Future of nbn could be mobile

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Thursday, 12 October, 2017

Future of nbn could be mobile

With the current nbn Multi Technology Mix looking like it will be as good as it will get, the future of the network could be mobile, according to telecommunications analyst Paul Budde.

Anyone still holding out for an upgrade to a full-fibre nbn should temper their expectations, with Budde predicting in a blog post that, for the majority of Australians, there won’t be much difference between the broadband service they currently have and the nbn service that will replace it.

“Some Australians will have an excellent service, especially those on fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) technologies. Others won’t see any difference from the current ADSL services they already have. And some will actually get a service that is inferior to what they have experienced before,” he said.

“It will be unlikely that a rapid upgrade to full FTTH will happen after 2020, given the estimated cost of another $30 billion. The nbn company doesn’t have the money for it, private industry has already shied away from investing in the current nbn, and financial estimations are that at least 50% of the initial investment will need to be written off by the government before private investors will become interested.”

He said it could take another five years after the rollout is finished in 2020 or 2021 for the rollout of “nbn 2.0” to begin, which could itself take a further five years. In the interim, technology advancements could change the playing field.

With 5G mobile technology — promising peak data rates in the range of 10 Gbps — expected to be commercially available in 2020 and 6G development already on the horizon, mobile is likely to play an increasing role in the delivery of high-speed broadband services to the home.

Such major speed gains are only made possible by extending fibre deeper into the mobile network. With 5G, in built-up areas, mobile towers or antennas are likely to be established in nearly every state, with fibre backhaul used to connect these cell sites to the network.

This will provide an opportunity for nbn co to deliver wholesale fibre capacity to the mobile operators, and the operators would be able to use mobile as last-mile connectivity to the home or mobile device. With its Multi Technology Mix, nbn co could also extend to offering last-mile access delivery itself, but would face fierce competition from mobile operators.

But Budde warned that nbn co, already hamstrung by government policies, is unlikely to be able to react quickly to the changing market dynamics.

Budde has separately commented on the recent Bloomberg article on the nbn which noted that Kenya has faster average internet speeds to Australia, as well as the government’s reaction to the report ridiculing the comparison.

Australia shouldn’t be looking at Kenya to compare its internet performance, but to trailblazing broadband countries such as Sweden.

Budde said Sweden has set targets of covering 95% of premises in the country with a 100 Mbps broadband service by 2020, national coverage of LTE-Advanced and 5G mobile services by 2023 and 98% coverage of 1 Gbps broadband services by 2025.

“[Sweden] has always been focused on good access: as early as 2009 it was looking at 90% coverage with a 100 Mbps service by 2020. The government is keeping up with technology and knows that it is viable to press for near-universal 1 Gbps,” he said.

“Prime Minister Turnbull, this is a good example which you could use to show what Australia should be aiming to achieve: providing a first-class digital economy outcome for the country that will allow us to be up there with our trading partners around the globe.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/kantver

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