Malcolm Turnbull Can't Imagine Need For Speeds Faster Than 25Mbps

Malcolm Turnbull's high-speed vision includes the "near term objective that everybody has access to not less than 12Mbps, and within four years…not less than 25Mbps." But in a comment that could echo Bill Gates' alleged "640K ought to be enough for anybody" quip from 1981, Turnbull said "it's difficult to think of many applications of interest to residential users that would not be perfectly well serviced by the speeds I've described."

He added that "It's hard to know what you miss out on." Hard, unless you have an imagination, watch industry trends, read research, or look at history to know when it may be repeating itself. More: Why Did Intel Release A Sci-Fi Book With Douglas Rushkoff?

Stilgherrian over at on ZDNet's podcast jumped in and disagreed, and the conversation became a hypothetical debate over an average family's possible use of four simultaneous HD video conferencing streams. It was a decent example by Stilgherrian, but Turnbull wouldn't have it.

Like I've said in the past, this isn't even about politics anymore. I tuned into the podcast because I'm truly interested to hear what Turnbull's alternative would be. I'm interested, but we still need more details please. [ZDNet]



    An individual using the present internet probably wouldn't need much over 25mbps and lets face it, its not like technology advances or people live with other people...

    I'm one of the "wait and see" people out there and at the moment, the cost involved isn't worth the effort signing up to the NBN when it rolls out past my door. I would love 100Mbits per second but I have to pay a lot more for it and the download quota isn't much really.

    I'm okay with ADSL 2+ for the moment for me and my partner. Hopefully the cost will be lowered again soon.

      " the cost involved isn’t worth the effort signing up to the NBN when it rolls out past my door." - and the world is full of idiots. It costs you *NOTHING* to let them connect magic to your home *NOW* even if you do not "get the service". In the future, if they have to *come back to your place* to put the link in, it will cost you *thousands*.

        I'm sure he's more referring the the current reported monthly service costs of Internode and kin, rather than an initial set up charge.

        Correct me if I'm wrong here (and I quite possibly am, seeing I don't really follow NBN stories that closely), but isn't the NBN to be provided as a replacement of the existing copper cable, not as an addition? That being the case, would you not need to have an NBN connection even merely to allow your fixed line phone to work (assuming you have one)?

        For what it's worth, I'm going to side with Barry's comment over your one, simple because he uses spelling and grammar far better.

          The Joke here is that people think its going to be cheaper and easier to implement FTTx in the Future, LMAO

          Its like this Faster Trains idea, 30yrs ago was when it was suggested, now we are whinging, well shove it up ur arse !

          Once demand rises prices will fall eventually...

          I'll side with Phil on this, as Sam's reasons sound like something Elton John would tell his Partner. O.o

          Yes I'm referring to the monthly costs invloved from ISPs that have been currently be reported on. Thank you Sam.

            If you check out iiNet's prices, their NBN pricing is actually CHEAPER than their DSL pricing, once you take into account the fact you no longer need a telephone line (neither POTS or naked) with an NBN account.

            Exetel is another that has cheaper NBN pricing than ADSL pricing.

            Internode is the only one showing prices going up so far (though I'm sure Optus and Telstra will join in the grab) and they've always been a more "premium" (read: higher) pricing scheme than others.

    I don't think 4 simultaneous HD video conferences are typical of the average Australian home.

      Not yet, but if we HAD the technology, it's easy to imagine parents streaming a movie in the lounge while the kids are streaming music/movies/chatting/gaming in their bedrooms.

      Maybe not sucking up as much bandwith as "4 HD videoconferences", but still relevant.

      Then eventually we'll move into Virtual Reality gaming/office work and everyone can stay in bed all day, every day!

