Friday, April 23, 2010

New Zealand Rural Broadband Initiative

The New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development has issued an Expression of Interest for a Rural Broadband Initiative. (Reference: 29498). This appears a more modest project than the Australian Government's National Broadband Network. It concentrates on broadband for rural communities and schools.
Companies can download a an Expression of Interest document (MS-Word format 368kb) and a Schools List (Excel spreadsheet 284kb).
The Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) will use a two-stage process, involving an Expression of Interest (EOI) followed by a Request for Proposals (RFP) stage.

2. A two-stage approach is being used to enable the Government to gather more information so that it can make more informed decisions (e.g. about prioritising regions, minimum open access requirements, service specifications, what is likely to be possible within existing budget etc) when finalising the RFP.

3. Following the assessment of EOIs, an RFP will be released detailing the Government’s requirements.

The RFP will specify:

a. The regions for which bids are being sought in the first year of the RBI (noting that national bids will also be considered).
b. The intended scope of the proposed initiative.
c. The minimum service level requirements.
d. The minimum level of open access required.
e. Standards and interconnection requirements.
f. The criteria upon which bids will be assessed.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

NBN Wholesale Services Definition

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NBN Passive optical network

NBN Co diagram of Fibre Serving Area, Indicative Access InfrastructureNBN Co, who have the job of building the National Broadband Network for Australia, plan to use a passive optical network, in particular GPON or ITU-T G.984. This reduces the amount of electronics needed in the network, reducing the cost and increasing the reliability. It also allows the speed of the network to be increased by replacing relatively few electronic components and not changing the optical fibre. In addition it reduces the number of fibres which have to be run long distances.

The passive optical network uses optical splitters to divide the signal on one optical fibre so it can be distributed to several dozen homes (up to about 100). Each home gets the signals sent to all homes, so encryption has to be used for privacy. Data sent from the homes is sent with a multiple access protocol,, with each sharing some of the fibre capacity.

It is not clear from the planning documents, but hopefully multicasting will be supported by the passive part of the network. That is for sending the same data to many people, for example for digital TV, the one optical signal will be sent to all houses, rather than sending multiple copies of the same thing to each house.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rail and broadband in place of second Sydney airport

A very high speed train from Sydney, through Canberra, to Melbourne would replace about 75% of flights on one of the worlds busiest air corridors. This is not a new or unexplored idea, from a high speed rail line proposed in 1981, to a "East Coast Very High Speed Train Scoping Study" in 2008. But the mass production of very high speed trains in Asia, combined with advances in broadband and environmental pressures, makes it more feasible.

The Federal and New South Wales Governments are to conduct a joint study of options for additional airport capacity for Sydney. This follows a "National Aviation Policy White Paper" (16 December 2009). It should be noted that the paper is not just talking about an airport and mentions rail transport systems. I suggest that the study should look at a train in place of a second Sydney airport. A very high speed train from Sydney, through Canberra, to Melbourne would replace about 75% of flights on one of the worlds busiest air corridors. Provision of wireless broadband on the train would allow the passengers to do useful work and be entertained. In addition to passengers, a high speed train can also carry high high value freight, such as priority mail, currently sent by air.

Sydney airport already has two underground stations in place and a direct underground line to the Sydney CBD. Work would be needed on the rail corridor out of Sydney, but this is relatively minor, with work already underway for a rail freight corridor.

Very fast trains are now a proven technology, with China and Korea mass producing adaptions of proven European designs.

The cost of the line from Sydney to Melbourne could be covered by the sale of land in new greenfield environmentally efficient towns in inland Australia. These towns would also reduce the growth pressure on Sydney (politically the new towns would be attractive to the current NSW and Federal governments as it would shift the voting trends to the ALP in previously conservative rural electorates). Integration of the National Broadband Network in the new towns would allow rapid provision of services and jobs to the new towns and reduce the cost of infrastructure.

New towns could be built along the VFT route incorporating high environmental and planning standards. Buildings could be designed to use the minimum of water and power, then assembled from mass produced modules. Homes could be designed to accommodate the elderly. Broadband could bring jobs, education and services to the towns quickly. Both government and commercial telecommuting offices could be provided allowing office works to telecommute most days and perhaps have to catch the train only once every few weeks. Each town could have a university campus, as well as a hospital with advanced medical facilities, linked by broadband to specalists.

The pressure on Sydney airport will also be reduced in coming years due to changes in the aircraft used and environmental pressures. The introduction of larger aircraft, specifically the Airbus A380, will reduce the number of international aircraft movements needed. Added to this the Boeing 787 (and Airbus A350) will allow more direct international flights from other Australian airports, reducing the need for Sydney to act as a hub. Added to this, the need for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will increase pressure on airlines to have aircraft loaded to capacity to increase fuel efficiency. The requirement for passengers to pay the environmental cost of their travel will also dampen demand for flights.
Sydney is Australia’s biggest and busiest city and Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport is Australia’s busiest airport, with over 32 million passengers in 2008–09. To ensure the future aviation needs of Sydney meet the expectations of the community and are fully integrated into long-term growth strategies, the Government, in partnership with the New South Wales Government, will work together to plan for the Sydney region’s future airport infrastructure, including how it links to Sydney’s growth centres and its road and rail transport systems. This is the first time that the two governments are aligning their planning and investment strategies. ...

From: National Aviation Policy White Paper, Department of Infrastructure,Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, 16 December 2009

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

NBN Broadband Plan

NBN Co diagram of Fibre Serving Area, Indicative Access InfrastructureNBN Co have issued "NBN Co consultation paper: proposed wholesale fibre bitstream products" (21 December 2009) . Written submissions are invited by 12 February 2010 and Industry Briefing Sessions will be held in Sydney and Melbourne, on 20 and 29 January 2010. \

The paper is 27 pages (2.6Mbytes of PDF). It is very precisely, but clearly written. There are well executed technical diagrams. Of particular note is the diagram for "Fibre Serving Area – Indicative Access Infrastructure" illustrating the relationship between Multi Dwelling Units, Internal Fibre and Optical Network Termination. The only suggestion for improvement I could make is for NBN Co to produce a web version.

Of note:
  1. NBN Co plans to provide Ethernet: "It is NBN Co’s view that the Layer 2 products for mass-market fibre services should be based on Ethernet delivery, utilising GPON as the physical access technology. Please note that NBN Co has yet to define Layer 2 offers beyond the mass-market."
  2. NBN Plans support for voice, video and other QoS sensitive applications, with 4 classes of service.
  3. A Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) is being considered with an Analogue Telephone Adapter (ATA) integrated within the Optical Network Termination (ONT).
  4. In its consultation process NBN Co. specifically mentions the Communications Alliance: "... NBN Co will continue to collaborate with industry as part of the Communications Alliance process."
  5. NBN Co intends to support multi-cast protocols, which allows for broadcast like services for IPTV and digital radio: "As NBN Co intends to deliver a multi-cast capability, some Layer 3 awareness will be required within the NBN to support the delivery of IPTV services."
Some excerpts from the paper:
  1. Introduction 3
  2. Building a fibre access network 6
  3. NBN Co’s overall product objectives 8
  4. Choice of layer in the vertical technology stack 9
  5. High level technology standards 12
  6. Location of Points of Interconnect for NBN Co wholesale fibre network 14
  7. NBN Co wholesale fibre bitstream products definition 17
  8. Important product elements 20
  9. Conclusion and next steps 24
1. Introduction Background
NBN Co’s role is to realise the Australian Government’s vision for the development of a next generation national broadband network. To do this successfully, we need to consult widely to ensure our plans for the network meet the current and future needs of our wholesale customers and the wider Australian community.

