Fibre optic network way overdue

08 Apr

The Rudd government can still surprise us, it seems. See Government unveils plans for bigger, faster broadband network, National Broadband Network an ambitious plan and Kevin Rudd joins The 7.30 Report.

Previous schemes, including the one for fibre optic to local nodes and copper wire thereafter, always seemed a bit curate’s egg to me. For a small example: Sydney Boys High internally went fibre optic some years back – five or six, if I remember rightly. Internally this made a huge difference, but of course the internet came into the school down copper wire, being strangled further by the Department of Education net nanny. So internet speeds improved a bit, especially with ISPs offering better speeds, but there was always the fact that what was inside the building was severely limited by the old technology delivering it to the building. That’s true of homes and businesses everywhere.

The only thing that could provide real improvement is for the whole system to embrace fibre optic technology. That is what the government now proposes.

It strikes me that Opposition reservations are analogous to favouring investment in Cobb & Co stage coaches rather than railways in the 19th century. Perhaps the Howard government should have led on this five years ago? If they had we would now be well on track…

See also Australia To Lead The World At Something Good.

Update 9 April

Piers Akerman gets stuck into this today: $47 billion to be flushed down a broadband pipe dream. Citing one economist, Piers opines “Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has rolled out a fantasy of jobs, dividends and consumer benefits that would make Australia the envy of the world, if the goals were achievable. Not only is the cost greater and the proposal far more complex but there is a total lack of any supporting data to justify Rudd’s grandiose claims for the new project.”  He concludes: “Finally, Rudd is attempting to flatter the electorate with the promise of a NBN that no other nation in the world has attempted. There is good reason for this. Most nations are not stupid enough to take on untried technologies, assume massive debt and commit to vast schemes unless they can see and demonstrate a proven benefit.”

On the other hand, last year Telstra laid Fibre Optic, that “untried technology”, from Australia to Hawaii. And then in another part of the world:

From having no undersea cable links to the rest of the world, East Africa is now poised to have three.

As a result, many businesses are investing in finger-sized underwater fibre-optic cables that will open doors to the rest of the world.

It could not come too soon. Currently, many African countries rely heavily on satellite connections for internet and telephone calls.

Developed countries in Europe, North America and Asia embraced fibre-optic technology several years ago, and now boast over 500 cables. But the developing world is far behind; Bangladesh – with a population of over 150 million people – has three fibre-optic cables, while the whole of Africa has just ten.

And the advantages are:

Advantages of Fiber Optics

Why are fiber-optic systems revolutionizing telecommunications? Compared to conventional metal wire (copper wire), optical fibers are:

  • Less expensive – Several miles of optical cable can be made cheaper than equivalent lengths of copper wire. This saves your provider (cable TV, Internet) and you money.
  • Thinner – Optical fibers can be drawn to smaller diameters than copper wire.
  • Higher carrying capacity – Because optical fibers are thinner than copper wires, more fibers can be bundled into a given-diameter cable than copper wires. This allows more phone lines to go over the same cable or more channels to come through the cable into your cable TV box.
  • Less signal degradation – The loss of signal in optical fiber is less than in copper wire.
  • Light signals – Unlike electrical signals in copper wires, light signals from one fiber do not interfere with those of other fibers in the same cable. This means clearer phone conversations or TV reception.
  • Low power – Because signals in optical fibers degrade less, lower-power transmitters can be used instead of the high-voltage electrical transmitters needed for copper wires. Again, this saves your provider and you money.
  • Digital signals – Optical fibers are ideally suited for carrying digital information, which is especially useful in computer networks.
  • Non-flammable – Because no electricity is passed through optical fibers, there is no fire hazard.
  • Lightweight – An optical cable weighs less than a comparable copper wire cable. Fiber-optic cables take up less space in the ground.
  • Flexible – Because fiber optics are so flexible and can transmit and receive light, they are used in many flexible digital cameras for the following purposes:
    • Medical imaging – in bronchoscopes, endoscopes, laparoscopes
    • Mechanical imaging – inspecting mechanical welds in pipes and engines (in airplanes, rockets, space shuttles, cars)
    • Plumbing – to inspect sewer lines

Because of these advantages, you see fiber optics in many industries, most notably telecommunications and computer networks.


One response to “Fibre optic network way overdue

  1. Peter (Worldman)

    April 8, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    I must say, I am very pleased with internet connectivity and speed in Switzerland. As a matter of fact, with anything that comes to communication, data transfer and entertainment.

    We have several providers here. The main one is Swisscom. It used to be a part of the former PTT (Post, Telephone, Telegraphe), a very sleepy government agency. In the middle of the 80ties it was trasnformed into a new company. The postal service became another company and the TT part became Swisscom.

    They have changed from something that was just there and you had to live with it into something very dynamic.

    1) You are moving into a new place. Of course, it has been installed with all the basics. So, you go to Swisscom, you buy a fixnet phone, you sign the contract, you go home, you install your phone. And the next day, you get the signal and you are online.

    2) Of course, you use the same phone line to connect to the internet. Again, you sign your contract and the next day, you are on. At the speed you have chosen.

    3) But many times (I am one of them) I don’t really care about fixed installations and so I prefer to be mobile. I got my Nokia 5800 Xpress Music for 20 dollars (normal price 500 dollars). Because I have (since years) a mobile phone contract with Swisscom). But then, I also need to connect with a computer to the internet. Easy, I bought an ACEC One. With a SIM card I simply put in a slot. Cost of the computer: 250 dollars. Because I am a customer of Swisscom. And now I have unlimited connectivity at 60 dollars per month. Even from the top of a 4’000 meter high mountain.

    Where I can hook to the internet on “bluewin”, another service of Swisscom, see what will be on TV and what I will miss (because I am on top of the mountain”, like “Desperate Housewifes” or “Dr. House”. So I simply click a box and mark “Record”. And whilst I am on top of the mountain, looking at flowers and wild animals, my favorite TV programmes will be recorde for my enjoyment when I come home. Because Swisscom is also my TV provider.

    A 360 degree thing, a fabulous thing.

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