NBN 101: Is Australia's NBN world class?

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

The United States

Total broadband subscribers: 81,170,428 Average price per megabit (2009): $US8.06 per month Average speed offered (2009): 14.6Mbps Fastest advertised broadband speed (2009): 50Mbps FTTH coverage (2008): 13.1 per cent FTTH portion of broadband subscriptions (2009): 6 per cent

The United States, like Australia, is mired in years of oligopolistic activity and unclear regulations for the national watchdog, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The market isn't particularly clear either, with both cable operators and traditional telcos vying for slices of the same pie through a mix of DSL, cable and fibre-based services.

Commercial fibre roll-out got the official green light in 2004, with major operators Verizon and AT&T building competing fibre networks. Verizon's FiOS FTTH network offers speeds of up to 50Mbps - half the 100Mbps promised for the NBN - while AT&T's U-Verse uses fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) VDSL deployments instead, with speeds of up to 18Mbps. For the record, some have claimed Telstra could switch on a similar VDSL network if the telco lit up its dark fibre.

While boasting the world's most broadband subscribers, only 15 per cent of US homes have access to a FTTH network.

The US instituted its "national broadband plan," early last year, with a commitment to provide 100Mbps download speeds for 100 million households by 2020, and 1Gbps access for local institutions. The plan also commits to becoming the world leader in wireless networks (a claim currently held in most respects by Telstra), a nationwide wireless safety network for emergency services, and the ability for users to track and manage real-time energy consumption through broadband.

The monopolistic nature of Verizon's and AT&T's fibre networks has raised similar concerns to those facing Telstra, with the FCC attempting to clamp down on net neutrality and boost its own regulatory powers.


Total broadband subscribers: 1,809,354 Average price per megabit (2009): $US4.28 per month Average speed offered (2009): 103.7Mbps Fastest advertised broadband speed (2009): 1Gbps FTTH coverage (2008): None FTTH portion of broadband subscriptions (2009): 0 per cent

Portugal's broadband market has largely been dominated by ZON Multimedia's DOCSIS 3.0-capable cable network, providing speeds of up to 200Mbps.

While fibre wasn't a blip on the radar in 2008, ZON Multimedia's former owner, major telco Portugal Telecom, began rolling out its FTTH network to compete with cable. It was soon followed by Sonaecom and several smaller service providers, all offering competing fibre networks and various IPTV services as points of differentiation.

While the Portuguese Government is yet to commit to a single, consolidated broadband network, it has committed EUR 900 million of funding to various providers to help establish next-generation broadband networks.


The OECD doesn't provide broadband statistics for Singapore as it is not a member of the organisation, but the study's brief look at the country's Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network is an interesting one, particularly as it has ties to Australia's own.

The Singapore Government announced plans to roll-out a nation-wide FTTH network in 2005 using $1 billion in funding with aims to provide 1Gbps services by 2012.

Construction began in 2009, with plans to reach 60 per cent coverage by the end of this year. One key aspect of the implementation - and one highlighted by the implementation study - was the vertical separation of the network's fibre infrastructure and active equipment portions. These were tendered to two separate parties - the network is controlled by a consortium led by Singtel (owner of Optus in Australia), while StarHub controls the active infrastructure, Nucleus Connect.

Singapore is naturally a much simpler roll-out case considering its relative size to Australia, but the ambition to have 1Gbps up and running by 2012, and the idea of utilising the expertise of existing major telcos like Singtel are certainly key takeaways for Australia's own network.


Again, the OECD does not have anything on Malaysia when it comes to broadband statistics as it is not a member, though the government has been ambitious in setting a target of 75 per cent fibre coverage by 2011. This has since been revised to 50 per cent in 2010 and, as the NBN Implementation Study points out, the country has only managed to reach 20 per cent of the population at time of writing.

Nevertheless, the country continues to plan delivery of speeds up to 10Mbps to 14 percent of the Malaysian population by 2012 through both FTTH and FTTN deployments, with faster 100Mbps and 1Gbps speeds foreseeable down the track. Fibre take-up will likely be slow over the coming years, with DSL remaining the prevalent broadband connection for most users. Those who don't receive a fibre connection will get broadband speeds of up to 4Mbps through DSL and WiMAX deployments.

The regulatory concerns are akin to those in Australia: Namely, service providers complain that the successful tenderer for the network, the government-run Telekom Malaysia, holds a near-monopolistic control over the network, which they believe has a direct link to the slow take-up of services around the country.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

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

More about AT&TAT&TAustralian Bureau of StatisticsetworkFCCFederal Communications CommissionIinetInternodeKPMGNTT AustraliaOECDOptusQuigleySingapore GovernmentSingtelStarHubTelecom New ZealandTelstraClearTelstra CorporationVerizonVerizon

Show Comments