This Consultation Paper:
  • sets out the conceptual framework that will underpin the development of our proposed wholesale fibre bitstream products
  • focuses on the 90% of premises that are expected to receive high speed broadband services through fibre to the premises (FTTP) technology.1 It does not consider wholesale product offerings over wireless or satellite networks
  • outlines our current thinking on the design of the NBN Co fibre network and the wholesale bitstream products to be provided over that network
In particular, this paper will discuss:
  • the objectives that will underpin NBN Co’s development of its fibre wholesale products
  • the level in the vertical technology stack in which NBN Co intends to offer its fibre wholesale products
  • the high-level technology standards on which NBN Co will build its network
  • NBN Co’s proposed policy for determining the location of Points of Interconnect (PoIs)
  • an overview of the two fibre wholesale products that NBN Co intends to initially offer to its wholesale customers
  • the service features that are intended to be supported by NBN Co’s wholesale fibre products
This Consultation Paper does not attempt to outline the full details of NBN Co’s proposed wholesale fibre products, nor does it describe the various pricing structures of those products. The price structure of our wholesale fibre products will be presented to the industry during NBN Co’s consultation program that will take place in early 2010.

1 Note that in some deployment scenarios (e.g. Multi-Dwelling Units or MDUs) fibre will be delivered to the premises and distribution of services to individual units or service locations will occur via internal building wiring. The details of the MDU solution are not contained in this Product Consultation Paper.

Summary of NBN Co’s proposed wholesale fibre products
  • NBN Co plans to offer a wholesale Layer 2 bitstream product – in doing so, NBN Co will seek to occupy as small a footprint as possible in the overall value chain, leaving retail service providers (RSPs) with significant ability to innovate and develop new services in the higher levels of the value chain.
  • The location of PoIs will be optimised to support healthy competition among RSPs and align with contestable backhaul. For more densely populated areas, such as urban and regional centres, a “local” Point of Interconnection (PoI) is will be established for each Fibre Serving Area (FSA),2 while for less densely populated areas, a “district” PoI (which aggregates two or more FSAs together), will be established. If competitive backhaul is not available from a PoI, supplementary provision of backhaul may be required for a limited period of time to permit the emergence of competitive backhaul on these routes. Only one PoI will be available for any FSA. The number and location of PoIs is still to be determined.
NBN Co will offer its wholesale Layer 2 bitstream product in two forms:
  • the ––Local Ethernet Bitstream (LEB) product will provide our wholesale customers with a Layer-2 access service between the Optical Network Termination (ONT) at an end-user premises and a “local” PoI, located at the Fibre Access Node for the relevant FSA. The LEB product is likely to be offered in capital cities and regional centres. It is envisaged that the LEB product will be made available in respect of the significant proportion of FSAs in Australia.
  • the–– Aggregated Ethernet Bitstream (AEB) product is likely to be offered in rural areas where there are no competitive backhaul services below the PoI. The AEB product enables aggregated access to one or more FSAs via an aggregated link. The LEB product will not be available in locations where the AEB product is made available.
Both the LEB and AEB products offers will be based on an Ethernet platform, utilising Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) as the physical access technology. The technology will deliver a range of active service features including security and Quality of Service (QoS), as well as IP multicast.

Our wholesale products will support access by multiple RSPs, a range of customer premises • equipment (CPE) and will include an interface for analogue telephony. The detail of how these elements will be presented to our wholesale customers will be discussed in later consultation papers.

2 A Fibre Serving Area (FSA) is defined as the area covered by one or more Passive Optical Networks (PONs) terminating at the same “Fibre Access Node”.


2. Building a fibre access network

90 per cent of Australian premises are planned to be served by a fibre access network. While NBN Co is currently undertaking a detailed assessment, planning and design process, to facilitate the consultation program, an indicative configuration of the access network is set out in the
following diagram:

NBN Co diagram of Fibre Serving Area, Indicative Access Infrastructure


4. Choice of layer in the vertical technology stack

... NBN Co considers that a Layer 2 product is most closely aligned with NBN Co’s stated objectives and is most likely to facilitate the achievement of optimum competitive outcomes over the short-to-medium term. Layer 2 products are also most likely to support end-user choice and simplicity, while avoiding the downside risks associated with Layer 3 products, such as a lack of competitive differentiation and limited scope for innovation. ...

5. H High level technology standards

It is NBN Co’s view that the Layer 2 products for mass-market fibre services should be based on Ethernet delivery, utilising GPON as the physical access technology. Please note that NBN Co has yet to define Layer 2 offers beyond the mass-market. ...

Point to multipoint technologies (known as PON – passive optical networks) such as Ethernet Passive Optical Network (EPON) and Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) provide a shared medium for customers, with only individual fibre tails post the splitter. In contrast, point-to-point optical networks provide customers with a full fibre for their exclusive use. ...

Do you believe this model will help foster participation by RSPs in less densely populated locations? What other barriers exist to participation by RSP in these locations? How might NBN Co help address them? Do you believe this model allow sufficient space for participation and investment by commercial backhaul players? What concerns may need to be managed? What criteria should be considered when determining whether the currently available backhaul to a particular proposed regional or district PoI is competitive? What criteria should be considered to assess the likelihood of competitive backhaul being developed in the near-term future at a regional or district location where present backhaul options are not yet deemed to be competitive?

7. NBN Co wholesale fibre bitstream products definition

A. The product offering
NBN Co is proposing to initially offer the following two FTTP products to the market:
1. Local Ethernet Bitstream (LEB)
2. Aggregated Ethernet Bitstream (AEB)
Essentially, both products have the same access capability, with the AEB service offering a short-haul aggregation service for those rural and regional areas where contestable backhaul options have not yet emerged. ...

8. I Important product elements

Traffic Management & Prioritisation

NBN Co’s product offering will provide QoS options to support voice, video and other QoS sensitive applications (although timing of these options is subject to current assessment). Ethernet and GPON provide the capabilities to support a QoS differentiated product. The LEB and AEB products will support 802.1p identification of Ethernet traffic priority. ...

At this stage NBN Co is planning to support 4 classes of service although it has not been determined when and how all options would become available. They are:

  • Provides guaranteed low levels of delay and jitter
  • Suitable for voice and other communicative services. This is the highest priority traffic
  • Assurances for the levels of jitter and packet loss
  • Suitable for video / VOD, including multicast services
  • This class provides a second highest priority of traffic
  • Provides a higher level of assurance than the best effort class, with lower probability of delay, jitter and congestion
  • Suitable for commercial data services, business grade data services
Best effort
  • No performance guarantees
  • Suitable for high speed internet
  • This is the lowest priority traffic and anticipated to carry high volumes of data with varying levels of performance according to instantaneous congestion

Voice Option

As a means to aid transition from current access technologies to the NBN, inclusion of Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) capability is being considered to support legacy telephony services.

It is proposed that this will be achieved via an Analogue Telephone Adapter (ATA) integrated within the Optical Network Termination (ONT). Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) will form the core of the interface definition for this capability. Further details of the implementation of the POTS capability will be released in due course. ...


Multicast is a technology whereby content transmitted simultaneously to two or more end users (e.g. IPTV programs) is carried as a single stream as far into the network as possible before being replicated (i.e. divided) and on-forwarded to end-users. Replication may occur at more than one point along the end to end path, resulting in a tree of replicated streams. The multicast technique can achieve significant bandwidth savings for the delivery of one-to-many services.

It is NBN Co’s intention to deliver a multicast capability, which will require the incorporation of some Layer 3 awareness to support its delivery. The details of multicast implementation are still under consideration. ...

This section outlines key elements of NBN Co’s planned product specification. Are there any other • technical parameters that should be included?
What multicast capabilities have service providers identified? Should the NBN Co access network proxy IGMP functionality and consolidate reporting before passing messages through to the service provider, or do particular services require access to all IGMP communications from all end users? In other words, should NBN Co manage multicast signalling scalability on behalf of the access seekers, or would this unacceptably limit the kinds of multicast services that are being contemplated? How to provide SPs with the ability to confirm connectivity and power? Whether standards are required for CPE installation, reporting and management to allow customer • self install, remote CPE configuration and downstream service provisioning? How to ensure continued support for smart grid and other public services such as safety, health and education? How should legacy voice services be provided? The benefits and disadvantages of integrating Pay TV capabilities into the ONT? The merits and disadvantages of an RF Overlay approach towards Pay TV versus an IP multicast approach?
Should battery backup capabilities, for the purpose of maintaining POTS (or optionally, data) • connectivity for a limited period of time following a power outage, be offered to end users at the time of ONT installation and should the choice be optional? How can the environmental costs be responsibly managed and how can the costs appropriately shared between end users and their chosen RSPs? How can end users be best educated to make an informed choice? ...

