[AusNOG] Aust Govt will build National Broadband Network, no company will be awarded the tender.

Rick Jones rick at toplevel.net.au
Sat Apr 11 15:14:09 EST 2009

I’d also like to add that commercial common sense (even though it is not as common as we’d like it to be) will ultimately solve this problem.  Like the power industry and the telco industry, the move to underground will happen where cost drivers substantiate it.  If, as has been said, the cost of repairs will be prohibitive for aerial cables, then the carriers will put them underground.


But the experience throughout the world is to the contrary.  With the cost of aerial cables being far cheaper than the underground equivalent even factoring in the times when you have to repair storm damage.  As for customer service, when a big storm happens and we lose utilities, us Aussies tend to just grin and bear it.  I’ve lived through blackouts for several days because of 1-in-50 year storms and the community pulls together.  Fibre cable can be quite robust and pole loops can be used so that the cable falls to the ground in the event of a tree falling on it.


I’ve also had my phone and Internet off the air for days at a time when a storm was nowhere to be found.  These things we complain about!  


All I do know is that the government made a serious mistake not splitting Telstra in two when it sold it.  We need separation of the wholesale/retail businesses and this plan appears to work, as long as the execution is right.  So, really all we have to talk about is whether this government can get the execution correct – and without a similar project as a reference – we just can’t tell at this stage.


The NBN is a project of national importance, as it directly supports our ability to compete internationally and this ultimately increases GDP and provides a positive revenue return over time.  


I for one think that we should just get behind it and (as an industry group) make sure that the new entity does it properly – with our support.  Failing to support this would be disastrous and would mean that it gets done without the wisdom of our collective inputs.


And – a little off topic – HAPPY EASTER to all of you!





From: ausnog-bounces at lists.ausnog.net [mailto:ausnog-bounces at lists.ausnog.net] On Behalf Of Matthew Moyle-Croft
Sent: Saturday, 11 April 2009 11:36 AM
To: lists
Cc: ausnog at ausnog.net
Subject: Re: [AusNOG] Aust Govt will build National Broadband Network, no company will be awarded the tender.


Your emails seem to be based around the idea you don't like the idea of a fibre network and you're highlighting any risk regarding them.   

Many countries around the world have significant aerial infrastructure.  US and Japan especially as markets I'm familiar with.   They have aerial Cu, Fibre and Coax.  None of which, in my discussions with various O/S telcos seem to worry them significantly in terms of maintenance, risk etc.   

Verizon have said that the maintenance costs of their fibre network (FiOS) (some above, some underground) are significantly less than Cu and more reliable.   They have developed significant technology around FTTP install which makes it easy to do and not require as skilled people.

In SA there is significant amounts of aerial fibre from one telco.  The outages caused by fibre physical failure have been few and far between.  Certainly no more than I'd expect from underground cable, maybe less due to the fact that people can see above electricity cables vs can't see underground cables!

If there are certain areas where the design of the electricity poles is so poor that there are outages more than every month, then I'd hope the percentage underground would include those areas.   Most of the "backbone" will be underground as it's going to be purchased from existing Telco installs or swapped for equitiy in the new company.

At the moment I don't see much wrong with what the government has agreed to do.  The only significant change would be to have a time machine and undo the selling of Telstra in the manner it was in 1997.

The suggestion you make regarding repurchasing TLS and then using it's profits to do fibre I think are ultimately fruitless as the cost is ultimately going to be higher ($43b plus the $6b/year), take longer and not deliver an additional network.

It's certainly a valid point to ask about what other things could be done for the $43b.  It's the role of government to weigh these things up.   I guess the decision point is that GDP is likely to get a 0.5% boost from FTTP but none from water projects.   Water is primarily a state issue, so I guess they're doing what all Federal Govts do and leave the ugly stuff to the states.   


lists wrote: 

----- Original Message ----- 

From: Matthew Moyle-Croft <mailto:mmc at internode.com.au>  

lists wrote: 

Last night I saw reference to 70% of the network being on power poles and only 30% underground. emm  I hope they don't get bush fires, cyclones, cars running into poles, garbage trucks pulling the cables down etc etc etc. 

Does your electricity on power poles go out much because of this?   Mine doesn't.   I think you're overblowing the risk here. 


