Chorus to continue with dual fibre, copper strategy

New Zealand will continue to use a dual network strategy comprising both high-speed copper and fibre for the foreseeable future, according to Chorus head of networks Martin Sharrock. And he said the country’s rollout of FTTN infrastructure had been a critical step in its adoption of fibre.

Recent media commentary, including a report on the ABC’s Four Corners program, has focussed on New Zealand’s fibre uptake and improved broadband ranking. However, Sharrock told the Global Broadband Futures conference in Sydney yesterday that VDSL uptake was running slightly higher than UFB fibre.

“Chorus is not running one network, we’re running two networks. We’re very much running a fibre network but we’re also running a copper network. And the interesting thing here is that the VDSL migrations continue at pace. Fibre connections continue at pace. New Zealand is migrating rapidly to two technologies – VDSL and fibre,” he told the event.

He said the earlier FTTN roll out, which started in 2011, had allowed it to take fibre further into the network. The average connection speed on its network is now 60Mbps – double what it was 18 months ago. Data on the network is doubling every 18 months, while the number of FTTH connections has doubled in 18 months.

However, over the more recent three-months there were also 60,000 VDSL migrations – slightly more than the number of fibre connections in the same period.

“It’s not just fibre, it’s copper as well. When we launched VDSL the maximum speed was 70Mbps, depending on attenuation and distance. We now have maximum speeds on copper of 145Mbps using vectoring, using technologies like dynamic line management .. . and we’re developing a really good copper network in New Zealand,” Sharrock said.

“Probably more interesting to Australians, we still carry 50% more data on our copper network than we do on our fibre network. Yes it’s changing and it will balance over time, but the copper network still carries more data today than the fibre network does,” he added.

“So you can see very clearly we’re not just a fibre network or a copper network, we’re a high-speed copper network and a we’re a high-speed fibre network. We do believe that fibre is the end game, but this will take time.”

Sharrock also noted the importance of broadband monitoring in improving the country’s consumer experience. He said that Chorus and its RSPs are subject to independent testing that looks at congestion during peak usage times, with more than two years of data now available.

As a result of the testing, he said that fixed operators had started to make sure their networks are congestion free. “Every RSP is measured for their performance at peak hour, and suddenly all the fixed RSPs are performing congestion-free at peak hour,” he said. “”And guess what, the experience improves.”

Geoff Long

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NBN identifies its upgrade options across network

NBN chief strategy officer JB Rousselot has used a keynote address to the Global Broadband Futures conference in Sydney to highlight the company’s upgrade options across each of its fixed network technologies.

He said there was no dispute that fibre all the way into the home was the end game for all operators, however he reiterated previous arguments that currently the demand and willingness to pay are not there yet.

“With the few exceptions of maybe Singapore and Qatar there is nobody advocating a direct jump into full FTTP – we all agree that there is a pathway to get to it and the question for us is what is the pathway,” he said.

With the NBN rollout passed the half-way mark and with 3 million activations now reached, more than 80% of its customers are still on a 25Mbps or lower speed tier – despite most of those connections being able to connect at higher speeds.

NBN has now trialled upgrade options for all of its fixed network technologies. For FTTP connections it has tested NG-PON, which is expected to deliver 10Gbps speeds.

For the HFC portion of the network, Rousselot said that it is committed to a full rollout of DOCSIS 3.1 next year, which will deliver speeds over 100Mbps. However, he said it will also result in more reliable connections.

“DOCSIS 3.1 will not only help us deliver faster speeds on the HFC  . . . also it allows us to deliver better customer experience because through that technology we’re able to better monitor, diagnose and fix the network, which is also a critical thing for us,” he said.

And on the copper network, he noted that field trials of fibre to the curb were well under way, with a launch expected in the first half of 2018. He said the speed of the FTTC developments had been impressive.

“It’s very exciting to see how that technology has gone from a concept to something that is now network-ready. It’s moved so quickly that we’ve been able to actually make it part of our initial rollout and we’ve now committed about 1 million premises,” he said.

