Thursday, 21 August 2008

Bandwidth to burn - Orcon gets VDSL2 closer to New Zealand

When people think broadband in New Zealand they almost always are thinking ADSL, i.e. the tried and proven modification to the ordinary copper phone line. In contrast to other faster/thicker jurisdictions, here in New Zealand a typical plan for a well wired domestic household would be 2Mbit/s contested. In other words, being contested, you don't ever get that because you have to share it with other people in your local hood.

Moreover, this is asynchronous [hence the A in ADSL] - which means the upload is a lot slower than the download. Real time gamers hate this for obvious reasons. But less vocal but equally frustrated are the people trying to do anything remotely interesting with so call user generated content [UGC] - e.g. legal file sharing [and yes there is such a beast ] posting to YouTube - Flickr or whatever.

Recently there have been a flurry of activity in the enhanced ADSL2 space - basically the same gig to you and I but this time the speeds [both up and down] are better - with the promise of up to 10Mbit/s.

I/we recently switched to Orcon here in the central CBD Auckland for our home broadband offer. It came with a nice new modem and a built in wireless setup. And yes, despite it still being a contested offer, so far it gives me really good speeds, especially of an evening.

Little Dorrit
Last night for example, as I was batching at home because my partner has swanned of to Wellington for a design/information architecture seminar with Donna Spencer , myself and Ming the cat, sat companionable together in front of the fire in the library space listening to a new radio version of Little Dorrit from UK BBC 7.

Perfect reception - no buffering, top quality stereo quality audio, and Ian McKellen as the narrator came over like liquid pavlova.

But that's radio - and no matter how much I love it, I have an equal passion to see some of the BBC content on their iPlayer in due time when they have sorted the rights. For example, did you know they were showing a whole dramatised series of Lonesome Dove?

Triple Play
But if they do sort the rights, how am I to get it ? This after all is the true meaning/impact of the so called "triple play" scenario - voice - video and data tailored for me, you, and of course, not forgetting Ming!

Would ADSL2 cut it? I totally expect not. Not for video to the tele. So is it all over for DSL - and are we to wait for some TUANZ inspired new dawn when we all get a fibre connection to the home?

Or are you like me, in your heart of hearts just plain old fashioned disbelieving/cynical as to how that is going to happen?

Well perhaps there is a Santa Claus, or at least a revitalized Rudof. As Wikipedia will quickly tell you VDSL2 is capable of offering anything up to 50Mbit/s [and has a theoretical limit of at least twice that] More cautiously it also goes on to talk about major drops in speed the further you get out from the exchange.

The same article tells you that NZ Orcon , and our local Vodafone are trialling VDSL2 here in New Zealand.

Orcon trialling VDSL2
I'm just off the phone from Scott Bartlett the CEO of Orcon. He confirms that they have trials in play right now in a test site in Auckland. They also have plans to extend the number of sites in the next few weeks. He also reckons there will be a very competitive small business offer out in the market, at least for Auckland, by the end of this year. And for sure he is looking for a domestic offer as soon as is practicable.

VDSL2 speeds
So what are we talking about here. Well it would appear that getting past 30Mbit/s is proving a little problematic. Moreover, the distances from the exchange are a tad variable. However, apparently the surprising good news is the test data from the upload end of the test - 15/20 Mbits/s in some instances.

This is seriously interesting data. Moreover, it does confirm that not only is VDSL2 a contender for your next broadband option [both domestically and for SME's] it can in turn be piped onto or alongside a remapped backhaul landscape options which could see fiber pushed back up the line closer to the exchange.

Note that's not what Scott Bartlett said - its my reading of the landscape.

It also means , and again this is me not Bartlett talking, it means that you can start seeing some new thinking in the public/private partnership ideas floating to the surface, especially around remapping the neighborhood point where fibre needs to sit as a feeder to a re-energised DSL unbundled local market.

The upshot for the user, whether at home or in their workshop/studio/small business is a revitalized local infrastructure in which decent broadband at an affordable price both up and down the pipe becomes genuinely flexible as well as ubiquitous.

And by the sound of it - at least for some parts of the Orcon Auckland market - this might be by Christmas. Bring on Rudolf.

And when he comes - one of the more interesting parts of the present will be I get to go to conferences and forums to share the task of creating and sharing the economic, social and cultural wealth that comes out of the pipes, instead of listening to how they should run.