I don't, based on my experience as a field manager for X and research I undertook as part of a operations research degree I did into X's network performance fault analysis as well as work I did as a state analyst.  Are you saying you don't have power black outs.  If that is the case you are very fortunate.  I have 10 - 20 or more a year


 Does your Optus Cable/Foxtel go out? 


I don't live in an area that has cable.  If it did exist here there would be 10 or 20 faults per year.  Believe it or not some areas are more prone to storm damage than others.  Hence why the design needs to reflect the risk.   


  I'll point out that undergrounding cable didn't stop the San Jose vandalism last night!   I've had more issues with water getting into Telstra's Cu cables going to my house than overhead power issues.


You really should compare apples with apples not oranges.  The issue with the cable to your house is not poor design, it is poor maintenance. My comments all relate to design and the business plan



   Heck, the water pipes in the street here crack three times as often as the electricity has gone out due to someone doing external aggression on power poles!


Different issue.  Water pipes break because of old age (rust), tree roots, soil cracking, back hoe fade etc.  Other than back hoe fade telephone cables are not affected to the same extent by the other causes in the same way as water pipes are not affected by electrolysis whereas telephone cables can be.  

Overhead fibre/coax is extremely common around the world.  US/Japan especially.  One of the reasons they have many more last-mile networks than us is that they're not so precious about this.


1. They may not be, but your customers are.  Aerial is cheaper to install but costs more to maintain in the long term.   I do first in maintenance on  a major TV repeater, if the TV signal goes off or is degraded there can be as many as 300 calls evey 30 minutes from a repeater that servers 50000 people.  In fact when the olympics was on I was paid to sit and baby sit a transmitter for 5 hours just in case something happened.

2. Customers seem to be expecting quicker and quicker repair times as people rely on these systems more and more they will require better and better reliability and repair times.  I am already seeing it, with residential customers asking for compo if their service is down for more than a day.

3. If you do not live in a city then it is highly unlikely that there will be a maintenance presence.  It is not uncommon for telstra to not have a splicing van within 4 hours of a lot of places.  That is because it is rare for something to get cut.  I expect that will be the same for NBN mk2. As a result of there not being a need on a regular basis there will not be to many of these vehicles around period

4. This brings me to the mess that will happen when cyclones. bush fires etc etc happen.   A set of tools for a copper jointer cost sub $1000, it doesn't matter if they get wet, dusty etc etc.  An OTDR and a fusion splicer cost $50k and they need to be kept dry clean etc.  This requires that the network be built in such a manner as to be protected from the elements.  Fibre is a very different animal to copper and coax

Quite frankly most people have little understanding or appreciation for external plant and street furniture.  


That is true, but my experience is extensive in that area, especially in copper and fibre.  The one thing about fibre is that it is not well suited to frequent re entry.  The fibre on power poles around australia is all on very well maintained main transmission routes.  With all the greenies and the move to aerial bundled cables in street distribution the same level of maintenance is unlikely /is not going to continue.   I was in Brisbane last week and the weather was wet and windy.  Energex had 6000 customers without power all day, as they fixed some others were reported.  This was predominantly due to trees falling on power lines.  This is quite common now.  If that had been fibre it would have taken a week to fix it, not same day.  Then there is the cost issue, fibre cable is cheap but splicing and enclosing it is a different story.  It would not be out of the question for a fibre break to cost $3 to 5k to fix a simple break where a copper break could be fixed for $300.   If you are paying off a new network you do not want high maintenance costs.  Lets put it this way if I had a choice of providers and one was under ground and the other on power poles, I would be with the underground preferably ducted network. 


They finally notice things that have been there for years and get all precious about the risk, ignoring the fact that nothing has happened.

Weather events do happen regularly

Copper cable is easy to locate and make temporary repairs quickly, not to mention copper is a lot tougher than fibre. 

I think that's debatable - fibre is quite tough.  You can make it as tough as you want - depending what you order.  (Ever seen the armoured submarine cable for shallow waters?)

On power poles faults are easy to find/fix - you just look up!


I hope you don't want me to take that seriously. Get someone to show you a bit of fibre.  It doesn't have to come down to break.  It deosn't stretch like copper. You need to use an OTDR to locate faults and to do this you need to have access points without splitters etc.  


   Often fibre repairs get a bad rap because the cable is quite strong 


I am not sure about that


- so by the time it's snapped it's really messed up (eg.  ever seen it fibre really messed up because of a big earth drill pulling and snapping it?


