Keep pushing for FTTH, says InternetNZ president

Likely spacing of roadside cabinets "not enough" for high-definition video

Some InternetNZ members doubt the kerbside cabinets planned by Telecom will be sufficient to meet growing demand for high-resolution video, especially when three or four people in one household might want to watch different programmes.

The copper last mile may be inadequate to serve fast-changing needs in the market, several members suggest in mailing-list conversation and president Peter Macaulay is firmly in favour of continuing InternetNZ’s push for fibre-to-the-home (FTTH).

Following a list discussion on the density of the cabinets that would be needed for reasonably high-bandwidth, low-latency coverage, Macaualy says it is “over to Telecom to decide on cabinet placement and they are well aware of customer issues [with disappointing performance].

“We could take a position on placement but I don’t feel it would be much benefit to fight issues on last century’s technology. Let’s keep our focus on FTTH.”

A speed of 24Mbit/s is needed to implement high-definition television online, says consultant Ian Mitchell. To achieve this, the length of the copper connection would have to be a maximum of 800 metres, which suggests cabinets spaced on a 1km grid — requiring more than 200 cabinets to cover central Auckland.

Doubling the spacing to 2km would need only 65 cabinets, but would provide less than the required bandwidth. “If Telecom only commits to the 2km spacing we are denied full video on demand, unless the last mile is also fibre.”

Other commentators dispute Mitchell’s 24Mbit/s estimate, but one member points out that multiple streams may be needed for “mum, dad and the kids”, so the requirement may be close to that even if a lower resolution is accepted.

Contributors to the Geekzone forum are questioning whether the Telecom plan is an effective exercise in extending broadband to the suburbs or simply a plan to eliminate competition by retiring the conventional exchanges in which competitors planned to install equipment under the local-loop unbundling plan.

It was obvious that Telecom would do some cabinetisation, says one commentator, but eliminating an exchange that is within 2km of a large number of users and replacing it with cabinets is not justified on technical and service provision grounds.

Announcing broadband plans last November, Telecom chief Paul Reynolds said the plan is to deploy about 1,500 cabinets throughout the Auckland region over the next four years.

“At least half of the lines in the extended coverage areas will be capable of peak rates of 20 Mbit/s, and 99% will be capable of peak rates of 10Mbit/s,” Reynolds said.

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