Australia’s dysfunctional fibre v wireless debate

Thankfully New Zealand doesn’t echo Australia’s ridiculously politicised telecommunications scene.

Across the Tasman, those on the right of the political spectrum take every opportunity to dismiss government plans to build the NBN – a fibre to the premises network. Meanwhile, some NBN supporters are just as fanatical.

Things took a turn for the surreal when Australians learnt of Samsung’s 5G announcement. The company demonstrated 28GHz band wireless technology capable of delivering data at multi-gigabit rates.

The NBN’s opponents leapt on this news as evidence the fibre roll-out is a waste of time. NBN’s supporters were quick to dismiss those arguments and claim wireless data will never move beyond being an also-ran technology.

As is often the case with Australian communications debates, there is more heat than light.

Where consumers have a choice – Japan is the most obvious example – wireless data networks inhibit fibre uptake. But then NBN supporters point out users share wireless bandwidth and it is impractical for high-speed applications.

Or maybe not. Samsung’s 5G…

…it will not be your grandfather’s “shared and congested” wireless, given the antenna theory behind 5G essentially mimics a point-to-point network.

  • Grahame Lynch writing in CommsDay

The 28Ghz band is line-of-site and, apparently, difficult to work with. Samsung’s demo delivered 1Gbps, but only over 2 kilometres. In other words a practical 5G network means a lot of fibre will be laid to cell towers. Along the way it will pass a lot of homes and businesses.  So to some extent, a 5G roll-out could complement a fibre roll-out in New Zealand where Chorus connects homes and cell towers.

Australia’s market is so comprehensively distorted by the government’s NBN project that the prospects for any alternative network are effectively at the government’s whim. If 5G challenged NBN, officials could simply strangle it in its infancy with a little careful policy bastardry.

New Zealand’s telecommunications market isn’t perfect, but when it comes to politics intersects with technology, few here steal jealous glances across the Tasman.

7 thoughts on “Australia’s dysfunctional fibre v wireless debate

  1. This is a prime example of people talking about sheet they don’t understand. Samsung’s demo was important because of the wavelength of the frequency and higher wireless speeds have been achieved over greater distances years before.

    What see being the best evolution of wireless networks is drawing from the fibre. So you’d have access points and dishes all around which create small networks (the networks Samsung is trying out, or similar) which route the traffic through fibre to it’s end-point. This would reduce clutter in the networks (as a ‘tower’ would be serving maybe 300 people peak instead of thousands over kilometres) and increase reliability and up-time (if spread out intelligently enough you can almost have complete overlap over a few bands so you can switch between).

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  2. Unfortunately everything seems to get affiliated with a political party nowadays. And like you can see in America it then becomes ‘us’ versus ‘them’ rather than ‘wireless’ versus ‘fibre’, or essentialy what it should be; ‘wireless and fibre working strategically together’. :/

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  3. There always needs to be a Devil’s Advocate. Or an Opposition. Otherwise you can easily miss emerging trends or tech. But when the true motivation of those throwing alternatives is desperation for a pay rise rather than the forward movement of the country, the result is Australian Politics….

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    • I agree things need discussion, but that is obviously not what has happened here unfortunately. If they were discussing rather than blatantly Being Politicians(tm) there would be studies and counter-arguments being made.

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