Simon Hackett argues that infrastructure-based competition is an esssential condition for Australians to receive affordable access to high-speed broadband nationally. Simon, the managing director of national broadband trailblazer Internode and network infrastructructure pioneer Agile Communications, first published this article about the history of ADSL broadband in Australia on his blog www.simonhackett.com.
A decade of ADSL in Australia This article was originally written for the ACIF/Communications Alliance newsletter (September 2006 edition).
Like most overnight sensations, ADSL has been a long time coming. In this article, we take a look at the phases of ADSL technology deployment in Australia and at the part played by Internode and Agile over that time.
In 1986, John Cioffi at Stanford University commenced research into technology to transmit television signals over copper phone lines. The Stanford web site documents the story of how commercialising this research work lead to, and enabled, modern ADSL services in the 1990’s.
In Australia, by 1996, Telecom Research Labs (TRL) had demonstrated 6 megabit per second digital video transmission over copper wires using ADSL in Australia.
In 1999, ADSL escaped from the labs when Telstra launched a retail ADSL service in Australia. For a variety of reasons, the initial Telstra retail offering was limited to a maximum download speed of 1500 kilobits per second and a maximum of 256 kilobits upstream (1500/256).
From the year 2000, various service providers (including Internode) launched retail ADSL services via wholesale access to the Telstra ADSL rollout.
In 2001, Telstra received the first of multiple ACCC ‘Competition Notices’ relating to its wholesale access conduct.
Clearly, the rubber had begun to meet the road.
Concurrently, the ACCC began opening up direct access to copper lines on an infrastructure basis, via the Unconditioned Local Loop Sevice (ULLS) and Line Sharing Service (LSS) Declarations.
It is unlikely any access seeker in 1999 imagined that they would still be arguing over the most fundamental issues of access and price for those services over six years later.
In August 2002, Agile Communications became the first signatory to the Telstra Spectrum Sharing Service (SSS), being the Telstra offering towards satisfying the parameters of the ACCC Declared Line Sharing Service. This service allows an access seeker to deploy a DSL Access Multiplexer (DSLAM) in parallel to an existing analog voice service on a consumers’ copper telephone line.
Agile then installed the first of many regional ADSL deployments in the SA township of Meningie. To this day, the only ADSL service available in Meningie is the one provided by Agile.
A variety of carriers began to deploy their own DSLAM equipment in Telstra exchanges, using the SSS access method, around Australia. All of these competitive DSLAM deployments offered speeds above the Telstra 1500/256 speed limit.
The market rapidly evolved to the point where most competitors offered the option of access at the maximum data rate each consumers line was capable of supporting (up to 8M downstream and 1M upstream).
In April 2005, having coordinated considerable technical modelling and administrative effort across the industry, ACIF released an updated version of the ULLS network deployment rules (ACIF C559:2005). This update permitted and codified the access rules for the deployment in Australia of the ADSL2 and ADSL2+ standards, allowing maximum downstream speeds of up to 12 or 24 megabits per second respectively.
Internode became the first commercial retailer of ADSL2+ retail services in Australia, via Agile infrastructure. Others rapidly followed. Customer outcomes in properly wired customer premises installations demonstrated results consistent with theoretical speed projections for ADSL2+.
lso in 2005, Agile engaged Dr Paul Brooks of Consultel to model and progress a further update to the ACIF network deployment rules to permit the use of ADSL2+ ‘Annex M’ in Australia. ADSL2+ Annex M allows for an increase in the maximum upstream data rate from 1 megabit per second to speeds in excess of 2 megabits per second (depending on line length and line conditions).
n August 2006, following appropriate industry consultation and detailed technical deployment modelling by Telstra, the ACIF ratified ACIF C559:2006 and AS/ACIF S043.2:2006 to support Annex M. Field trials for Annex M are being undertaken at the time of writing by Internode, and they demonstrate practical results in line with theoretical projections.
nce these updated codes are formally registered by the ACMA later in 2006, Annex M services will become generally available in Australia from service providers with the appropriate infrastructure (and the will) to deploy it.
t is clear that the ACIF deployment rules and the ACCC Declared ULLS and LSS services have been key enablers for effective infrastructure based broadband competition in Australia over the last decade, and they remain critical for its continued development into the future.
n the absence of infrastructure based competition, the highest available speeds for ADSL in Australia would still remain at the 1999 era maximum speed of 1500/256.
And that wouldn’t be any fun at all!
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