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NBN defends its network, says few retail applications need over 50Mbps

Australia's NBN will definitely handle the needs of today, NBN has said, as few retail use cases require speeds of more than 50Mbps.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

National Broadband Network (NBN) chief strategy officer JB Rousselot has defended the multi-technology mix of the NBN, stating it will "definitely" handle current bandwidth needs.

"The network that we are building today -- that delivers 25Mbps to everybody and 50Mbps to most, and up to 100Mbps to many of the premises -- definitely caters for the applications of today," Rousselot told the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) National Conference on Thursday.

"Today, about 83 percent of customers that take on a service on NBN select a 12Mbps or 25Mbps service, and there are few retail use cases or retail applications that require more than 50Mbps.

"So the network that we are building today definitely answers the needs of the community today, and probably well into 2020 and beyond."

Rousselot reiterated NBN's approach to upgrading its technology mix, stating that the company will upgrade when it sees demand for faster speeds.

"Ultimately, there is no resisting the fact that the speed and the demand for speed will come, and our challenge will become in the future to be able to bring where and when it is needed."

The strategy officer said that through a variety of technologies, NBN is expecting to hit 10Gbps on its hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) and fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) networks, and going past 1Gbps on fibre to the node (FttN).

"With the appearance of new technologies such as G.fast ... we think we will get well above the 1Gbps and probably all the way to 5Gbps services on that copper network," he said.

In May, NBN CEO Bill Morrow said the FttN network would not be capable of 1Gbps, although the fibre-to-the-curb (FttC) network, which will have shorter copper lengths, would.

"FttN, by itself, with the copper loop lengths we are building with, will not give you gigabit per second," Morrow told Senate Estimates.

"When we can upgrade them to FttC, and we use G.fast capabilities with this little DPU [Distribution Point Unit] that we put into the pit in front of your home, then that will give you up to a gigabit per second speed."

The CEO said fixed-wireless has the potential to surpass 1 gigabit per second once 5G arrives, but that satellite would always lag behind.

"Satellite is not going to deliver that any time in our tenure here," he said. "It was never designed for, even under the previous regime and previous policy, 8 percent of the nation was never going to see anything other than 25Mbps."

Speaking on Thursday, Rousselot said NBN is looking to hit 250Mbps on its fixed-wireless network prior to 5G.

"There is also a number of new technologies coming that are typically referred to as 4.9G technologies ... things being developed that are ready for 5G, but will have an application in the current 4G network," he said.

"With that, we think we can lift the speeds that we offer onto the fixed [wireless] network, today we offer 50Mbps, we think we will be able to get to 250Mbps, and that is before we get into a 5G type of environment."

In April, NBN announced that it had hit 1Gbps over a fixed-wireless test in Ballarat, Victoria.

The test used Ericsson carrier-aggregation technology, which increases bandwidth and capacity, to combine 11 time-division duplex (TDD) LTE carriers -- four in the 2.3GHz band and seven in the 3.5GHz band -- with NBN also utilising Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) and quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) technology.

NBN also used four network termination devices bonded together to surpass 1Gbps.

On tests using a single termination device, NBN was able to hit speeds of 400/55Mbps, 250/50Mbps, and 100/40Mbps.

At the time, NBN said only 20 percent of its fixed-wireless towers are connected with fibre that would allow for 1Gbps to be reached; the remainder are connected via microwave links.

In recent months, NBN has repeated claims that there is little demand for 1Gbps services.

A survey in July found Australians want gigabit speeds, but that half cannot name their current broadband speed.

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