Telco analysts happy with NBN trial announcement

Right mix of sites, although some under-representation of CBD areas

The announcement of the NBN mainland trial sites has been largely welcomed by the country’s telecommunications analysts, although some have criticised the selection of the trial sites.

Senior analyst at Telsyte, Emilie Ditton, said the five trial sites of Brunswick, Townsville, Willunga, Armidale and Minnamurra, were broadly representative of the major situations the NBN Co would be likely to face when building out the network, but more focus was required on metropolitan NBN scenarios.

“I do think that fives sites seems to be a bit light-on given the range of different variations on urban, metro, regional and rural situations the network builders are likely to meet as they build the network out,” she said

Ditton added that while the omission of Sydney and Brisbane from the trials wasn’t important, it did appear that the central business district (CBD), inner city and inner suburban areas were under-represented in the trial given the proportion of the population that live in those areas.

“A major omission seems to be that there are no sites in CBD areas, and only one inner city area included for Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane,” she said. “I think, given the proportion of the population living in these kinds of areas, it should be more heavily represented in the sample for the trial.”

IDC telecommunications analysts, David Canon, said the trials were essential to NBN Co gaining a better understanding of materials and hardware needed to build the network, however trials in Sydney and Brisbane were not needed.

“There should be no need to do a downtown major city trial as the landscape and telecommunications environment will be similar,” he said. “Housing density will be the only major difference, particularly high rise apartment buildings. Logistically speaking, it will be easier and faster to deploy a trial in a non-major city area.” Research director at Ovum, David Kennedy, said he was confident there was enough variety in the range of geographies and enough households in each trial site to create an adequate test of the NBN’s network design concept and technical procedures. “These [sites] are principally a technical trial, so I expect that the Tasmanian and mainland builds will both be analysed to extract lessons for a national build,” he said. “The Tasmanian experience will be useful.”

“To ensure that the results of the trial are statistically significant, a much smaller trial than 3000 households per site is required, so the sample size is definitely large enough.”

Telsyte’s Ditton said that given the national interest in the NBN and the importance of it as a major investment of public funds, the results of the trial should be as transparent and open as possible.

“However, I think this really depends on the nature of the results of the trial in reality,” she said.

Ovum’s Kennedy said he expected the results will be fed into NBN Co’s technical and commercial planning process.

“I don’t expect the details to be made public, since the information will be commercial-in-confidence,” he said.

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