“And it’s something that we’ve been able to do without jeopardising our 2020 mandate for the rollout of the network and  without materially changing the economics of the project,” he added.

More recently, NBN announced at the recent Broadband World Forum in Berlin that it will launch in its FTTC and FTTB networks in the second half of 2018.

As well as the fixed network, Rousselot noted at the event in Sydney yesterday that NBN was committed to rolling out 100Mbps fixed wireless connections later this year.

Geoff Long

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Deutsche Telekom: No barriers to offering hybrid LTE/NBN service

While debate continues around the potential threat of fixed-wireless substitution for NBN’s business case, Deutsche Telekom CTO Bruno Jacobfeuerborn has highlighted a way mobile might actually help the national network – suggesting there’s no technical reason NBN couldn’t explore a similar hybrid fixed-LTE access product to that which DT offers already.

DT first unveiled its hybrid ‘MagentaZuhaus’ offering in early 2015, with a tariff that would give consumers access to both its fixed-line networks and its LTE net. “We had a very good LTE network… and then we said ‘okay, we believe in fixed-mobile convergence’,” Jacobfeuerborn told CommsDay following his keynote at the Global Broadband Futures event in Sydney. “So we [looked into], if we had both networks, how we could utilise both to help each other, if one network was not fulfilling the customer demand…. [such as in] rural areas where we have ADSL at maybe 4, 5, 6Mbps, [ but the customers] wanted to see HD movies at 12Mbps.”

A number of carriers in Australia already offer hybrid modems that connect to the NBN but can fall back to an LTE connection in the event of an outage or a wait to connect. The more advanced solution used by DT bonds together fixed and mobile streams deeper in the network, although the home modems it uses are still set up to prefer fixed-line networks – in order to minimise traffic offload to the limited spectrum available on LTE. The idea is that, as well as providing a backup service should the fixed network be completely unavailable, the mobile network can also supply a capacity boost to reach a set level of service where fixed networks are congested or slow.

“[If a fixed connection only gives you] 6Mbps, and you need another 4Mbps, then we add the rest from the LTE network,” said Jacobfeuerborn. “We got really good feedback on that one; people said ‘oh it’s great now – and it doesn’t really matter for us where it comes from’.  Which shows, by the way, that people don’t care! They would like to have broadband… normal customers who got that [hybrid solution], where they had nothing before, were really happy.”

“Of course, you can use it wherever you are, but it makes no sense if you already have 100Mbps on fixed-line. You can do it but, to be honest, to add another 100Mbps on LTE – very, very seldom would you need another 100Mbps!” he continued. “I would say that [the customers] are people with less than 50Mbps. Mainly it’s ADSL customers who have around 16Mbps and below. But when we developed it, we said ‘let’s see how it goes’, and one of the business cases was immediately fulfilled – because people went ‘oh, I would like to have it!’

NBN APPLICATION: All of this raises the question of whether NBN could bond mobile or wireless access to fixed-line to help boost service to some of its own footprint. DT, of course, has the advantage of having both fixed and mobile infrastructure of its own, whereas NBN has no mobile network of its own – although it does, of course, have a reasonable amount of spectrum across quite a broad geographic expanse.

In any case, Jacobfeuerborn, does not see this as an insurmountable impediment, suggesting a whole agreement with one of the mobile carriers.

“NBN in Australia… could do an agreement with [mobile carriers] like Telstra to add capacity as another product,” he said. And he added that the process would not be too difficult from a technical perspective. “Of course, you will have another platform in your network, but it’s just a platform.”

Petroc Wilton

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Openreach chair: fixed network must support 5G to stay viable

Mike McTighe, chair of UK national fixed network builder Openreach, is determined that the firm should have its scope expanded to play a key role in supporting 5G. He told CommsDay that, given increasing mobile cannibalisation of fixed revenues, such a move would be “fundamental” to maintaining Openreach as viable. The comments have relevance for NBN who is considering its own place in the 5G world.

