The beginnings of the internet
In the 1970s, computer science specialisations and departments started to appear in Australian universities. The Universities of Melbourne and Wollongong exchanged files between two Unix-based computers using a dial-up line.
During the second half of the 1980s, there were several attempts to set up a broader university network. In 1989, approval was given on a financial, technical and business plan (prepared by Geoff Huston) to implement a national network. Soon after, a NASA/University of Hawaii program came into play with a 56Kbps satellite circuit.
In 1995, the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee transferred its commercial customers, associated assets, and the management of interstate and international links to Telstra. Telstra thereby acquired the whole infrastructure that at that stage constituted ‘the Internet in Australia’, spawning what was subsequently to become Telstra BigPond.
By the end of 1997, there were estimated to be 1.6 million Internet users in Australia (8.6% of the population), with 1 million being relatively frequent users. The majority were using dial-up access, with modems capable of up to 33.6Kbps, with 56Kbps modems newly available.
Internet at the turn of the century
By November 2000, more than 50% of Australian adults were online and nearly 40% of households had Internet access.
According to Wikipedia, in 2000, the first consumer ADSL services were made available through Telstra Bigpond. Telstra chose to artificially limit all ADSL speeds to a maximum of 1500/256 kbits/s (downstream/upstream). As ADSL required access to the telephone exchange and copper line, this allowed Telstra to be dominant since they owned these resources. Other ISPs followed suit later by reselling connections that they purchased wholesale from Telstra.
In 2006, Telstra proposed to upgrade to Fibre to the Node (FTTN) but didn’t pursue the development as they would have been required to share the network.
In November 2007, iiNet announced the first Naked DSL product. This gave people the option to have DSL products without telephony services over copper, reducing rental fees.
The first NBN Proposal
An initial request for proposal to build the NBN was issued in 2008, but not executed. In 2009, the Rudd Government announced that it would bypass the existing copper network by constructing a new national network combining fibre to the premises (FTTP), fixed wireless, and satellite technologies. NBN Co was established in April 2009.
The first FTTP customers were connected in July 2010. An increase in the peak speed to one gigabit per second was announced in response to Google Fiber developments in the USA. Tony Abbott (who at the time was Leader of the opposition) and Malcolm Turnbull (Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband) stated in 2010 that in government they would “demolish” the NBN.
Tasmania was selected as the first state for a three-stage trial FTTP rollout. The first stage was announced in July 2009, and the first customers were connected a year later. The second and third stages were announced in October 2009, and March 2010, respectively.
In 2013, Malcolm Turnbull announced that they would be using Multi-Technology Mix (MTM) as an approach to the NBN, promising significant savings and earlier completion.
The MTM comprises of:
- Wired communication
– Fibre to the node
– Fibre to the premises
– Hybrid fibre-coaxial
– and, from 2017, fibre to the curb
– Fixed wireless
– Sky Muster telecommunications satellites
Currently, the NBN rollout is estimated to be completed by 2020.