Monday 17 September 2012

A New Approach to Data Hub Design

Australia and Canada are often compared when it comes to the roll-out of broadband (high speed) Internet connectivity. Both countries have a relatively small population spread out over a large geographical area. Both countries have a number of urban areas with high population densities as well large swathes of rural areas where population density is measured in single digits per hectare.

The challenge both countries face is how to deploy broadband (high speed) Internet to the rural areas. While both countries have adopted similar technological approaches using a combination of terrestrial fibre and copper cables systems delaying DSL and cable connectivity, mobile (cellular) broadband, traditional fixed wireless and satellite, the management of the challenge couldn't be more different.

Canada opted for private sector leadership and implementation with limited public sector involvement through capital cost public subsidies approximated at between $500 million to $800 million over an estimated 10 years. Government oversight was limited and shared between existing federal ministries and agencies and provincial organizations.  One of the agencies wants every Canadian to have 5 Mbps access by 2015.

Australia opted for a federal government leadership. They created a cabinet level office - Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy - and allotted a $34billion budget. The network being implemented for the government by private industry, including some Canadian companies, is called the National Broadband Network or NBN. The NBN is a wholesale-only, open access, high-speed broadband network.  This means NBN Co Limited – the company established by the government to design, build and operate the NBN – will roll out the network and sell wholesale services at a uniform price to service providers, such as your internet or phone provider. In turn, service providers will offer retail services to the consumers. The target end user speed for the network is 1 Gbps for the terrestrial based portion and 12 Mbps for the wireless and satellite based portions.

Both Australia and Canada are using data hub based technology for covering parts of rural areas.

One of the NBN subcontractors is NetComm, the same company that provides data hubs to Rogers and Tbaytel for their 3G/4G broadband networks.  I received a pointer from Northland Consultants on a new NetComm design concept being offered in support of the NBN.

The NetComm design combines the 3G/4G modem, router, Wi-Fi, high gain antenna and an optional telephone voice jack in a hardened box for mounting in an external location outside the customer's premise. The external electronics are power by a Power over Ethernet (PoE) injector. This means the whole unit is delivered as a single package without the need to purchase an additional antenna  and cables. 

More details are available on the NetComm website. Another approach along similar lines can be seen at another NetComm page.

I am not aware of any vendor offering this hardware configuration in Canada yet but I can see it as a potential solution to the Bell Deferral Account hardware concerns although I am not aware of a similar design by the Bell data hub supplier Netgear. 

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