As McTighe’s presentation to the Global Broadband Futures event in Sydney made clear, there are many similarities between Openreach and NBN. While it is a separated entity broken off from incumbent BT rather than a new government-owned business, Openreach is a national wholesale-only provider selling services to downstream retail providers – and at different rates for different speed tiers.

It is on track to get ‘superfast’ broadband, which it defines as 25Mbps on the download, to 95% of the UK by the end of this year with a multi-technology mix of next-gen copper and fibre tech; it is aiming to move up to ‘ultrafast’ 100Mbps connectivity to 12 million homes by the end of 2020, using predominantly G.Fast along with a good portion of FTTP. And as with NBN, there are some key sensitivities around its business case – particularly if UK regulator Ofcom follows through with a push to regulate prices for the entry-level speed plans available on the Openreach network, potentially stunting demand for faster plans.

It is partly to boost that business case that McTighe is intent on ensuring Openreach is part of the 5G future as well as providing consumer fixed services. “We already provide backhaul to pretty much every tower in the UK… the issue for 5G is [providing fibre for] microcell architecture,” he said. “We want to provide that; it’s not currently within Openreach’s scope; I want to change the scope so that when we build down a street, we not only provision for the homes and businesses that we pass but we provision architecturally for whatever radioheads need to be built to support the microcell architecture. That will help our business case.”

But McTighe also cast the move as critical to secure Openreach’s future in the face of increasing fixed-mobile substitution. Speaking to CommsDay on the sidelines of the event, McTighe acknowledged that – as has been the case for NBN – there was “resistance in various quarters to the change of the scope of Openreach.” “[But] that will not stop me from pushing for that,” he said. “Because frankly, I think it’s more than just the point around making an incremental return; if you believe in the promise of 5G, I think it’s fundamental to maintain a viable Openreach!”

A veteran of the wireless scene himself, McTighe said it was “inevitable” that mobile would start to cannibalise fixed access revenues. “And if access is going to be cannibalised, then I’d better not be on the wrong side of that equation! So to maintain our position in the market, I think Openreach will have to offer technology-agnostic access products,” he said.

“It’s very generationally focused, but we already have [a situation where] 15% of UK households don’t have a fixed line. They only rely on mobile. It’s only going to get worse – so why would I only be on one end of that market? Somebody will have to slap me down very hard to stop me.”

Petroc Wilton

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Introducing Space & Satellite AU

Space & Satellite AU is the new weekly newsletter from the producers of the CommsDay daily and the Australasia Satellite Forum.

Australia and its surrounding Pacific region have long been an important market for global players such as Intelsat, Viasat and Eutelsat. Homegrown operations from NBN, Optus and Speedcast have become integral to the sector.

Now we see the rise of a local nanosat industry and increasing interest in the creation of an Australian space sector and government agency.

Space & Satellite AU is the publication of record for these developments. Don’t miss out.

Check out the first issue here

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Some history on the NBN debate


Lots of historical revisionism on the NBN right now. One I keep seeing is that the Howard government is to blame for privatising Telstra without a plan for broadband investment. This is crazy: half of Telstra was privatised in 1997 and 1999 when there was no DSL yet, it didn’t release to the market until 2000. Blaming the government for not having a broadband plan in 1997 is simply not fair.

The other one I see is that the NBN was built because the privatised Telstra wouldn’t build a FTTN network. In 2005/6 it offered to build one, with prices that were regarded as radically high for the time, as they were a substantial increase on the low rates set by the ACCC for unbundled access to the Telstra local loop. The proposal ultimately foundered because Telstra said the ACCC wouldn’t let it charge a levy to subsidise its rural network, the ACCC said it wouldn’t do so because Telstra wasn’t proposing to build FTTN in rural areas. Interestingly such a levy has now been created for the NBN and it is valued at $7 per line per month. Telstra apparently sought something half that and anyhow, subsequently negotiated receipt of subsidies in the form of the USO equivalent to … you guessed it, $3 a month (about $300m annually across 8-9m lines).

