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

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.

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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 trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

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13 comments
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  • Gee,

    How much longer can this joke go on for.

    It's over, but somehow it keeps going on and it gets less and less funnier to the point that it's pathetic.

    Even the "hallelujah" crowd are finding it hard to justify it.

    Conroy, come out with the "gotcha" catch line, and well all just move on.

    Go back to VDSL with functional separation on the Big T, and let's have a proper look at telecommunications.
    Theguy-bbb4a
  • I live in HK in an apartment complex with 10,000 of my closest friends. Nearly everybody has wifi. Scanning for networks can show 20-30 available at times. My wifi still works OK though. And I'm still on 802.11g (thanks to needing to support an old macbook).
    mferrare
  • I live in Hong Kong in apartment complex with 10,000 of my closest friends.

    Internet is really cheap here (I pay $AU12/month for 100Mbps unlimited) and everybody has it along with a wifi router. I can see 20-30 networks normally when I do a wifi scan at home. My wifi works fine however. So I wonder about the available channels argument made in the article. It doesn't seem to bear out here.

    Mark
    mferrare
    • Mark, I'm wondering if there might be a difference between "works fine" for your current usage patterns and works to the full capability of your internet link.

      My understanding of Wi-Fi protocols — and I'm happy to be corrected if I'm wrong — is that if the transmitters detect another on the same frequency they reduce power and therefore reduce bandwidth and/or with more packet collisions they have to wait and re-transmit. Whichever parts of that are correct, the end result is a reduction of overall bandwidth and an increase in latency and dropouts.
      stilgherrian
  • Unfortunately Mr theguy the "joke" will go on indefinitely until such time as either Windsor, Oakeshott and now, maybe, Wilkie will see the light and dump Julia and her band of no hopers. Hopefully via a double dissolution then the greens will be tossed out of their soon to happen balance of power hold on the Senate. If, come July 1 and the greens do take control of the Senate, the fun will really start. Then the only really kosher Australians will be gay, green technophiles with fibre connections to every room of their homes.
    Brianab
  • supposedly a tender is to get a price which is viable and competitive,unless its NBN Co/the Govt,Conroy is "CONFIDENT",that the plan B,negoitaions will get THE PRICE THE CO. "WANTS". IE; who cares if the contractors say it costs X to do Y,some junior beauracrat in treasury did a costing and came up with Z.so Z it is and who cares if the industry specialists say different.I'm pro nbn, but this is ridiculous to the extreme.
    pete196600
  • Wait what im confused now. Doz the B in NBN stand for plan B or Blowout?

    No wait wait no i think ive got it now B is for BER. Now i understand why the tender is a mess.
    paulP-04002
    • yep,somehow think nbn want the contractors & subbies to work for current, a&as rates, with a fix 8-10yr term,so their costings work.it wont happen,even if some contractor(silcar) agrees, all the subbies will just close up shop. lets try plan C?,that will be next to be rolled out (pun intended)
      pete196600
  • Conroy sounds very much like a combination of Comical Ali (during the Iraq war broadcasts) and Tokyo Rose (during WW2)
    Vasso Massonic
  • The press are having a field day, ignore the truth about overpriced contractors lets just extrapolate that to unrealistic costings and see what else we can drum up to keep our readers interested. NBNCo is doing its job, making sure that the Australian Government isn't paying too much, I applaud their efforts.

    As for readers comments... since when are comparisons about HK even relevant? Seven million people in a space the size of Sydney.
    rtfmoz
  • Yes indeed rtfmoz...

    Funny how some of the same people who were claiming NBN wastage are now bagging NBNCo for their fiscal prudence...sigh!
    RS-ef540
  • "including smart-grid electricity metres"

    You can't even spell properly. You've lost me.
    coconutdog
  • The NBN is a huge project with many complex technological, economic, political and even ideological aspects to it, all of which are deserving of proper public debate. So it's really quite depressing to see so many comments here, as on pretty much every other article about the subject, are little more than tribal sloganeering, name-calling or smart-arsery. Personally, I reckon it's time to lift the game.
    stilgherrian