From: NBN Co consultation paper: proposed wholesale fibre bitstream products, NBN Co, 21 December 2009

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

NBN CEO on Our Broadband Future

Greetings from the Realising Our Broadband Future forum at University of NSW in Sydney (you can participate remotely). Mike Quigley, Chief Executive Officer of NBN Co., has been explaining that the National Broadband Network is installing fibre to the premises for demanding applications, such as video. He argued that wireless broadband could not provide this due to limited spectrum (in fact the conference organisers asked deli gates to limit their access o the WiFi in the room). The NBN CEO suggests they will need a couple of KA Band satellites for remote areas of Australia (which brings us back to AusSat). NBN will also provide an analog telephone adaptor.

Most of what Mike Quigley said I agree with. However, wireless devices do not necessarily needs as much bandwidth as fixed devices. When watching video on your mobile phone you need much less bandwidth than when watching on a regular TV. This is because the mobile device has a much smaller screen and so needs less data. Similarly, mobile web applications need less bandwidth because people are busy doing other things when they are out and about. Applications in the "cloud" can summarise the data and present just what the user wants to know then and there. A good example of how this has surprised telecommunications companies are SMS and e-mail. These are very plain text based services which take little bandwidth, but a very popular

In my view, the NBN will need to evolve to incorporate wireless. This might be done at, or near the premises. Under current schemes, the NBN will deliver fibre to the home. The customer will then likely attach a wireless router to the NBN termination. As a result the last 10m of the NBN will be wireless. However, this last 10m, which is the most important to the customer will not be managed by the NBN and will waste capacity. Each premise will have a separate wireless device, which will compete for bandwidth. I suggest that instead the NBN should provide a terminating device with wireless built in. That wireless can then be used by the customer in their own home, but also shared with their neighbours. This will make a cheaper, more resilient system. If the home owner's NBN link fails, they can automatically switch over to use the neighbours. If they need more than one node provides, they can use several. If a smart meter or burglar alarm is installed in their hoe, ti will take no configuration, as it can use the standard wireless. Similar wireless telephony can use the wireless network.

Next is: Jeffrey Cole, Director USC Annenberg School.

Senator Kate Lundy will then be launching my book "Green Technology Strategies" in her speech. But first the Minister for Communications will introduce Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Realising Our Broadband Future

The Australian Government is hosting "Realising Our Broadband Future" in Sydney, 10-11 December 2009. Speakers include Mike Quigley (NBN Co), Vinton Cerf (Google), Paul Twomey (Internet Corporation), Kevin Rudd, Stephen Conroy and Kate Lundy (Australian Government) and David Bartlett (Tasmanian Government). The event is free and anyone can register to attend.

The event has five streams, each with a "lead editor":
  1. Smart Infrastructure: Alan Noble (Google)
  2. Digital Education: Bruce Dixon (Anytime, Anywhere Learning Foundation)
  3. e-Community: Genevieve Bell (Intel)
  4. e-Health: Peter Fleming (National E-Health Transition Authority)
  5. e-Business: Bruce McCabe (KPMG)
The Interim report of the Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network questions how far the NBN will extend into regional areas and if there are measures to assess the performance of the NBN . Hopefully this will be addressed at the event.

I will be attended the Digital Education stream of the event> In hope to be able to tell delegates about my Green Technology Strategies e-learning course which is now offered to postgraduates students of eight Australian universities and to launch the companion book of course notes.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

National Broadband Network Senate Report

Interim report of the Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network has been released. The report questions how far it will extend into regional areas and if there are measures to assess the performance of the NBN . The report is available as a set of web pages and PDF files chapter by chapter and as one reasonably sized PDF file (701KB).

The committee was dominated by opposition Senators, but even so is relatively mild in its criticism of the NBN. There are dissenting reports by the Government Senators and The Greens. The Government Senators concentrate on pointing out how good an NBN would be for the nation and the Greens on how previous government decisions on Telstra have limited current choices.

The issue of coverage in regional areas is an unsolved problem. There is no proven technology which can deliver the same speed in regional areas as in cities at an affordable price.

The Australian Government is hosting "Realising Our Broadband Future", 10-11 December 2009, with Mike Quigley (NBN Co), Vinton Cerf (Google), Paul Twomey (Internet Corporation), Kevin Rudd, Stephen Conroy and Kate Lundy (Australian Government) and David Bartlett (Tasmanian Government). No doubt issues of regional access will be discussed.

Conclusion 1

2.26 The committee is of the opinion that, in order to prevent a difference of measurement modelling, similar to that which occurred with the assessment of the OPEL bid, possibly resulting in a consequential delay to the NBN implementation, it would be beneficial for all stakeholders to know which modelling the department will use to assess the coverage footprint.

2.38 It is the committee's view that it would be an extremely unsatisfactory result for the NBN, such a significant government investment, which has been contributed to by all Australian taxpayers, to reach only a small percentage of a state's geographical area while leaving a very high proportion of rural and remote citizens without access to the NBN.

Conclusion 2

2.42 At the time of this report going to print, neither the department nor the Australian Government had provided any guidance or further clarification of the composition of the 98 per cent NBN coverage footprint. The committee believes that the government needs to provide this clarification to proponents and stakeholders alike to ensure a level of confidence that the significant $4.7 billion funding will benefit in particular those Australians that are already underserved or unserved. Particular attention is required to address the needs of those remote areas that are currently generating a large percentage of Australia's wealth yet are in the most underserviced areas.

Conclusion 3

2.73 The committee believes that submissions received and evidence taken to date strongly support the need for the term 'open access arrangements' to be more clearly defined. The committee calls on the government to provide a clarification of this term, which is critical to encouraging ongoing competition in the industry. This would ensure that there is no potential for a successful bidder to interpret the term to its own competitive advantage.

2.109 The committee acknowledges concerns of affordability and service provision, which have the potential to impact on the long-term sustainability of the NBN operator in providing a viable return of investment.

Conclusion 4

2.127 The committee questions the appropriateness of the timeline for the evaluation of the RFP, believing it will not permit the necessary level of scrutiny by either the Expert Panel or the ACCC to select the successful proponent for the NBN.

Chapter 3

3.48 The committee considers that the government should have provided a regulatory framework within the RFP; this would have provided proponents with greater certainty in building their business case for the NBN, while also providing a legal framework for the assessment of proposals.

Conclusion 5

3.56 The committee concludes that omitting to specify the structure of the new network has caused confusion and uncertainty among potential bidders and industry stakeholders.

3.88 The committee supports the general consensus that any new regulations that underpin the NBN should ensure that any operator/owner of the new network cannot participate in anti-competitive behaviour.

3.112 The committee encourages the government to effectively utilises this historic opportunity for regulatory change.

Conclusion 6

3.124 The committee believes that it is in the interest of the government, the industry and the Australian people to ensure that delays to the timeframe for implementation of the NBN are kept to a minimum. Notwithstanding this, the committee considers that the government should incorporate appropriate and timely opportunities for consultation with the industry on suggested regulatory changes.

Conclusion 7

3.125 The committee also believes that the government could easily remove several avenues of possible legal challenge by incorporating industry consultation into the process, even at this late stage.

Chapter 4

Conclusion 8

4.55 The committee believes that the requirement in the RFP for the NBN design to be based on a FTTN or FTTP platform should be broadened to enable a greater level of technology convergence where this is more appropriate than fibre.

