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Published 19 April 2013 12:18, Updated 12 July 2013 11:10
NBN Co chief Mike Quigley says he is more than happy with the progress that the company has made. Photo: Nic Walker
NBN Co is accelerating plans to offer ultra high-speed connections for consumers and businesses that are 10 times faster than what is available while its executives defended execution of the national broadband network before a parliamentary committee hearing on Friday morning.
The company has announced three new speed tiers up to 1000 Mbps download speed would be available from December this year for customers on the fibre network.
The announcement of the ultra high-speed packages underlines the greater technical capabilities of the fibre to the home model, just a week after the Coalition released its alternative policy to build fibre to the node with speeds of 25 Mbps by 2016 and 50 Mbps by 2019 for most users.
NBN Co, which has so far only launched wholesale products for consumers and small businesses, is also due to announce its packages for medium-size companies in the fourth quarter. An NBN Co spokeswoman told BRW this would involve introducing a new traffic class to support business services such as high-quality video conferencing and higher service level agreements.
The new wholesale packages that NBN Co will make available to retail ISPs are:
Currently the maximum speed on offer through the NBN is 100 Mbps upload and 40 Mbps download. The corporate plan for NBN Co always included provision to upgrade it to 1000 Mbps but this will happen sooner than planned - NBN Co says this is because of “progress with the rollout coupled with ongoing developments in IT” though it will obviously have political implications as well.
The announcement of the new ultra high-speed packages sharpens the differences between the Labor NBN plan and the Coalition’s alternative.
The Coalition is proposing to build fibre to the node then use the copper network but the limitations of copper over even a few hundred metres and existing technology mean it is almost impossible to get a 100 Mbps connection let alone a 1000 Mbps one without upgrading to fibre.
It is common practice to describe 1000 Mbps as 1 Gbps though technically a gibabit is 1024 megabits rather than 1000. Either way, it’s an impressive speed given that average broadband speed in Australia right now is more than 100 times slower at 5-10 Mbps.
There are not many applications or usage scenarios that would require such high speeds right now but demand is increasing all the time. Google has been building fibre to the home with 1 Gbps connections in Kansas City and Austin, Texas, to prove the value of ultra high speeds in encouraging internet innovation. “We believe the internet’s next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds,” Google’s vice president access services, Milo Medin, says in a blog post.
Meanwhile, NBN Co executives appeared before a parliamentary committee on Friday morning. Representatives from NBN Co, the Department of Finance and the Department of Broadband all said they remain confident of the latest corporate plan’s accuracy.
The company tabled a document revealing that it had built more than $3.6 billion for contingencies and cost blow-outs into the $37.4 billion budget for the NBN.
The company hit back at the claims over cost made by Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull in recent weeks, saying that it was connecting homes a $2200-$2500 per premises, about a third lower than Turnbull claimed.
The NBN Co document shows the network has passed about 68,000 existing homes and businesses by the end of March but is still behind schedule.
NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley told the hearing he was confident in the costs laid out so far.
“You have to put yourself out there a little bit in terms of making estimates, both financial and timing, assuming you can overcome the obstacles,” he told the committee. “I am more than happy with the progress NBN Co has made.”