        You dont really need more then 25mbps for that you realise....a 1080p stream can be done with 8mbps EASY, or even 12mbps if you use shitty apple encoding. That leaves over half for an HD video chat or music steaming (music streaming is usually done at 128kbps to 256kbps).

        if you think about it, it is really hard to consistantly utilize 25mbps (unless your torrenting :D)

          Actually it is very possible. 1080p is only capable on 8MBit IF you are getting it from a very good host, preferably a local one, streaming it from overseas is very hit and miss. If we work off the nuclear family model, Mum and Dad watching tv takes up nothing, but lets say we have kid 1 watching a movie streaming at 1080p, kid 2 doing the same, that will require 24MBit to do it safely, and considering that the average MBit per second in Australia for a person with ADSL2+ is more around 16-18MBit per second due to failing telephone lines and lacking infrastructure, it is perfectly acceptable to see that we will need more than 24Mbit. Now lets say mum and dad are going to stream a movie while the two kids are also streaming but mum will also be doing a bit of work that requires her to access the internet(as many people who do work at home do), that breaks the 24MBit barrier right there, even if we were to base it on needing only 8Mbit per second simply because of the overheads needed.

            Don't forget that 1080p is not forever. QHD with 4 times the resolution is around the corner. 4x the resolution requires 4x the bandwidth. Sure you can compress the hell out of it and deal with the drop in quality, but an uncompressed Bluray is ~40Gbps as it stands.

            As for international bandwidth issues.. it's actually an excellent opportunity for high bandwidth Australian streaming services to establish themselves and then roll out to the rest of the world when it catches up. Streaming is also just one example of several current technologies that we have the potential to become world leaders in.

            It has always true that when bandwidth increases; we always find a way to fill it. It's very much a "if you build it, they will come" situation, except that it's guaranteed that they will come, not just a vague hope.


              ...hate it when I get my 'G's, 'B's and 'b's turned about.

              Well thats exactly what netflix wants to do from what I have read. They are attempting to find an ISP that they can partner with to launch with here in Aus.

            Sure at the moment 1080p can be easy to stream. But down the track when 4k replaces 1080 and then something replaces 4k and somethign rpelaces that. People will complain they are struggling to stream a 4k movie, then this gizmodo story will be reposted and history will repeat again.

    Then of course fibre is pretty much the only technology able to guarantee you the advertised speed. Technically I can get 24Mbps, but even 12Mbps is a pipe dream. There are a lot of wireless customers in my area as well so I can only imagine the congestion they have to put up with.

      What *everyone* forgets about the difference between DSL and NBN is UPLOAD SPEED. Wen you are one of the PRECIOUS FEW getting 24Mbps sync you are barely getting 2Mbps UPLOAD. On the NBN you can have 12-and-1, 25-and-5, 50-and-20, 100-and-40. So even at 25Mbps I can have 5Mbps UPLOAD speeds - and that's *guaranteed*, anywhere you're touched by NBN fibre. Even when you consider the *peak, best case, theoretical* speed of ADSL, you *CANNOT* get 5Mbps upload speeds. Not even with 3 inches of phoneline to the DSLAM.

        Who gives a shit about upload speeds, beyond what is required to ensure download can hit the promised maximum? Vast majority of users couldn't care less, not even about that last part.

          "Who gives a shit about upload speeds"

          Two words: Video conferencing :)

          Not many people do, but everyone SHOULD.

          The massive boost to upload speed is the biggest benefit of the NBN, imo. Finally, we can do things like video chat, decent VOIP at any length from the exchange, remote backups, remote desktop, cloud-based OS....

          Why people base the NBN's ability on what they do right now on a massively gimped network is beyond me :\

    HDTV is just one but one that should really be coming easily to his imagination considering the current state of affairs in that space.

    Internally, that is cut off from the rest of the world, there should not really be a speed limit for the NBN. It's only when connecting to the rest of the world where there should be bandwidth restrictions (and an increased cost for great bandwidth and speed) but that 25Mbps is "enough" is certainly a ridiculous claim.

      Very big number of people do care about uploads.

        I can think of a more mainstream reason. If I am to have a 'local cloud' or cloud backup thats servicing out of my standard PC/Mac... I want the fastest upload available.

    I hate it when people carry on about ADSL2+ is enough. Well it would enough if you can get it. Less than 3KM from the exchange, less then 25km from Melbourne CBD and I can only get ADSL1, 3G in the area ranges from zero to about 300k.

    Bring on the NBN. Level playing field for the majority of the population!

    P.S. Just remember, if Telstra was not sold it would have been planning to roll out Fibre to replace its aging copper network. You would have still been paying for it then!

    Generally I try to ignore what's happening with the NBN, but even I myself can't decide whether its worth it; so how can I expect everyone else to?

