You don’t need to be a network engineer to work out that Australia’s ambitious National Broadband Network is in trouble. Over the past couple of months, it’s as if disaster has struck at every turn.
Just last week NBN Co's satellite plan, which is supposed to service the most remote areas of Australia, was found to be in disarray. Now, it’s being reported that some businesses are facing an internet and phone service blackout as the copper network is deactivated in 15 towns around Australia.
It’s pretty much chaos.
At times, it seems as if the entire project is being made to look like it’s more trouble than its worth. Perhaps -- just perhaps -- this is in preparation for a scenario where the project is abandoned, and the telco industry (mainly Telstra) swoops in and builds its own fibre network.
So, on that, perhaps it’s time for a quick reminder as to why we need an NBN, courtesy of the latest ABS data on internet services in Australia.
Forget mobile data services, Australians are downloading more data over fixed-line systems than ever before, and the growth rate shows no sign of slowing. Perhaps this is due to more and more people illegally downloading Game of Thrones?
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The NBN has been hailed as a project that will revive competition in Australia’s telco market. If we maintain the status quo, there's every reason to assume the major players will keep getting bigger, while the smaller players will struggle to grow their market share.
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Perhaps the graph that’s missing -- and something that the ABS doesn’t measure -- is the quality of internet services in metro Australia compared to regional Australia. One fear about a telco-led national broadband project is that the industry would supply services for high-revenue metro areas at the expense of sought-after services in regional Australia.
Regardless of whether it’s Labor’s full fibre-to-the-home vision or the Coalition’s fibre-to-the-node alternative, there are still plenty of very good arguments for the government to push past all of this controversy and build some form of NBN.