“The future is dire”: Why the NBN will get worse as more people connect

NBN

The National Broadband Network’s (NBN) speed and reliability issues will only worsen as more households and businesses connect, experts have warned.

Dr Steven Conway, a senior lecturer in games and interactivity at Swinburne University of Technology, is scathing in his assessment of the $51 billion taxpayer-funded project.

“In a nutshell, the future is dire. In contemporary terms, it’s not great,” he told The New Daily.

Australians hoping to use high-definition, cloud-based streaming services such as the newly launched Apple Arcade, or Google’s forthcoming Stadia, will need to shell out for an “upper-tier” NBN plan “assuming that’s even possible in your area”, Conway said.

FTTN v FTTP: Congestion time bomb

Under the Rudd Labor government’s plan, the NBN was to be a cutting-edge fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network, with fibre optic cable plugged directly into 93% of premises by 2021.

When the Coalition government took control of the project, it chose to roll out a “multi-technology mix” of seven different types of connections of varying quality, with the NBN now slated for completion in 2020.

The most common of those types, fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), relies on old copper telephone wires to deliver internet to homes.

FTTN is “a community shared service”, and its performance depends on how many people are using it, Conway explained.

Fibre optic cable runs to a node or “box near a bunch of houses and then runs via copper wire to your house,” he said.

“You’re inherently sharing the bandwidth among all of the properties using it, rather than FTTP where you get it all to yourself.”

Conway uses the analogy of a modern multi-lane highway versus an old dirt road to explain the difference between FTTP and FTTN.

FTTP is “like a superhighway that lots of lanes of traffic can flow down” at high speeds without interruption, he said.

By contrast, FTTN is “like a country lane road. It’ll do the job, but if you have two or three cars on it you’re going to get problems”, he said.

“If everyone’s on it you’ll face severe limitations and hit congestion.”

Public confidence in the network remains low, with only 5.9 million homes and businesses using the service as of August, despite 10.2 million being ready to connect.

By next year, the NBN Co has promised to have 8.1 million homes and businesses using the service, with a further 11.7 million ready to connect.

Conway said issues with the network will only be exacerbated as more users come online.

“At the moment the country lanes are not very full, nor are the highways, because the NBN is still rolling out to more properties,” he said.

“Give it two years and those lanes are going to be highly congested and the inherent limitations of copper and FTTN are going to rear their ugly heads.”

Speed bumps

Last week, the NBN Co unveiled proposed new plans that offer faster speeds, but one of the nation’s leading broadband experts warned consumers not to believe the hype.

Many consumers would see little improvement in the speed and reliability of their internet should they choose to upgrade to the pricier plans, RMIT University telecommunications and network engineering associate professor Mark Gregory told The New Daily. 

Academics across Australia have warned the mixed-technology NBN ‘lottery’ is creating a digital divide among Australians.

In May, University of Sydney research showed that one in two households in Australia’s three biggest cities — Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane — is being dudded with an inferior NBN connection.

In August, the consumer watchdog’s Measuring Broadband Australia report showed that 12.4% of NBN consumers were experiencing speeds that rarely came close to reaching those they were paying for.

Most of those affected had FTTN connections and were paying for one of the two most expensive plans available: NBN50 or NBN100.

ACCC chair Rod Sims called for “more action from both NBN Co and retail service providers” to help “the more than one in 10 connections that simply do not perform to their plan speed”.

This article was first published by The New Daily.

NOW READ: NBN’s new pricing structure is too little, too late

NOW READ: Telecommunications “hell”: The businesses left in the lurch by Australia’s NBN fiasco

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Ed Shyed
Ed Shyed
1 year ago

““ FTTP where you get it all to yourself.”

huh? not last time i saw, you are shared with 32 other fttp fibres, so the ratio is better than fttn, but all to yourself, is rubbish

Splinters
Splinters
1 year ago

I don’t think the comparison of FTTP and FTTN is accurate. Both FTTP and FTTN terminate at a local node where the fiber optic backbone is more than capable of providing 100Mb/s to all connected users. However, it is the copper connection from the home to the node that can limit the bandwidth of FTTN. It has nothing to do with sharing.

