There are no NBN apps: Turnbull

There are no NBN apps: Turnbull

Summary: Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been spruiking coalition broadband policy this month. A core point, he says, is that there are no applications for National Broadband Network (NBN) speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps). Is he right?


Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been spruiking coalition broadband policy this month. A core point, he says, is that there are no applications for National Broadband Network (NBN) speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps). Is he right?

On Patch Monday this week, Turnbull discusses the broadband strategy that he outlined in a speech to the National Press Club earlier this month.

Quite rightly, he says that there can be enormous cost savings if capital expenditure can be delayed.

Also quite rightly, he says Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's criticism that the coalition strategy would lead to a "patchwork internet" is irrelevant. The internet has always been a "network of networks".

But when it comes to the need for speed, our opinions differ. I think the high-bandwidth application is staring us in the face: multiple video streams, as described in the government video "At home with the NBN". Turnbull disagrees.

Turnbull also disagrees with people like "father of the internet" Vint Cerf, who think that the NBN would be a platform for innovation that'd soon pay for itself.

Broadband policy was a key issue in last year's federal election. It's bound to be a key issue in the next federal election. If nothing else, Turnbull makes clear the differences between coalition policy and Labor's NBN. It's worth listening both to this interview and to Turnbull's conversation with Phil Dobbie in last week's Twisted Wire podcast.

Patch Monday also includes 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: 35 minutes, 22 seconds

Topics: Broadband, Government, Government AU, Telcos, NBN


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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  • Oh Malcolm! DoHHH! Since when have app developers bothered to design apps for system that does not exist, I am just a layman in infotech but I would not bother to waste my time designing something to operate within the parameters of a sytem that is not established. Malcolm, I would suggest you stop looking at your Apple smartarsephone and consider that the apps that it can host were developed after the fact of its existence and not before, not only that but the concept of apps is pureley to enable the activity of wireless devices such as smart phones tablets etc. They have nothing to do with mainstream hardwired computing or communications.
  • What, you want us to write applications that require 100Mbps, and then wait for it to get here? Are you *sure* you come from a business background?
  • Yes, savings can be made; last point of call should be places that have access to cable. I have used Bigpond Cable since day 1 (skipped dial-up altogether). In those days I thought that a monthly download allowance of 100 megs was beyond comprehension (originally Bigpon Cable had no limit but some users were doing 300 or more megs a month). Now I have 50 Gigs a month for the same price (with loyalty and other discounts, for about 25% less).

    Not that a hybrid system such as Bigpond cable is perfect; there are potential bottlenecks that will not affect the NBN.

    While there will no doubt be great advances in wireless technology, it is a shared resource so it cannot be expected to provide the same real world performance as fibre optic cable.
  • The Liberals "privatized" Telstra years ago and what do we have to thank for that. Copper cables - still. So it must hurt them to see someone else at least try and improve on what they didn't and seemingly don't want to do.
  • Dear Mal(content?),

    No "apps" to use 100mbps?

    OK let us assume that I have today's most modern household PC or Mac which has a LAN port capabel of 100mbps. Let us, further, assume that I use the right cable and have a hub for my home network that all my computers at home, old or new, plug into and then that into the NBN hardware and all are compatible and all the right speed.

    So here I am with all that established *BUT* let us also assume that I also have made sure that all physical connections (as far as I am capable of checking through Telstra and my NBN based ISP) are also correct, up to date and wont cause any slowdown and let us also assume that in my area, I am the first of many, weeks ahead of the rest, to be on the NBN so there is only me as a drain on the NBN in that area. Best possible outcome so far.

    What speed will I get in that theoretical situation? I will get whatever the hardware attached to the NBN will send through at. So, if the server for the web site I am visiting is as slow as a 1 legged dog, then I am going to drag along waiting for a site to appear and dream of the days of dial up speed when it was faster than this site loading. However, if I go to any local Australian hosted site or any fast overseas site, then those web sites will pop up correspondingly on my computer.

    So what limits the speed of my connection in this theoretical example? The speed of the other end being able to compile (where necessary) and send me the answer to my request - and that is it. No "apps" written? Wake up!!