Conclusion 9

4.76 The committee acknowledges the complexity of the deployment of the NBN. However, the committee concludes that the most effective use of this substantial expenditure would be to ensure that those Australian homes and businesses that are currently most disadvantaged should be prioritised for initial deployment of the NBN. That is, areas that are currently underserved or unserved should have broadband deployed first, with infrastructure subsequently rolled-IN towards the cities from those underserved areas, which are generally in regional, rural and remote communities.

Conclusion 10

4.77 The committee concludes that the best model for planning the deployment schedule would incorporate high levels of coordination and ongoing involvement by local and state governments with the Commonwealth Government. This would also provide assurance of support through appropriate regulatory changes within each tier of government.

Conclusion 11

4.78 The committee also concludes that there needs to be a carefully considered transition plan to migrate both existing service providers and their customers to the new network over the five year period specified in the RFP. The aim of this transition would be to ensure that it occurs seamlessly, with a no disadvantage test over the five years and that it minimises the issue of stranded assets and stranded customers.

From: List of Committee Comments and Conclusions, Chapter 2, Interim report of the Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network, 26 November 2009 (officially dated for release 2 December 2008).

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tasmanian government to hand out free TiVos

The Tasmanian government is going to pay for TiVo digital set top boxes, so citizens can try out video on demand. In my view this is a waste of public money. There isn't anything new the Tasmanian government will can about broadband from such a trial, which was not already found from systems, such as Transact.
"Premier David Bartlett today joined Hybrid TV CEO Robbee Minicola to launch Hybrid SmartStreet to a national audience. The project is the first of many involving the State Government, which will demonstrate the value of the National Broadband Network to Tasmanian families and businesses. ...

Hybrid SmartStreet is primarily a research project. Participants will be given a TiVo media device which in addition to providing access to high definition TV, will allow access to existing broadband services via Hybrid TV’s CASPA portal. ...

Under the terms of the MoU the Tasmanian Government has committed to covering the access fee for Tastel customers (within the TasCOLT footprint) to participate in the trial, plus the cost of installation and support services. Up to $100,000 has been allocated from within the Department of Economic Development’s existing budget. ..."

From: Premier launches Hybrid SmartStreet, Media Release, Tasmanian Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts, 25 November 2009

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Unifying NBN fibre and wireless networks

Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) has announced it a trial of Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile wireless technology in Australia with Optus during 2010. LTE offers up to 340 Mbps, but more significantly should make it easier to integrate with other wireless and wired broadband networks, such as the National Broadband Network. LTE is claimed to be compatible with WiMax broadband wireless, which the Australian government is funding to fill in some urban broadband black spots. LTE uses IPV6 and this could make it easier to provide services across networks without ad-hoc arrangements for levels of service and security. By using the network more effectivly, this might reate a better and cheaper service than by simply adding more bandwith. LTE also has an option for providing TV like services. What is not clear is if it can be adapted to the needs of regional Australia, with a low population density. It may be that CSIRO's "broadband to the bush" could be combined with LTE.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

WiFi Share Service to Supplement NBN

One person responded to my posting about 3G data speeds being lower than the 14 Mbit/s theoretical maximum:
... don't come to London ... average speeds of 4.8 kbps (yes that's 4800 bits per second) download and about 3k6 bps upload.

It's actually faster to get on a tube ... and deliver your message personally ...
It may help to try an external antenna. I got an omnidirectional one for $30. Or you could try a more expensive directional one to try and get to a less congested cell tower.

However, given the density of network users in London, you might be better off with something like Fon, which allows you to share others wired broadband connection via WiFi. This might make a useful supplement to the NBN. The idea is that the householder shares part of their WiFi with the neighbours and visitors.

The Fon hardware uses Linux and has provision for user enhancements. It might be interesting to have this type of system supplement the NBN.

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Wireless rival to NBN in Tasmania

This morning I talked to Andy Muirhead on ABC Radio Hobart about wireless broadband options. Tasmania is getting the first National Broadband Network home connections next July. But Optus has announced 60 new 3G towers to double their wireless broadband coverage in Tasmania (which is currently confined mostly to the road between Hobart and Launceston). There was concern that people would sign up to a low monthly wireless broadband plan and be locked in for 12 months, too late to see the NBN provides a better deal.

On radio I explained that the 3G wireless broadband was better for people who moved from place to place (including renters). Wireless 3G is good for email and web browsing, but not so good for downloading the gigabytes of data in a full length feature film.

In theory the 3G can provide 14 Mbit/s which compares well with ADSL2+ at 24 Mbit/s and the promised 100 Mbit/s for the NBN. But in reality the 3G operates at tens or hundreds of kilobits per second depending on location and load on the network. I use the Virgin 3G (reseller of the Optus service) and this works reliably throughout Canberra, except in my lounge room. On a recent trip to Tasmania the Virgin 3G broadband worked in Hobart and Launceston, but nowhere I went in between. In addition the included amount of data tends to be lower for wireless than fixed services and the excess data charges larges (10 to 100 times larger).

Andy asked what Tasmania could do with the broadband service. I talked on this to the ACS in Launceston,, suggesting improving tourism services online and specialised wood products.

One thing I forgot to mention is that CSIRO is developing a system for "broadband to the bush". This would provide 100 Mbits/s and could use existing TV transmitter towers. If they can
get it to work this would provide a good rural broadband service, but this might take ten years. This work is being funded from some of the royalties from CSIRO's wireless LAN patent:
The present invention discloses a wireless LAN, a peer-to-peer wireless LAN, a wireless transceiver and a method of transmitting data, all of which are capable of operating at frequencies in excess of 10 GHz and in multipath transmission environments. This is achieved by a combination of techniques which enable adequate performance in the presence of multipath transmission paths where the reciprocal of the information bit rate of the transmission is short relative to the time delay differences between significant ones of the multipath transmission paths. In the LANs the mobile transceivers are each connected to, and powered by, a corresponding portable electronic device with computational ability. ...
John O’Sullivan spoke at the CSIRO ICT Centre symposium last week and related how he went from radio astronomy to indoor wireless. He was generous in sharing the credit with his colleagues.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Railway standardisation a lesson for the NBN

"The World's First Railway System: Enterprise Competition and Regulation on the Railway Network in Victorian Britain" by Mark Casson, OUP, 2009 looks at how efficient the investment in railways in the the 19th century were. There are lessons in this for Australia's planning for the National Broadband Network.

The conclusion drawn by Casson is that there was duplication of railway infrastructure and some inefficient placement of capacity. He concludes that this was due to a failure of the political process, with MPs not having the courage to make decisions for the good of the national as a whole, unable to choose between competing local interests and so making suboptimal decisions. Casson argues that private enterprise with some government planning could have resulted in a more efficient railway system and that this was done in India. This work provides some insights for Australia, with Casson also commenting that Australia failed to learn from the UK's problems and introduced three different railway gauges, a lack of standardisation which is a problem 100 years later.

The National Broadband Network is similar to the model Casson suggests, with central government planning and private investment. I suggest that the Internet protocols are the equivalent of the standard gauge which was missing from Australian railway planning. With it we will be able to have a meshing of multiple private and public networks, seamlessly carrying data round Australia and around the world. Without it we will have a series of little branch lines, with packets of data having to be loaded and unloaded between different data standards, just as goods still have to be transferred between different gauge railway lines in Australia today.

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Designing the National Broadband Network

The Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG) held a National Broadband Network Reference Model Forum in Sydney this morning (there will be another in Melbourne on 12 November 2009). Based on the morning's discussion, my view is that a simpler internet model be used in place of the Communications Alliance model. This will be technically simpler to implement and will also avoid many difficult regulatory issues with telephone and broadcast services. In essence the NBN will be "an internet", which will be part of "the Internet". The NBN can carry many different services using internet protocols, including services which emulate the plain old telephone service (POTS), cable TV and broadcast TV, without being limited to only providing those services or providers.

Paul Brooks, Lead Consultant, NBN Project of Communications Alliance gave a detailed overview of the Communications Alliance High Level Architecture Options for the NBN in detail. His view is that it is likely that the NBN will use a passive optical network for Fibre to The Home (FTTH). This will provide considerable bandwidth to the home, but it is not clear how far this will extend through the network.

