Mark Gregory
March 16, 2018

Adelaide lights up giga-future

Fibre

Adelaide lights up giga-future

Fibre Highway: Adelaide isn't waiting for the NBN to sort itself out

At first glance, the City of Adelaide’s Ten Gigabit Adelaide project – where it has teamed up TPG Telecom to transform Adelaide into a “city of the future” – has all the hallmarks of a major win for South Australia.

Adelaide has three network initiatives under way, including a similarly named GigCity Adelaide network that is collaborating with the Washington-based Ignite GigCity Network.

The other initiative is the $35 million Fishbone network, which is the expansion of Adelaide’s publicly owned fibre assets into the suburbs to assist with the expansion of WiFi services and low-cost high-speed business connectivity.

The GigCity Adelaide initiative first joined US Ignite with much fanfare in October 2016, highlighting the key benefits of collaboration and information-sharing between fifteen US Ignite communities and the Adelaide-based alliance, which is made up of local businesses, as well as research and education organisations.

Adelaide has been slowly building relationships with international technology giants to build a local presence, drawing some of the focus away from Sydney and Melbourne.

It has had success, and Adelaide is now home to the nation’s first Internet of Things innovation hub – Adelaide Smart City Studio – and Cisco’s first and only ‘Lighthouse City’ in Australia.

Adelaide’s efforts have attracted worldwide attention, and the direction it is taking should be commended, including the very low monthly bandwidth charges that have generated headlines. But there are still questions about the network that still need to be answered.

The City of Adelaide’s Ten Gigabit Adelaide network will connect about 1000 selected buildings to a 10 Gbps fibre network.

In December 2017, the council announced that TPG would build, own and operate the 10 Gbps fibre network connecting buildings in the inner city and along the major commercial strips in North Adelaide.

The rollout has commenced and TPG aims to complete the network rollout over the next two years.

On 6 December 2017, TPG chief financial officer Stephen Banfield told investors that “TPG will be Adelaide’s official foundation network and services partner to roll out a new fibre optic network capable of delivering 10Gbps services per customer to over 1000 sites in Adelaide.”

“Adelaide businesses will benefit from high-speed connectivity at very attractive prices.”

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is struggling to provide the high speed, reliable and low-cost broadband connections needed by business to drive the nation’s digital economy. The City of Adelaide has taken the bold step to fill this void with the Ten Gigabit Adelaide network.

As more detail is released about Adelaide’s gigabit network initatives, it is very evident that the low monthly cost of the gigabit connections will be well received by the local business community.

The City of Adelaide has agreed to subsidise the network rollout and the cost of gigabit connections. The duration of this agreement has not been announced nor what will happen to prices, connection speeds and performance when the agreement ends.

The GigCity Adelaide website includes information about three plans available to businesses connected to its network within the twelve innovation precincts spread around the city. The gigabit plans include:

  • Micro-business 200GB Plan $49.90 per month
  • Micro-business Unlimited Plan $99.90 per month
  • Business 1TB Plan $179.90 per month

The City of Adelaide’s subsidised TPG fibre network should provide unlimited gigabit connections at about $440 per month subject to a 48 month contract.

One of Adelaide’s technology pioneers and former iiNet chief technology officer John Lindsay told InnovationAus.com that “Adelaide is solving the business connectivity problem and facilitating affordable access to gigabit internet and data services in a variety of different ways.”

“Adelaide is not waiting around for NBN Co to reform its products to make them suitable for 21st century businesses,” Mr Lindsay said.

In New Zealand, the cost of an unlimited data gigabit download plan varies between NZ$100 to NZ$150 per month depending on provider and what is included in the plan.

NBN Co’s wholesale access virtual circuit charge for a gigabit connection is $150 per month and that is before you add the connection virtual circuit charge for data. Launtel, a Tasmanian service provider, is currently offering gigabit download connections over the NBN at an estimated $1000 per month.

With NBN Co’s broken business model, ongoing cost blowouts and delays coupled with the use of poor quality obsolete copper technologies, it is easy to see why Adelaide’s networks should be a resounding success.

The GigCity Adelaide micro-business plans are available to businesses with up to five staff. All plans are subject to a ‘best effort’ supply and a ‘fair use’ policy.

The question of how an unlimited plan can be restricted by a ‘fair use’ policy, something the service providers are clinging to, will be something that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will have to consider, hopefully sooner than later.

‘Best effort’ supply means that the traffic entering and leaving the GigCity network is not prioritised and the speeds at which traffic flows to and from destinations outside the GigCity network will be similar to that experienced by residential and business customers that are not connected to the GigCity network.

For the innovation hubs and businesses connected to the three high speed fibre broadband initiatives in Adelaide, the local connectivity experience should be high speed, reliable and something that will be attractive to businesses around Australia that are struggling with the NBN.

Under national telecommunication regulations, all new fibre networks are required to provide wholesale access to service providers. We’re yet to see how this will work across the three initiatives in Adelaide and what the wholesale prices will be, but we should expect the NBN service providers to all take an interest in providing connections and services.

Dr Mark Gregory is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering at RMIT University and is the Managing Editor of the Australian Journal for Telecommunications and the Digital Economy.

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