On the 23rd of March 2017 I attended a presentation by Anthony
Copobianco, what follows is my interpretation of what might unfold, what
the technologies might be and how it may effect your use of current
mobile and fixed technologies at LTB. I am in no way connected to any
Technology companies for financial gain, apart from being a bog standard
Telstra landline customer and Vodaphone mobile customer. I obviously run
the internet site you are on now and have an interest in how internet
technologies function locally and nationally.
Why all the NBN fuss?
The Internet has opened up many new fields for people, in fact
so many, that there are few aspects of modern life left untouched by its
influence. However we live in a competitive world and there are
big advantages to be gained by tapping into this huge resource.
Much is made of financial capital involved in these projects, but what
is intrinsically far more important to me is the intellectual capital
built in the minds of the people that use it. This may mean anything
from managing a huge company through to researching dog coats on eBay.
Either way, big or small, people can research and publish to their
hearts content these days without going to a large city library to get
quick access to quality documentation. Unless we can provide avenues for
our young people to get good, reliable access to the Internet, we will
quickly move from being known as the "Lucky Country" to the "Dumb
Country" in a short space of time. This is especially critical to
our our rural youth who are greatly disadvantaged in conveniently
accessing the cultural resources of the major capital cities.
Why do this here?
Designing this web page is my way of trying to come to grips with the
internet possibilities and how it may effect me, and my friends, who
live here in Lake Tyers Beach.
The key information to glean from this diagram is that the devices we
have commonly in our houses now, and the list grows longer and longer,
can connect to the internet in a variety of ways. This is very
helpful most of the time, but very confusing when it appears as a tangle
of jargon to the inexperienced consumer.
At the top of it all is the Internet (A)
connectivity between a user and the rest of the world takes place.
This is a large and mysterious land only known in detail by the eggheads
of this world. Us mere mortals need only know a smattering of what
really goes on to access it safely.
Where are we now?
Currently the Internet is locally accessed by people around Lake Tyers
Beach through two main pathways,
the Toorloo Arm exchange through old copper line Telephone points)
(from the Nowa Nowa tower and requires
a SIM card in the device to verify your account)
Here I am using the Speed
test by Ookla
to check my speed as of 8 April 2017.
So you can see the current speeds I have been getting in non tourist
times (although in first term school holidays, but not Easter) while on
ADLS. About 6Mbps download and 0.77Mbps upload is typical of my
best results. The difference between downloads and uploads is a link
back to the optimisation for web browsing introduced right back with
300/1200 modems! If you would like to do your pre-NBN speed tests then
go to this site Speed test
Try to do it when you typically expect to use the computer/phone
so it is representative (ie not at 2am!). I am going to try to remember
to do another one this Easter to see what happens. (Damn forgot!!)
My brother in Euroa regularly obtains 12Mbps on the same equipment for
ADSL, so your results will no doubt vary too. It is largely
dependent on how far we are from the exchange, and I am at about the
limit of 4-5km.
What is holding us back?
Development of the general public's access to the Internet began with
Modem technology. It used audio frequency acoustic
couplers that actually clamped over the earpiece and microphone of an
. They could manage 300 bit per second in
both directions. You could put your ear near the modem and hear
the signals going past!! Technology was so much more tangible back
then (c. 1980's :-)).
However, right up to ADSL2+, we still had to allow a legacy 1970's phone
to plug into the system and work. The modem data signals were no
longer audible, but retaining this compatibility, that is very old
telephony technology and new digital data formats on the one line,
has been a major technology hiatus that, to some extent, also saddles
the NBN now. Huge long term challenges will arise by their
insistence on recycling the old copper telephony lines for about 30% of
Most people understand telephony, but many struggle in the digital
world. Making telephony just a subset of what the digital services can
offer, in a seamless way, is major goal of these digital upgrades.
In other words they want to set up a system that allows high quality
digital signals, and after that the normal telephony requirements in the
home can be easily replaced in digital way as they have been done for
For an excellent well written analysis on the NBN technologies at this
time (May 2017) this article by PC
and Tech Authority
is highly recommended. The author
digs down and explains the upper and lower limits to current NBNco
strategies for providing Internet to your home or business and what the
prospects are for improvement in the future.
What is NBN predicting for Lake Tyers Beach?
Consulting the NBN advice on what is predicted for LTB we are supposed
to be all on a Fixed Tower Wireless service. However the rep from
Telstra said that was wrong (thank heavens!) and it appears the main
part of the town is getting FTN and around the Toorloo Arm area will be
getting the Fixed Tower Wireless service. Check it using this NBN
advice page here
, but don't trust it too much.
