Why The NBN Isn't Selling Gigabit Internet Yet

Image: Supplied

This op-ed from NBN's chief executive Bill Morrow is being posted to the National Broadband Network company's blog today, and is being republished here in full by Gizmodo. Do you agree with his explanation? Do you disagree? Let us know in the comments.

Bio: Mr Morrow was appointed as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and a Director of nbn effective 2 April 2014. He joined nbn with a remit to ensure all homes, businesses and communities across Australia can access fast broadband as soon as possible, at affordable prices and at least cost. Prior to his present role Mr Morrow served as CEO of Vodafone Australia.

On NBN's blog -- Gigabit Broadband: The Facts

There has been a lot of discussion in recent days around the need for Gigabit broadband in Australia – let’s set some things straight…

The nbn™ network is here to bring fast broadband to all of Australia by 2020 – more than 4 million premises already have access to fast broadband via the nbn™ network today.

In just a few months we will be at the halfway point of the rollout. Next year we will be three quarters built. By 2020 we will be complete. What once seemed impossible is now a reality.

I was asked last week by the media about the need for Gigabit (Gbps) speeds in Australia. These are lines that are 40 times faster than plans based on our most popular 25Mbps wholesale service.

The fact is nbn™ already offers a wholesale 1Gbps product to retail service providers – which RSPs can make available to more than 1.5 million homes, and has been on sale for around four years.

Currently, there are no retail 1Gbps speed plans on offer from the retailers. This is, in our opinion, because there is still minimal consumer demand for these ultra-fast speeds – especially at the prices retailers would have to charge for them.

Our own data shows that 83 per cent of people on services powered by the nbn™ network today are ordering retail services based on the two lowest wholesale speed tiers 25/5Mbps and 12/1Mbps.

NBN Says It Is 'On Schedule, On Budget, And Approaching Half Way Point'

NBN's half yearly results are out, detailing the six months leading up to 31 December 2016. Here's what NBN says about how it is going. Feel free to comment with your personal experiences.

Read more

There is currently around a $20-$30 monthly difference between what retailers charge for plans based on our 25/5Mbps wholesale service and our 100/40Mbps wholesale service – but only 13 percent of end-users are willing to pay that relatively small premium for access to that faster tier.

We have to be realistic about what the market is actually telling us about demand for ultra-fast services.

Of course, the demand for Gigabit speeds could, and probably will, change – current plans for FTTP and DOCSIS 3.1 HFC suggest they will be able to deliver such speeds to around 5 million premises on the nbn™ network by 2020 and the other parts of our network, with the exception of satellite, have upgrade paths to offer the same ultra-fast speeds when demand comes around.

Rather than build for a demand that may materialise in ten years, we are constructing a national network capable of continuous upgrading to meet market needs as and when they arise. There is little point in adding to the already high $49 billion cost of the nbn™ network to provide a capability that end users do not yet require and RSPs are not selling.

Gigabit demand

We spend a lot of time researching overseas markets about Gigabit speeds, and the trends are not what you might think.

We have met with global operators offering 1Gbps services and they willingly concede that their end-users are simply not using speeds anywhere near 1Gbps – in fact they would be lucky to actually ever use a fraction of that speed – so, at present, the Gigabit game is really about marketing, not actual utility.

Giz Explains: Every NBN Technology, Compared

Feeling a little bit confused by the stupidly complicated and ever-changing rollout of the National Broadband Network? Here's our quick guide to the different types of NBN that might be installed at your home.

Read more

Even in a heavy usage household right now it’s likely you’d struggle to generate the need for anything close to a 1Gbps –if you had five 4K TVs streaming 4K movies simultaneously then that’s only around 100Mbps being consumed – leaving 900Mbps idle.

Given that the vast majority of current online video viewing is in SD or HD – requiring only 2Mbps-5Mbps then a 1Gbps pipe would be enough to stream 200 HD streams simultaneously – way, way beyond the requirements of a normal household.

Cost is the key

Of course, if we were in a position to deliver 1Gbps for $49/month, as they do in Singapore, then we would do it – but we are simply not in that position from an economic point of view.

The fact is that Singapore is a city state, comprising of high density apartment buildings – and Australia is over 10,000 times larger than Singapore. The Singaporean Next Generation National Broadband Network [NGNBN] cost only a fraction of what it will cost to build the nbn™ network.

The nbn™ network is costing around $49 billion to build – and we need to recoup that cost –given that our business model is split between driving revenues from access and consumption charges, we simply cannot match the kind of 1Gbps pricing on offer in markets like Singapore and Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong you can deliver FTTP for as low as $150 per premises – in comparison, thanks to Australia’s unique geographical and population density situation, it is costing us an average of $4,400 to connect every FTTP premises and can cost significantly beyond that in many situations – these are the stone cold facts of the matter and there is no getting away from them.