While NBN will own and install the connections to the home, there is no architectural distinction between NBN and non-NBN back end networks. The Communications Alliance model operates at level 2 . It is likely that IPv6 will be used or services such as VoIP at the higher layers of the model. Issues to be resolved include how many points should other providers be able to connect at (options range from 5 to 500).

At the home termination, it is not clear how the consumer will connect. Options range from a socket to which any equipment can be connected to an NBN supplied set top box. One issue which I raised early on the the NBN process was the need for operations in disasters during mains power failure. This seems to have been taken up with discussion of who provides the backup batteries.

Stepping back from the details Paul Brooks pointed out a principle should be customer choice. Each service may be connected to different devices from different suppliers ad networks. The example given was a smart electricity meter provided by the energy company, which the householder has little control of but still has to have working over the NBN.

It occurs to me that in all this some points have been lost:

1. Its the Internet: The primary purpose for the NBN is to provide access to the Internet. It is likely the system be implemented using internet protocols. The simplest way to provide Internet access via an internet network is with internet protocols. Therefore the the NBN should be designed as an internet. Much of the Communications Alliance model discussion seems to be about old fashioned connection based network design which is not needed and not relevant for an internet.
2. Layers aren't real: While there s much discussion of Layer 1 and Layer 2, these are abstractions and so of little use for practical decision making. In the discussion it does not seem to be made clear even which multi-layer model is being discussed (the ISO OS
model has seven layers, whereas IP has only five).

Peter Hitchiner, Australian Computer Society – Telecommunications Society of
Australia, gave a more general overview as to what the NBN should do (similar to the ACS talk I gave to ATUG in Canberra). He pointed out that the nature of the NBN service is not clear, in particular is "layer 2" access the preferred industry approach. A major question is will IPTV services be treated equally (a major policy question for the Federal Government).

At this point the forum moved into a discussion to explore some of these issues. This proved very interesting and useful. On the access issue Paul Brooks mentioned that the home access box might have four ports (presumably Ethernet copper cable ports), plus possibly a telephone and a TV port. It seemed that he was envisioned each port would provide a distinct "service" from a separate "service provider". In the subsequent discussion it became clear that the model the Communications Alliance's proposing is to emulate a point to point service over the NBN, on top of an underlying IP network.

Stephen Wright, from Gibson Quai-AAS - Telecommunications Consultants (GQAAS) then talked about the network resilience required. Telstra provides about 99.90% reliability for telephony services (PSTN). Stephen suggested we should aim for 99.95% or higher for the NBN. My view is that it should be relatively simple and inexpensive to achieve this level of service for the NBN for telephony services. This assumes that the NBN is configured to provide different levels of reliability for different services, with emergency services having priority. As an example, the household is likely to want enough bandwidth to call an ambulance in an emergency, and will accept that this should take priority over being able to watch TV. With the NBN configured to provide enough bandwidth to provide TV most of the time, there should be enough capacity to handle lower bandwidth services, such as telephony almost all the time.

The Communications Alliance proposed model is not a good one, is not in the public interest and should not be adopted. Its complexity comes from trying to reproduce the restrictions of the old telecommunications system in order to support old business models. Instead I suggest accepting that the NBN will provide an Internet service. The model then becomes very much simpler, with an unlimited number of service providers able to provide services to the home over one Internet connection. Where a service provider needs a high level of security for their service, for example a telephone, smart meter or a TV set top box, they would need to ensure that the software or hardware they provide to the home has the needed security built in. There is then no need to worry about how many ports to provide or what types. Only one port is needed which can support all the services required.

This would be similar to the electrical sockets provided in the home. These are all worried in parallel and provide the same service. The householder can purchase their own devices to plug in. The householder can also purchase multiple adaptors to plug in. If the householder wants to plug in a refrigerator from a particular supplier, they do not need a special power point installed which only provides one brand of electricity.

The NBN will likely replace the current telephone, broadcast TV and cable TV services. I suggest replacements for these services be done in a way which does not limit the availability of new services. This would be a change in the previous government practice which has been to protect encumbent providers from competition from new services. As an example, the conversion to digital TV in Australia was designed so that the existing analog TV stations retained their oligopoly, even though the new digital technology di not require this.

There is a case for providing telephony and TV as part of the basic NBN service, but architecturally these can be simply services on top of the Internet. In this way the household will not be locked into a new monopoly unnecessarily. As an example, the householder would be able to pay a service provider to provide an ordinary telephone POTS type service from an Australian telecommunications provider. But the householder should be able to use the same NBN equipment to make free Internet calls and to sign up with several other telephone providers, including companies located anywhere in the world, if they wish.

Similarly, the house holder could use the NBN to watch Australian free to air TV and cable TV. However, the householder should be able to also access any other TV-like service available over the Internet from anywhere in the world. The fact that Foxtel might wish to provide a restricted pay TV service using NBN, should not stop other provision of TV like services for free by others.

The issues of telephony on the NBN are not technically complex, compared to the regulatory and public policy issues. TV type services over the NBN are slightly more complex technically, but are dwarfed by the complexity of the public policy issues. There is not sufficient time to work through all of the sectional interests involved in time to implement the NBN. With the current timetable, Australian will still not have transitioned completely from analogue to digital before it will be time to start replacing the digital TV broadcast service with the NBN.

I suggest the Australian Government take the opportunity to short circuit the process by setting some simple goals for the NBN in delivering services over an internet and then let the NBN company get on with the implementation. The NBN is not building a telephone network, nor a pay TV network, it is building a network which can be used for carrying such services.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Prime Minister Needs to Consider the Internet in City Planning

The latest edition of "On Line Opinion: Australia's free Internet journal of social and political opinion" has an article on "Cities in planning spotlight". I was surprised to find the author is "Kevin Rudd", the Prime Minister:
"Around the world, nations are grappling with the challenge of planning for the cities of the future. The forces of the global economy are driving rapid urban growth and requiring governments to rethink their approach to the planning and development of cities. ..."
You can comment on the article, or read those of others. In my comments, I agree with most of the PM's article, but have suggested that the Internet needs to be incorporated in city planning. Projects such as the NBN will change the shape of cities. The Internet can be used to improve public transport and combat climate change, but this needs to be incorporated into city planning to have the maximum benefit.

Examples of the Internet effecting cities are the use of WiFi on public transport increasing the acceptable journey time for commuters and the use of web booking for car share services. These are examples of changes which can be made to transport system much quicker and cheaper than building a metro or a hybrid car factory.

In "Cities in planning spotlight" (2/11/2009) Mr. Rudd argues a larger role for central government in city planning. The government has already played a useful role is in transport planning, but needs to incorporate the Internet in planning. The NBN can be used to improve city transport and help combat climate change.

The federal government funding Melbourne rail improvements and rejecting the Sydney Metro, has sent a clear signal that transport needs to be planned. The NSW government has since made some progress with a study of light rail:

Recent research predicts a larger rise in sea level than previously thought. None of the proposals currently being prepared for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (CoP15) will be sufficient:

The Internet is available and rapidly expanding, so it can be deployed to combat climate change faster than other technologies, such as Metros or solar power. Friday's "Govhack" shows how government and community can work innovatively online:

Data from the $100M Smart Grid Project could be made available for energy saving projects:

Web carshare projects could be funded:

Free WiFi for public passengers and a national smart ticket could be introduced.

