Five Alternatives To The NBN

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Malcolm Turnbull is now connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN) at his Point Piper home on a 100 megabits per second (Mbps) plan. But only because his department intervened to avoid delays affecting other customers.

And while the Prime Minister might be happy with his NBN connection, that’s not the case for the 2.5 million customers waiting on a connection through their pay TV or cable service who have been left in limbo. So what can you do about it?

Is the NBN facing irrelevance?

Lauded in the 2009 Commonwealth Budget as the single largest nation building infrastructure project in Australian history, the NBN is at risk of becoming an expensive white elephant in our cities. Years of political interference, poor technology decisions and a monopoly business attitude have damaged the brand.

Rather than meeting its objective of connecting 90% of homes and workplaces with broadband speeds of up to 100 Mbps, the NBN is looking more like a giant sponge. It soaks up public infrastructure dollars and returns high prices, long delays, unacceptably slow data speeds and service standards that are now the subject of an ACCC investigation.

As a result, a growing number of competitors are bypassing the NBN by undercutting prices and beating performance standards.

Adelaide fibre network

The latest challenge to the NBN came after South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill denounced the “very poor NBN outcome” and last week announced A$35 million in funding for an Adelaide fibre network alternative if he is reelected in March 2018.

The plan was warmly welcomed by Mighty Kingdom, an app and games developer who told the ABC, “I don’t have what I need to get me to the rest of the world.”

This follows news announced last year that Adelaide City Council is working with TPG to deliver an NBN-alternative broadband service to local businesses. The service promises fibre internet up to 100 times faster than the NBN, at lower prices, and with no installation costs for city businesses or organisations.

Lord Mayor Martin Haese said:

This technology will be a game changer for the city of Adelaide. It will be a boom for local businesses and other organisations, but will also attract business from interstate and across the globe.

Lightening Broadband and DGtek in Melbourne

Meanwhile two aggressive startups in the Melbourne market are hoping to take a serious bite from NBN’s lunch.

Lightening Broadband is connecting homes and businesses using microwave links capable of delivering both 100 Mbps download and upload speeds. That’s better than the comparable NBN Tier 100, which offers 90 Mbps download and 30 Mbps upload speeds.

The company is constructing microwave transmitters on tall buildings, connected to the telco’s core network using microwave links. Customers within a two-kilometre radius share a microwave transmitter, requiring a dish on their roof.

Another telco start-up, DGtek is offering its customers a full fibre alternative service.

Upon its launch in 2016, DGtek’s founder David Klizhov said:

“Ideally the NBN would have worked if it was fibre to the home, but it’s taken quite a lot of time and we thought that we could have a go at the Australian market using technology that’s been implemented already overseas.”

DGtek uses Gigabit Passive Optical Networks (GPON) and runs it directly into tightly packed homes with the dense population of inner Melbourne. As a sweetener, DGtek offers free internet service to government organisations – such as schools and hospitals – in areas they service.

The threat from 5G

New entrant competition is not the only threat to NBN Co. Optus and Telstra are both launching 5G services in 2019. This represents a quantum leap in wireless technology that could win away millions of current and potential NBN customers.

While Vodafone CEO Inaki Berroeta has said that 5G is unlikely to replace the NBN in Australian homes, Optus Managing Director of Networks Dennis Wong recently told BIT Magazine:

Everyone has heard of concepts like self-driving cars, smart homes, AI and virtual reality, however their full potential will require a fast and reliable network to deliver. Seeing 5G data speeds through our trial that are up to 15 times faster than current technologies allows us to show the potential of this transformative technology to support a new eco-system of connected devices in the home, the office, the paddock and in the wider community.


5G is not the only technological game changer facing the NBN. iiNet in Canberra has launched its Very-high-bit-rate Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL2) as its own superfast network.

According to iiNet, it is made up of fibre and copper and provides a faster connection than ADSL and most NBN plans. The network is independent from Telstra and differs to NBN in that iiNet’s VDSL2 network uses its own copper lines.

Levelling the field for smaller players

The huge capital requirements of rolling out telecoms infrastructure has always acted to deter more competition in the Australian market. But following a regulatory decision of the ACCC in 2017, smaller entrants can now enjoy cost-based access to some of the largest networks – including Telstra, TPG and Opticom – allowing them to better compete both with the big telcos, and with the NBN.

By providing access to superfast broadband access service (SBAS) and the local bitstream access service (LBAS), new entrants will be able to sell NBN-like fixed line superfast broadband wholesale.

So where to for the NBN?

Earlier in the week, the government released a working paper forecasting that demand for bandwidth will double for households with high internet usage over the next decade. The report also suggests that the NBN is equipped to meet those needs.

The ConversationHowever, cost, technology and customer service problems continue to threaten the commercial success of the NBN. Without a radical rethink, it is doomed to fail its initial mission.