The above outlines I have drawn on a Google Map image (thanks
Google!) show what I reckon it is is likely to happen and based on my
interpretation Tony Copobianco's very general comments. From the Princes
Highway to Bream Road will be Fixed Wireless Tower and from Bream
Road into the main LTB higher density premises will be Fibre to the
Node. One of the main challenges for the NBN across Australia will
be to install technologies that will allow growth in what they can sell.
Establishing technologies in areas that can not be easily upgraded to
higher yielding customised contracts profitably will severely hamper
NBN's growth, and in particular NBN's value, should the Government of
the day decide to privatise it. Keeping a relatively high density
area like LTB as a landline system of some sort is likely to maximise
downloads and services growth more than the limited bandwidth offered by
What are the NBN Extras?
The NBN aim is to provide hi-speed broadband to every house and business
in Australia. To do that much of the existing technology, either
the physical layers (eg fibre for copper, wireless for landline etc) or
use different strategies with a mixture of old and new (eg putting Nodes
in the street fed by fibre but using the existing copper to connect from
Node to premises). There is already a big tangle of Internet
services we use already and not many people have much of an
understanding of what is different between these services, and what is
the same. For example - is using a Dongle or mobile phone, as an
Access Point the same thing? By necessity the NBN is introducing even
more new services
, most of which do what we have got now, only
Fibre to the Node: The
new bits between the Toorloo Arm Exchange and the rest of us is Fibre
to the Node (FTN) and Fiber to the Premises (FTP). In new
estates in Bairnsdale for example they are getting the FTP when the
infrastructure can be cleanly and efficiently distributed for the
subscribers. However in other areas, which would be the majority
of Lake Tyers Beach, it will be more profitable to install
mini-exchanges (or nodes) in the streets around the town, connect
these mini-exchanges back to the main exchange with high speed optical
fibre, and use the existing copper landline telephone wire for the
last haul to the premises. This strategy is where immediate
profits rather than future proofing of our services dictate what will
Existing Data Routes
Accessing these services will also be through a modem (as with ADSL)
that will decode the signals and also provide a router and
authorisation to access the network with an ID and a password (no
Telephony style SIM card required). Most of these modems will
generate a Wireless service in the house for devices that connect via
so called "Wi-Fi", so the usual crop of devices in houses now,
including laptops, desktops, tables, i-Pads, mobile-phones, VoIP and
media boxes (and also games consoles, kids!!) can find a pathway
through them to the Internet.
Fixed Wireless Towers: The NBN is bringing another
pathway to the system and that is (C). The NBN Wireless Tower is
similar to the Telephony access, but the towers are more numerous, and
lower power, pretty much requiring direct line of sight (no hills or
forest in between). The Tower Wireless access is connected 24/7 hence
the title "Fixed Wireless", unlike the Telephony type access
(especially when "roaming" between mobile phone towers seamlessly
across the country) where the data is retrieved on a more "call by
call" basis. Our mobile phones are not "connected" all the time,
only as needed by calling or polling, then getting information in
packets. Even the ubiquitous Facebook app is not connected all the
time (though it is designed to make you feel it damn well is!) , and
is actually updating from the towers with regular polling of the
closest tower for you.
The number of permanent connections to a Tower is controlled by NBNCO
and not allowed on an ad-hoc basis (which is how mobiles access their
towers, indeed towers across Australia, with the same SIM Card
credentials) to access any other tower. Hopefully the NBN will
not be tempted to saturate these Towers with too many subscribers, as
the bandwidth available to the tower has an upper limit and as usage
goes up, performance can drop off quickly. Anyone who has
experienced a sharp decline of access to Mt Nowa Nowa at Xmas/NY and
Easter on their mobile phones will understand this principle. If there
are not too many subscribers, on a given Tower, they are predicting
maximum speeds of around 25Mb download and 5Mb upload.
Fixed Wireless Towers will be promoted by NBN where placing a
Node in the street, and using the existing copper telephone lines,
will not be profitable enough. So low density housing/businesses in
rural areas and fringes around towns can expect to see a lot of this.
Muster Satellite: The other other option not
illustrated here is "Muster" Satellite. This is very much
restricted to people who are unreachable by any of the above
technologies. So remote Rural subscribers will be offered this,
and again being another type of wireless system, bandwidth and total
number of subscribers will define how successful people find this
system. It is possible people who cannot get a signal from the
NBN towers could qualify for this service, however NBN people are
quoting the Towers can reach people 14km away (probably clear line of
sight I would guess) so people who can't get any access at all from
the Fixed Wireless Towers will be very low.
