Saturday, January 22, 2011

National broadband vulnerable to the wet

Christian Kerr in the Australian: The Brisbane floods disaster has exposed serious potential problems with the National Broadband Network, telecommunications industry figures warn. "All the telco quality-of-service figures look fantastic because we've had a decade of drought," one industry source told The Weekend Australian. "No one has started to think about the implications of . . . changes to the weather from climate change."

While the industry is divided over the full implications for the NBN of the flooding and loss of power, some sources say the government is removing a layer of redundancy that could be vital in an emergency by insisting Telstra tear up its existing network.

The major telcos run duplicate networks between the capitals to ensure services can continue if one link fails. "The core principal in telecommunications is building as much physical redundancy into the network as you can," an industry insider said. "Requiring Telstra to scrap its network means the government is removing a layer of redundancy that would otherwise be there."

Unlike copper cable, which carries a weak electric current that enables customers to still make voice calls from blacked-out premises, NBN services will require power at both ends…. "Power outages could have a profound impact on the NBN," one respected communications consultant warned, adding the recovery process could be considerably longer if equipment at both ends was damaged by water. The consultant fears that, in floods, fewer services would be available than Brisbane residents have had in recent days….

Colleges Crossing flooded in Queensland, shot by lordphantom74, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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