Turnbull’s NBN Legacy of Failure

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Technology

Malcolm Turnbull has left Australia with quite a legacy with the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Back when the NBN was first mooted in 2008 – (though one could argue its origins go back the OPEL Networks plan from 2006) – everyone was supposed to be on one of three different technologies – 93% of the population with Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP, with up to 100Mbps), 4% with Fixed Wireless (FW, with up to 25Mbps), and 3% Satellite Broadband (SB, with up to 12Mbps).

Tmthetom [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

When then Communications Minister Stephen Conroy cancelled the OPEL plan in 2008, what has become known as the NBN was formulated, with the 93/4/3% split described above.

Enough capacity was to be put into the ground in the FTTP footprint to support 6 separate services – (4 data, and 2 voice) – in every single premise in those areas. The fibre going into the ground was to support services of up to 40Gbps.

To achieve those speeds – (over and above the standard 100Mbps offered initially) – all that would be required is an update to the electronics at each of the fibre connection.

Yes – the original 2008 NBN plan would have allowed for 40Gbps, dependent on CVC and backhaul capacity to be provided by individual ISPs.

Leading up to the 2013 election – and the change of government – then opposition communications spokesweasel, Malcolm Turnbull, and opposition leader Tony Abbott had other ideas.

Simply to oppose on politically ideological grounds, they decided that Conroy’s plan was “too expensive”, and would take “too long”.

Their alternative was to be “cheaper” and “faster to deliver” – neither which has been proven, and has in fact been widely debunked. Their plan called for all areas in which FTTP had not already been deployed, to change to Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN, with up to 100Mbps), using existing copper.

The status of the existing copper was questionable at best.

The rollout has proven to be no faster to deliver – (and in fact has taken longer) – and sustainable speeds of 100Mbps have been so difficult to reach that most ISPs no longer even offer 100Mbps plans – including on the parts of the network that are deployed with FTTP.

What we in fact end up with is what Turnbull called the “Multi Technology Mix” (MTM) – which would leave Australia covered with FTTP in areas where it had already been rolled out, Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) cable in areas where HFC was already rolled out, FTTN in the remaining areas where FTTP had not already been committed and there wasn’t already HFC, and finally FW and SB in much the same areas as originally planned.

The FTTN areas were later broken up further to include some Fibre-to-the-Curb (FTTC) deployments when they realised FTTN, in particular, wasn’t cutting it. Many areas which they earmarked for existing HFC later switched back to FTTN or FTTC, because many of the existing HFC networks they purchased couldn’t be made suitable.

And 100Mbps? Not even remotely likely unless you’re in an FTTP area, and with an ISP that has purchased enough CVC and backhaul capacity.

Rare.

So what does the MTM end up looking like? Take a look at this small area in the western part of Geelong, Victoria, with mapping provided by NBN MTM Alpha:

The purple dots represent locations that are serviced by FTTP; the yellow dots locations that are serviced by FTTN; the green dots locations that are serviced by FTTC; the pink dots locations that are serviced by FW; the orange dots locations serviced by SB; and finally the blue dots locations that are serviced by fibre from a non-NBN provider.

This is pretty stunning – and stunningly stupid.

You’ll see in the bottom right a patch of FTTC – (green) – where some premises right next door to green dots are getting FTTN – (yellow).

In the same street.

In the middle of the map, you’ll see the hamlet of Fyansford – where at the southern end of town you have a non-NBN fibre provider – (blue) – and at the northern end of town you have FTTP – (purple) – with a blob of FIXED WIRELESS in between. This band of fixed wireless is about 10 house blocks wide – or around 120 metres.

Apparently nobody thought that this area – (which is the newest part of that residential estate) – right next door to two fibre areas should get any kind of fixed-line service – not even FTTN or FTTC.

Stupidity.

Finally, zooming into the area just to the right of Fyansford – (which is on the side of a hill) – we see this:

Locations on the eastern side of Hunt Road get FTTN – (yellow) – locations on the western side get SATELLITE – (orange) – and just a little way down the hill, locations get Fixed Wireless – (pink).

And just to the north? A purple dot of FTTP.

I mean, what the hell?

Australia will one day rue this shemozzle of a “multi-technology mess”.

Trouble is, that day has already come, and Turnbull should hang his head in shame.

DARPA’s Open Source eVoting Initiative

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Technology

I’ve never been a fan of the concept of electronic voting. I’m still not a fan of electronic voting.

For the most part the idea that I might cast my vote, walk away from the machine that contains my vote, and not know what happens with that machine afterwards scares me.

How do I know my vote eventually gets counted?

It could be argued that a paper ballot in a ballot box might “go missing” too. Most systems have certain kinds of vulnerabilities, whether they be electronic or otherwise.

But can eVoting be made reliable and verifiable?

With this initiative from DARPA, I’ve moved into the “maybe” column. I’m not convinced, but this is the best concept I’ve heard to date.

It’s worth discussing, and we do need to understand that DARPA is part of the US Department of Defence. How much can we trust that?

As an open source initiative, their work would be able to be closely scrutinized by any interested party. This perhaps means the eventual product they develop can be trusted.

It contains a lot of verification mechanisms to instill confidence in it.

Here is their plan as discussed on the most recent episode of Security Now!


