What happens to the NBN after 2020?

The rollout of the National Broadband Network is expected to be completed in 2020, with NBN working towards its government-mandated target of having 25 megabits per second (Mbps) broadband available to all Australian premises, and 50Mbps available to at least 90 per cent of premises connected with fixed-line technologies. A new Nokia-commissioned report from analyst firm Ovum asks: What happens next?

Nokia is NBN’s key strategic partner for the fixed-line portion of the new network following the 2015 acquisition of Alcatel.

The new report from Ovum mdash; A Vision for NBN Evolution mdash; endorses the “fibre-to-the-most-economic-point” approach that underlies NBN’s current (and frequently criticised) “multi-technology mix” strategy that saw the vision of an all fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network scrapped in favour of a blend of FTTP alongside other fixed-line technologies, including fibre to the node (FTTN), fibre to the building (FTTB) and fibre to the curb (FTTC).

(Nokia has previously argued that “fibre-to-the-most-economic-point” is a trend seen around the world.)

Ovum’s Broadband Development Index is forecasting that on its current trajectory the NBN will help Australia’s fixed-line rank will climb 40th position in 2016 to 15th in 2021, placing the nation in the top 10 per cent of the 188 countries assessed by the measure.

Looking forward

“After a decade since original conception, the renewal of Australia’s vision for the NBN is timely,” Ovum’s report argues. “NBN and its shareholders should now look to the next decade and position the network to deliver the economic and social benefits of ubiquitous connectivity. Equally this vision needs to establish the path of the evolution of the network as user requirements change.”

Although NBN is only required to deliver 50Mbps speeds to most Australian households mdash; as set out in the government’s statement of expectations mdash; continuing growth in video, including the emergence 4k and eventually 8k streaming, the Internet of Things, and the growth of virtual reality and augmented reality will push demand upwards, Ovum notes.

NBN has previously revealed details of some of its work on planned and potential upgrades to its fixed-line technologies including DOCSIS 3.1 for hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) connections, NGPON2, and XG-fast and G.fast for connections such as FTTB that rely on copper wiring for the final connection to a household.

Upgrades should remain driven by customer demand, Ovum states.

“While gigabit services are an appealing goal, launches of these services have largely been a result of marketing arms races in other markets,” the report argues.

The “killer application application requiring gigabit speeds remains elusive,” it adds, with the price premium for the services failing to justify the capital investment required. “The deployment of gigabit services has been largely product positioning, either to build product differentiation or in response to an equivalent competitive offer,” the report states.

NBN, the government and retail service providers (RSPs) should work together to help drive demand for higher-speed services over the new network, with Ovum warning: “Failure to drive demand for faster speeds opens the risk that ARPU [average revenue per user] and revenue targets will not be achieved, and competing commercial wireless services will become a viable substitute for a broader segment of the NBN customer base.”

“In this scenario the long-term sustainability of the NBN business model will be more challenging,” the report adds.


Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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