    Oh and for all of you about to complain that my theoretical situation is rubbish because of NBN connections in my area, yes, the amount of users using the NBN at any one time in the same area WILL slow responses to your own computer. I know. I was just trying to set up the best possible.

    No "apps written". Sheesh, Turnbull, if you are going to try and talk about the NBN, please get advice that is worth listening to and then think.

    Beaver Cleaver
  • Without thinking up future iterations of social and business networking applications, which will involve various kinds of telepresence and high levels of interactivity, I can think of two primary needs for 100/40 speeds via fibre.

    1. Ubiquitous cloud-based systems. Lack of high speed uploads is the single greatest barrier to widespread adoption of cloud computing (and future evolved versions). This achieves the goal of cloud computing - severing the link between geographic location and instant access to data, along with data protection and automatic backup provision.

    2. Simultaneous users. Broadband for most people is like a fussy old water system where one person having a shower means nobody else can get so much as a glass of water without causing scalds or ice-water screams. Except that unlike showers, reliable water (data) flow is needed all day at any time. Right now, if my kids are using Wifi, I'm downloading documents for work, and my wife is trying to connect to the Uni system on her iPad, the whole thing breaks down. Everyone is unhappy, and we have to negotiate who gets to use the bandwidth, and who has to wait.

    And those two are just the ones that are relevant now. If anyone imagines that data use will not continue to grow at very rapid rates, for a whole variety of purposes, and that RELIABLE systems become more and more important -- well, then, that's your primary argument against investing money for a future-proof solution.

    Imagine having a business which required you to be highly mobile, where a car is the essential tool for getting to your clients or delivering products. And imagine if the only car you could get (without expending vast sums) was something that kept breaking down, would run inexplicably slowly at times, and was simply unavailable because your family kept needing it to make side trips.

    Would you even try to run your business like that? Or if you did, you would have to keep your service standards low, because you simply couldn't promise a high level of reliability to your clients. And all this would greatly hamper your ability to grow and develop your business beyond a low-yield cottage industry.
  • Sure I want I new Porsche so I can drive to work faster. I could try to justify this on the basis of time saving i.e. increased productivity? Right? YES...provided I earn $1000 per hour. NO if I earn $20 per hour. The Coalitions policy is not unreasonable and it is flexible. As was said in the interview there are so many competing interests..and have, up until now got to where we are without the government building a thing.
    • A Porsche won't get you to work any faster if it keeps breaking down, needs to be rebooted every 2 minutes, etc etc. It's the reliability and dependability of the car, not the fanciness. Any car sold now will drive the speed limit.

      "..and have, up until now got to where we are without the government building a thing"

      I had to dry the tears from my face after laughing so hard at this...
      • I admit that was a bit of a dig - so I'll have another. The likelihood is that NBN higher speeds will only be taken up 50-60% of households. And that's probably best case after heaps of time. As for the rest, they either won't want/need it or won't be able to afford higher speed. Meantime on completion, 50% obsolescence will have already kicked. But that's okay, the thing can be flogged off (at a loss) to some sucker. After that legislate the sucker out of existence.
        • 50%-60% adoption rate? I'm assuming you're talking internet adoption not those that will have FttH (which will end up being 93%). Based on the latest statistics Australia currently has just under 20% DSL users. Including cable users another 4% and we're just under 25% of the population that have broadband internet in Australia.

          Oh and a 50-60% adoption rate in 15-20 years is more than likely considering the at use at home by age graph:

          Here's a suggestion instead of sitting there and pulling numbers out of thin air and spreading BS, why don't you don't you educate yourself a bit...
          • Firstly Fasolatha I only spread B S on my garden. The estimate was reasonable - and was based on 50- 60% of households. I made no reference to BB users (i.e. your wiki quoted 23.4% of Australians or 5,167,000 as at June 2010). While the time period was not stated directly, the context was 10-20 years (see also 10 to 20 yr obsolescence). Fasolatha skirm, and insinuate B S, but you are no where on this point.
          • So you are saying that only 50-60% households will have the NBN? I'd like a source please unless this is your opinion and if that's the case please refer to the BS statement.

