ACCC: Make NBN compete with 5G

By Leith van Onselen

NBN Co CEO, Bill Morrow, last year warned that Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) faces damaging competition from the upcoming 5G network, and called for a levy on mobile broadband services to ensure the NBN makes a profit. Thankfully, this special pleading was rejected outright by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Speaking at the ACMA RadComms 2018 conference, ACCC chair Rod Sims rejected calls to protect the NBN from 5G competition, claiming to do so would be a “disaster for consumers”:

Sims said 5G promises to bring a step-change in mobile technology, providing fibre-like speeds and high data capacity that is able to match fixed-line networks, and creating ‘an interesting dynamic’ between mobile networks and the NBN.

“With 5G we will see the first generation of mobile technology capable of delivering broadband services that are comparable to fixed services in terms of speed and capacity,” he says…

“There is an opportunity for wireless operators to attract those consumers who don’t necessarily want the high speeds and unlimited data offered by fixed service providers. For consumers at lower price points, with small data needs, a wireless service might suit better than the NBN”…

“What we must never do, however, is seek to restrain others in order to protect the NBN business model. This would be a disaster for consumers”…

We need to make sure we achieve the most efficient and pro-competitive use of spectrum.”

Good stuff. Any additional competitive pressure on the NBN will obviously compound its losses, driving an even bigger writedown for the federal budget.

That said, the worst policy response would be to limit competition and screw over consumers purely to protect the NBNs margins.

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  1. A levy on mobile users would just be fiddling the books anyway.

    Damn near everyone has a phone.
    So effectively it’s a tax on everyone.

    Which only achieves the outcome of making it look on paper like taxpayers didn’t wear the cost by making taxpayers wear the cost.

  2. You can already get 4G wireless plans that compete with NBN. Optus offers 100GB 4G for $69 a month. It is a pity the NBN is so bad that wireless can compete with wired. Turnbull’s legacy will continue screwing over Australians for decades.

    Don’t forget that every NBN subscriber pays $7.90 a month levy already to support satellite subscribers (mainly Nationals voters).

    • Just how many people are there on this page that have absolutely no idea – WHAT SO EVER – about the difference between wireless and fiber ?

      Virgins data plans for example are at 1.4 mb / second – Fiber operates at terrabytes / second (record is actually petabytes over a SINGLE strand).

      So a standard Netflix 4k video requires 375mb / second – so every six minutes we will get one second of footage. COOL !!!

      Now that 8k is rolling out that of course goes up to almost a gig / second.

      See how the internet works ? When we all had 128k modems we all looked at the web in text, as speeds increase so does the data as we increase our usage.

      I do not want to wait a couple of days for Game of Thrones to download ……got it ?

      • “So a standard Netflix 4k video requires 375mb / second“

        Really? So nobody is watching Netflix 4K then, because all we can get on NBN is 100mbs.

        I seee….

      • The majority of NBN will still be stuck using copper, so wireless will be faster. We have to thank the LNP and Tony Abbott/Malcolm Turnbull for this lemon, we are spending 50+ billion to install a technology from 20 years ago with no upgrade path..

      • @Gaius: The difference is not between wireless and fibre. It is between wireless and FTTN NBN, VDSL, which is essentally ADSL version 3.

        Your maths is also wrong. I get sustained 45MB/s download on my 4G wireless.

      • Maybe I need to do some reading but I call BS on Petabytes over SMF28, certainly from any practical perspective

        I’m certainly interested if you have a link

      • HadronCollision

        Burgon you’re getting 90Megabits (45MBps) per second? Or 45Megabits ps ie approx 8 MegaBytes per second ?

      • Yeah this is a classic post

        All the bullsh!t about how we need NBN to modernise our economy

        In actual fact its so people can watch tv or porn

    • HadronCollision

      Isn’t there a significant number of Australians on NBN LTE (fixed **wireless**).

      I know everyone in my area is on it.

      We’re on 50/20 and I understand 100/40 will be available soon.

      The actual throughout – as measured via a file download – obviously varies according to demand but we usually get around 15-20Mbps. Streaming in HD in peak time is no issue.

      We are 1km Unobstructed LOS from the tower so probably have a near optimum scenario. Although, my iPhone SE on Telstra 4G has 2/5 bars so throughput not business grade.

      NBN has been fantastic for some. We used to pay $69 for 8GB a month to Telstra on 4G. Now pay $69 for 200GB

    • I “upgraded” to NBN for a couple of months, and it was completely unstable, constantly losing connection for minutes at a time, or up to an hour. Wanted to go back to my old ADSL.

      Now I have 4G mobile internet, got a deal $60 for 200GB a month- turned out to be way more than I’ll ever need -and I have never had a connection problem. Can even play online games and watch Netflix. What’s more, I can take it with me anywhere.

