NBN 101: Is Australia's NBN world class?

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

New Zealand

Total broadband subscribers: 980,649 Average price per megabit (2009): $US4.80 per month Average speed offered (2009): 17.8Mbps Fastest advertised broadband speed (2009): 24Mbps FTTH coverage (2008): None FTTH portion of broadband subscriptions (2009): 0 per cent

We think we have it tough here; according to the implementation study, our neighbours across the Tasman have wallowed in the bottom third of OECD countries in terms of broadband access for some time. Things have improved since 2006 thanks to changed regulatory practices in dealing with the major telco, Telecom New Zealand, as well as competition from Telstra's subsidiary, TelstraClear.

New Zealand got on the nationwide fibre bandwagon at the same time as Australia, with the government announcing $1.5 billion investment and further private sector funds to build a 100Mbps fibre network for 75 per cent of homes by 2019. The remainder will receive a sliding scale of between 10Mbps and 1Mbps depending on how regional they are. The network will be built through public-private partnerships and off the backs of existing dark fibre, though whether Telecom New Zealand will make an appearance remains up in the air.

No wonder enthusiasts across the Tasman are excited about Pacific Fibre's announcement to install a new cross-Pacific backhaul cable.

Is Australia's NBN really world class?

Total broadband subscribers: 5,356,000 Average price per megabit (2009): $US15.24 per month Average speed offered (2009): 21.8Mbps Fastest advertised broadband speed (2009): 100Mbps FTTH coverage (2008): None FTTH portion of broadband subscriptions (2009): 0 per cent

Though the OECD recorded 5.4 million broadband subscribers in Australia, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reckons this is closer to 8.2 million as of December last year, and it's rising quickly. The OECD's average price per megabit of $US15.24 per month is ridiculously expensive - that's $AU406.17 per month for a full-speed 24Mbps ADSL2+ connection - though the one million remaining dial-up subscribers and continuing prevalence of low-speed broadband is probably skewing those results.

Nevertheless, it's safe to say that Australia isn't at the top of the heap when it comes to broadband availability and speeds and, even with the NBN, it's likely that most other countries will be much further along in eight years when the network is finally completed.

The 100Mbps figure in the NBN seems to be the magic number with countries traditionally lacking in a consolidated approach to Internet services, and although many here are preoccupied with a debate over whether we need the speeds, the worldwide consensus says that's the next step. As we continue to adapt to faster Internet speeds and develop more capable applications to take advantage of those, NBN Co chief executive officer, Mike Quigley's claims of demand for 1Gbps will seem more likely.

Australia isn't alone when it comes to concerns of regulation or monopoly either, though some other players seem at least marginally more successful in managing that issue.

Put simply, while the National Broadband Network is an important facet of the Australia telecommunications industry, we are by no means alone in our endeavours, and the types of access some countries already boast can be a humbling experience. With countries racing to beat each other to the next landmark in broadband speeds, though, the NBN or a high-speed network is ever more important in ensuring Australia becomes competitive, both economically from a data-centric and online services viewpoint, on the global stage.

(See all of the OECD stats and graphs on broadband in our slideshow)

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

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