In 2009, the idea behind the then Labor Government’s National Broadband Network (NBN) was to connect Australians to the internet via super-fast fibre-optic cable that went “to the premises.”
This meant directly into a place of business or a residence, after which internal computers were to be connected by ethernet over a gigabit passive optical network (i.e. very fast). To give you an idea of the speed difference, the current ADSL2+ connection using existing copper phone lines can download a two-hour HD movie in half an hour. An optimal fibre-optic connection could do it in under 30 seconds.
But that “optimal” is key. That’s because to work best, fibre-optic cable needs to get as close to your premises as possible. Due to cost blow-outs, contractual wrangling and government inefficiency, it now looks like the NBN fibre-optic cable won’t reach as far as was initially hoped. Instead, it will make it to a node, a box in your street, from where the existing copper phone network will take over, or if you are lucky, a fast coaxial cable.
Current Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull now prefers this mixed system of fibre-optic, phone lines and cabling, claiming it will be cheaper. One thing is certain – improved internet connectivity will change the way we do business.
How will I know when fibre-optic reaches my area?
Business owners and residents are being warned that when the NBN rolls out in an area, the old network will be switched off after 18 months. How do you know when the NBN is coming? You can register on the website where you can also enter your address to see whether it’s already available in your area. You will find that roll out seems quite random – there are reports that Sydney’s growing business hub of Parramatta is still waiting for the NBN, leaving its businesses with “third world internet speeds,” while nearby residential suburbs are being hooked up. In fact, the NBN roll out map shows it is most prevalent in brand new estates, where it is being built into the infrastructure.
Even though fibre-optic cable may only reach the end of your street, overall it will produce faster more reliable internet. That’s because ADSL2+ speeds vary with the amount of internet traffic, weather conditions and the distance from the nearest DSLAM or interchange. The NBN fibre-optic network won’t be affected by any of these, except the last journey from the node to your business via the phone lines.
Speeding up business with the NBN
Although according to the former CEO of the NBN the initial goal of taking fibre-optic cable direct to your office building is no longer viable, your business should benefit from overall more reliable and faster speeds.
Many businesses are doing more and more “in the cloud”, including subscribing to programs and data storage, which will likely be further facilitated by the NBN.
Many businesses now know it’s possible to send a fax free via email by using a virtual fax number. Faxes are sent and received as attachments even when the business at the other end is using an old school fax machine, so you can receive a fax through email without having to buy a fax machine or rent a fax line.
The NBN should make services like virtual fax and video conferencing more effective.
As fast as the speed of light
The latest benchmark for the NBN, as announced by Mr Turnbull, is that by using a mix of existing and new fibre-optic networks it will provide speeds of up to 25Mbps. Some people on ADSL2+ are already getting these speeds, but at its fastest, the NBN could provide 100Mbps.
Beyond this, remember that fibre-optic cables transmit data by light – travelling at the speed of light. The push for a fibre to the premises optic-fibre NBN is all about harnessing this potential for a future “instantaneous” internet, where large file sizes and slow upload speeds are no longer a concern.