    In the current state of IT and communications, I think Mal's right - there isn't a need for anything significantly greater than 15-25Mb/s for private home use. Video teleconferancing isn't something that I'm aware of the majority of house holds doing, and the only other need I can see for additional bandwidth currently is for multimedia (legal or otherwise).

    However, I'm aware that these thoughts are based off the current conditions. The concept of sending electrical signals down copper wire has been in service in Australia for well over 100 years, and while it's served us well, we need to look to the future.

    However, by the same respect - how can we know what the future is going to hold? I doubt Alex Bell had any idea his technology would lead to what we currently have today; and by the same respect, will new uses for NBN infrastructure be found in future decades?

    Either way we're taking a gamble...

    Dear Malcolm, who I used to respect before the mad monk had you "stupidised", here are the uses for > 25mbps home speeds right now:
    1. OS and device upgrades (@600mb --> 3 Gb a pop these days)
    2. HD movies via CDN
    3. cloud sync, such as backup
    4. web apps
    5. working from home via VPN
    Politics seems to make smart guys stupid, peter garrett springs to mind too :-(

      I have less than 25 MB/S and I can do all this now.

        So can I - but slower. Sometimes impractically slow.

        Personal example: I work from home, I write VFX software, and I often need real footage to test my code on (to replicate customer bugs). Occasionally this means downloading a ~100 frame sequence, at up to 50MB per frame, from a server in Canada. More rarely, I may need a few such sequences, or larger ones. Since this can mean downloading 5-30GB, my 8Mbps connection means I usually have to opt for a handful of still frames over a loong wait.

        I'd take - and use - the NBN today, if I had it. Better still, I'd love to move out of the city (and save $15K/year in rent), and the NBN will make that possible. And since growth in bandwidth demand has averaged ~45% each year, I can imagine I'll *really* need the NBN by the time it's laid somewhere I can use it.

          Hmm and you think all those non-NBN bits of the network between here and Canada will deliver the same speed as your local NBN connection? More likely they're only just keeping up with your 8Mbps connection as it is.

            Are you serious? Major carrier interconnections are in the order of tens or hundreds of gigabits per second.

            8mbps is nothing - it is easily possible to saturate 100mbps or more from a single source. If massive data transfers is what you do every day, you make sure of it.

            If you are in the business of writing software that requires a VERY high speed link, then why haven't you got one? Plenty of people will sell you a big fat pipe. If it is a business requirement, then it is a tax deduction. Shrug.

            I also have a home office. I write Perl, PHP, HTML, CSS, Javascript, C, Ruby, SQL and content copy. ADSL2+ at about 11Mbps is just fine. I can't see a requirement to increase my speed or download quota in the near to medium or even longer future. My current web app for a client takes me 75 seconds to upload the entire system. Do I need it to be a LOT faster? No.

            Apart from more television, no-one has given me a valid reason for having a 100 Mbps pipe at home. And although some people like to watch a lot of videos and telly, I really don't thing that justifies a $50 BILLION spend.

            When I have had a boring moment in recent history I surfed over to the Family Guy site only to get a message that the content wasn't available to Australian IP addresses. That was a bummer. So off to bigpond movies to have a look at wgat I can get, picked out a thriller, and the website will not let me buy it because I'm not running Windows.... Double bummer. So much for using the internet for entertainment. A faster pipe would have made no difference at all.

            I agree with Malcolm and the general sense that with technology one should buy 'just in time'.

              Options are limited, for independent contractors in a residential suburb. Don't really want to have to move to a commercial district, or to rent a whole office there just for the network.

              I think the point here was that even if you or I don't need the NBN today, there are people that do, and at 45% demand growth we're all much more likely to need it in 7-9 years when it's actually available to us. Yes, we can make do in the meantime with short-term kludges, but will that be enough in 15 years, when we're expecting 250x what we have today?

        I have less than this also and do all this now for my home business but it's SLOW, kills the network and has PAINFUL upload speeds.
        Politicians (in my view) have a duty to plan properly for the long term future. Turnbull seems, at best, to be planning for the medium term. Show me a polli who believes in best practice and I'll show them my vote.

      Thought of another, potentially huge use: thin-client cloud apps (e.g. OnLive).

      With sufficient bandwidth and low enough latency, you can run high-powered apps on cloud servers and just stream the video to any screen - Citrix/Remote Desktop on steroids. Efficient, centralised datacentres and dirt-cheap clients at home - but you need a fast, fat network in between.

