Saturday, 18 October 2014

Why NBN Fibre?

Ok, I've been a bad blogger again.  But this is not written for public audience.  It is written to remind me of 'stuff' and as a reference for a few friends.  If others find things that are useful - great.

In Australia we are undergoing the process of replacing our old copper wire based communication system with optical fibre, wireless and satellite.  The overhaul will do a number of things. 

Firstly, and most important, it will remove the issue of privacy across the communications network.  Anything and everything will be able to be tracked, traced, recorded and stored for future reference.  It is not as if this was not done in the past.  but the new technology makes it easier and faster to access and store pretty well everything that happens in a the life of a person or organisation.  George Orwell's 1984 just happened to mature thirty years later than it began.

People think the loss of individual privacy has been sneaking in for the last dozen or so years, especially with the advent of smarter phones and devices which provide location information about users.  But even before we had the Internet, it was possible to track users of computer systems using more primitive means to connect to each other.  Internet Protocol simply made it easier and the availability of Internet services to the general public, which happened in Australia around 1991, has opened up our daily lives to snooping.

Ok, so much for the privacy issue.  What about the good things NBN will bring.

Mention the NBN and people almost immediately think 'faster Internet'.  But that is the tail end of the puppy.  The first thing that the NBN should do is provide clearer and better voice connections.  There is a trade off in that because where the copper network will continue to run in an emergency as long as the exchange is operating, the NBN only has backup power for about 5 hours.  That can easily be remedied by connecting a 10 Watt solar panel to your backup battery.  Quite illegal, but easy enough to do.

It is on the Internet side of things though, where it gets interesting.  ADSL2+ was a great leap forward, because over the years the Internet has grown so much it began to slow down.  With the emergence of Google's advertising system, it has slowed to a crawl. 

Google is the biggest bottleneck in Internet speed.  Every time you open a web browser and look for or at a page, Google and various other advertising entities are there trying to find out where you are, where you have been, and guessing where you might go.  There are programs and add-ons available for your browser that allow you to see this happening, and it is scary to watch all the computers connected to yours at any one time.

So as the Internet is choking, speeds are increasing.  Our ADSL2+ was supposed to take us from 1.5Mbps to 20Mbps, but the best we ever saw from it was around 11Mbps.  Moving to the NBN, we pay the same amount for Internet and voice line rental.  By moving to a 100% Australian company called AUSBBS, we habe also more than doubled the amount of data we can use, again, for the same price we were paying for a 50GB download limit.

Now two things that stand out in real terms in our plan, are the speed and the data flow.  First, the speed we can connect is fairly consistent. and second, the data is there to make use of the new exciting things that the Internet can now be used for.

The NBN does not magically make web pages appear instantly.  In fact many people are disappointed when they first open their browser and see that pages still load slowly.  This is not the fault of the NBN connection.  It is mostly a function of the servers you are connected to and how fast they can get the information out to you.

But as soon as you connect to a fast server you will see the difference.  For example, I often download iso files of operating systems.  Each file is about 1.2 Gigabytes in size.  on ADSL2+ at supposedly 20Mbps, it takes around 20 to 30 minutes to download one of these  files.  On NBN supposedly at around the same speed, the reality is that the fibre network lets me download that file in around 7 to 10 minutes!

It doesn't stop at file downloads.  Using things like YouTube to watch video suddenly becomes practical at higher definitions.  And having more than one person watching a video and downloading stuff is suddenly viable.

All this is at the relatively low 25Mbps download speed.   The Internet now becomes a proper entertainment delivery service.  Computer to computer communications using tools like Skype are much clearer (as long as both parties are on NBN fibre).

There's another bonus.  Upload speeds are, in y case, about 10 times as fast as they were on ADSL2+  That means if I still had my web building business, I could maintain customers' sites far more efficiently.  And in a private home situation, I can make use of those handy things like cloud storage at last, because I no longer have to wait half a day for a file to upload!

Overall, the NBN experience is worthwhile.  You can get a lot more than you have been paying for by switching from ADSL to NBN.