  3. Then in the next 5-10 years we’re going to see the LEO satellite internet being deployed by SpaceX, OneWeb etc. Pretty good chance that would be able to compete against NBN directly with better performance at a similar price point without the need for any infrastructure rollout. Will be interesting to see how regulators try to prevent that happening.

    • Yes – just like riding a bike to work is a replacement for bullet trains. I mean they both move right ?

      You seriously have absolutely no clue what you are talking about – none, not one iota. Not a skerrick,

      • I’ve got some idea on this on thankfully but nice constructive feedback. SpaceX is aiming for gigabit connections with much lower latency than even fibre optic thanks to the higher speed of light in air compared to glass. Since they’re planning to start deploying the network next year onwards I guess we’ll see in short order. Given the sheer number of underserved people across the world there is significant potential there.

        FYI I’m definitely not on the 5G is going to replace FTTP wagon.

    • You don’t need to wait for LEO satellites there are already companies trialing drones, one that I’m familiar with even has a drone using FSO (free space optics) for the control hub to drone uplink . The consumer up/down links are all wifi (2.4GHz, 5 GHhz and 60Ghz ).

  4. 5G competes with Fiber like cars compete with planes and rockets.

    It really does take a super, duper special kind of fundamentally technologically retarded to think they do – but everyday the same old morons trot out the same absolute feckless tripe.

    5G – in no conceivable way – at all – competes with the NBN. It is an adjunct like catching a cab from the airport. Cars do not compete with planes, nor space ships nor hypersonic scram jets – nor ion propulsion engines.

    Can people PLEASE for the love of jesus fking christ get that through their heads ?

    Its just such an obvious and glaring admission that you know literally nothing about technology at all to even conflate them in the slightest bit.

    • You’re right and wrong.

      As I stated a while back the technological superiority is irrelevant.
      It’s about user needs.

      A 5g service averaging 10-20mbit in busy hour with a 2-300gb data cap and around $60 a month will more than meet the Netflix needs of a large chunk of users.

      The NBN’s cost modelling relies on ~70% of all possible connections paying into it. With cost blowouts, that could be higher.

      So yes, fibre is better in every measurable way, except mobility.
      BUT, if 5g can attract and retain more than 20-30% of all possible users by being “good enough”, the NBN fails.

      • I’m not wrong – this is what I do for a living.

        Most people are now watching Netflix on 4k – which requires 375mb / second. Which immediately renders your 5g service obsolete.

        Further your 5G figures are based around literally – no one else using that tower. 5G is a convoluted method and is very quickly overwhelmed by users. Its super fast with low numbers but quickly diminishes with congestion and in no possible way competes with fibre – its utterly absurd to even consider it a replacement.

        Now – this is BEFORE we consider that 8k is already being rolled out and the uptake – as you would expect is going to be JUST as rapacious.

        Of course none of this applies to Australia as we have worse internet speed than most of Africa, South America, and Eastern European backwaters.

        Australians are honestly the most ignorant people on earth when it comes to understanding this stuff – its truly depressing.

      • > I’m not wrong – this is what I do for a living.

        Me too.

        I watch netflix in 720 on a 1080 tv because I can barely tell the difference and don’t care.

        There are millions of lazy, indifferent people like me. All of them have a phone.
        Many of them can be won over by a sweetheart priced bundle.

        Almost no one outside the industry cares how data arrives. Only that it does, without noticeable glitching.

      • You don’t need to do that stuff for a living just catch a train and watch what people are doing.

        They are watching TV on their phones and loving it.

        On my packed express last night I was able to watch iView streamed on 4G on an iphone X with no difficulty or lagging or buffering.

        The resolution was perfectly fine.

        Routinely I am getting 30-50 Mbps on the entire journey from the CBD to Parramatta.

        The problem as myne correctly identifies is that most people don’t care about high resolution when they are watching on their phones and at low resolution files download very fast on 4G.

        5G with a decent download allowance will be extremely popular – especially with kids.

        4k and 8k are going to be like Beta.

        Technically better than VHS but unused.

        When was the last time anyone watched a Blueray Disc!

      • > Most people are now watching Netflix on 4k – which requires 375mb / second. Which immediately renders your 5g service obsolete.

        Whatever dude. Netflix themselves say that 25 Mbps is fine for 4K (aka “Ultra HD”): (You haven’t said exactly what it is you do for a living but it’s obviously not designing video codecs.)

        You keep hyperventilating about the false dichotomy between fiber and 5G. Real engineers understand that every technology has trade-offs. Consumers just want the cheapest bandwidth delivery tech that’s good enough for their needs. (Unlike an iPhone, fiber vs 5G is not a visible status symbol.) And 5G will be more than adequate for the vast majority of Aussies.

