[the australian] HOME owners face a heavy slug to distribute the ultra-fast internet access promised by Labor's National Broadband Network around the house.
Projections for the take-up of the government's $43 billion NBN could prove optimistic once households realise they face costs of up to $3000 to fully exploit the potential of the super-fast internet.
If Labor is re-elected tomorrow and the NBN is built, about 93 per cent of premises will have a
fibre optic cable connection provided sometime in the next eight years.
Although the fibre will come to the house, families will have to invest hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars hardwiring their homes so they can access the technology to its full potential and use many bandwidth-intensive activities at once.
Network installation experts agreed that homes should have certain gadgets hardwired to the main NBN connection with ethernet cable to get the best results, rather than using a cheaper wireless connection.
Allan Aitchison, general manager of network engineering at Adelaide-based cable and wireless installer Mimp, said households should look to hardwiring desktop computers, games consoles and streaming media devices such as the new internet-capable televisions.
"The cost of installing a wired outlet ranges from $250 to $450 an outlet depending on the style of the house," Mr Aitchison said
"The best case for three outlet points in the house would be about $750 whereas an old bluestone house could cost around $450 an outlet."
Malcolm Moore, a 40-year veteran of telecommunications and electrical engineering, said a typical category 5 high-speed cable installation with four or five ports used to connect devices directly into the NBN could cost home owners anywhere between $600 and $1200, but he warned those costs could skyrocket if technicians knew demand was high.
"It could be a bit like the BER in a way," Mr Moore said. "If technicians know that the government was going to give them lots of work, then they could bump their prices up significantly."
The NBN, if built, will pass more than 10 million premises. If every premise spent an average of $500 on bandwidth distribution equipment, the extra cost to the nation beyond the $43bn price tag for the network would be $5bn.
The Coalition has vowed if elected to scrap the NBN and substitute a modest $6.3bn network using existing copper, wireless and HFC cable technologies. The plan aims to provide a 12 megabit per second connection to 97 per cent of the population.
Householders wanting to distribute access to the Coalition's more modest pipe would face the same problems as those on the NBN.
Labor has promised a 100 megabit service or better to homes and offices passed by the NBN fibre.
The advantage of a high-speed fibre-to-the-home connection is being able to do many things at once. High-definition internet TV could be playing in the lounge room and a large file could be downloading within seconds on to the family PC in the study, while a high-definition movie could be streaming on to a games console in the rumpus room.
Meanwhile, others in the home could be pulling content down wirelessly on laptops and iPads.
The problem is getting the high-speed pipe to all the gadgets.
When homes are connected to the fibre network, the NBN Co will install what is known as a Network Termination Unit that will be used as the single point of entry for users to connect to the internet. The NTU, which will act like a modem, will come with four ethernet ports and two analog jacks so internet-enabled devices and landline phones can be connected.
Consumers will be able to hook directly into the NTU for instant broadband access but further distribution of the super-fast speeds promised by the NBN to other areas of the home will need to be done wirelessly or through a maze of cables.
Mr Moore said it was possible to use a home's existing copper wiring to access the NBN's high-speed services but it was not the ideal way to get the best possible connection.
"For the best service, you would want to lay your home with Cat 5 and install extra ports in other rooms of your house," Mr Moore said. "That way there would be no speed degradation.
"You would be looking at a good morning's work by a couple of competent technicians. All they would need to do would be to drop the cables between existing walls or bring it up from underneath the house."
NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley said it was up to home owners to decide whether they wanted to wire up their homes, but it was not a prerequisite for getting the promised speed increases.
"NBN is providing people with a free connection to the network inside their home," Mr Quigley said. "There is no compulsion to do anything else. But of course people can enhance their service if they like by talking to their service provider."
The first NBN customers connected in Tasmania are tending to use routers to convert their optic fibre connection into a wireless connection.
Damian and Kylie Rodman are among just a few NBN customers at Midway Point, east of Hobart.
"We have a wireless router, which means we can connect throughout the house - a main computer, laptop and mobile phones," Mr Rodman said.
"We love it. There's no reduction in speed. It takes less than 30 seconds to download a song and about 10 minutes to download a one gigabite movie."
The 25 megabits per second connection was just as quick anywhere in the house as near the router, a small black box on a desk in the lounge room.
"I can be sitting in bed with the laptop at the other end of the house and it's not an issue," Mrs Rodman said.
The NBN connection cost $75 a month, including unlimited local and national calls, and ISP iPrimus provided the router free.
Homes to pay heavy price for internet from NBN