NBN 101: Is Australia's NBN world class?

A look at how the NBN compares to the rest of the world

South Korea

Total broadband subscribers (2009): 15,938,529 Average price per megabit (2009): $US1.30 per month Average speed offered (2009): 52.7Mbps Fastest advertised broadband speed (2009): 100Mbps Broadband penetration growth: 14.1 per cent (2001) to 32.79 per cent (2009) FTTH coverage (2008): 67 per cent FTTH portion of broadband subscriptions (2009): 46 per cent

South Korea has boasted the highest market penetration of FTTH services for some time and, though Japan is catching up, it might hold that crown.

The government has poured $US70 billion into the FTTH network and other broadband infrastructure there and an additional $US1 billion provided for regional coverage. It also provides direct subsidies, tax breaks, research funding and stimulus programs that all help to better Internet access for the population, making it clear why South Korea is the place to go when it comes to Internet.

Given more than 80 per cent of the population live in high-density housing, it was certainly cheaper for the country's major telco, Korea Telecom, to roll out fibre than in most other countries. According to the NBN Implementation Study, building owners also control the internal connectivity, giving more open access to service providers other than Korea Telecom, and affording it a more competitive landscape that ultimately benefits the user.

While DSL and cable still have a play in the market, the majority of the country is moving towards a completely fibre-based solution, with speeds of 100Mbps or more. Don't forget: That's available now, not eight years down the track.

Japan

Total broadband subscribers: 30,927,003 Average price per megabit (2009): $US3.31 per month Average speed offered (2009): 107.7Mbps Fastest advertised broadband speed (2009): 200Mbps Broadband penetration growth: 2.3 per cent (2001) to 24.2 per cent (2009) FTTH coverage (2008): 86.5 per cent FTTH portion of broadband subscriptions (2009): 51 per cent

When anyone thinks next-generation Internet, Japan inevitably springs to mind. While it runs second to South Korea in some respects, the country has ambitiously set targets of 90 per cent fibre coverage for this year, and ubiquitous coverage by the same time next year.

NBN-like speeds of 100Mbps are already common, 1Gbps is easily accessible, and telcos are well on their way to retailing 10Gbps and, eventually 160Gbps services. These speeds don't come cheap, but they're widely available.

Operating off the back of the fibre network built by Japan's incumbent telco, NTT, service providers are granted open access to customers, with the Government subsidising FTTH costs by up to 33 per cent. Since NTT, like Telstra, offers retail services on the back of its wholesale network, it retains a majority market share.

Sweden

Total broadband subscribers: 2,915,000 Average price per megabit (2009): $US18.13 per month Average speed offered (2009): 23.7Mbps Fastest advertised broadband speed (2009): 100Mbps Broadband penetration growth: 4.4 per cent (2001) to 26.7 per cent (2009) FTTH coverage (2008): 10 per cent FTTH portion of broadband subscriptions (2009): 21 per cent

Swedish municipal governments have been building fibre around the country for 16 years now, with more projects being run by city councils rather than private companies or the national government. The result is a vibrant - if confusing - marketplace in which hundreds of service providers vie for attention and customers to sign up to Internet services as fast as 1Gbps.

The Australian NBN Implementation Study reports take-up of around seven per cent for FTTH services, with total network coverage of around 20 per cent; double that of the OECD's reported 10 per cent the year before. While low, some lucky few get insanely fast Internet; the 80-year-old mother of Internet engineer Peter Löthberg, who boasts access to a 40Gbps connection. Now that's next generation broadband.

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Comments

Frank

1

When will you people learn that the NBN IS NOT building a FTTH, it is building a FTTP. Check their website FTTH is not in their vocabulary. I really wonder where some of the journalists that report on the NBN actually get their information from!

Peter

2

So no good news on the horizon then ?
Please super man save us !

technology wonk

3

Legislation should be passed requiring the big telcos in Australia to peer freely with each other and all comers.

RR

4

Frank, FTTH and FTTP mean exactly the same thing in practice. I really wonder where some of the commentators that comment on the NBN actually get their information from!

Hutchinson James

5

@Frank

Thanks for the comment, but fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) are, as RR said, so they are exactly the same in practice. Simply different terminology as used by different people/in different markets.

exibkae

6

You need to also understand the face that we will get NBN in just say 5-8 years, by then the USA will have FTTH rolled out im most cities and will be boosting speeds well over 100mbps that AU will have, as for japan I am guessing they will get 500mbps or 1Gbps when we are on 100Mbps.

shad0h

7

@exibkae
Seriously consider how densely the population of Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea is per square meter and you should realise that it is vastly more affordable and significantly easier to deploy high speed fibre (or other technologies) to 90% of the population.

Even somewhere like England and France generally is so much more densely populated than Australia or the US where we are spread across an area the size of all of western europe.

We should never try to be on par with our hi tech asian neighbours. The NBN as I see it, at least gets us off the path of old technology - copper - onto something that allows us to at least try to maintain the gap between ourselves and our neighbours rather than slip further behind.

azkay

8

"We should never try to be on par with our hi tech asian neighbours."

Yes, we should. Why shouldnt we?
"WE SHOULD NEVER TRY TO COMPETE", Smooth.

Simmo

9

Get the fibre laid - the speed it runs at is a secondary consideration. As with the copper network, different speeds can be offered in different locations and the areas of highest demand will obviously get 1 gbps and maybe even 10 gbps by the time it's done - the underlying fibre will allow that. Who cares how that compares with Asia when you're sitting here on a 24 kbps dial-up because of pair gain as many people less than 10km from the GPO in Adelaide are... or you can't even get an ADSL2 node to a branch office in many parts of Adelaide or the mid north of SA. It has to be done.

TB

10

I'm a little surprised that this piece didn't include analyses of either Canada or the UK - especially Canada, as they too are a large country with a very low population density. The UK also makes an interesting case study into the effects of structural separation, another key issue in the telco sector in Australia.

Christopher

11

If you compare countries like Australia to postage stamp sized countries - of course you have anomalies.

You need to find a comparable country:
1. Similar population
2. Similar size
3. Similar distance from primary traffic source

Oh wait ... there is none.

petey

12

I like how other countries have unlimited 1Gb links widely available at present for cheap prices, while we struggle to implement expensive 100Mb connections to a selected few.

Aaron

13

Our major telco can't even offer the slowest ADSL to 100% of any capital city. Anything the Goverment can do to stop consumers being held hostage to selfish private corporations is better than what we have now. Pity that we will probably still get ripped off.

SagnaB

14

AUSTRALIA!
If you don't like it, GET OUT!

D Newman

15

11Christopher
Tue 18/05/2010 - 14:50
If you compare countries like Australia to postage stamp sized countries - of course you have anomalies.

You need to find a comparable country:
1. Similar population
2. Similar size
3. Similar distance from primary traffic source

Oh wait ... there is none.

There is one thats close, and has a NBN in place, and thats Canada, populaion is higher, but cities and towns just as remote......Government built it, private companies operate from it, we have Canadian tech here who used to work for Rogers cable, a large ISP.
Who never shuts up bemoaning how crap Sat tv is here compared to Canadian cable tv, and how interactive cable TV is......And that is a good revenue stream point he has made, dispite boring us to death, fibre isnt just about the internet.

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