In many ways the NBN does not provide any new significant technology
once the signal gets to your computer, dongle or phone. The usual
TCP-IP functions are there and your computer will just "see" a faster
gateway to the Internet. However as time goes on software
developers will write more and more bandwidth hungry applications, and
what is a data speed advantage now will probably be frittered away on
faster and more complicated advertising rather than content that will do
your brain any good.
Layer (E) illustrates
that people have been accessing the Telephony route to the internet
through USB and Wireless Dongles. These are essentially using
the Mobile Phone Towers for their Data stream that is either directly
piped into the laptop or desktop with a USB connection or they relay
the Mobile Phone style connection as a Wireless signal inside the
house. Either way, these devices are functioning as a Modem and Router
to produce standard household accessible data streams.
Layer (F) should be familiar to most people who have
set up a home computer, and especially if you have a home wireless
network operating as well. Layer (H) is where
the growth in the home is that is driving a lot of the growth in
Internet demand. It is the ever growing list of devices that use
the Internet technologies to communicate with each other and the rest
of the world. Layer (G) is also interesting as
mobile phones become more like computers every day (and desktop
machines struggle to leverage the ease of use of the mobile phone).
Mobile phones can tap into Wireless in the home very efficiently and
it greatly improves the mobile phones' performance as a result, and at
much lower cost (eg for upgrades and downloads of all sorts).
Optimising your use of this option can save having to have big
expensive Data contracts with your phone company to cater for you
mobile's hunger for data. Your phone swaps over to the cheaper
option automatically when you get home, nice!
Layer (I) is the standard range of Internet based
applications we run on our computers now. Layer (J)
is what the current government politicians see as the main reason the
man and woman in the street want the NBN for - Playing, or streaming,
video content!! Maybe the most bandwidth hungry but IMHO
certainly not the most important.
Fabulous new technology, what on earth could go wrong?
Notably both these FTN or FTP systems are also susceptible to the
downgrading of services by over subscription and bottle-necking on the
outward going connections from the Toorloo Arm Exchange. For example,
people who are currently using ADSL2+ experience severe downgrade of
service during Xmas/NY and Easter holidays as the sheer volume of
traffic is saturating the optical fibre leaving the Toorloo Arm Exchange
(and going to the rest of the Internet). A comment by a former lessee of
the Lake Tyers Beach Store reported that on the very heaviest days of
trading during these previously mentioned holiday periods is when their
EFT machine becomes extremely unreliable.
Unless the system has the potential to cope with the spikes of Internet
demand during the busiest time of the year both sellers and buyers will
continue to be extremely frustrated. Simply improving our local access
to the main Exchange, by using FTN or FTP, will only exacerbate this
bottle-necking, if there are not substantial upgrades to the Toorloo Arm
Exchange up-line that will allow these peak periods, small as they are,
to be coped with for a town that depends to a very high degree on
tourism for its prosperity.
Never mind the quality, feel the width!!
Much hype is made of the new maximum speeds the new NBN technology will
provide by shonky ISP's touting for business. However the people
who detect scams will be alerted, and probably alarmed, by the quoted
"maximum speeds". One of the most important aspects of Internet
connections, that has been lost in the whole NBN debate, is the concept
. There is little point in paying a premium
for a maximum speed if in reality the exchange you are connected to is
bottle necked and chokes, becoming highly unreliable or unusable because
it has limited access to bandwidth (Eg authenticated sessions like
commercial EFT transactions fail because they do not occur within a
given time limit). Likewise offering "unlimited downloads" is also
somewhat deceptive if in fact the download capacity is bottle-necked by
the local network, and the ISPs know they will never have to fork out to
cover for what they are spruiking no matter how hard the subscribers try
(2am downloads anybody?). A nice tidy profit margin results, but is this
A major irritation is the claim by many ISP that they make "Unlimited
Broadband" available. This, in my opinion is deceptive, as the
wording should be really "unrestricted access to broadband". That is, no
data or speed caps within the ISP's billing system. However that
does not guarantee the ISP buying enough up-stream bandwidth to make the
"unlimited" worth anything much, except maybe for a few at awkward hours
of the morning. Something like if Toyota was advertising "Unlimited
travel" and actually selling you an overpriced Echo.