Cec R
Cec R
1 year ago
Reply to  Splinters

A FTTN node has a single fibre gigabit connection shared between a maximum 134 connected premises Splinters…

Ben Prince
Ben Prince
1 year ago
Reply to  Cec R

its something like a maximum of 384 not 134

Cec R
Cec R
1 year ago

It would seem that the easily manipulated voted for Abbott, then Turnbull and now Morrison… Everyone was told FTTN was crap… You voted for this shit show… no use complaining now…

Ayden Burgoyne
Ayden Burgoyne
1 year ago

Yeah not gonna lie his analysis doesn’t make any sense as fttn uses vectoring to prevent interference as more users come online and it also doesn’t share any components except backhaul which can be upgraded. The only technology that is fixed line and has major congestion issues on a local level would be hfc. Which makes me wonder if he confused hfc and fttn. Also slow down caused by CVC (while not mentioned in the article)is an artificial constraint and would actually improve as casual users(the ones still on adsl) move to the nbn as more cvc is bought but not consumption doesn’t increase at the same rate.

Even if all this above was wrong you would see the issues he’s talking about in fttn areas where coexistence has already been turned off.

Honestly can’t believe this guy is an expert in his field, but doesn’t understand how the technologies work.

Edward Luck
Edward Luck
1 year ago

What a complete load of rubbish. If your line sync rate is 100Mb/s on FTTN the only congestion you will face other than your ISP is the sharing of bandwidth on the fibre backhaul from the node. These are symmetric 1Gb/s shared amongst however many houses are connected to the node. The percentage of houses buying 100/40 services is low, so congestion on FTTN nodes is not a current issue. The nodes are also upgradeable to 10Gb/s backhaul.

Nick
Nick
1 year ago
Reply to  Edward Luck

Yep terrible article on many fronts. Why can’t these “experts” get simple facts right. They’re the ones with the opportunity to actually make a difference and change minds but they miss the point every time.

Chip
Chip
1 year ago
Reply to  Edward Luck

“If your line sync is 100Mb/s”
Very few on FTTN sync anywhere near 100Mb/s and that can change with different weather conditions – I would happily pay for 100Mb/s but my line will only support 51Mb/s and I am one of the lucky ones

Nick
Nick
1 year ago

Agree with the other commenters. The analogies used by these “experts” are terrible. FTTN isn’t like a country lane. It’s more like everyone is walking down their own bush track with trees, rocks and other obstacles slowing them down before hopping onto the highway (fibre backhaul from the node). FTTP essentially brings the highway right to the premises so no bush track to deal with.

Riddick
Riddick
1 year ago
Reply to  Nick

Yeah its a bit off isn’t it.
The problem is the quality and derogation of the road to the node, my house has already had a few copper hickups since initial nbn rollout here, and I’ve seen the line sync drop by 5mbit or so.

It’s clear the copper will gradually reduce your speed to the node over time, plus weathering/flooding of pits will outright break it.

None of this would be a issue with FTTP, which is something Australia will need to upgrade to in the future (so we will pay twice for a broadband upgrade, and it will cost allot more then just starting with FTTP to begin with… thanks LNP).

tomwardrop
tomwardrop
1 year ago

This guy seems a little niave, or maybe is just oversimplifying it to the point that it becomes misleading. FTTN is crap for heaps of reasons, and you can get cross-talk issues as more people sign up affecting sync rates, but the idea of it being a shared medium and FTTP being 1-to-1 is pretty much completely wrong. FTTN has enough issues worth pointing out to not have to make stuff up. This kind of misinformation doesn’t help anyone.

Luke
Luke
1 year ago

This is a completely incorrect assessment – either the lecturer making the statement has tried to dumb it down for a wider audience at the expense of accuracy or he has no idea what he is talking about. “experts” at it again

steve
steve
1 year ago

What a poorly written and researched article by Smartcompany.com.au.
There are so many factually incorrect statements by Dr Steven Conway that could have easily been identified with 5 minutes of research on the technologies nbn uses.

Shame to the researcher or journalist who allowed this article to be published with so many errors.