We’re condemned to being a nation of IT and communications underachievers and losers – which doesn’t matter in the slightest given that all we’re interested in doing is digging the country up and selling it off.

  7. Oscar Milde

    It just gets worse. No light at the end of the tunnel – just decades of woeful broadband which will be perpetually 10 years behind, expensive to own and operate (powering those fridges does not bear thinking about), and overall it will cost as much as the real (FTTP) model. I bet FoxTel are happy though.

    On a positive note, congratulations to Zaire, Kenya and Rwanda for commencing their FTTH roll out.

  8. mike westerman

    Tell anyone in a flood prone or lightning prone area that HFC is just as good as fibre!!

  9. old greybeard

    I can Graeski and they all said the new version NBN was crap. Just like Turnbull said WiFi would solve the regional issues. Still on 3G, still 8GB a month limit for 60 bucks.Slows down whenever it is windy or stormy, or when lots of folks ring up. 30 km form Dubbo. Daughter in Mt Isa ADSL 50 bucks 100GB limit and iView and SBS aren’t metered. On mine everything is. Mine of course is Telstra, no options. (optus pan is worse!!)

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