A futile NBN speed obsession

Speed had been an important equation in the long running NBN debate but our fascination with megabits and gigabits looks unlikely to prevent us from being straddled with a decidedly inferior network.

Speed had been an important equation in the long running debate over the National Broadband Network (NBN), but our fascination with megabits and gigabits looks unlikely to prevent the country from being straddled with a decidedly inferior NBN.  

NBN Co’s plans to fast-track its gigabit broadband plans, first introduced in 2010, to premises may seem like a big deal, however, all the speed in the world isn’t worth a jot when Labor’s stated aim of a substantial fibre footprint remains unrealised. Once the federal elections are done and dusted, these fibre dreams will evaporate even quicker as the Abbott government gets cracking with the fibre to the node network.

NBN Co may want to use this opportunity to highlight how Labor’s NBN trumps the Coalition’s version on technology. However, that point has never been in question.

In fact, shadow communication minister Malcolm Turnbull was quick to concede last week that the Coalition’s NBN is technologically inferior to Labor’s endeavour.  Alas, the contest isn’t about speed, it’s about fiscal prudence and delivery and on that count, the Coalition has managed to convince a lot of people that it knows what it’s doing.

Back to the fast-tracked service, NBN Co is going to allow consumers to access speeds of up to 1000 megabits per second by December this year, ostensibly putting us on par with Google Fiber.

NBN Co said in its release this morning that Australia will become a “Gigabit Nation before the end of the year” once its wholesale customers - internet service providers – start ordering the new product

Consumers won’t need to pay extra for any additional NBN equipment but the final price will rely on what the ISPs will charge.

Download speed

Upload speed

Wholesale access price (per month)

250 Mbps

100 Mbps

$70

500 Mbps

200 Mbps

$100

1000 Mbps

400 Mbps

$150

The fact that the fibre network is designed with these sorts of speed in mind should not come as a surprise. In fact as Japan’s So-Net highlighted earlier this week, 1 Gigabit is just the start.

The problem is that most Australians will not only miss out on connecting to a one gigabit service but, quite frankly, most will have little or no idea of what they can do with it. It’s an obvious plus for businesses but recent evidence would indicate that even there not everyone is convinced.  

As far as the Coalition is concerned, a 25 Mbps a second service is more than adequate and given that getting NBN Co to deliver the fibre straight to the premise will cost thousands of dollars, it’s unclear what objective the accelerated introduction of one gigabit a second service serves.

It does bolster the case of those bemoaning the short-sightedness of the Coalition, but again that fact is hardly in dispute. Unfortunately, Malcolm Turnbull will have no qualms in batting down the purported rationale of these high speed services and will only use it to further highlight how poorly the fibre rollout has been executed under a Labor NBN Co.

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