Geeks2U Promise
We guarantee you'll love our fast, friendly service - or we'll refund your money.  
133,572 Happy Customers & Counting
Need tech support?
1300 769 448
Extended hours, 7 days a week

Tag Archives: NBN

Who Deserves To Get The NBN First?

Tags : 

Should the National Broadband Network provide blanket metro coverage before expanding to rural areas?

NBN Co has laid down its plans for the next stage of the National Broadband Network, a Fibre-to-the-Home network designed to offer 100 Mbps internet connections to Australian homes and businesses. The latest rollout plan reveals which towns and suburbs will see the work commence within the next 12 months or three years. You can check the NBN rollout map to see if it’s coming to your street in the near future.

This phase of the NBN is designed to cover roughly a third of Australia’s population, but the grand plan is to reach 93 percent of Australian homes and businesses over the next ten years. Wireless and satellite will be used to fill in the gaps.

While some people will have to wait longer than others, thankfully NBN Co is taking a systematic approach to the rollout. We won’t see a repeat of the hotch potch HFC cable rollouts of the 1990s. Telstra and Optus chased each other through the suburbs with little regard as to who missed out. As a result of the haphazard HFC rollout, some streets got both cables while others got none. ADSL2+ has done a poor job of filling the gaps, as speeds are highly dependent on your distance from the exchange and the condition of the copper line.

The NBN is designed to stop a repeat of the HFC cable fiasco by forcing all of the telcos to share the one network. It’s is one of Australia’s most significant infrastructure projects since the Trans-Australia Railway joined the east and west coasts. Considering the scale of the project, obviously some people will need to wait for the NBN to reach their door.

What’s interesting is the latte-fueled whinging from some trendy inner suburbs about missing out on the next stage of the fibre rollout while supposedly less-deserving country folk get a taste of NBN goodness. Regional Australians have always been treated as second-class citizens when it comes to telecommunications, yet apparently once again they’re supposed to wait their turn while the cities pull even further ahead.

A look at the NBN rollout schedule reveals that it doesn’t play favourites between states or electorates. There is a push to prioritise regional areas, but the big cities still have the lion’s share of NBN deployments — as that’s where most people live.

NBN Co needs the rollout to be as cost-effective as possible, which means that some people will have to wait. Regardless of where they live, who they vote for or how deserving they believe they are. Some of these urbanites complaining about missing out on the next phase of the NBN will be the same people complaining that the NBN costs too much.

Despite their metrocentric sense of entitlement, for once some city dwellers will have to just wait their turn.


The NBN Rollout Gets Serious

Tags : 

NBN Co — the company created to roll out Australia’s National Broadband Network — made a major announcement recently, revealing its rollout plans for the next three years. It’s an ambitious plan that will — if things go to plan —  see fibre rolled past more than three million premises, both businesses and homes.

The question of when a given home or business premises might be getting the NBN did become a lot easier with the announcement of the three year plan; you can check the specifics of your location here.

The NBN remains, and is likely to remain a contentious political issue no matter what side of the political fence you sit on, and that makes it hard to write any kind of article without stepping — or appearing to — step on somebody’s toes. For what it’s worth, I’m not in the three year rollout plan, allied with any given political party or on NBN Co’s payroll. Just thought I’d get that out there in case anyone was confused.

Confusion’s a good word to use in relation to the NBN, because there seems to be a wide gulf between the technologically inclined, who generally get the potential benefits of an NBN (even if we don’t always all agree on some of the finer details) and the mass market image of the thing. NBN Co’s gotten a little better at communicating to the larger audience, especially via launching a series of explanatory videos — you can view them here — and a blog written by a well respected former IT technology journalist at https://nbnco.com.au/blog/.

That having been said, there’s bound to be confusion regarding who gets on the three year plan and who doesn’t, especially as you drill into a given map. It’s a complex process — imaging having to lay down a fresh set of roads for all of Australia, critically without disrupting existing roads too badly — and you’ll start to get an idea of the complexity of the project.

In theory, new developments are higher on the priority listing, as are those areas that were used as trial locations for the initial rollout. In twelve month’s time there’s a planned “update” to the three year plan that may reflect the first year’s work, and potentially embrace areas just outside the current planning zones. One factor that should — hopefully — see rollouts move a lot more swiftly than they have done to date is the fact that Telstra’s now signed up its conduits and cabling for NBN use; this will not only see the gradual retirement of the copper network that our current ADSL and telephony relies on — a copper network that costs in excess of $1 billion a year just to maintain, for those who like figures — but also allow for less intrusive NBN installation as new trenches and pipes don’t need to be dug in areas where Telstra’s already got a presence.

