By Steve Biddle
It’s safe to say that the vast majority of New Zealanders think that broadband service in NZ is crap. Despite what they may think, we’ve actually got some of the best broadband connectivity in the world, and the harsh reality is that many of those with a poor service are probably suffering because they’re a) too tight to actually pay decent money for a decent service or b) completely oblivious to issues such as their home wiring impacting their broadband performance. Many people who fall into b) fall into a) once told of their problem – they expect somebody else to fix their problem, and don’t expect to pay for it either, despite wiring within the premises being owned by the property owner.
With the completion by Telecom of their Fibre to the Node (FTTN) cabinetisation project in 2011 over 3500 new fibre fed roadside cabinets were constructed across New Zealand. As the speed of xDSL based technologies decreases the further you are away from an exchange or cabinet, the installation of these roadside cabinets has meant that average attainable xDSL sync speeds have increased significantly. Over over 80% of premises in New Zealand have access to xDSL broadband with a minimum sync speed of 10Mbps using ADSL2+, a technology that is capable of delivering downstream speeds of up to approximately 18Mbps and upstream speeds of approximately 1Mbps. Over 40% of those premises also have access to VDSL2 which can deliver speeds of up to 70Mbps downstream and 10Mbps upstream if you’re within 300m metres of an exchange or cabinet, and speeds of between 30Mbps and 50Mbps downstream and 10Mbps upstream if you’re within approximately 900m from a cabinet or exchange. Due to the higher frequency range used by VDSL2 performance will degrade very quickly past 1km.
There are very few countries in the world that have such an advanced network that is capable of delivering speeds this high to such a large percentage of premises. xDSL broadband speeds in Australia for example pale in comparison, and despite Australia now being part way through a Fibre to the Home (FTTH) rollout as part of the National Broadband Network (NBN) it’s likely that a change of Government in September will result in the FTTH project being scaled back and replaced with a cheaper FTTN network using the existing copper for the last mile. If this happens by 2017 Australia could have a network replicating what New Zealand has had since 2011 – VDSL2 to those premises close to an exchange or cabinet, and ADSL2+ to those further away. In the UK BT’s Infinity project rollout is deploying in a large number of new fibre fed cabinets to deliver VDSL2 and ADSL2+ as a last mile technology. The facts don’t lie – New Zealand is literally years ahead of most of the world.
Not content with FTTN and copper for the last mile, New Zealand is currently progressing along the path of building a FTTH network to deliver fibre to 75% of New Zealand premises by 2019. Once again what NZ is doing is world class – based upon current planning very few countries anywhere in the world would have fibre to 50% of their premises by 2019, let along the 75% that New Zealand is aiming for. In those areas that aren’t receiving fibre, rural FTTN cabinets are being built and wholesale fixed wireless services being being deployed by Vodafone as part of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).
Now that I’ve explained this all to you there are probably people out there wondering what sort of kool aid I’ve been drinking. The answer to this is that I haven’t.
Many people are receiving a substandard internet service, but the reasons for doing this aren’t because of the technology used to deliver the service,in many cases it’s because of their choice of ISP, and more importantly, their home phone wiring.
All ISP’s aren’t created equal. There are many factors that will heavily influence end user performance such as domestic and international transit (ie the amount of upstream bandwidth your ISP has purchased), backhaul inside NZ (the capacity your ISP has purchased to carry data between the Chorus network and their own), the location and performance of DNS servers (closer is always better), whether your ISP is caching data, and whether they may have their own content delivery network (CDN) node to deliver bandwidth intensive traffic from within their network, rather than from somewhere else in the world. Like a fine bottle of wine price ultimately becomes a deciding factor as building and running a network doesn’t come cheaply. In the real world a $10 bottle of cheap bubbly wine isn’t going to taste as a good as a $200 bottle of Vintage Champagne, but many consumers are oblivious to that. Many people in this country seem to want the expensive quality Champagne, but aren’t willing to pay more than $10 for it.
If you’re receiving your internet via xDSL based technology your internal wiring within your home is the single biggest factor that will affect your internet speeds and performance. Over $1.5 billion was spent building roadside cabinets to deliver faster speeds, yet despite over 80% of premises being capable of receiving speeds of at least 10Mbps, the true number is below this. Why? Because the legacy phone wiring in many premises is simply incapable of delivering the performance required to deliver these speeds. The simple reality is that if you don’t have a master filter installed, or don’t have your xDSL connection terminated to a single dedicated jack point within your premises you’re probably receiving a degraded service. Rather than sounding like a stuck record I suggest you read my recent blog post here which talks in detail about this issue.
Last week the industry received a very significant announcement from Chorus announcing price reductions to the VDSL2 service that has now been available for a couple of years. With VDSL2 offering upload speeds that are 10x faster than ADSL2+, and download speeds that are up to 4x faster, the low uptake of VDSL2 (currently only 3000 people in NZ are using this service) really has been surprising. Unlike ADSL2+ which is a fully regulated offering with wholesale pricing set by the Commerce Commission, VDSL2 is a commercial service which maintained a $20 price premium over ADSL2+ to position it as a premium offering. While many larger ISP’s don’t currently retail VDSL2 as a product there are currently well over 20 ISP’s and resellers offering VDSL2 services and once again it seems that many people are either oblivious to the product offering, or merely not interested in receiving a faster service. Hopefully this price reduction will see VDSL2 uptake increase significantly – but remember that your wiring needs to be up to spec to support VDSL2, with a master filter or dedicated xDSL jack point being mandatory.
The ball really is in the consumers court… It’s just up to them to do something with it.