History is littered with grandiose statements that seemed reasonable(ish) at the time but were proven to be completely ludicrous. There's the statement made by Bill Gates that 640K of memory ought to be enough for everyone and Thomas John Watson, the Chairman of IBM saying there was a market in the world for just five computers. And now, NBNCo has come up with their own version - the 100Mbps speed limit.
Earlier this week, NBNCo announced they will be enabling DOCSIS 3.1 on the HFC network they are operating. DOCSIS 3.1 has been around for a while. It's hard to understand why it wasn't enabled years ago by Telstra and Optus when they operated the cable networks but at least it's coming now.
According to the NBNCo statement, "DOCSIS 3.1 technology... significantly improves the spectral efficiency of the HFC network and allows NBN Co to use new higher range spectrum, therefore, doubling the capacity available".
Given more people are signing on to high-speed plans these days, with the company saying 75% of new end-user premises coming onto the nbn network are now taking either 50Mbps or 100Mbps services and almost half of the 4.1 million activated premises are on 50Mbps or above speeds, there's obviously a market for faster connections. It's worth noting that no-one is saying the 12Mbps plans on offer are a growing market segment.
But what's missing from the statement is talk of 1Gbps connections. Last year, when DOCSIS 3.1 was just a glint in NBNCo's eye, there was talk of gigabit speeds being an option. But in comments made to The New Daily the company said there will be a cap of 100Mbps for retail customers because a “very small number” of customers are demanding the fastest speeds possible.
According to data from NBNCo, 143 1Gbps services were in use. About two-thirds of those were delivered by MyRepublic, which temporarily offered a special price to Wollongong residents but they no longer offer a 1Gbps plan at any price.
I guess it's possible NBNCo will offer faster speeds through RSPs if the demand is presented. But a forward thinking country wouldn't be having this discussion. Sure, 1Gpbs services might be priced at a premium but completely dumping it as an option is crazy. There are residential customers who crave faster speeds. With the number of connected devices in Aussie homes increasing rapidly and our dependence on cloud and streaming services for communication and entertainment growing we will only need more bandwidth.
Instead, we have an infrastructure company trying to balance a civil engineering project, a hostile political environment that has mixed ideology with technology and a growing population that is increasingly made up of digital natives who see fast bandwidth as an essential service so they can learn, work and be entertained.
And that may be why this policy by NBNCo is its 640K moment.