References

Is it Huawei or the Highway?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Technology

There’s been a lot of discussion lately around whether allowing Huawei telecommunications equipment into major infrastructure is a good idea or not.

Given the company has strong and proven ties to the Chinese military, I don’t think it is even unreasonable to have an honest discussion about the security implications of using their equipment.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/11/HuaweiCanada9.jpg/1280px-HuaweiCanada9.jpg

However, if we’re going to have such a discussion about their equipment, we should have the entire discussion.

An excellent example is the common HG659 modem/router, in use all over the world, including extensively in Australian premises as part of the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout.

The HG659 is an extremely popular modem with ISPs, because it is an extremely versatile modem.  It supports both ADSL and VDSL connections, and FTTP connections.  For this reason it is widely deployed in Australia as part of the “multi-technology mix” hodge-podge Malcolm Turnbull turned the NBN into for political reasons, rather than for technology reasons.

Australian ISPs using the HG659 therefore only have to stock one type of modem, and you as the end user just plug it into whatever NBN technology is serving your premises, and the modem self-configures to suit.

Done!

A great number of Australian ISPs use it – (and brand it with their own logos) – see a selection below:

ISPs in other countries also use it:

The use of the HG659 modem is widespread worldwide – including in jurisdictions where the lawmakers are seeking to ban the use of Huawei equipment in telecommunications systems, such as Australia and the United States.

I’ve even read of instances where one Australian ISP appears to have an active backdoor into their private customer’s networks, using the custom firmware in their supplied HG659 modems.

But why ban Huawei in the implementation of 5G networks, but happily welcome them into other significant network infrastructure?

One might argue that having a footprint inside millions of homes is a bigger concern than having them in mobile phone towers – (which can be and are actively monitored by the carriers operating them, and suspicious activity might be detected) – as the vast majority of home users get the modem from their ISP, plug it into the wall and never think about it again.

Monitoring?  Yeah, right.

I think the politicians are clearly – (as is often the case) – trying to make a political point without having any real understanding of what they are talking about.

Huawei may or may not present information or national security issues, but if you’re going to take a stand against them, you cannot and should not be so selective.

Ban them or don’t ban them – but just don’t half-ass your decision.

Further Reading:

Matthew Guy And His Pointless 110 Seconds

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Transport

With the Victorian state election due in November, we’re going to be bombarded with all the usual bluff and bluster about who can do the most for the state, and who is “better” for the state.

As per usual, we’ll be promised the world of promises, but end up with nothing when whoever wins discovers that they can’t afford to deliver them.

Because that’s what always happens.

An interesting one that has popped up so far is a thought bubble from current opposition leader Matthew Guy to restore the Princes Freeway between Corio and Werribee to a 110km/h speed zone.

Image Source: https://www.crikey.com.au/2017/08/11/leaked-transcript-of-lobster-with-a-mobster-dinner-the-lobster-cave/

On the surface, this seems like a good idea – get to work in the morning a little earlier, get home in the evening a little earlier. Move freight a little faster.

Trouble is, this thought bubble doesn’t seem to have materialised by way of much thought.

As someone who drives this section of road every morning to work, and every evening home again, I got to asking myself how much time would this change really save?

The Liberal Nationals team have consulted with the community in the Geelong region and the overwhelming feedback is to return the Princes Freeway from Werribee to the Corio intersection back to a 110 km/h speed limit.

The section of road in question between Werribee and the Corio intersection – (where the Geelong Ring Road begins) – is 34km long.

At 100km/h – (the current speed limit) – you are travelling at 27.7778 metres per second, meaning you cover the 34km in 1223 seconds – (34,000 metres / 27.7778) – or 20 minutes and 23 seconds.

At 110km/h – (Guy’s proposed new speed limit) – you are travelling at 30.5556 metres per second, meaning you cover the 34km in 1113 seconds – (34,000 metres / 30.5556) – or 18 minutes and 33 seconds.

So the difference between 100km/h and 110km/h over the section in question is:

  • 110 seconds, or;
  • 1 minute and 50 seconds, or;
  • Bugger all.

Presuming you travel each direction each day – (like most Geelong commuters) – you’re saving yourself a paltry 3 minutes and 40 seconds in your day.

Pretty pointless, right?

What would I do with 3 minutes and 40 seconds extra in my day? How much can I actually do with 220 seconds of my time?

Once again, bugger all.

How else could I make up this 3 minutes and 40 seconds if I really needed it?

Perhaps I could leave for work in the morning 3 minutes and 40 seconds earlier? Or do I go to bed 3 minutes and 40 seconds later at night?

Do I split the difference and leave 1 minute and 50 seconds earlier in the morning, and leave work 1 minute and 50 seconds later in the afternoon?

Fact is because I drive this road every day, I know for a fact that the people who want to travel at 110km/h are already doing it. If the limit is raised, now they’ll do 120km/h instead, leading to obvious safety concerns. Faster speed, longer stopping distances.

If you’re going to raise the speed limit for the sake of 220 seconds extra in your day, you’re not being sensible.

Like much of what comes out of the thought bubbles our politicians offer us, this just hasn’t been thought through very well – if at all.

It’s just a populist piece of thinking designed to attract a few extra votes.

It probably will, but in the end, it’s just pointless.