Many roads to gigabit speeds

If you want evidence that we are taking the right approach, you need only look at what is happening in the US with Google Fiber. Last October, the internet giant announced that it would be putting its much publicised FTTP deployment on hold and would look at new ways to deliver ultra-fast broadband.

Google Fiber found that viable economics for Gigabit broadband simply did not exist once the initial hype of the project had faded and the product hit the streets.

Indeed, respected writer Farhad Majoo pointed this out in an article published through Slate in 2013.

[Google Fiber] felt a little underwhelming. After all, who needs to play five HD videos at the same time? If that’s Google’s best demo of its superfast service, what does it suggest about what regular people will do with it?

What’s more, the demo didn’t even begin to approach the limits of Google Fiber — with five HD videos playing simultaneously there were still hundreds of megabits left on the pipe. When I got back home a few days later, I replicated the same test on my home broadband line and experienced only a few hiccups.

Ultimately even a company with a huge amount of capital available such as Google Fiber found that digging up driveways and gardens to connect every single premise to FTTP was too expensive and time consuming.

Google ultimately concluded that they could not make it work commercially offering Gigabit FTTP broadband at just $70/month.

We are still waiting to see what Google Fiber will do next – reports suggest that it will move towards a Fixed-Wireless solution – but quite clearly their conclusion was that the economics of delivering gigabit speeds via FTTP simply did not add up.

That’s not to say that Google Fiber didn’t have an impact in the market – their presence forced the incumbents to raise their game with the likes of AT&T now marketing FTTP access to 4 million premises across 46 metros, but this still represents only 3 per cent of the near 130 million premises in the US – we are talking about a niche market.

Markets like Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan started their deployment of high-speed broadband in the late 1990s and having fully recouped their investments in delivering FTTB with VDSL – typically offering up to 100Mbps – are now delivering 1Gbps and even 10Gbps via FTTP.

This Is How Much The NBN Spends To Hook Up Your House

In its latest half-year financial presentation on Thursday, the NBN revealed the cost of connecting each home to FTTP, FTTN and other technologies in its catalogue.

Read more

For a variety of reasons, our broadband upgrade in Australia started much later, so we cannot judge ourselves against markets like these; they are much further along on their journey and you just can’t compare Australia to Singapore or Hong Kong for obvious reasons including those stated above.

This is why operators around the world are so excited about technologies like DOCSIS 3.1 and G.fast, which allow Gigabit broadband to be deployed at substantially lower price points and in far less time than it takes to deploy Gigabit services over FTTP – and we will see both of these technologies emerge much more fully in the next few years globally as well as here in Australia.

In conclusion

We know that people in Australia want access to fast internet – that is precisely what we are aiming to deliver with the nbn™ network.

We also know that 1Gbps speeds are simply way beyond what even the most advanced end-user needs today, let alone what is needed by regular families across Australia.

There is literally not a single mass market consumer application – or even a combination of applications – that requires 1Gbps capability right now.

This will change in the future, especially as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, 8K technology and virtual reality penetrate our daily lives.

In fact, we hope that by delivering a fully connected continent we can help create a market for Gigabit applications – and when Australians need those kinds of speeds we will have the solutions in place to provide it.

Bill Morrow is CEO of nbn.

NBN After-Hours Installation Service Coming Soon, Will Cost $150 Per Customer

Telcos always wants to install new fixed-line services, including those on the National Broadband Network (NBN), during working hours; the most inconvenient time for a lot of people. They usually require someone at the installation premises and some people have to take time off work just to wait for a technician to come over. But it looks like there will soon be an after-hours installation service for the NBN - for a price.

Read more



    The nbn™ network is costing around $49 billion to build – and we need to recoup that cost NO YOU FUCKING DON'T COZ WE'RE FUCKING PAYING FOR IT YOU F#$KING BUNCH OF [email protected]#TS

      If they don't do a Johnnie Howard and sell it, it will. FFS It's a public utility .

        Well Malcolm is spending millions to upgrade that copper that Johnnie Howard sold off AND we are paying rental as well. I'm guessing Mal and/or his mates bought a few Teltra shares. Also guessing a few Foxtel ones as well given Fraudband was launched from the Foxtel studios and crap internet is in foxtel's interests.

    I have a friend who works at a couple of suburban primary schools, one had to add an extra 4 Mbps Connection, to get some semblance of speed. Another gets around 8 Mbps on one ADSL2+ Connection. he has to go home to downloads updates as he has a faster connection there.

