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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Tags broadbandNational Broadband Network (NBN)fibre-to-the-homeNBN arguments 101

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