NightKhaos on Digital Freedom

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Posts Tagged ‘australia abs

Wireless is the future, so roll on FTTP.

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I want to take the time to acknowledge and explain a few points that keep coming up around the NBN policy. I may be repeating a few points I made in previous blogs, but considering how long it has been since I posted I feel you won’t mind. First off, before I crack into it, some house cleaning and updates of relevance:

  • The NBN policy seems to have addressed a few issues that concerned me. For example the CAN will not be shut down in remote areas anymore.
  • The NBN policy appears to be able to meet its ROI projections due to the surprising underestimation of the number of 100Mbps service users.
  • The Coalition have put together a workable alternative, which Renai LeMay from Delimiter sums up fairly well in a position I agree with here.
  • Telstra have released a simply awesome LTE network which appears to be delivering real world speeds of around 5-25 Mbps, comparable to ADSL services.

Right, on to the article post:

Yes, the future is wireless. There, I admit it. The world is going increasingly mobile, smart phone and tablet usage has exploded. I am not immune to this either, I have a HTC One XL, which I could not live without, and a Asus Google Nexus 7. I love the freedom this technology presents. I love the fact I can sit in the middle of a park and write this article. I can see a lot of these mobile devices in my future. And I think that FTTP, like what the NBN intends to deliver, are a very important part of this future.

Confusion, I suspect. You must have questions. So let me attempt to answer them. First, with some evidence, and since we’re talking about Australian Broadband here we might as well use statistics relevant to Australia: ABS 8153.0. Please note I have modified their reporting style to something more prudent to this article, however the values have not been changed.

Connections

Technology
Dec 2011
Jun 2012
Movement
Growth
Share
'000
'000
'000
Dial-Up
473
439
-34
-7.19%
1.56%
-0.21%
DSL
4,553
4,632
79
1.74%
16.41%
-0.59%
Cable
900
917
17
1.89%
3.25%
-0.11%
Fibre
37
52
15
40.54%
0.18%
0.05%
  Fixed Line
5,963
6,040
77
1.29%
21.40%
-0.86%
Satellite
100
94
-6
-6.00%
0.33%
-0.04%
Fixed Wireless
35
30
-5
-14.29%
0.11%
-0.02%
  Rural Options
135
124
-11
-8.15%
0.44%
-0.06%
Mobile Wireless
5,491
5,862
371
6.76%
20.77%
0.27%
Smartphone/Tablet
15,190
16,192
1,002
6.60%
57.36%
0.65%
  Mobile Networks
20,681
22,054
1,373
6.64%
78.13%
0.92%
Other
8
10
2
25.00%
0.04%
0.01%
Total
26,787
28,228
1,441
5.38%
 

As you can see from this despite the massive uptake of Mobile Wireless and Smartphone/Tablet with growth of 6.64% there is still a marked growth in the Fixed Line sector of 1.29%.

Volume Downloaded

Jun 2011
Dec 2011
Jun 2012
TB
TB
TB
Broadband
Fixed line
254,947
322,280
389,130
Wireless
19,149
23,142
25,301
Smartphone/Tablet
3,695
5,000
6,610
Total broadband
277,791
350,422
421,041
Total volume of data downloaded
277,897
350,518
421,047

Please note that in the above table Wireless includes Fixed Wireless and Satellite and the Total includes Dial Up and other connection types (not shown). Also the amount of usage reported is for 3 months, not 6.  This is a limitation of the ABS 8153.0 data set.

However, even more telling than the continuing growth in Fixed Line is the amount of data that is being downloaded on the Fixed Line networks. In June 2012 we were up to an average of 64.42 GB per user for the period, as opposed to the 1.44 GB per user for Wireless.

So why are we seeing this trend? Well, considering 4G networks like Telstra’s do in most cases outperform ADSL2+ and Cable connections, it clearly is no longer about the fact that “fixed-line is faster”, although I do not doubt that particular trend will re-establish itself if the NBN continues past the election. No, it has too do with the capacity that each type of network allows for. With fixed-line connections the quotas you can expect are between dozens of gigabytes to completely unlimited, with the typical plan being in the range of hundreds of gigabytes.

Granted this is more than the average usage, however that is probably due to the tendency of most users to overestimate their requirements because they do not want to suffer a loss in speed or excess usage charges. I remember when we first got Broadband, and we would consistently go over our 1GB capacity. Downloading a game demo of 300MB even managed to burn through a large chunk of our quota, and that would only take an hour or so too do. Ever since then my family have insisted that we get capacity well over what we use, especially after experiencing the perks of a Unlimited connection in the UK. Right now with 5 people in the house we are on a 200GB plan and we probably never go over a 100GB.

In the mobile space however the quotas available are significantly less, at between 200MB and around 10GB. And no this isn’t a money grabbing exercise by the providers, there is a legitimate technical reason why, and this reason can be seen the world over. AT&T for example refused to offer tethering on their iPhone unlimited data plans unless you first downgraded to a limited quota plan. The reason is quite simple, network congestion . Mobile networks in particular suffer from this problem.

Why do you think companies like Telstra and Optus have invested in 4G technology? It isn’t because they fixed line as dead, it is because they are fighting a losing battle with their customers over data usage on their wireless networks. They need you to use a little as possible so that they can provide a consistent experience to all users of the network. This is why every smart-phone in existence has the ability to switch to WiFi. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where we start to get to the substance of my initial statement.

Our wireless future does not in fact rely on the advances of wireless wide area networks (WWAN) like 3G and 4G technology, although they will be important, our wireless future relies on the advances of wireless local area networks (WLAN), like 802.11g, 802.11n and 802.11ac. It is with these technologies that our mobile nirvana will occur, as well as other technologies like mesh networks. Short range, low power, high bandwidth networks. The backbone of these  WLAN networks will be some from of high bandwidth fixed line technology, which is not limited by spectrum and does not suffer from congestion as easily as WWAN networks do. And the best technology to do this job is currently FTTP, and there have been no sudden leaps in the technological space that suggest otherwise.

There are technologies out right now like Fon that can even further reduce the load on our WWAN networks by sharing our WLAN networks with the public at large (a practice that probably has proved unpopular in Australia due to our ISPs still having usage quotas). It is with high penetration of FTTP, and WLAN, mixed in with a little bit of WWAN to “fill in the blanks” is the shape I see our wireless future taking. Just remember the fact that you are getting a FTTP connection does not mean you’re tethered to a desktop computer to use your connection. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a WLAN access point in their home today, and FTTP is not going to change that.

Written by NightKhaos

December 8, 2012 at 11:27 am