      OnLive does this for games, but they can do it for any app: Photoshop, movie edits, 3D renders, CAD - all instant-on, full-speed and interactively streamed to any device, even a tablet or a TV. It won't completely replace PCs (or consoles) of course, but for a lot of people it'd be all they needed.

    An example of a house needing to do 4 simultanious HD video conferencing seems extreme. Rewind back 15 years and let's remember when each house had only one PHONE (and mobiles weren't that common).

    Back then, you could get a second phone line for another $30 per month, yet very few households did. Why? Because the need for simultanious voice calls was rare enough that it didn't warrant it. The need for 4 simultanious HD video conferences is ludicrous, let alone that every household would be willing to pay $5000+ each for NBN just to make it possible.

      "$5000 plus each" - ? Really ? Here's a clue for the clueless: Skype (free) + Skype HD Video Camera ($70 each, for the EXPENSIVE one)

        Phil, are you here to make legitimate points, or to flame people, are you REALLY that dumb not to realise that Jay is referring to the amount that each person is contributing indirectly in tax to pay for the NBN?

          a) Don't forget to amortise that over the life of the NBN (a few decades)
          b) Remember that there will also be many indirect benefits too - new jobs, industry growth, decreased costs from decentralisation etc. Harder to measure, but very real.

          My own example: I'd like to save $15K/year in rent by moving out of the city, but lack of a decent rural network is a big factor preventing that.

          I think it is still money well spent (at least in theory). The entire NBN is a fraction of what goes to welfare EVERY YEAR. Stop paying the people who throw parties and smoke pot all day instead of going to work and there'll be plenty of money. (I'm looking at my neighbours who kept me up last night...)

          I've been using ADSL since 2000 - back then 33.6kbps was "enough" so the 512kbps was "luxury". These days 512kbps is below the minimum of what people would find acceptable and 25mbps is "luxury". What will it be like in another 10 years time? I predict anything less than 12mbps will be like having dial-up these days. Plus upload rate is important too!

            Ancient history already. 108mbps is now the bare minimum as far as I'm concerned!

      My core point is that while the functionality that an NBN enables may be appreciated by some people, I doubt they would be willing to pay for it if they had to bear the true cost.

      Another example, Optus and Telstra currently offers 100Mbit on it's HFC network in cities. It's only ~$15/month extra, yet the take up rate is still very low. The $15 a month cost is infact cheaper it will be to consumers under NBN (the cost of 100MBit NBN wholesale is over $15/month more than existing ADSL2+ resale cost, and that's before you even factor in the actual NBN build cost).

      There are cheaper alternatives that can maximise infrastructure and meet rising consumer demands over time. One of teh best alternatives is a fibre to the node solution and using copper over the last mile (~500m). Existing VDSL2 technologies can do 100MBit syncronous (up and down) over 500 meters of copper.

      Telstra proposed a similar Fibre To The Node concept some years ago. Cost estimates range in the $10-15B network, some 1/3rd the cost of NBN.

      An additional point to remember is that your speed is only as fast as your worst bottleneck. Today, I believe for the majority of users and uses, this is not actually the last mile copper. Rather it is external ISP links, international links and sever speeds that do not allow you to maximise your last mile download speed. NBN does absolutely nothing to address these bottlenecks. Additionally, a rise in usage under NBN could drive greater contention ratios, which could make ISPs have to increase prices.

      No one can argue that NBN would be nice to have. Some can argue that it would provide economic benefits, and this may be true but incredibly difficult to quantify. I believe few can argue it is a clear cut, cost effective, intelligent decision right now.

        Remember that 100mbps cable is only available in "selected areas of Melbourne" with no plans to expand it, and most of the population can't even get slower cable. Telstra only ever rolled it out to the most profitable (densest) areas. Same with Telstra's FTTN plan: it was cheaper because it would only serve 5 capital cities (and even then only if the law was changed to prevent retail competition).

        This is the big problem with leaving it to private enterprise: since they're only in it for the money, they stick to profitable neighbourhoods - they don't care about indirect benefits. Rural areas always come last with any private service, and so cities keep getting more and more crowded.