Other proposals I put to the APEC Climate Change Symposium in Canberra last week:

1. GREEN COURSE: Broaden the content and add multimedia, mobile phone and village classroom options to the ANU/ACS Green Technologies course to make it available in APEC countries at the local level:

2. INNOVATION COMPETITION: Expand the InnovationACT project to the APEC region. In a one year trial Australian and Korea will have teams of students working online on climate change innovations. Prizes will be awarded for the best project:

3. GREEN CERTIFICATION: Expand the COA Green ICT certification scheme to APEC, providing web tools to ICT green certify organisations:

4. PROTECT CULTURAL RECORDS: Many cultural institutions are located near the sea and will be at threat from inundation due to climate change. Training and resources for government and non-government cultural institutions to catalogue and digitally preserve their materials can be provided. Background:

Posted by tomw, Monday, 2 November 2009 10:35:13 AM
ps: I am on the On Line Opinion Editorial Advisory Board, along with Mrs. Turnbull, amongst others.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Australian Government $100M Smart Grid Project

The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts is offering up to $100M for a Smart Grid, Smart City demonstration project. There is a Media Release, set of Guidelines and a Pre-deployment report. This is for networked sensors in an energy grid allowing finer control of the system. This can be used to send price signals to optimise energy use, particularly from renewable sources. It is usually claimed to reduce costs to the consumer, but is more likely be used to force the consumer to change their energy use habits.

A smart grid can be for any energy distribution system, but this project appears to be limited to an electricity distribution network. It would be useful to include two different energy sources, such as electricity and gas, in the project to look for synergies.

It is claimed that data and results will be made available publicly over the course of this project. However, smart grids provide data in real time and so there would seem to be no reason why data from the project should not be provided daily from the start date of the system. The proposed lengthy delays in providing data have no technical justification and appear to be the government planning to suppress any bad news about the project, even before it starts.

The government appear to be using a similar process to the NBN Taskforce, where an independent panel of experts is used to assess proposals, rather than a conventional public service tender board. Victorian electricity distributor SP AusNet appears to have a head start having announced it will install 680,000 WiMax connected smart meters by 2013, with about 40,000 installed by mid 2010. Applications close 28 January 2010 and the date for the successful bidder to be announced is a somewhat vague some time in 2010.

It should be noted that smart grids do not require a high speed fibre optic broadband network. Only low data rates are needed and wireless networks can be used as in the Victorian system. Smart grids may not need to use the NBN.

I teach about smart grids in my Green ICT course and perhaps some of the graduates will be involved in the project.

Grant Guidelines

  1. Smart Grid, Smart City Grant Guidelines (PDF-347KB)
  2. Application Supporting Material
  3. Presentation on the Release of Draft Guidelines
  4. Presentation on the Draft Application Supporting Material
  5. Smart Grid, Smart City: A new direction for a new energy era (PDF - 4000KB)
  6. Consultation Workshops - Smart Grid, Smart City, National Energy Efficiency Initiative (NEEI)
  7. Summary of Stakeholder Workshops - July 2009
While there is extensive documentation provided about the project is is very large PDF and word documents. For a project which is supposed to be about smart use of information technology this shows a lack of smart information design and distribution. Here is an excerpt in plan text from the pre-deployment report:

Smart Grid, Smart City: A new direction for a new energy era


Minister’s foreword 4
Executive summary 6
  1. Background, objectives and approach 11
  2. Smart grid business case: Expected benefits in Australia 30
  3. Program design for Smart Grid, Smart City 40
  4. Recommended approach to industry and next steps 89
  5. Role of government and regulatory bodies for broader smart grid adoption in Australia 102
APPENDIX A: Glossary of smart grid terminology 106
APPENDIX B: Smart grid trials in Australia 110
APPENDIX C: Pilot summary 111

The Australian Government announced in the 2009 Federal Budget the availability of up to $100 million for the implementation of a fully integrated smart grid at commercial scale, through the National Energy Efficiency Initiative (NEEI). The government’s investment in Smart Grid, Smart City was subject to a pre-deployment study designed to provide further information to the government on the potential economic and environmental benefits of smart grid technologies and the best way to maximise the benefits of the government’s investment including the best governance framework and business model for the initiative, and how best to bridge any gaps in knowledge about the benefits. The results of the pre-deployment study undertaken in July and August 2009 are presented in this report.

It is the intent that the program design of Smart Grid, Smart City builds off and leverages the programs and lessons from other government and industry initiatives, including but not limited to the Smart Meter program (led by the Ministerial Council on Energy), Solar Cities, Solar Flagships and the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Near-universal access to cheap electric power has helped Australia achieve a high standard of living and a leading position in the global economy. Indeed, low-cost power has helped drive the country’s economic growth for decades. Today, the national power industry is large and complex, with $11 billion1 in revenue, over 45,000 kilometres of transmission lines and 700,000 kilometres of distribution network, and over nine million customers2, including many in remote areas.

An abundance of coal has helped keep the cost of electricity relatively low. But coal imposes environmental costs in the form of greenhouse gases, including 200 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) released in 20083, more than a third of Australia’s total CO2-e emissions.

Global and national trends are beginning to affect the entire value chain of the electric power
  • Expert scientific evidence confirms that human activities, power plant emissions in particular, alter the climate and affect the environment. The Australian Government is investing in measures to reduce reliance on fossil fuels
  • Rising and more volatile fuel prices and globalisation of fuel markets
  • Ageing electric infrastructure that will require costly upgrades to meet the demands of an expanding modern economy.
The nation will need to manage power more efficiently and effectively, lower the ratio of electricity consumption per economic output, reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions with demand management and encourage energy efficiency, improve reliability, and reduce recurring costs while making prudent investments.

The global call to action has initiated a wave of innovation in distributed power generation, electric transport, energy efficiency and smart grid capabilities. Power utilities and solution providers across Australia and around the world are starting to experiment and deploy a wide range of these innovations.

To bring this vision to reality, Australia will need to integrate information processing and communications into power systems to create a unified smart grid that includes generation, transmission, distribution, retail and end-use. This smart grid vision encompasses a suite of applications which are currently at different stages of technical and economic maturity.

They can be categorised into grid-side applications, which reduce line loss and improve fault detection and restoration, for example, and customer-side applications, which help people understand and manage their power usage.

Preliminary analysis carried out in the course of this study indicates that implementing smart grid technologies across Australia could deliver at least $5 billion of gross annual benefit to Australian society. This includes improvements in the operation of the power industry and an estimate of the monetised benefits of reduced greenhouse gases and improved power grid reliability. The significance of the potential benefits and sizable range indicates that many applications are worthy of further investigation and refinement as part of the Smart Grid, Smart City demonstration.

These potential benefits have attracted enormous interest in smart grid technologies and their implementation and governments around the world are making power grid upgrades a priority.

The United States (US), for example, has announced USD $4.5 billion in smart grid funding, while Europe has mandated smart meters as a critical component of a broader smart grid.

Although smart grids offer significant potential, the benefits are largely unproven at commercial-scale and like other countries, Australia faces barriers to a broader adoption, including:
  • Australian and international authorities have yet to agree on standards for many applications
  • Power industry leaders do not currently share a common understanding about the costs and benefits of different smart grid applications
  • Regulatory frameworks that may not reflect the full potential benefits of smart grid
  • applications or provide industry with critical guidance on cost recovery or risk
  • Utilities have no comprehensive national or global reference cases to guide them toward best practices or help them avoid mistakes.
There are no regulatory barriers for the successful implementation of Smart Grid, Smart City
but a regulatory reference group is recommended to identify potential barriers that could impact
a broader smart grid adoption in Australia.

The absence of standards for smart grid technology and applications are a significant investment risk for the wider adoption of smart grids and, to a lesser extent, the Smart Grid, Smart City demonstration project. It is anticipated, however, that this risk will be mitigated by a
flexible approach to the deployment of the smart grid communications platform. This approach will see a variety of communications solutions adapted to suit different and varying network requirements, which will help spread the risk. A standards working group is recommended to identify standards needed to minimise technology investment risk for a broader smart grid
adoption in Australia.

