nbn™, the entity building and operating Australia's national broadband network (NBN), has started to talk up the scalability of the hybrid fibre-coax (HFC) networks it will use to provide services to many Australians.
The company commissioned analyst firm Ovum to research the role of HFC in broadband around the world. In what cannot have come as surprise to nbn™, the research suggests HFC is in wide use around the world because it can deliver broadband at many megabits per second. Which is why it is widely used by carriers able to access HFC plant.
As nbn™ has been directed to use HFC by Australia's government, we are left to conclude by implication that the government's policy is prescient.
nbn™ has also blogged that it's already considering future upgrades to Full Duplex DOCSIS, an upgrade to broadband-over-HFC with the potential to deliver gigabit speeds to subscribers.
What to make of all this? nbn™ believes that gigabit services just aren't needed in the foreseeable future. It's asked telcos and top technology companies around the world, consulted gurus and come to the conclusion that Australia needs an upgradeable network, not a network that's gigabit-capable today.
That conclusion is a very handy fig leaf for Australia's government, which is backing its multi-technology mix (MTM) policy even though the cost of fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) deployments has fallen to a point at which it may be only fractionally more costly than fibre-to-the-node.
That's all happened against a background of noisy opposition to the MTM policy, which has been harnessed by Australia's opposition and turned into a policy advocating more FTTP at a very small increase over the current NBN construction cost.
nbn™ is clearly not deaf to its critics and has sought to counter arguments about the MTM being a wasteful policy with tactics like a press tour of network builds in progress.
This research into HFC's role looks to be another such tactic and is again talking up the MTM policy's path to scalability.
It's not hard to see why nbn™ wants to get some new material before the public, given that even supposedly revolutionary telemedecine services need nowhere near gigabit speeds. Your correspondent believes it is worth contending the notion that only FTTP is a worthwhile investment.
But as the British sitcom Yes Minister explained years ago, governments should “never set up an inquiry unless you know in advance what its findings will be.” ®