Will the NBN see out its three year plan? That’s a matter for politics writers, not technology blogging, but certainly we’re already seeing a host of capabilities in ehealth, teleworking, teleconferencing and simple data shifting that an NBN would be ideal for providing, and there’s a lot of historical data to suggest that this kind of large scale infrastructure project isn’t one that big business will undertake by itself; the copper network it’s replacing was, after all, a government infrastructure project itself.


Could you survive on mobile broadband?

Tags : 

Chatting to a journalist friend of mine the other day, we were comparing broadband speeds and what you could do with them, somewhat in the context of the National Broadband network. He’s on a cable connection — typically 20Mbps — whereas I’m on an ADSL2+ connection that’s theoretically capable of up to 24Mbps… but I only get about 3Mbps on a good day. That’s a function of my distance from the exchange largely, and to a lesser extent the quality of the wiring on the lines between my office and the exchange itself.

I could upgrade to cable, as he’s done, but the costs are somewhat higher for the amount of data I consume, and I just can’t quite justify that. This brought the conversation around to an even costlier form of broadband — mobile.

I’ve just done a big round of mobile broadband testing, an area in which both line speed and the cost of data has, historically speaking, never been that crash hot. You couldn’t even fill the old axiom about having two out of good, fast and cheap with mobile broadband. All too frequently, it was poor, slow and expensive, and you just had to live with that, because it was theoretically mobile.

Things are changing. Speeds are up across the board, with the introduction of faster networks with less (not zero, sadly) congestion. From my home office with a variety of modems I could regularly hit double my home ADSL2+ line speed with Telstra’s Ultimate USB modem, for example.

At the same time, broadband allowances across mobile are upgrading too. I recently tested VividWireless’ ViViFi hotspot over at CNET, and while aspects of the speed were a little on the wanting side, there’s one aspect to the service that is genuinely compelling, and that’s an all-you-can-eat (subject to an acceptable usage policy) $75 per month data plan. I’m not holding my breath that Telstra, Optus and Vodafone will follow suit with similar truly unlimited data plan pricing, but the pressure is there.

Some folks I know have made the switch to a purely mobile broadband world, just as many have already done with mobile phones. It’s not a switch I’m ready to make — yet. Whether the NBN (whenever/if it arrives) will impact on usage and costings remains to be seen, and whether we can continue to see speed and value increases across the board remains a key factor.


NBN alternatives

Tags : 

There’s been a lot of recent press surrounding the first folks to be connected to the National Broadband Network. I’m not entirely sure that it can be called “National” when there’s only a few connected users to date, but that’s splitting hairs. Unless you happen to be in just a few spots in Tasmania (or shortly a few more in mainland Australia), the chances are you’re more than a year or two away from being able to access NBN services.

So what do you do in the meantime?

For a (thankfully) decreasing number of users, dialup still remains the only method of internet access. They’re the communities that will benefit most from the NBN. The problem with dialup used to be speed, and it still is, but in a different way than a decade ago. Ten years ago, Dialup was common and web pages and Internet services were formatted with dialup users in mind. Today’s web pages and applications pretty much all presume you’re on some kind of broadband, and dialup won’t cut it for much more than very simple email checking.

What then of broadband? Here you split into several choices of broadband, dictated largely by where you actually are. Satellite broadband services (and associated technologies such as WiMAX) do cover some small (and mostly remote) pockets of Australia. Cable-based Internet speeds have increased in recent years on some services, but they’re still highly limited based on whether or not your home or business was a beneficiary of the cable rollouts of the mid 1990s, and the lack of price competition

For most people, broadband equals ADSL or ADSL2+ if you’re near enough to an ADSL2+ exchange. There’s been little to no movement in value in the ADSL space for years, as most of the hardware is Telstra-owned, even if it’s resold by other vendors. In the ADSL2+ space, there’s more competition, and as such a lot better value on offer — again if you’re near enough to an ADSL2+ exchange.

ADSL/ADSL2+ might be a bit stagnant in terms of the deals getting better, but where there’s a lot of movement in the consumer broadband space currently is mobile broadband. Traditionally, using mobile broadband was a lot like playing Russian Roulette with the contents of your wallet. Unless you were exceptionally careful about how, when and where you connected, your mobile broadband bill could quickly inflate to catastrophic bill shock dimensions.