This report contains the following recommendations:
  • Smart grid implementation in Australia should aim to optimise the overall value for society, including financial and non-financial benefits (see sections 2.1 and 2.2).
  • Since some underlying technologies are too immature and their business cases too unproven to allow for accurate up-front cost estimates, analysis suggests that gross annual benefits, rather than a net present value, will best prioritise the allocation of funds across potential applications. The Smart Grid, Smart City demonstration should gather data to allow more accurate calculations of the net present value of each major application (see sections 2.1 and 2.2).
  • The available funding should be directed at reducing or eliminating as many of the barriers to widespread deployment as possible—including business case uncertainty, technological immaturity, standards development and regulatory uncertainty—enablinga rapid and prudent market-led adoption of smart grid technologies and capabilities that could build on other relevant government initiatives such as the National Broadband Network (NBN), subject to commercial decisions. Funding disbursements should be split between project milestone outcomes and a final performance payment upon completion of project requirements. Consortium applicants should provide significant co-investment for the program to align interests and generate ‘ownership’ and to drive lessons for Smart Grid, Smart City. Finally, the Smart Grid, Smart City program design can be adjusted or scaled in terms of the breadth of the applications deployed pending the total available funding (see section 3.6.4).
  • To achieve this objective, Smart Grid, Smart City should provide a competitively solicited grant to a distributor-led consortium to fund a unified deployment of smart grid technologies within a single distributor’s region that rigorously assesses and analyses applications at a relevant commercial scale. This is consistent with the government’s recommendation for the initiative to be in one Australian town, city or region. Finally, distinct modules should address regulatory barriers and standards that could impact a broader smart grid adoption in Australia (see section 3.2).
  • Consumer-side applications deployed at commercial scale should aim to understand what drives customer behaviour and therefore should test several different packages across different consumer demographics. The packages should include various tariff programs (e.g. Time of Use and Critical Peak Pricing), the provision of more detailed information for consumers (e.g. real-time energy usage and environmental information via in-home displays or portals) and controls that maximise potential behaviour change (e.g. programmable controllable thermostats and home energy controllers; see sections 3.1 and 3.2). Smart metering will be a critical enabler of customer-side applications.
  • Grid-side applications to be deployed at commercial scale should include (see section 2.3):
    • Fault detection, isolation and restoration
    • Integrated Volt-VAR control, including conservation voltage reduction
    • Distributed storage.
    • Secondary applications that should be piloted (although not necessarily at commercial scale) include: electric vehicles; substation and feeder monitoring and diagnostics; wide-area measurement; and distributed generation support.
    • In order to effectively demonstrate a wide variety of customer-side applications, a minimum of 9,000 – 10,000 participating households is suggested (implying a total minimum population of some 200,000 people), depending upon the number and design of each trial, and the anticipated take-up rate of those trials within the population.
  • To ensure a broader adoption of the applications shown to have a positive net benefit, the successful consortium should provide detailed commentary on how it will ensure:
    • Close ongoing engagement with the regulatory reference group established for Smart Grid, Smart City to identify most pressing regulatory challenges and help create recommendations to government and regulatory bodies (see section 3.3)
    • Active dialogue and engagement with the standards working group established for Smart Grid, Smart City to identify standards required to minimise investment in new technologies and ensure broader industry participation (see section 3.4)
    • Mechanisms to involve other industry players and disseminate lessons, e.g. peer evaluation panels and secondments from other distributors/industry players (see section 3.5).
  • Government will require the consortium to ensure continuity of supply by using robust security procedures that include plans for handling breach or discovery of weakness (see section 2.3) ...

  • From: Smart Grid, Smart City: A new direction for a new energy era

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

High Level Architecture Options for the NBN

The Communicators Alliance have released High Level Architecture Options for the NBN (October 2009). This is a draft paper for comment by 6 November 2009, as part of a National Broadband Network Reference Architecture. This is a very clearly and concisely written 26 page document. Unfortunately it has been formatted as 552 kbytes of PDF, making it hard to distribute and read.
3.1 Key Network Domains and Functions 4
3.2 Wholesale Point of Interconnect and Service Boundary Point Scenarios8
3.3 Roles and Relationships between Different Industry Players 10
3.4 Relationship between CPE and Retail/Wholesale providers 12
4.1 Option 1: Layer 2 Ethernet Access 14
4.2 Option 2: Wireless/Satellite Layer 3 IP Access 18
5.1 Sustainability 22
5.2 Robustness 22
5.3 Security 22
5.4 IPv6 22
5.5 Future Proofness 22


This document defines the following:
  • The end-to-end broadband network architecture framework, including domains and functions required to deliver a wide range of network services and application/content services to end users.
  • A range of potential passive and active NBN wholesale interconnect scenarios. This will be a key input to other Communications Alliance NBN work stream activities, in particular the wholesale services stream. In developing these options there has been some regard to overseas experience where different FTTH wholesale open access models are being adopted by different countries.
  • Terminology and definitions for different industry players taking into account a range of possible roles providing Wholesale and Retail services.
  • The relationship between the CPE (such as ONT and RG) and Retail and Wholesale Service Providers. ...

The next-generation broadband network will enable a wide range of network services and application/content services to be delivered to end users via FTTP, Wireless and Satellite access. Figure 1 shows the end-to-end architecture vision which identifies the different functional and service domains applicable to the provision of Next Generation Broadband Services. The retail network service providers and application/content service providers are those that provide services to end users and have a direct customer relationship with the end users. Wholesale service providers do not have this relationship. ...

The primary form of access to the NBN will be Fibre to the Premises (FTTP). This section describes the end-to-end network architecture for FTTP access.
Figure 2 shows the end-to-end broadband network reference architecture, segregated into a number of functional domains. This architecture is based on the reference architecture defined by the Broadband Forum1 but has been adapted for the specific purposes of this exercise. In particular, the terminology used in this document is not fully aligned with that used by the Broadband Forum. It should be noted that the terminology used in this document will be reviewed and may change in future releases. ...

From: High Level Architecture Options for the NBN, Communicators Alliance, October 2009

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Smart electricity meters may displace NBN

Victorian electricity distributor SP AusNet has announced it will install 680,000 WiMax connected smart meters by 2013, with about 40,000 installed by mid 2010. These will be used for smart grid applications to allow better management of energy use and cut carbon emissions. But an obvious additional step would be to include WiFi in the home meters. This could be used to communicate with appliances in the home and as a by-product provide a broadband Internet service to rival the NBN.

The meters are part of the Victorian Government Advanced Metering Infrastructure program (AMI). These will record electricity consumption in at least half hour increments, be remotely read and allow the electricity distributor to locate outages.

The system will use MotorolaWiMAX WAP 650 base stations on 2.3GHz connected by a microwave system. It will use a "flat" IP architecture.
Motorola will supply and deploy WiMAX WAP 650 base stations operating at 2.3GHz, Access Service Network (ASN) Gateway and new microwave systems to extend the wide area network (WAN) to new coverage areas. The system is based on a flat, all-IP architecture that enables high-speed machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. It will facilitate communication with SP AusNet’s smart meters embedded with WiMAX chipsets, collecting measurements and sending instructions in real time, supporting the analysis of usage patterns and power generation needs. This wireless network also will allow SP AusNet to facilitate smooth communications for its field operations. The project spans a four-year period, and Motorola will start shipping and installing products by the end of 2009. ...

From: Motorola Powers World’s First WiMAX-based Electric Utility Smart Metering for SP AusNet, Press Release,Motorola, Inc., October 22, 2009

Partnering with SP AusNet in the AMI program are: Landis+Gyr, GE and GridNet, UXC Limited, Electrix,
Motorola, Unwired, eMeter, Logica, Accenture, Enterprise Business Services, and Geomatic Technologies. ...

From: Smart partnerships for SP AusNet’s smart meter roll out, Media Release, SP AusNet, 22 October 2009

Smart meters are being rolled out to all Victorian households and small businesses over the next four years to help people better manage their energy use and cut carbon emissions.

The new smart meters - also known as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) - will provide two-way communication between your electricity meter and your power company, making more immediate information about your electricity use available to you both.

Victoria is the first state in Australia to give the go-ahead for the wide spread roll-out of smart meters. Covering 2.2 million homes and 300,000 businesses, this is a big task, representing one of the biggest improvements to energy infrastructure in the state’s history.

It’s a key step towards future smart electricity grids, which we need so that more renewable energy can be fed into the grid.