            Last time I checked 93% were scheduled to get FttP while the rest were on wireless.
          • Let me spell it out for you fasolotha. Out of the 93% of households which will have NBN delivered, 50-60% of those households will take up the higher priced/higher speed (~100 Mbit/s) option on or about by the completion of the NBN (i.e. in about 10 years or so). That is a reasonable estimate.
          • In your opinion.

            So as fasolatha said...
          • Go look at the Australian government's NBN Study.

            Chapter 4, Page 239 details adoption rates in other countries (countries with very established fibre networks).

            E.g. South Korea - total households passed 92%, total uptake of households passed 39%.

            Japan - total households passed 93%, total uptake of of household passed 32%.

            These are the only significant figures (from mature rollouts).

            They estimate a year on year growth rate of 6% to 12% (which is very broad range). They don't qualify how that growth is calculated.

            Either way - 39% is the best uptake amount thus far in the internet poster country South Korea. I love how they use their optic fibre network - StarCraft anyone?

            So you all rightly called out sachmodog on this - the figure was way too generous at about 160% the uptake of Japan and South Korea.

            And a link to the study:

          • Or wiki...

            Japan: FTTP, often called FTTH in Japan, was first introduced in 1999, and did not become a large player until 2001. In 2003-2004, FTTH grew at a remarkable rate, while DSL's growth slowed. 10.5 million FTTH connections are reported as of September 2007 in Japan. Currently, many people are switching from DSL to FTTH, the use of DSL is decreasing, with the peak of DSL usage being March 2006. On September 17, 2008, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications reported that for the first time, the number of FTTH connections (13.08 million connections) eclipsed that of DSL (12.29 million connections) and became the biggest means of broadband connection in Japan at 45% of total compared to that of DSL at 42%. In the report, the number of FTTH connections grew by 929,681 during the period of March to June 2008 while the number of DSL connections declined by 420,706 during the same period.


            Seems it's like Pantene, it won't happen overnight, but it will happen!
          • The numbers wikipedia quoted can't be directly compared to the ones from the NBN Study that I quoted. The higher numbers shown by wikipedia are as a percentage of total connections, not of possible connections from a given technique (i.e. penetration rate) as I've quoted above.

            The penetration/uptake amount was the topic being argued.

            Still, it's useful to know the total uptake rate as a comparison to other techniques. Eventually their FTTH will probably dominate totally and with an expansion to FTTN.

            Adding to what you've quoted, the NBN Study shows the 2009 total connected as 15 million (up from 13 million in 2008). This equates to 30% of all Japanese households having a FTTH connection. Two million in 1 year, not bad.
          • I take your point entirely harlequinn...

            The two things that struck me in Wiki however, were -

            1. The turnaround with FTTP taking over (without knowing price comparison to DSL etc). DSL may (purely hypothetically - I don't know) be markedly cheaper, but yet FTTP is still overtaking.

            2. The fact while we (Australia, not you and I) argue over political ideologies, Japan already have FTTP and started rolling it out "last century (millennium, LOL)!

            Yes Japan is significantly smaller with a seriously larger population I know, making it an ultimately all round easier and less costly task, but interesting none-the-less!

          • I actually would love to have FTTN. I think it's a great idea.

            Even though Japan already has fibre we are still very advanced in our telecommunications structure. We're a lot better than most of the rest of the world.

            If FTTN rolls past my house I'll see it as a privilege and not a right.

            I'd love to have totally free of charge VOIP Australia wide. VOIP that works too (I've tried a few different adaptors and they've all been mediocre at best).

            Totally free peer to peer data transfer Australia wide. So I can share stuff with my siblings and friends with my PC acting as server. And it means I can access all my data through anyone else's account without penalisation to their account.

            All the other stuff is gravy (for my exhaustive part tongue in cheek, part serious list look below).

          • Note: I didn't write it clearly. Free VOIP and free peer to peer data are things I'd love to have from the NBN.

            I won't be holding my breath about getting them.