        Imagine if the phone network was only ever rolled out to 5 capital cities, and everyone else was stuck without phone service for 50 years (many still wouldn't have it).

          Just an FYI about your first line there. I'm currently using an Optus HFC connection pulling 96Mb (11MB/s) in South East Sydney.

          Mind you these speeds can only be achieved from local servers.

          As Jay mentioned our international link is a bottleneck. 100Mbs will just be speeds within Australia. And only a fraction of what we do online is on Australian servers.

            Thanks, I realised after I posted that Optus did 100Mbps too. Still only in parts of 3 capital cities though.

            International links are demand-limited, nothing more. There is already large amounts of unused capacity and dark fibre, and it's about to double again next year. What we needed was increased competition there, which we got with PIPE/TPG's Guam link, and are getting more of.

            International links are usually bottle-necked by conventional TCP/IP overheads and limitations on moderate latency connections (above 100ms) rather than a problem with not enough capacity. You could have a 100Mb link to the states but may only be able to download at 2Mb/s due to latency (round trip time of the TCP packets to acknowledge packet success). You can't gauge network capacity purely from experience with downloading files or the like... See Aspera ( for ideas on this as they've developed a UDP based protocol that addresses this problem (in the VFX industry you need to send multi-gigabytes of data via intercontinental links as quickly as possible).

          The NBN debate would have been a null issue if the Liberals didn't axe the original fibre optic setup that started to be rolled out 14 years ago (Worked great between Coffs and Sydney). The fibre optic cable that was laid has proven to be cost efective as far as maintenence is concerned (lasted 14 years with little work).

    Its hard to see why anyone would want a motor car capable of driving at 110+ km/h. Its therefore hard to see why we need divided hightways with 2 lanes in each direction.

    Its hard to see why we need to travel by air to Singapore in less than 18 hours, as was the case in the propeller airliner period.

    Its hard to see why any remote specialist doctor would want to be able to see imaging on a patient 100s or 1000s of kms away.

    Its hard to see why we should ever abandon the Z80 CPU; we never did fully explore and leverage its architecture.

    Its hard to see why we would want to extend electric power all over the country when home lighting sets are available.

    Now, how many of you want to return to turn back to times before? And make sure you ask Malcom Turnbull too.

      Fair points, yet all of your examples were adopted in mass once there demand for it began to exist, not before anyone had thought of what demand there might be.


      I appreciate what you're getting at however on your point regarding air travel. Why don't we have the concord anymore? The world has the technology available to fly faster but we don't. The economic reality is that people don't want to pay the prices associated with that technology and it's not viable for new entrants to the market to make options like that available.

      It seems that Opposition policy is to accept the argument that there are going to be more cost effective ways to do this in the future and not get caught up in the luster of a FTTH network. Especially when there are people who still can't access ADSL2+ from from their residence. The NBN won't be getting people access any sooner than the oppositions plan as the network won't be complete until 2021.

        Bob, the reason we don't have Concorde any more is simple, its average density was too great! Seems odd but look at the successful airliners; in every new generation in each class they have been of lower density than the ones that preceeded them. That means that the cost less per seat kilometre to operate. Concorde tried to go the other way and its seat kilometre costs were the incredibly high. Cost is what drove Concorde out of the air. Even with substantial subsidies to moth BA and AF the aircraft never made anything approaching a profit.

    WHY the NBN *always* WINS over ADSL: Skype HD recommended speed is 1.5Mbps UPLOAD, so unless you can reach-out-and-hug your phone exchange, ADSL will *almost never* give you enough capacity for even ONE SINGLE family member to to Skype in HD. NBN has the capacity for 100 down *and 40 megabits UP*.

    With the slow push towards cloud syncing it's not impossible.

    There is also cloud gaming that is starting up slowly.

    But to go back to the 1980s who would imagine half the things we currently do with computers? The Internet was barely a pipe dream. The fact that we can't think of reasons for them now doesn't mean there aren't going to be reasons. Fifteen years ago I was happy with 56.6k. Certainly don't want that now.

    I can get 800kbs in Coffs Harbour so go suck a dick and update my phone line

    Hmm - just think of a future when your TV doesn't receive radio waves any more, but gets content from the web. You can choose which show/movie you want to watch, so can your spouse in the bedroom, two kids are watching their own choices in their bedrooms while the third is video-chatting with her boyfriend.

