Australia as an economy has generally been doing better than many countries, and one sign of this was the sums of money allocated to the National Broadband Network that has started to deliver under the auspices of the current Labor Government. The Federal Election that takes place on 14th September 2013 may result in a complete change of direction based on what the opposition coalition are now saying.
The Register covers the basics, which are that the largely FTTP based network (with some satellite and fixed wireless) would switch to using a Fibre to the Node (FTTC) system, essentially VDSL2. This switch comes with the promise that by 2016 this would deliver 25 Mbps to 'all' Australians, with further upgrades to 50 Mbps by 2019. Interestingly the issue of those properties too far from the nearest cabinet are apparently in line for a full fibre connection and taking a leaf out of the BT handbook, in other areas people will be able to pay extra install costs to receive a full FTTP connection if they desire.
The goal of the Labor government was originally to get FTTP to 93% of Australians and the roll-out to date has shown that the bulk of premises covered so far by the network have been via satellite based services, i.e. the very rural areas. 72,4000 homes were passed by the FTTP network, with 11,400 actually buying a service.
It will now be interesting to see whether the two options actually form a major part of the campaigning, and most importantly will the winner of the election actually keep to their promise or dilute their plans. The new coalition plan is supposed to be two years faster to deploy and if the rhetoric is to be believed at one third of the cost of the current NBN FTTP plan.
BT now who have had their FTTC plan for some years, with the option to upgrade to FTTP launching in a couple of weeks will feel vindicated, as another nation potentially agrees with them on FTTC being a cost effective solution for rapid deployment. The real unanswered question both here in the UK and Australia is what will be the costs in 5 to 10 years time when the next wave of upgrades are needed. As things stand it may be that we see fibre getting closer to the home, but still not inside the home, as the G.fast solution can be used to bring the fibre close to a home, but avoid the need for that final 50m of work to bring it indoors.
Of course Fibre the Premises/Home is the real solution, the question is who pays for it, and how long it will take to roll-out to the swathes of the UK and other countries that would benefit the most. The reluctance of operators like BT and Virgin Media to widely roll-out FTTP is something that leaves room for smaller, more agile operators to deploy and grow in the next couple of years.