By Stephen Neate
April 14, 2013
We are living on acreage and there is nature all around, made more alive and real by the fact that it never seems to stop raining. It is so green and alive we can smell and hear life all around us. The stage is set for some spiritual epiphany about Gaia, although all I can think of are concepts that appear to exist more in science fiction than my immediate surrounds.
In another life I am sure I would have become an engineer or inventor, or perhaps that may come some time in the future. Either way, I believe the trick in life is to keep learning. Challenge your gray matter wherever possible, assume there is always someone smarter and more knowledgeable on any given topic than you, and just keep thinking. That – and a wish to be a Jedi in the future – is probably why I write software, enjoy coding and am passionate about this collection of computers tied together called the internet.
This internet thingy and the proposal of National Broadband Networks in Australia by differing political parties has been on my mind a lot over the past few months. The recent piss-weak proposal by the LNP has galvanised me into unexpected action. This is the second article about it I have written in a week. Normally my interaction online is very limited – hell I don’t even bother with microphones when gaming (I also swear too much and apparently some take offence, bless their fucking little souls.)
Anyway, the point of this article is to say: The Australia of the near future that I want to live in needs the most state of the art top shelf broadband network ever invented.
I do a have few reasons why, but before getting into them I’d would like to explain a couple of tech points.
ALP = FTTH style NBN
LNP = FTTN style NBN
NBN – The ‘National Broadband Network’ for all intents and purposes means the internet for most people. It’s not actually, it is akin to saying that road outside your house is actually your work place. Unless you actually work on the road, that road merely provides a simple method for you to get from home to your work. The NBN is exactly the same. It allows your data request to go out and fetch information (email, movie, web page…) from a computer that is also connected to the NBN, as clearly all the information available to you is not residing in your house.
FTTN – Fibre to the node, a simple termination point of high speed fibre to a node near your premises. (home or business).
FTTH / FTTP – Fibre to the house or Fibre to the premises. As simple as it sounds – fibre running from the central exchange directly to the premises.
Copper – In relation to talks about the NBN this is the road outside your house. It is a seriously inferior product to Fibre Optics when talking about communication. It has worked well for countries all over the world, but just as we no longer use steam trains, the tech has advanced.
Nodes – Essentially they are the train stations for the NBN when switching between a 10 carriage train of bandwidth/speed down to the passenger car delivery to your house. These are an essential aspect of the fibre to the node NLP option and only allow high speeds to a premises when they are within a few kilometres to the premises. In other words we need a fracking truck load of them across the country (60,000+) that all require service, maintenance and enough power to probably run some of our smaller cities.
Fibre Optics – The so called new kid on the block, and I say ‘so called’ as it appears that researchers at Corning Glass found out how to make it commercially in 1970. More on Corning Glass shortly. Put simply this is undoubtedly the future of our tech, leaving copper so far behind as to appear stone-aged.
Bandwidth/Speed – This has been mentioned a lot recently and is to be referenced in light of the transfer of bandwidth across the NBN (pun intended). Both variants of the NBN talk in terms of 25-50
“The Australia of the near future that I want to live in needs the most state of the art top shelf broadband network ever invented.“
Mbs from the LNP (pitiful) and 100 mbs from the ALP (not bad for a start). The critical difference is actually in the road used.
Copper will get some advances in tech (if heavily invested in) and may get speeds of up to an impressive 300 mbs if you are less than 400 metres to the node).
Let’s look at Fibre for a moment – non-theoretical (boffins did this in 2011) 279,552 mbs per second per channel. A cable core has hundreds of channels, and cable can have multi-cores, proven data transfer (in 2013) shows 1.1274e+9 mbs bandwidth. Oh my freaking gawd, that number would allow you to download most of the 4+billion hours of videos on Youtube in a day (not very practical in a home sense of course, but stay with me please)
Tech Summary – Let’s not argue tech. If you still think copper can out-class fibre please drop your computer off to Lifeline as you are not a child of this century and have no need for this modern technology (drop your smartphone off there as well for the same reason).
Now, let’s ‘potentially’ fast forward to the year 2026
The enigmatic 34yr old, Jayden Alexopoulos ( who became ALP leader after selling his GM Crop software patent to Bio-oil/CSIRO ) has just swept his party into power putting an end to the decade of the swing voter.
Jayden’s personal success and wealth has all been attributed to studious work alongside Open Universities. In the early days he utilised interactive video conferencing with lecturers all around the world and conducted experiments in laboratories with New Zealand and Danish contemporaries. To achieve all of this success at such a young age from the township Roma (formerly known only for producing Rugby League stars only) is a testimony to governments gone by and their investment in future generations.
The first bill Prime Minister Alexopoulos is passing this week is to inject funds into the CSIRO/MediAid/Corning/Google joint venture coined the “P(ersonal)+” SIM* . In short this new venture is to commercialise the development of each individual’s digital signature from the original simple medical alerts and tracking to a fully augmented real time experience. It is in part an extension of the mid 2010’s tech “Google Glass”, although now fully realised because the nation’s last NBN upgrade has made talks of bandwidth speed finally a thing of the past.
Back to reality for a second…
It would be amazing if the prediction (the tech side) could become a reality, but what most people don’t realise is that we are knocking on its door now.
