Why Australia needs a fibre optic network and not just Wireless Broadband

  • Debate over NBN purely political
  • Fibre optic must replace slow copper network
  • Mobile wireless broadband not a replacement for fast fibre

By Jesse S. Somer, Compare Broadband, Sept.30, 2011

The current debate between Australia’s two major political parties, the Labor Party and the Liberal Party, about whether or not our citizens need a fibre-to-the-home (FFTH) National Broadband Network (NBN) is purely political. There is no logic behind the argument, and I’ll tell you why.

I have been working and writing for internet companies for around nine years, the majority of writing being based around the internet itself (its human and social ramifications), blogging/social media, and more recently at Compare Broadband, about the broadband industry. If there is any single subject in life besides writing I could be deemed as being proficient in, it is in the realm of the internet.

Australia and other countries around the world have spent billions of dollars laying submarine optical fibre cables around the Earth. These cables are in essence the true physical network that now connects humanity as never before in history. The speed capabilities of these internet pipes are phenomenal, but with Australia’s current copper wire telephone infrastructure, we are unable to access the true speed available to our communities.
A good analogy for our internet is akin to an attempt to suck ice cream through a straw. You get some of the tasty treat, but not at the speed you would like, and not in the amount that would create true satisfaction.

The future of Mobile Wireless broadband internet is 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology, and this is currently being rolled out in various metropolitan locations around Australia. 4G Mobile Wireless is going to make ‘internet on the go’ much quicker and more enjoyable, but it’s not a replacement for the blazing fast speeds of fibre-to-the-home. 4G technologies are the perfect accompaniment to fixed line optical fibre. In the future we will use both technologies hand-in-hand to ensure we are always connected to one another whether at home, work, or on the road.

The reason 4G Mobile Wireless Broadband is not our future internet saviour is because we now download more data than you could ever imagine, and our hunger for information and content is only going to grow. Mobile Wireless broadband simply cannot transfer this large amount of data. Also, the more people sharing a single mobile phone tower’s bandwidth, the more the speed decreases for each user. This is called contention ratio. Fibre optic broadband is being laid out in a way that will allow more fibre to be added in the future if faster speeds are needed. This is where the concept of ‘future proof’ comes into play.

Yes, the NBN is a very expensive project. No one in his or her right mind will deny this fact. However, anyone whose life has any connection to the internet knows the massive potential this communication medium has for humanity’s future. When it comes to education, health, communication and business, Australia has the opportunity to be at the forefront of social evolution. The positive implications are great, and the amount of GDP that could be produced by a FTTH network fully integrated into our society has the potential of creating much more wealth when compared to the original overhead costs.

Recently the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) stated that for the first time in history Australians had more Mobile Wireless broadband connections than fixed-line ADSL services. Does this infer we are using Mobile Broadband more that ADSL? No, and this is an emphatic, ‘No’! When Australians are at home we are connecting desktop PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones to a single Wi-Fi network created by a fixed line broadband connection, be it ADSL, ADSL2+, cable, or fibre optic. We may have less fixed line connections overall, but we are connecting more devices than ever to the one service, and exponentially using more data.

For example, I have an Apple iPhone. It has 3G Mobile Wireless capabilities, and I have included data in my mobile phone plan. However, where do you think I access the internet the most with said iPhone? The answer is, ‘At home’. I feel more comfortable using Wi-Fi connection at home and in the office, as the data is cheaper, and the connection speed is much faster. We also have three laptops, one PC, and two other smartphones connecting to the home Wi-Fi network. So, which type of connection is more prevalent and necessary in an average Australian’s life?