According to Martin Mellor an expert in the field of DSL and head of Ericsson’s Fixed Broadband division, FTTN is the right technology for Australia’s National Broadband Network as it would eventually be possible to deliver connection speeds of more than 100Mbps without having to replace all the copper that has provided our telephone connections for decades and more recently ADSL and ADSL2+ services.

As an opening, I would suggest this is a slightly “biased” statement from an equipment vendor who is only trying to push their product; certainly not one from an independent industry expert. Ericsson has predominately delivered copper and wireless based products and only recently gained their fibre technology with the acquisition of Entersphere (GPON) and Marconi (DWDM, SDH, MSAN).

In a statement by Mr Mellor who visited Australia last week, "We think VDSL2 is a great step forward from ADSL2+ but we don't think that's the end of life for copper". He further added "There's too much copper buried in the ground and operators [like Telstra] want to make that sweat, and there's always new technologies that are looking to take advantage of that."

Mr Mellor said Ericsson was working on an enhancement to VDSL technology called Dynamic Spectrum Management – which was actually theorised by an Australian PhD student at Melbourne University - that would increase maximum speeds up towards 250Mbps. However we would have to wait at least three years before it became publicly available technology.

"That's in theory, but in practice we see 50% to 60% of that being achieved in a real network, given copper quality, noise, disturbance on the lines, etc," he said. I wonder if Mr Mellor has seen the state of Telstra copper network lately and the frequent use of the plastic bag for fix up jobs.

According to Mellor, about 30,000 nodes would be required to deliver the required performance. However by my calculations at least 37,500 nodes would be needed to meet the 98% coverage figure and only if the government waters down their promised 12Mbps symmetrical minimum. As previously published on this blog, a VDSL2 node would need to be installed within 750 metres of every home to deliver the required (minimum) 12Mbps upstream due to the limitations of the copper and upstream power capabilities of VDSL2 and midspan cross talk.

Further commenting on the nodes, Mellor said "The thing to think about with these cabinets is that they're going to be deployed on people's doorsteps (and) consideration really needs to be given to … how these devices need to be very low power, otherwise you're going to be turning these into giant heaters for people and have to have lots of fans”. The problem is the nodes do require large amounts of power (17Mwatts across the country) and a node every 750m creates visual pollution. Add to this the batteries and an environmental hazard is just waiting to happen.

According to the FTTH council Europe, who engaged Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) to conduct a study on the environmental impact of FTTH, it is the most environmentally friend broadband technology available today.


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