If we look at the average family with 2 kids at High School, it is conceivable that they will already have these devices requiring bandwidth now: 1 Desktop PC, 3 Laptops, 1 or 2 Tablets, 2 to 4 Smartphones, 2 Smart TV’s (ie: they can have internet) and at least 1 Gaming/Entertainment device. I know some families with more than that already, although that is still NOT taking into account home office setups. This sort of scenario requires a lot of bandwidth today. Imagine what will be required just for the ‘average’ home shortly.
Some of you would have seen a video or two on Youtube that does the viral pass around every few months called “A Day Made of Glass”. It is produced by Corning Glass Inc. and is a fascinating series of 4 videos. They highlight a very connected society, a very personally interactive one. A large percentage of Australians are using the initial versions of this daily right now (just use your smartphone, tablet, PC – it’s called Gorilla Glass.
Working from home the new Telework (telecommuting);
In the past I have mentioned the potential social and environmental impacts of fewer cars on the road due to more people working form home. I don’t know how to equate the impact into dollar/environmental terms, but the fewer the people traveling to high density CBD areas should mean lower utilisation of public services. I imagine wouldn’t result in a lowering of numbers traveling, but more likely a plateau on the numbers, giving councils some time to evaluate and put in place better mass transport systems, as the general population grows.
With FTTH NBN as the basis, Telework can become a reality for greater number of Australians. For this to work well bandwidth is what we need. With Australians working longer hours, I won’t even go into the aspects of mental health benefits of not staying back late in the office because you can come home, do dinner with the family then catch up on work at home after the kids have gone to bed.
Without going into the year 2026, let’s look at what we can utilise today with a FTTH 100mbps down and 40mbps up connection (the expensive one at $165+ / month) This is the first time I have mentioned upload (up) speed and the LNP will never mention it due to limitations with copper, but when working remotely you need this as much as down speed.
Pretend I work for a small Travel Agency franchise ‘Flights are really cheap’ (FARC). The head office of FARC is based in Sydney, and they have appointed me to work with their Capricorn Coast based clients.
Utilising a VOIP (Voice Over IP) phone, the national office can receive calls, transfer them directly to my VOIP or switch for regionally=based calls to ring direct at my end. The tech on this is fairly cool and is in use now. At its worst (shitty broadband speeds) you end up sounding like a telemarketer calling from the dark side of the moon whilst in the shower. At its best you would never know the difference. Clearly from a work aspect, you actually need the best option.
The reason that Copper/ADSL2+ speeds just don’t cut it are about to be obvious…..
I take a phone call from Mrs Jones (80+ years old and bless her soul she has a lot of questions today).
Mrs J: Hi Steve, just need to check about the dining arrangements on the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship we are doing next spring.
Me: Yes Mrs Jones, what would you like to know (smiley voice of course, whilst I suspend three booking forms for other clients and open her file)
Mrs J: Well as you know Darryl is on a strict diet and requires…..
You can just imagine that call going on for 10+ minutes, then times that by many calls a day from other clients and you have a busy day in the office (at home).
The reality of what my PC is doing teleworking effectively from home in that scenario:
- 10+ Browser Windows (for research and online program access)
- 10+ Programs / Files connected and open to the office for centralised file references
- 1 VOIP high quality line for phone (and perhaps one on hold)
- Video conferencing for some customers, head office meetings, training etc…
- Ability to send and receive large data files (passport scans, promotional items) and would often need the above all at the same time.
The software exists now to do the above. It is already in use by companies and could be made available to many more if true FTTH solutions are available to practically everyone. It simply cannot be done competitively via an ADSL/Copper network. Some industries require far more bandwidth (software, architecture, music etc…) and for those the upload speed is almost vital. I mentioned cost for the user at the start of this scenario. It’s a pittance for a teleworker, now isn’t it.
Let’s pretend for second that I am wheelchair-bound due to a bad motorcycle accident and have a couple of tattoos. In today’s economy I am effectively unemployable. In a teleworking economy, many so-called unemployables are working (not on welfare).
Thanks to Paul Davis for highlighting some government data on this. I am happy to see that at a government level Telework is obvious already, and has been progressively identified and worked on since 2005.
Note: Teleworking is not for everyone, and without prudent management of the teleworker it can be a bad experience for both employer and employee. Mind you that is also true of everyone traditionally office bound, if your manager is monkey it ain’t much fun either.
If you are still reading this, I had better wrap it up so you can have a lie down;
In summary, our domestic use and need for bandwidth is already growing at an exponential rate that is currently ahead of the limited services we have today. Given the advances that are just around the corner, providing a bandwidth capacity for yesterday’s need today is nothing short of imbecilic.
Allow Australia to have a future, and demand that your government representative – regardless of party affiliation – vote with their brain to continue the only NBN solution suitable for this potentially amazing and innovative country and its people.
* Side Note:
SIM – For this article as a reference to a made up anagram being “single integrated microprogram” as a yet to be created program uniquely tailored for a single user. What it could be used for (in this scenario) – Personal iris HUD, medical alerts, current medical status, organiser, file access, home security access, interact with personal settings on external devices (Cars, PC, Gym, Restaurant etc…) and a host of other things not yet thought of or invented.
Google Glass: http://www.google.com/glass/start/
About Fibre: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_fiber
P.S. Just found this video on the interwebz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8RhAp-m7bk#! as an Ad for GE that is already highlighting what I am talking about. (you guessed it, its all about needing bandwidth)