Reliability is also a major problem with the FTN roll out as the last
haul to the house using old telephone wires is usually the most
unreliable, even with ADSL today. For example older houses may
have 2-3 extra old joins (previous repairs, alterations, upgrades?)
between them and the sunken pits where the individual connections are
joined to multi wire coaxial cables. These connections could be
well over 30years old, and by now probably badly degraded.
Likewise the pits in LTB where all these connections are made, are all
too often filled with water during heavy rain and current ADSL users can
testify that this already severely reduces reliability. It is
understandable that profits would be quickly eroded if the work to
redress these bad connections was tackled, however for many people they
will be wondering why build an expensive system that is sabotaged by the
old technology over the last 100metres (for example). They will
certainly be wondering where the past huge telecommunications profits
have been squandered while they have been paying high rentals and usage
costs, and their system was falling apart outside their door.
Above was the condition of a connection pole in Anderson St in Euroa,
and a junction box in a block of units of in Moore St (Fitzroy). These
just highlight the challenges of relying on the previous landline infra
structure to distribute a world class internet system such as the NBN
claims to be.
More typically is probably the above technology, basically neat and
operational, but never the less was probably "state of the art" c.1970,
ie it was coaxial and underground, not strung between poles 3m in the
Current users of FTN in other areas are also expressing frustratingly
slow speeds at times of peak demand to the point where saturation of the
FTN system is actually producing slower speeds than ADSL2+. This
could be due to bottle necking at the street Nodes or further on past
the main exchanges. Either way, the hype about maximum speeds
becomes somewhat academic because in practice they are rarely achieved,
or only during inconvenient times eg at 2-3am!! However many
people will be relieved they are getting FTN, as it means existing
landline access will be maintained and hopefully at some in the future
sanity will prevail and people will get all their copper removed and
have it replaced with FTP or at least FTC.
For us at LTB reliability and guaranteed minimum speeds
centers such as Melbourne for us are the "elephants in the
kitchen". If this is not addressed in this NBN roll out then
frustration levels will be sky high. While conservative
politicians defend this system by saying it will cope with two to three
movies being down-loaded in an evening, it means "they just don't get
it". If watching movies is the the most significant hallmark of the
Australian psyche that we need to address, we are doomed!!! The
Internet is one of those great leveling systems that can enhance all
mankind, so why are we given such a narrow interpretation of what people
want to do with it? No doubt the media moguls who hold the
restricted television and movie rights will be worried about pirating,
but when the fate of the world is at stake and we need as many well
educated people as possible to help sort our boomer's mess out, worrying
about one of the most resource wasteful industries in the world, the
movie and TV industry, just does not cut it for me. To equate the
potential of the Internet for country people as a video rental service
is just plain insulting, and technologically myopic.
So what to do?
In my opinion FTP (everybody gets a superior upgrade from the exchange
to the premises, not only faster, but more reliable) is preferable over
FTN (Ferrari to the street corner, then into the horse and buggy to do
the last 200m) , but while politics is preoccupied with private
enterprise doing much of this marketing (who bow to shareholder demands
for maximum financial returns), rather than government agencies (who
could put in a superior service, more costly in the short term, but a
better investment in the long term development of the nation) we are
going to get this dogs-breakfast of a system.
I would suggest subscribing to the FTN system as it will provide much
better reliability than relying on Telephony (eg Dongles or Mobile
Phone) and while not as good as a complete FTP upgrade, leaves the door
open for later technologies, such as Fibre
to the Curb (FTC)
to come along that will allow
profitable upgrades either as individuals or communities to fibre to the
premises. Certainly this FTP upgrade would be extremely desirable
for anyone who runs any sort of business these days. Further
improvements in our LTB system will depend on subscription rates and
potential for profit. If not many LTB people subscribe, it will be
assumed we are "happy" with our bodged fibre->copper service and it
will made to limp along indefinitely.
People with bad mobile phone connections around their house at the
moment should be investigating using
, set up on their mobile phone that access the
telephone system back through the FTN system. This would mean
conversations around the house would go via the Wi-Fi link back to the
Toorloo Arm Exchange, rather than back to the Nowa Nowa tower.
Using other systems like Skype and Face Chat will also provide similar
alternatives. They are all based on packets of data being shunted around
and this allows any of this stuff to be sent in any direction, the
Landline connections at home will be ultimately more reliable.
While sharing my thoughts publicly I will
not accept responsibility for losses or damage caused by people relying
on this site for advice, and not seeking professional advice in the
field of service you are purchasing or setting up. With all your
important decisions to please consult an expert of your choice in the
respective field, and follow it. If you are a professional in the
field and feel my interpretation is confusing your customers please
contact me so I can review my site.