Allan Asher, Visitor, Regulatory Institutions Network (RegNet) & Chair of Foundation for Effective Markets and Governance, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.


    5 Viable alternatives to the NBN
    1) Stone tablets sent over the sea on ocean liners
    2) Carrier pigeons to carry each individual packet of data
    3) Smoke Signals to send messages
    4) send web pages downloaded onto external USB drives in the mail
    5) actually install a real working fibre network

    obviously 5) is a joke. we all know thats to expensive and is ludicrous. no one in australia will ever need more than 1 mbps speeds!

    I prefer option 2. Probably the most reliable though I understand technological advances for option 3 are looking promising

      And because the Menulog or Ubereats meals would take far too long to order and deliver under this method, you just eat the pigeon.

    Don't forget another great startup with expanding coverage across Adelaide and Melbourne which is Uniti Wireless - we've been with them almost 12 months after getting tired of waiting for the "Nineties Broadband Now" (TM) to be installed in our area and couldn't be happier!

    Are there any alternatives that aren’t limited to (mostly small) areas of specific cities?

    No? So not much point to this then is there?

      If you're in an area where the NBN isn't available and the alternatives are available then there's most definitely a point.

      If you're in an area served by the NBN and these alternatives provide better service at the same or lower cost then there's most definitely a point.

      The point is choice, the NBN isn't, and doesn't have to be, the only choice. The more genuine competition with real alternatives the better in my opinion.

    5 alternatives to NBN...
    1) move to Adelaide.
    2) move to Melbourne
    3) pick inner city Melbourne
    4) try something that doesn't exist yet
    5) move to Canberra and use the old TransACT VDSL2 that inspired Telstra's FTTN announcement, which in turn inspired the NBN. 10 years on, NBN is rolling out technology used in this competing network, which some considered obsolete even when NBN was announced. This option boggles the mind.

    The cost of 5G will be significantly higher than NBN

    Do people seriously have a problem with NBN? My speeds literally quintipled. I now have 5.5MBs (44mbs) on wireless/ethernet on FTTN. Which is a lot better than what I had on ADSL.

      Yep, on our 100Mbit plan, we get anything from 2mb/s to 40mb/s depending on the time of day. It also often just stops working altogether for minutes at a time.
      FTTN, about 400metres from the node.

    Would be nice if these telcos look at making it easier for people in ourback to access broadband internet instead of NBN satellite with poor data allowance and high consumer cost. Even a simple adsl connection would do but Telstra just ain't interested and ombudsmen isn't interested.

    Your article is enlightening however the company's name is Lightning Broadband. ;-)

    Do yourselves a favor. Watch out for micro telcos offering fantastic deals with extras. Just plain bs.

    Spirit Internet in Melbourne provided me 100/100 or 200/200 via fibre to the building in Camberwell and I was very happy. They are a non-NBN provider. Sadly they only have very limited, high density apartment connections established at this time. If you have the option, choose them.

    living in a suburb that was lucky enough to be one of the first in aus connected, and having a true fttp connection - not the half baked crap they're doing now - i am forever happy with the cost and speed (my 'slow' peak speeds never go below 80mbit). I pay less for my 100mbit with a 1TB limit than i did my aDSL1 with a 200GB limit (which was the best i could get before nbn rolled on thru replacing the copper, and that copper rimmed network was originally thanks to telstra owning the monopoly and half assing the copper roll-out to save a few pennies).

    the whole project is full of nay sayers, to much whistle blowing, speculation and whinging from the other parties.

    just go back to the original plan and do it RIGHT the first time.

    I find going outside and yelling to the sky is a viable alternative to the current NBN.

    Gosh, I wonder why God chose me to have such great NBN service and over HFC? I have been with AussieBB for past 3 months and I am nothing short of amazed at the consistant and fast speeds I have been blessed with. I can watch 4k and 3 of us can surf the web with NO PROBLEMS at all on their 50/20 plan. My 3 month rolling average speed is 38/17. I havent even bothered going up to the the next level as my NBN is better than fine.

    Perhaps many of the NBN naysayers are trying to prove their immense knowledge of online technology by bleating how bad it really isnt? I live in one of the largest suburbs in Perth where everyone is connected via HFC & the all the people I know in my suburb who have NBN with varied providers, all have nothing but praise for it and all of us receive speeds 5-10 times of what we had under ADSL2.

    Perhaps we are just God's chosen few?

      Aussie Broadband actually are one of the only companies to truly limit congestion on their plans and properly test any faults.
      They cost more, but their speeds are much more reliable than any other provider.
      However, it isn't available everywhere, and in our town I have been out to many client sites with Telstra, Optus and iiNet where the NBN connections are pretty much unusable at peak times.

    Yeah, nah. Lightning Broadband want your full contact details so they can have a salesman call you back. No chance.

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