Anyway in my old reading I came across an estimate from Citigroup from 2007 that Telstra could build out FTTN to 75% of the population and earn its investment back on $50 a month (the estimate wasn’t attempting to be generous to Telstra, it was an inferred criticism of its ambit claim for more). Which certainly suggests that NBN pricing on a network that is considerably more expensive because of its FTTH, wireless and satellite components might struggle on ARPUs of $43 a month. This is the heart of the problem. The ACCC effectively valued the Telstra CAN at under $20 billion and this is the building block on which wholesale and retail prices for DSL are set to this day. The various NBN proposals were “forecast” at $43-49 billion and of course we know the only way is up with these things. If you compulsorily replace something with something twice the cost and there is a substitute in the form of wireless (which is the case for the bottom half of internet users in terms of quotas, costs etc), something has to give. In this case it is the incentive for an RSP to sell you anything but the most basic product.

The fundamental cause of the whole NBN issue is simple. The ACCC underpriced access to the Telstra network, leading to a resistance from all quarters to meet the costs associated with a replacement. The NBN was the response and that in turn was infused with highly unrealistic expectations of what you could build (8m FTTH lines in 8 years for $43 billion) and even more unrealism about a willingness to pay for tariffs which inevitably have to rise to double or more. The industry is still in denial about this, handing out gongs to people who actually architected this policy as recently as this week.

Most people want nothing more than a steady 15-25Mbps connection. They are annoyed because even their modest 25Mbps connections are contended at 1:20, clearly not enough when a few others in the street are also streaming. The debate has, meanwhile, been hijacked by those who think 100-1000Mbps is necessary for all and have no concept of the costs required to achieve universal access to such a capability.

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CommsDay Melbourne Congress in two weeks

In just two weeks, CommsDay will be holding the tenth annual edition of its Melbourne Congress at the Langham Hotel (October 10/11)

I’ve put together what I hope you agree is a terrific expert-packed agenda for this year’s event.

OPERATORS: Headlining the event are C-suite speakers from telcos and DC operators such as NBN’s Dr Ziggy Switkowski, Telstra COO Robyn Denholm, Optus VP David Caspari, Vodafone director Ben McIntosh, Symbio CEO Rene Sugo, Wideband Networks CEO Philp Britt, NEXTDC COO Simon Cooper and Metronode MD Josh Griggs. We also have the global CEO of the world’s biggest Wi-Fi operator, iPass’ Gary Griffiths, joining our line-up.

POLICY & REGULATION: We also have a full complement of regulatory, political and policy perspectives. From the agency wing we have the ACCC’s Michael Cosgrave, ACMA’s James Cameron and the TIO’s Judi Jones. From the parliamentary arena, Victorian minister Philip Dalidakis, Federal NBN joint parliamentary standing committee chair Sussan Ley MP and shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland. Providing perspectives from industry and the consumer arena are Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton, AMTA CEO Chris Althaus and ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin.

TECHNOLOGY: The Congress will also feature technology experts from worldwide leaders in telecom network supply: Netcomm Wireless, Cyient, Nokia, Cisco, Cradlepoint, Ruckus and Ciena. Learn what’s coming out of the labs and happening in the field.

The Congress will also feature the analysis and perspective of Professor Reg Coutts, Ovum’s David Kennedy, Bob James and Ian Martin.

All in all, two days of the sharpest telecommunications speaker line-up you will find in Melbourne this year.

Of course, there is also the benefit of not only hearing from industry leaders but meeting them. The Congress features two catered lunches, a cocktail session and several networking breaks. A fantastic opportunity to renew or establish industry contacts.


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New speakers from Ovum, ACCC and iPass announced for Melbourne Congress

CommsDay is pleased to announce three more top additions to its speaker line-up for October’s Melbourne Congress.

The CEO of the world’s largest Wi-Fi operator, iPass, will give an exclusive presentation to delegates on the first day. Gary Griffiths runs an operator which through partnerships offers an incredible 60 million hotspots in 120 countries including over one million in Oceania. Griffiths will share the global iPass “software as a service” story with delegates.