      • @Pfh007,

        Ironically, we watch Blu-ray because it is cheaper to by a disc on sale than it is to purchase many movies online via iTunes or similar. Does my head in, but that’s digital content and copyright controls in Australia for you!

      • 5G will be more than adequate for the vast majority of Aussies as long as the vast majority of Aussies do not actually use it – it won’t take the load. GS may be passionate but the reality is that our destiny is now to fall further an further behind the rest of developed world (and even developing world) due to the most extrordinarily stupid act of outright sabotage.

        I remember how amazing dial-up speeds were – would they even be functional now? Most comparable countries have invested in networks with remarkable potential for upgrading – and so that is what will happen. We on the other hand, will reach the limits of the very deliberately kneecapped network that has been put in place and wireless as well.


      • Geordie,

        Fortunately, I don’t watch many movies. But not sure I would want a bunch of blue ray discs either. But if you have kids they can be very good. For some reason kids love watching the same movies over and over again.

        I don’t think I have seen more than a handful of films twice.

    • Sure fiber can provide massive data transfer speeds, however in reality NBN in the evenings is slower than my 4G connection, why ??

      Because contention, everyone is trying to watch “stuff” via the internet, so you have thousands of people all connecting through the second rate switches that the NBN uses.

      Till such time as they actually use decent tech on the core / node switches and infra it is never going to cope. However the same will hold true for 5G, just like it does for 4G where on my train in the morning I can barely get internet, same train line at 10 pm and I can watch YT.

      • Which 4G network are you using?

        I have no problems on Telstra even when the train is packed – though there has been a problem near Newtown for the last week or so and have been flicked to 3G !

        Must be all the hipsters watching yoga videos at the single bean roaster.

      • @Pfh007, North Shore line and Optus, anywhere from Hornsby to North Sydney is hopeless, I can be stopped at the station looking at the tower and still zero signal, same for other punters on the train too.

      • Optus!

        I had the same problem with Optus until I switched to Telstra.

        I use Aldi sims for data. They use the Telstra network and are pretty cheap. 24G for $95 with 365 expiry.

        They now also have a 240G pack for $395 with 365 expiry.

        240G is too much data for me as it takes me a while to chew through 24G.

    • You’d better tell the NBN ceo of your discovery, GS. That way he won’t need to worry about 5G competition because it is unpossible. .

    • I would like to see both GS and myne’s views re what Australia needs for the future. Is it FTTN, FTTC or FTTH. And what is the future of 5(or 6,7,8)G?

      • FTTH is the future – eventually. Eventually all of the FTTN, FTTC and HFC will be upgraded. But wireless will also be used for mobility and/or low end users.

        The question is the percent relying on each as their home connection.

        Wireless cannot meet the needs of everyone simultaneously. The more successful it is as a product, the worse it runs.

        There’s some magic number where the % of fixed-line and wireless work together well. That number is the question.
        NBN’s financials require it to be over 70% fixed:wireless.
        Reality may be different.

  5. All this technology and it sounds like all people want to do is watch videos. But I must still go to my doctor for her to tell me my results were clear, still spend couple hours filling out simple tax return or centrelink crap, my kid still goes to school 9-3 and my car still needs to go to a mechanic afew times a year for stupid computer related issues. Dud car I know but u get the drift. Almost a decade now keep hearing about all this great technology but the argument is still about speeds and who will pay for nbn.

    • Ah yes. School kids still carrying heavy backpacks in 2018! While airlines get pilots to use an iPad instead of printed manuals.

      I ranted against printed schoolbooks here earlier and a former teacher responded with “the iPad may have a flat battery”! Either put the kid in detention for having a flat battery or give the desks a power supply.

      The Centrelink hoops should be done away, the ALP has finally decided to remove work-for-the-dole but needs to remove the job search requirements as well.

  6. Jumping jack flash

    Unless the providers of 5G decide to stop the gouging (only AFTER every executive through to lowly mailroom employee’s debt is repaid) then I’m sure 5G data will be priced at the truly ridiculous level that 4G data is, probably plus some premium because there’s a “5” before the “G”, rather than a “4”, so its one better.

    So, with blistering speed, I’ll be able to use up my entire 1GB mobile data quota in a few minutes, rather than a few hours at 4G…

    And I get ABN unlimited 50 at $60/month, and that’s reasonable quality where I am. Multiple times faster than my unlimited ADSL1.5 connection back when I lived in the sticks which I paid $70/month for. Now the kids only complain about Fortnite not working a couple of times a month.

    For me to switch over, the VALUE would need to be comparable, not just the price, or the speed.

    • Lifi is suitable for an in-room connection. There’s not much reason to think it would be suitable elsewhere.

      Laser point-to-point links are already used for outside.