The meters will allow customers to access accurate electricity reads every 30 minutes, which helps to monitor and reduce electricity usage - and save money on power bills.

It will be easier to connect and disconnect power when you move house, and power companies will be able to identify outages and restore power more quickly. It will also mean the end of estimated bills or staying in for meter readings.

Electricity distribution companies - who own the poles and wires which deliver electricity to your homes and businesses - will start installing meters towards the end of 2009 and finish by the end of 2013.

Role of Government

Smart Meters Fact Sheet (PDF 113KB) ...

Smart Meters Questions and Answers
Smart meter rollout project
Smart meters in my home
Smart meter installaltion
Smart meter and my electricity bill
Security and privacy

From: Advanced Metering Infrastructure program (AMI), Victorian Government, 30/09/2009.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Birth of the National Broadband Network

Greetings from Canberra, where Professor Reg Coutts, a member of the Government’s Broadband Panel of Experts is talking on "The National Broadband Network: New Ways of Working" to the ACS. I have been at the same venue since 12:30pm on at the ATUG "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package" presenting on the "Perspectives on the Telecommunications Reform Package".

Reg is recounting about how the government made a "courageous decision" to implement the NBN with FTTP, rather than FTTN. The Broadband Panel of Experts went beyond its brief and rather than selecting a broadband provider, recommended a new network strategy. The previous government proposed a wireless strategy for regional areas, which was rejected by the new government.

Tasmania is taking a "Tasmanian solution" with green and brown field implementation. Tasmania has the lowest current Internet penetration, lowest income and oldest population.

Reg commented that the government is not doing anything to address broadband to the 10% of the population in beyond where the fibre network will reach. This applies not just to regional areas, but to some areas of capital cites, such as Adelaide (the government is funding WiMax).

Reg joked that to solve the problem of pair gain on Telstra lines consumers should order an ISDN line. Telstra will then wire a direct, good quality copper cable to your premises. Then cancel ISDN and use the line for ADSL.

The report of the expert panel is still confidential but an "Extract from the Evaluation Report for the Request for Proposals to Roll-out and Operate a National Broadband Network for Australia" was published. Reg commented that it took the media some days to notice this and its implications (I have appended the text of the report to make it easier to find).

Reg recommended the Communications Alliance NBN Discussion Paper (14 May 2009). He commented that due to AUSSAT, satellite service sin Australia have a poor reputation. However, new technology used in other countries provide a flexible and popular service. He claimed that problems of latency with satellites could be overcome. He argued that satellite should be part of the NBN.

Reg mentioned the role of wireless, with WiMax, HSPDA (3G). Possible LTE, using old analogue TV spectrum (700MHz) for fixed wireless. This would use 2.6GHz for short range and 700MHz for long range. Reg argued that this could be a useful separate competitive alternative to the NBN and wireless should not be part of the NBN.

Reg argues that the NBN should be structures as a network, not links. There should be 25 equivalent POIs, with a cross-subsidy to provide the same network charges nation wide.

Reg mentioned the AFACT v iiNet court case currently under way. He commented that while media content owners are complaining about their content on the Internet, other arms of the same companies are keen to distribute content online.
    1. Background

On 7 December 2007, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy, (the Minister) announced that the Commonwealth Government (Commonwealth) was committed to building a national high-speed broadband fibre-to-the-node network, and that it would run an open and transparent process to determine who would build the network.

On 11 March 2008, the Minister announced the appointment of a Panel of Experts to assess the Proposals received in response to the Request for Proposals (RFP), to be released at a later date. The Panel of Experts comprises:

    • Ms Patricia Scott (Chair)
    • Mr John Wylie AM
    • Mr Tony Shaw PSM
    • Dr Ken Henry AC
    • Mr Tony Mitchell
    • Professor Reg Coutts
    • Professor Rod Tucker

On 11 April 2008, the Commonwealth released an RFP seeking Proposals to roll-out and operate a National Broadband Network (NBN) in a single stage process. To facilitate the roll out, the Commonwealth indicated it would offer up to $4.7b to the successful Proponent(s), and consider making necessary regulatory and legislative changes.

On 26 November 2008, the Commonwealth received Proposals from six pre-qualified Proponents:

    • Acacia Australia Pty Ltd
    • Axia Netmedia Corporation
    • Optus Network Investments Pty Ltd
    • the Crown in the Right of Tasmania
    • Telstra Corporation Ltd
    • TransACT Capital Communications Pty Ltd

On 13 December 2008, the Panel met and considered the future of the Telstra Proposal in the NBN RFP process. The Panel considered legal and probity advice and Telstra's response to the notification of the Panel's preliminary view on the matter and concluded that Telstra had failed to submit a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Plan as required under the RFP.

On this basis, the Panel and the Commonwealth concluded that the Telstra Proposal had not met the conditions of participation for the RFP and Telstra's Proposal was excluded from further consideration in the RFP process.

    1. Observations
  1. Since the Panel was appointed in March 2008, and the RFP issued in April 2008, the environment surrounding the process to select a Proponent to roll out and operate a NBN for Australia has changed dramatically.
  2. There has been a once-in-75-year deterioration in capital markets that has severely restricted access to debt and equity funding. As a result all national proponents have either found it very difficult to raise the capital necessary to fund an NBN roll-out without recourse to substantial support from the Commonwealth or have withheld going to the market until they have certainty that their Proposal is acceptable to the Commonwealth.
  3. All Proposals were to some extent underdeveloped. No Proposal, for example, provided a fully developed project plan. None of the national Proposals was sufficiently well developed to present a value-for-money outcome.
  4. While no Proposal submitted a business case that supports the roll-out in five years of an NBN to 98 per cent of Australian homes and businesses with a Government contribution of $4.7b, each Proposal contained attractive elements that, taken together, could form the basis from which a desirable outcome might be achieved.
  5. The Proposals received through the RFP process, the public submissions received on regulatory issues and the report of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have been highly instructive. They provide a good evidence base for the Government as it moves forward.
  6. The Proposals confirm there are multiple approaches to delivering high-speed broadband and that, with the right technology mix and incentives to create sound business cases being developed, the goal of providing high-speed broadband services to 98 per cent of homes and businesses can be reached.
  7. In particular, the Proposals have demonstrated that the most appropriate, cost effective and efficient way to provide high-speed broadband services to the most remote 10 per cent of Australian homes and businesses is likely to be a combination of next generation wireless technology (supported by appropriate spectrum) and third generation satellites.
  8. The Proposals have also demonstrated that rolling out a single fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network is:
      • unlikely to provide an efficient upgrade path to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), because of the high costs of equipment associated with rolling out a FTTN network that would not be required for a FTTP network (i.e. FTTN is not a pre-requisite for the provision of FTTP); and
      • likely to require exclusive or near-exclusive access to Telstra's existing copper sub-loop customer access network (CAN), the so called 'last mile', thereby confirming that strong equivalence of access arrangements would be essential. As well, providing such access to a party other than Telstra runs a risk of liability to pay compensation to Telstra. The Proposals have this risk remaining with the Commonwealth but they have not addressed the potential cost to the Commonwealth of any such compensation. In any event, the Panel considers that no Proponent could accept the cost risk and continue to have a viable business case.
  9. The Panel's analysis of the Proposals has highlighted the importance of competition and not just technology to drive improvements in services; the need to improve competition in backhaul supply, particularly in regional areas; the desirability for a wholesale-only provider of any bottleneck infrastructure; and the desirability of improved regulation of the telecommunications industry to provide investor certainty and speed of outcomes. The Panel was not attracted to what it saw in some cases as proposals for excessive overbuild protections. Focusing on using next-generation technology solutions may reduce the need for such protection.
  10. The Panel can see a way forward to achieve the outcomes sought by the Government and has provided that advice in confidence to the Government because of the commercial sensitivities arising.

From: Extract from the Evaluation Report for the Request for Proposals to Roll-out and Operate a National Broadband Network for Australia, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy,20 January 2009

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