Meanwhile, in a year of intense activity by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in the telecom arena the official at the coalface of it all will present to CommsDay on the same day. Michael Cosgrave is the executive general manager, infrastructure regulation division of the ACCC and has a 21 year involvement and inside perspective on where regulation and the market is heading.

Also, recent Ovum returnee David Kennedy will kick off proceedings on the second day. The Asia Pacific research analyst rejoined Ovum recently after a two year break. Previously he was with Ovum for ten years, the Department of Communications for six years and advised former Coalition senator Richard Alston for four years before that.

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Casa, C-Cor target Australian opportunities in NBN, competitor fixed & wireless

US-headquartered broadband infrastructure provider Casa Systems is targeting opportunities with NBN and other major telco players in Australia, focused particularly on small cells and distributed, multi-access tech architecture, via its local partnership with C-Cor. Casa CEO Jerry Guo spoke exclusively to CommsDay on a visit to Australia along with C-Cor MD John Goddard.

As revealed by CommsDay, Melbourne-based telco equipment supplier C-Cor officially announced its ANZ-exclusive alliance with Casa in January this year after splitting with previous vendor partner Arris – one of NBN’s HFC suppliers and a direct rival to Casa. For Guo, ever-increasing and “insatiable” demand for bandwidth in Australia plus a trend towards fixed-mobile network convergence make the local market an interesting proposition.

“When we look at broadband infrastructure, we see three segments. We see the cable side of broadband infrastructure [such as] cable modems and CMTS converged cable access platforms; we see telco broadband infrastructure, optical and DSLAM; and the third segment is mobile. And we see that all three are actually converging,” he said.

“We as a company are providing solutions in all three segments and especially for the convergence of all broadband infrastructure, HFC, optical, and mobile networks. We are playing in cable infrastructure and optical routing infrastructure as well as small cells, picocells and 5G cells going forward [plus] the packet core side: the core networks which aggregate and control all the access networks.”

Casa and C-Cor believe there could still be opportunities in the NBN HFC supply chain, particularly with the forthcoming upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1, a technology in which Casa positions itself as a market leader. But they are particularly focused on the possibility of helping NBN expand its fixed wireless network via small cell deployment at the network edge.

“In fixed wireless infrastructure, there are opportunities with a company like NBN; it’s got that fixed wireless mandate, it can’t go mobile, but it does hold 2.3GHz [spectrum] and 3.4-3.7GHz as well. Clearly, there are opportunities there for it to… transform that fixed wireless network into a small-cell fixed wireless network,” said Goddard.  

“Part of that driver for that expansion [would be] the fact that their core customers, [such as] Telstra and Optus and Vodafone I guess, are currently expanding their mobile networks and their fixed mobile networks into small cell structures, particularly Telstra… we could see a situation where the other operators are competing against NBN for customers with a mobile infrastructure.”

However, the two companies are not restricting their overtures to NBN; they are also talking to other local fixed and wireless players, some of which are potential competitors to the national network.
“The opportunities we see in general [with] fixed broadband operators, not necessarily NBN specifically,” said Guo, “are that when they push the node closer, fibre deeper, we [can] basically build a hardware platform – a digital node – which can act as an HFC node, which can act as a 5G cell –”
“– but can also host DSL, can also host optics –” put in Goddard
“– so for some business services or new builds, they could put an optical line terminal in that digital node to provide optical service. It’s really about HFC, optical, as well as 5G or 4.5G cells going forwards,” finished the Casa CEO. “We can [also] help the mobile operators to extend their coverage or provide densification of their network by putting the cells into areas that macrocells do not cover well. So it’s both a fixed wireless opportunity as well as a mobile wireless opportunity.”

Guo’s trip to Australia has provided him and Goddard with the opportunity to engage in person with a range of potential customers. “We’re talking to all the big guys, the major players; all the major telcos, and the Tier 2s,” noted Goddard. “We’ve got a leading provider of ultra-broadband technology [in Casa], and the local supplier – us – with the feet on the ground, the local knowledge, the understanding of the deployment methods and methodologies [with] the capacity to customise product if required for localisation.”

Petroc Wilton

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