Friday, February 22, 2013

FTTN vs FTTC: my methods and decisions

Since it’s been criticized, here are some personal notes on the methodological choices I made in estimating the rate of BT’s FttC rollout for the ABC in an Australian context.

Why use exchange areas instead of population?

1.    Verifiability – While it would be possible to verify BT’s household-coverage claims, it would need someone willing to part with around $10k to buy a data license and carry out the analysis.

The number of cabinets installed by BT provides no base for comparison: Australia doesn’t have a design yet.

On the other hand, the number of exchanges serving VDSL2 is published in the UK, and ADSL2+ in Australia.

The only assumption I made here is that a hypothetical FTTN would need to replicate ADSL2+ coverage to satisfy the public.

2.    Geographic equalisation – Using exchange areas equalises the vexed question of the geo-demographic differences between Australia and the UK, an issue which I’ve worked on for six years in various projects.

Britain and Australia have nearly the same number exchanges – 5,000 or so – yet the UK’s exchanges serve 40 million households, Australia’s 7 million. The UK’s exchanges are bigger (in terms of lines served) but smaller (in terms of geography served).

Why did I select 2009 as the start date for the UK FttC, and 2010 for the NBN?

That’s much easier to answer: the deployment of commercial pilots provides an equivalent date for the two projects.

The NBN has proceeded very much in the public spotlight – the implementation study, the establishment of the company, the design decisions, the maps, the appearances in Estimates and so on. We knew a lot about the design process before the launch of commercial services in 2011.

BT’s process is a black box, by comparison. We do know that its first commercial pilots occurred in 2009, but between that date and the official launch of commercial services, we know very little about how much work went on. For example:

-    How many cabinets were ordered, delivered, and put through acceptance testing?
-    How many locations went through site preparation so as to enable rapid installation when cabinets were available?
-    What resources were devoted to network design, site selection, training, contractor selection, and ramp-up planing?

And so on.

Without an understanding of the pre-launch effort, I think it’s quite reasonable to use the commercial pilots as “Year Zero” of BT’s rollout since I can be certain that all that “underground” work was going on at least as early as 2009, prior to the commercial service launch in 2010.

Since everything else was based on public sources linked in the article, I don’t feel the need to explain the other sources further.

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