I've been involved with setting up and operating ISP services in Australia since the mid 1990s and have a fairly 'hands on' understanding of how end user use of IP delivery has changed over the years.
For instance I think I can remember in the dial up days of 1996 that TPG had a total of 2 mbps (which cost the best part of $A2 million a year to service the international needs of some 10,000 dial up users) and the decision to upgrade that link took many months of very slow web site browsing (P2P was unheard of). That was in the days when Telstra sold IP bandwidth to the few small ISPs who were around at that time at 33 cents per megabyte!
In 1996 Telstra had around 48 mbps of international IP bandwidth for all Australian internet users:
"Leap Forward" to 2000 and Telstra had built its own international links (also sold to virtually every other ISP of the time to a "massive 1.4 gps) and still talked in "major upgrades" of 155 mbps as being something worth talking about.
This was at a time when the estimated internet user base in Australia was approaching 3,000,000 (almost all dial up of course).
To put that in perspective, today, Exetel uses over 2 gbps to provide services its own small user base!
So, a rough 'rule of thumb' allows you to calculate that in 2000 the 'average' planned provision of bandwidth availability per customer was something like 5 kbps per user.
Over the last 7 years, as ADSL1 and then ADSL2 has become widespread the amount of bandwidth most realistic network planners deploy has continued to climb from something around 20 kbps per user in 2001 to 25 kbps per user in 2002 to a, 'massive' 30 kbps per user in 2004.
....and there.....as far as I can see......it's remained for the best part of 4 years - at least in terms of many carriers with whom Exetel deal and from the information we get access to now and then from some other ISPs.
Now that doesn't mean that the major back bone networks around Australia are only capable of delivering 30 kbps per user today, or at any time in the past - they clearly can, overall, deliver more than that.
However my point is that some very large scale Australian networks are PLANNED on the basis that is what they should be dimensioned to deliver over their lifetime. This means that when a new 'section' of any Australian back haul network is provisioned it will have ample capacity to provide. maybe 450+ kbps per user as its a long term investment putting cable in the ground.
However time passes - and as my first experience with TPG all those years showed - once you begin to reach 'capacity' it takes a whole lot of soul searching to add the next 'chunk' of bandwidth.
This has yet to become any sort of problem for most ISPs and carriers but then, if it does become a problem, it will remain a problem for a very long time. Even a small company like Exetel has now had more than a few instances where the carriers we use, and I mean all of them, have provisioning problems at the exchange level, the district level, the area level and the national level that impact from modestly to severely various sized groups of users for varying lengths of time.
Exetel, as a group of people responsible for the delivery of services to many tens of thousands of end users bear the brunt of the odium that's engendered by these 'so last century' carrier provisioning policies and, while I sympathise with everybody in any service industry who runs in to problems it seems to me that there needs to be a radical, upward, move in planned usage rates per customer that take account of video streaming and other uses that have significantly increased the peak time usage requirements of IP delivery around Australia.
I'm not even referring to the 'mega down loader' elements of Australian users - I'm talking about the fact that at 9 pm on any weekday 3 - 4 million broadband users are trying to watch UTube and similar entertainment sources that need an average bandwidth stream of around 50 kbps rather than the 30 mbps that is generally the planning parameter around most of Australia.
Add in the P2P users and that 'average' is probably at least 100 kbps - quite probably higher.
How do I reach this figure and this conclusion?
I can do the simple arithmetic of dividing the peak number of Exetel users online at 9 pm on any weekday night by the amount of ingress/egress bandwidth we have and then see that the amount of bandwidth per user (having restricted P2P traffic at this time to 400 mbps) is more than 50 kbps per user yet Exetel has at least two customer connect bandwidth contracts that only 'guarantee' 30 kbps per customer (although we provision those circuits, obviously, at 55 kbps).
Today, it's not too much of a problem - other than the constant irritations of one or more areas of Australia suffering from "slow speeds" at any given day of the year.
However the issue that must be concerning the various major carrier's network planners is how steep is this peak going to be over the next, successive, ten years?
I think the Crazy Kevin/Stupid Stephen FTTN network with a minimum speed of 12 mbps for 98% of Australians better come up with a back haul strategy and delivery of something far beyond what appears to be available.
I don't think that 1,000 gbps back hauls are going to do it.
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