That is underground cable.  I haven;t seen to many direction drills that go through thin air.  From my point of view those cables should have been located properly 


   Cu cables tend to be so heavy they break in different ways.


Actually quite often the bearer breaks and the cable falls on the ground and the cable is still connected through resulting in many customers still having a phone

Doing Cu repairs is time consuming and hard on large cables.


And should never be required.  There exist cable locators and vacumn excavation equipment.  I have no sympathy for careless operators who get big bills.  The thing about underground is that if a ducted cable is cut it is generally in good weather and a quick repair can be undertaken.


  Fibre splicing these days can be a lot quicker - you can much more easily run temporary fibre cables than Cu ones. 


perhaps on cables > 100 pr, but such damage is preventable if good practice is followed.  I am yet to be able to order a storm or wish a bush fire away.  That is the distinction. Using your reasoning we should probably not go ahead with the NBN because Telstra's underground cables are going to be cut by all the cowboy operators constructing the NBN.



  I'm not sure if you've ever watched someone repair or punch down a 1200 pair street cable, but it's a lot harder than doing fibre.

Believe it or not I have watched, in fact I have done it.  What really makes it interesting is when it is a randon jointed cable which means both ends need to be identified as well.  But I do think such cable cuts are a lot rarer than cables coming down in storms.  In fact I would recon there would be less than 2 nation wide annually all over Oz.  Stom damage from wind or trees would be probably 20000 to 50000 anually I think that is a material difference.  In fact the numbers could be 10 to a 100 times higher than that.

I fellow can locate and make temp repairs to copper cable, fibre splices need to be prepaired and protected making temporary repairs that would take 15 minutes on copper take 4 or 5 hours and more than 1 person on fibre.  If the $43Bn cost estimate is based on 70% aerial deployment then it may well blow out to $100BN + if it were to all be put underground.

If you've got real cable damage then fibre ain't going to be hard to fix.  Maybe you need better splicing guys?  I can give you some references ...

No its not hard,  it just takes longer than copper and cost a lot more.  By the way the last time I looked there weren't to many 1200 pr cables in the distribution network, most distribution cables are between 2 and 100 prs, with most 30 or below.  I can joint a 50 pr in 45 minutes.  I can do a 10 pr in 10 minutes.  Try getting your gun fibre spicer to do that.   By the way FTTH design is differnet to IEN design and will involve a lot more fibre in residential streets

So, why underground it unless necessary?   The rest of the world has moved on from this curiously Australian dislike of overhead.


It provides for better reliability in storms and fire events, end of story.  Also there is a report that all carriers that have external plant are required to fill in regarding getting all the communications cables under ground which is a requirement of the telecommunications act


My analysis would be that if Rudd is as keen as he is to build FTTH then he needs to buy/ re nationalise Telstra and build out the Telstra network and separate it etc.  That would be a cheaper way to do it. 


It'd cost $40b to buy Telstra, then another $43b to do FTTH.  So instead of $43b you're out $83b.   What's the point of that?   


It would cost $41BN to $50bn to buy Telstra which would give you the ability to fund $6BN per annum out of free cash flow to extend the existing fibre network not build it from scratch, so my point is that it would cost $41BN to do what they want, change the rules and refloat it for probably $41BN  =$0 cost to the taxpayer.   There are many other reasons to do it this way as well


Might I also add that not all government assistance needs to be in cash form.  Governments could also use their business as a catalyst to encourage investment etc.  This would result in a better outcome for taxpayers who ultimately pay for all of this. 


I don't think people have thought some of the investment part through. 


I am absolutely sure of that.  The whole process has been flawed from the start


  Nor why the government is doing it.  

The government are doing it to save face and get even with Telstra for not submitting a valid bid.  It is as simple as that.  It also looks like good politics, but when interest rates start to climb again and go through the roof the mood may change.  They dont even have a business plan yet.  How dumb is that announce a $43 Bn project before they have a business plan.  That is assuming this bunch can do it for $43Bn which is unlikely.  There are less risky ways to achive this end which will cost a lot less.   If the governement has a lazy $43 BN to invest on a nation building project then they should be looking at the Bradfield scheme to solve the nations fresh water problems.   As I said to someone the other day, we humans need food and water to live but we can survive with out internet, but better still we can have both for the same money.  FTTH will happen without this grand standing, once the business case exists.





-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.ausnog.net/pipermail/ausnog/attachments/20090411/3483fae4/attachment.html>

More information about the AusNOG mailing list