Fast broad­band still years away in re­gion

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - RICHARD KOSER

THE Na­tional Broad­band Net­work is still years away from reach­ing the Dou­glas re­gion. It may never get here. Tony Abbott and the fed­eral Lib­er­alNa­tional Op­po­si­tion have promised to scrap the multi-bil­lion dol­lar na­tional fi­bre-op­tic net­work if they get elected on Satur­day, Au­gust 21.

Even if the net­work does ar­rive, it is likely that some lo­cals will be bet­ter off con­nect­ing to the in­ter­net through their mo­bile phones than through the $43 bil­lion na­tional net­work.

NBN Co, the Fed­eral Govern­ment-owned en­tity in charge of the roll­out, an­nounced this week that the fi­bre por­tion of the net­work will reach 93 per cent of Aus­tralian homes, rather than the 90 per cent first an­nounced. It makes lit­tle dif­fer­ence lo­cally, how­ever. While peo­ple liv­ing in ma­jor pop­u­la­tion cen­tres such as Port Dou­glas and Moss­man and beach sub­urbs such as Wonga and Cooya will ben­e­fit from the top speed of 100 Mbps, the more ru­ral re­gions will have to make do with next gen­er­a­tion wire­less or satel­lite con­nec­tions of 12 Mbps.

Tel­stra’s cur­rent wire­less technology is al­ready ca­pa­ble of speeds up to 21 Mbps, and the telco plans to roll out up­grades lo­cally to dou­ble that speed in the next 12 months.

The speed of devel­op­ment in the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try may ren­der the na­tional fi­bre net­work re­dun­dant be­fore it is even com­pleted.

Tel­stra’s lo­cal man­ager be­lieves in the “build it and they will come” phi­los­o­phy.

“When we first in­tro­duced broad­band a decade ago, 256Kbps was con­sid­ered su­per­fast,” Tel­stra Coun­try­wide Far North Queens­land gen­eral man­ager Wally Don­ald­son said.

“Over the past 10 years, in­creases in speed have been ex­po­nen­tial.

“As you get more speed, ap­pli­ca­tions are de­vel­oped that make use of that speed.”

Mr Don­ald­son points out, how­ever, some cus­tomers are al­ready get­ting speeds com­pa­ra­ble to the NBN.

“In and around Cairns, we’ve been rolling out our Ve­loc­ity prod­uct, which is fi­bre to the home al­ready,” he said.

“There are hous­ing es­tates that are al­ready get­ting close to 100 Mbps.”

For those off-grid, how­ever, the na­tional net­work will not nec­es­sar­ily mean faster down­loads.

“Ter­res­trial wire­less technology will have the same is­sues as dig­i­tal tele­vi­sion,” Mr Don­ald­son said.

“There’s only so much spec­trum avail­able for wire­less, and wire­less can be af­fected by at­mo­spheric and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions.”

The NBN project has been touted by NBN Co as “a unique nation-build­ing op­por­tu­nity” but panned by the fed­eral Op­po­si­tion as a white ele­phant that will never fly and doesn’t de­serve to live.

It is es­ti­mated the NBN will take eight years to roll out fi­bre op­tic cable to ev­ery home to be cov­ered.

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