    All these schools are modernising with iPads and require more bandwidth.

    Boggles the mind why schools where not prioritised in the beginning.

    Just force him to resign. He is in deep pockets of telstra it seems. He sees no benefit in advancing web access at higher speeds and lowest prices. Such dynosaurs are to be thrown out of positions of power. Let some visionary like elon musk take over, even as a foreigner he would do wonders for australian technology.

    I'm tech savvy, but it wasn't until recently (we we got put on the roll out plan), that I actually found out that there are different tiers available. All Telstra bundles are advertised as NBN ready and are based on download limits, not speed, so I can see how easy it is for people to just roll over their plan, and not even know there was options available.

    Wouldn't it be great if our sewer systems worked this way, you can only "download" 1000ltrs per month, but the pipe is only big enough to handle 10ml per second. Now that would be fun if you wanted to "dump" are large "file".

    Gigabit speeds shoiuldn't be about making profit for NBN Co. they're about elearning and telecommuting; the ability for people to save petrol, office space, childcare costs, public transport costs, time sitting in traffic etc. Labor's solution was about building our nation. The Liberal solution is a cash grab so they can give big international companies tax cuts and kill aussie businesses.

    What I love, is people still think 100/40 will be sufficent for a few years. It might be ok for todays needs, but we are leaping forward with technology at a pace that will need gigabit internet. VR and tech that is not even around yet will demand high speeds.

      If only we had some sort of delivery system that is capable of 1Gbps and more... Oh wait.

    Last speed test I did was 98 Mbps down, 38 Mbps up. I rarely use most of it but whenever I go elsewhere 12-25 feels like forever.

    I was on 400kb/s for over 8 years on ADSL2+ due to a poor network, NBN FTTH was installed late last year and i purchased the 25/5 because at $80 a month that is all i could afford. Netflix one HD device and trying to game was an issue, i needed to setup QoS on my router to preven spikes in my online gaming due to Netflix's bandwidth hog when buffering chunks of data as you watch (on Apple devices, I have found out it doesn't do that on PC).

    Then My Republic came along, i signed up for $69 a month for 100/40 UNLIMITED. No QoS needed with multipul HD streams and gaming, I can stream live to the net and also upload in minutes to hours compared to DAYS! i can download games, movies and such (all legit of course) in minutes and hours and not DAYS!

    For this guy at the NBN to say we don't want it because people don't want to pay insane amounts for the best is the proof that we don't really want it is ludicrous and needs a round house to the head from Chuck Norris!

    If they said for $10 extra a month (so back to my original NBN cost of $79 when i was on 25/5) for a 1GB connection i would say SIGN ME UP! 10 year contract good for you?

    ** Side note if anyone is interested Mr Republic is doing pretty good for a startup in this horrible country (country in general is great) when it comes to communications, I am currently having PING issues due to old hardware with their upstream provider and they are working on it, besides that issue its what internet should cost and having only one plan is how it should be! **

    The currency rate is ~26.
    Therefore, prices must be divided by 26 from this web site:


    This is not a joke. This is from the heart of Europe -> Ukraine

    Let that man explain more, that nobody needs 1Gbps in Australia.

    Like Ukrainians say, the appetite comes when you eat. Just nobody knows here, that you do not need to worry about upload speed or any other stuff... Shame Australia!!!

    I'd just settle for ANY NBN access right now... I live 4.6 kilometres from the centre of Brisbane and NbN can't even tell me when their 'planning' will finish and building commences...

    We know that people in Australia want access to fast internet – that is precisely what we are aiming to deliver with the nbn™ network.


    We know that people in Australia want access to fast internet – that is precisely what we are aiming to not deliver with the nbn™ network.

    If they were aiming to delivery fast broadband services they would be delivering fast broadband services; not fraudband services designed only for home users. Instead they leave small-medium sized businesses in the sh*t yet again with our only option to spend upward of $30,000 to get connected.

    I just want the 25/5 I pay for. Not 2/4 or 10/4 on a good day.
    I am currently getting 7.55 Down and 4.46 Up .
    Since getting Wireless NBN the speeds have slowly got worse. Two years ago It was OK at 20/4.
    The talk of fast speeds is stupid till they can deliver existing products at real speeds not hypothetical maximums.

    Surely the most annoying thing about the "nbn(tm) network" is the double-use of "network" - "national broadband network(tm) network". Irks me every time.

    8k streaming will be rolled out for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. When 3D projection is rolled out, the bandwidth required will be orders of magnitude higher than 8k, and gigabit speeds won't be enough at which point more fibre cables will need to be laid.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now