That’s changed very rapidly in recent months, with a lot of pre-paid options giving you 1GB of data for as little as $15 per month. That kind of data rate makes some low-speed ADSL options a little obsolete, especially when you consider that your mobile broadband is indeed mobile. Coverage can still be an issue depending on where you are, but it’s improving. On a recent road trip between Sydney and Adelaide, I tested a Telstra microSIM in an iPad on the road between Hay and Balranald. For those who haven’t done that particular run, describing it as the middle of nowhere is pretty apt. At the time I was in the car — I should note that I wasn’t driving and web browsing at the same time — there were few other users on that stretch of track. The mobile broadband speeds I got were better than my home ADSL2+ connection.

That’s mildly annoying, and admittedly I’m not going to move to the middle of the Hay plain just in order to get faster broadband. Still, it does point to a genuine improvement in mobile broadband access that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.


What is the Net good for, exactly?

Tags : 

Just writing that headline alone gave me terrible flashbacks to a Sandra Bullock 90’s thriller that I’m sure would seem horribly dated (although in some ways possibly prescient). Living more in the now, though, debate continues to rage around the potential implementation of the National Broadband Network, whether there’s enough broadband for everyone anyway, and exactly how much it should cost.

With that in mind, my ears pricked up recently when attending a product launch for networking firm Netgear. To kick things off, representatives showed off survey figures that outlined the current home usage patterns of the Internet across all users. There’s some interesting figures that show what we use the Net for from home locations.

It shouldn’t come as much of a shock that Web and Email use tops the list, with 90% of respondents using both services. An NBN isn’t likely to change the usage there, although it would enable larger files to be sent via email or viewed via the web with more ease.

51% of respondents used social networking, and I suspect that’s a figure that’s only going to rise. If you strip out the formal business requirements of email, there’s a lot of messages sent that are better suited to social networking sites and services, and that’s even without taking into consideration professional social networks such as LinkedIn.

46% of respondents use the internet to download music and video. There wasn’t a breakout for those doing so legally or illegally, although that’s hardly surprising. Nobody’s likely to dob themselves in on a survey. Obviously a faster broadband infrastructure would enable this to run faster, but it could also serve in the fight against copyright infringement nicely. As Apple proved with iTunes, once you can deliver customers fair quality content quickly and at a good price, the market will follow.

45% of those surveyed used the Net to work from home. That’s a big area where a faster broadband infrastructure could have huge implications for how we all live our lives. Not every job can be taken online, but the facility to quickly and seamlessly access work from home, or telework entirely could be exceptionally useful. Then again, it could lead to a nation of overworked employees.

An equal 45% used the net to watch movies, TV or video. That’s distinct from the downloaders. These are folks watching YouTube and its many imitators. Again, the NBN case here is pretty obvious, and even has employment implications. Once you can stream good quality video anywhere across the nation, if you’ve got a great idea for a TV program, who needs the free to air networks any more?

The rest of the figures skew a little lower — 34% for instant messaging chat, 30% for internet radio and 23% for gaming. One figure that did surprise me a little was that only 24% of respondents used internet access from home for webcam or voice over IP services. Considering the convenience and cost savings that services like Skype offer, it’s interesting that the takeup is comparatively low.

There’s dozens of usage scenarios beyond home usage that an NBN could address, but rather like putting today’s broadband up against the first 400kbps connections I ever used, it’s tough to entirely visualise them. Telemedicine is an often chosen target, but there’s plenty of scope for other uses, both professional and personal. I reckon it’ll be very interesting to revisit those figures in a decade’s time. What will we be  using the broadband of the future (no matter what form it takes) for then?


Recent News

With many of us choosing to remain indoors for the rather obvious health and safety reasons, there’s been an explosion of interest in streaming media services. These the subscription offerings that provide you with a smorgasbord of viewing choices, delivered over your Internet connection to compatible Smart TVs, set top boxes, laptops, tablets and mobile

Google is well known for its dominance of the online search engine space, and also for launching a lot of software products, or in some cases buying them and rebranding them as “Google Insert-Service-Name-Here”. It’s also not afraid to take a punt on a new software idea, even thought that means that many of them

Microsoft’s Surface brand of tablets and laptops has long been the software maker’s “premium” tablet and laptop brand, designed to show off the best of what Windows can offer on some quite compelling hardware. Microsoft recently announced a refresh for its Surface Book and Surface Go lines, set to go on sale in Australia by

Australians have fallen hopelessly in love with streaming TV services such as Netflix, Stan, Disney+ and many more over the past few years. If you’re simply watching on a tablet, phone or laptop then the screen is assured, but the question of how to share a show with the entire family on the biggest screen

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

Learn about the precautions we are taking and our new contactless pick-up and remote service options. Read More
Get help setting up your home office or homework area today. Learn More