    This only talks about some fairly basic internet use. What about when you have one of the kids doing a group assignment, video-working with four other students and swapping versions of their assignment at the same time?

    25Mb/s is not enough. And the headline to this story shows a disappointing lack of imagination.

      Very well said.

      A lot of the arguments I hear are based on ME. "I have enough speed for me why do I want more?". But for a family, 25Mb/s is barely enough for today, what about tomorrow.

      Add businesses to the equation and it really starts to make sense.

    With comments like these its a wonder how we ever advanced past 56kb dial up lines and 1.4mb floppy disk drives. The need will be there eventually.

    Yes for now 25mbps is more than enough but we have no idea what applications we will be using in the next 5-10 years time. If i were to ask you back in the year 2000 what the internet would be like today i doubt you could imagine things like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, online gaming like WOW, PS3, Xbox 360, iTunes etc. None of us have any idea what the internet will be like in 5 to 10 years time and the NBN is the perfect infrastructure to get us ready for it.

    I only have 2 poeple in my house. We regularly attempt (note the word) watch iview on 1 tv, while playing games on 360, while my computer grabs the latest podcasts off itunes, while my work PC is connected via VPN and grabbing large emails.

    At 11mbps my net connection strains to keep all these balls in the air. At 25 I'm sure this will be easy. But what happens when I have 2 or 3 kids doing their own things? OR if you're sharehousing? Turnbull is simply underestimating the growth because it fits his agenda.

    We should now focus on ensuring that a man with such a short sighted view does not become the person responsible for delivering that future.

    4 Simultaneous HD video conferences - blah!

    Try one single Ultra HD movie in 10 years time

    We'll be screaming for 1Gb connections by then!

    You won't get that on copper or wireless!

    he makes reference to google saying its good but they are not paying for it.
    hate to tell you Melcolm but they are building out gigabit networks in parts of the states

    I can actually agree with Malcolm Turnbull, for the time being. You really dont need an Internet speed faster than that unless you are downloading gigabyte files on a daily basis. Even then 12-25 would be sufficient. I'm a heavy-ish Internet user and 8Mbps (which is supposed to be 20 but I've only had it up to 14 once.) is perfect for everything. The average user, especially in Australia, doesn't need that fast of a connection. But, that said, as things become more web oriented, higher quality audio, video (1080p high bit-rate), higher resolution photos and video games going native 1080p soon there will need to he faster speeds and more bandwidth. But even then, we still have disk based media for those things.

      Perhaps if we'd started building the NBN 7 years ago and actually had it available to most people today, he might have had a point.

      I'm guessing a lot more people will be interested by 2018.

    All arguments against the NBN are flawed. People need to think outside of what they and their own family do. Business will be better off, education will be better off and as a BONUS you can the ability at home to have superior internet.
    Pull your head in Australians.

    Let's be honest: 25MBps is bloody fast, and more than enough for practically any consumer need. Thing is, most people don't actually get that speed, even when they pay for it.

    I don't know that the NBN is the best way to achieve that (or near to it), but I have greater hopes of getting realistic 25MBps+ speeds from a "100MBps" link than one where 25MBps is the top speed.

    I reckon about 100 new Pay TV operators will spring up when the NBN gets going. It will all be IP TV services, in 20 years people will look back and say "wow I can't beleive We only had a choice of 2 pay TV operators."

    So many new services will become available when over 50% of the population has access to the NBN. Even if they dont want it now, they will want it in the future.

    Build the NBN and they will download.

      Unlikely - the content owners wouldn't be interested in little niche providers/markets.

        Content providers would not need to do anything, they would simply sell it to the new Pay TV companies like they do with the current ones. It would simply mean more money for them.

        Who said anything about Niche! They could be multi billion dollar companies. Right now they have no way of connecting people without satlittes and dishes. Imagine signing up to a Pay TV operator without the contract or installation costs.

    Obviously the speed is a problem and I think it is ridiculous Malcolm saying that we don't need 100 MBps.

    In my opinion the main point the NBN will (I hope) fix is the access. Today a big part of the population don't have ADSL2+ thanks to Telstra and it's crappy infrastructure. How are we supposed even to update our OSs or download a movie using 3G? Australia is still in the post dial-up era.

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