Don't get caught in NBN 'hysteria': Conroy

Summary:The National Broadband Network (NBN) has hit a couple of speed bumps. NBN Co reckons that vendors over-priced their bids to construct the network, and earlier this month the entire tender process was suspended. Then, the head of construction resigned. Critics pounced. But Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy reckons we shouldn't get caught up in the "hysteria", but should wait and see what the "Plan B" tender process delivers.

The National Broadband Network (NBN) has hit a couple of speed bumps. NBN Co reckons that vendors over-priced their bids to construct the network, and earlier this month the entire tender process was suspended. Then, the head of construction resigned. Critics pounced. But Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy reckons we shouldn't get caught up in the "hysteria", but should wait and see what the "Plan B" tender process delivers.

On Patch Monday this week, we speak with Senator Conroy at the launch of "National Broadband Network: A Guide for Consumers", a new booklet produced by the Australian Communications Consumers Action Network (ACCAN) and the Internet Society of Australia (ISOC-AU). It's the first non-technical explanation of the NBN from the point of view of ordinary householders, explaining what's being built and how you'll connect.

Conroy is confident that NBN Co's new tender process will deliver the construction price that the company wants. And while the three-way negotiations between NBN Co, Telstra and the Federal Government have been "dragging on" and are "probably a couple of months behind", he remains "very optimistic that we'll have a satisfactory conclusion sometime in the near future".

But there may be another speed bump to come.

The NBN will certainly deliver high-speed broadband to the front door, but what happens inside the home? The NBN will be used for multiple applications, including smart-grid electricity metres, IPTV and security and medical monitoring. Each application will need its own, independent in-home distribution networks. Whose job is it to ensure that these networks don't interfere with each other?

It'll be a challenging network support task for many householders, especially if service providers don't come to the party.

If these networks use Wi-Fi, there might not even be enough channels available, especially in areas of high population density such as apartment buildings. According to network strategy and design consultant Dr Paul Brooks, even the gigabit Wi-Fi technology that should become available next year won't help.

Brooks, who is an ISOC-AU director and contributor to the consumer guide, believes that for many homes the existing cabling will be the answer, reticulating the NBN through the home using Ethernet-over-powerline or Ethernet-over-phone-line technology.

There's also my usual look at some of last week's news headlines.

To leave an audio comment on the program, Skype to Stilgherrian or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.

Running time: 29 minutes, 21 seconds.

Topics: NBN, Broadband, Government : AU

About

Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust. He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit tr... Full Bio

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