NBNCo has announced that they are putting the brakes (or should that be breaks?) on the rollout of their network for premises using HFC. Is this good news for the quality of the network or is it yet another screw up in the nation’s most politically interfered-with infrastructure project?
Early in my IT career, an astute manager told me people don’t remember late projects, but they do remember bad projects. That’s one of those old IT management axioms that makes sense most of the time – kind of like you can only ever have two of fast, good and cheap.
Of course, when timing matters, a late project that delivers on its promise can end up being a bad project. And I think that’s where the NBN roll-out fits.
Each quarter that’s added to the project timeline is a quarter where other developed and developing countries move ahead of us in delivering the infrastructure needed to support businesses in the 21st century. While it’s become something of a sport for the media to criticise the NBN deployment – and, to be fair, it deserves plenty of criticism – sometimes slowing down is the best way to move ahead faster.
So, the news that NBNCo is delaying the deployment of the network to properties that will connect using HFC (like mine) “until incremental field work is undertaken” in order to ensure the service delivered is up to scratch isn’t all bad.
I’m in the fortunate position that I have access to 100Mbps download already. So it’s unlikely the NBN will make a huge difference to me based on the residential plans currently being offered. But being limited to a paltry 2.5Mbps upload is a pain in the butt. For me, the NBN benefit is all about improved upload speeds which I rely on for sharing content with my clients.
Of course, all of this was avoidable. If the NBN had been built as a FttP network as it was originally envisaged instead of the dog’s breakfast of the multi-technology mix we have today, such delays would not be needed. Everyone would be getting a new connection that could deliver ast internet as well as other services. Instead, changes in government policy have resulted in a network that will deliver variable performance, often over aging infrastructure, that will need to be revisited in the not-too-distant future.
As a home-owner who will be staying put in my current property for at least a couple more decades, I’m stuck with whatever decision NBNCo makes when it comes to my connection – unless I fork out big bucks for a bespoke connection. And a delay – which most people are suggesting will be around six months from the current plan of the third quarter of next year for my property – is unlikely to make a massive difference to my life.
The reality is the multi-technology mix is where we are at. And NBNCo is in the onerous position of having to tell the market about a delay. But, if I’d were in NBNCo CEO Bill Morrow’s shoes, I’d rather be announcing a delay in how some customers are connected than the potential disaster of thousands of homes connected only to find performance was severely impacted by existing cabling that was in poor condition.
NBNCo was stuck between a rock and a hard place; delay the deployment to some premises and be faced with a backlash today or install on poor infrastructure and suffer months or years of customer anger. And while the time delay may also add to the cost of the project as remediation works are carried out, the proof of the pudding will be eaten in the years to come.
Perhaps this is first sensible decision made public in a project that has been dogged by over promising and under delivery.