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NBN finally has a 50Mbps or quicker majority network

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(Image: ACCC)

The company responsible for deploying the National Broadband Network (NBN) across Australia can now lay claim to having a network where the majority of its users are on plans of 50Mbps or faster download speeds, according to the latest quarterly Wholesale Market Indicators Report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

As of the end of December 2018, almost 2.3 million were on 50Mbps tier plans, and another near 400,000 were on plans of 100Mbps or faster.

However, before the champagne corks start flying around NBN offices, it is worth noting that Australia still has 1 million users on 12Mbps connections, and almost another million on 25Mbps. Not to mention that all 93,000 users of the NBN satellite service are incapable of 50Mbps speeds, and arguably have the most need for the touted benefits of high-definition telehealth, video conferencing, and distance education that have long been promised.

Broken down by technology type, fibre-to-the-curb networks have the highest percentage of users on connections of 50Mbps or quicker, with 73 percent; the pilloried fibre-to-the-node networks are next, on 58 percent; this is followed by fibre-to-the-premises which is a percentage point behind; and Hybrid Fibre Co-Axial (HFC) and fibre-to-the-building, both sitting around the 55.5 percent mark. Fixed-wireless has half its users on 12Mbps or 25Mbps plans, and the other half on its 25-50Mbps service.

The shift in users to 50Mbps is a result of NBN’s pricing discounts, which finished at the end of October, and new wholesale bundles for 50Mbps and 100Mbps speeds, the ACCC said.

“It’s good to see that retail services providers have been able to offer higher speed plans at more affordable prices — thereby giving many consumers more choice,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

The ACCC noted the amount of bandwidth purchased by retailers, as measured by the total Connectivity Virtual Circuit charge the NBN imposes, dropped from 1.71Mbps to 1.65Mbps over the quarter to December 31.

Chief of Aussie Broadband Phillip Britt said on Monday that CVC costs are holding back his company from offering unlimited data on plans faster than 100Mbps.

“The CVC pricing construct is the primary limiter here, we’ve only got 2.5Mbps of CVC allocated under the bundled model and someone on an unlimited plan on those higher tiers would have the potential to really cause some damage,” Britt said during a Reddit AMA session.

Britt said the 100Mbps price will come down, but it will need a write-down of the NBN for the price pressure to be passed onto consumers.

“They can’t hold onto the $51 [average revenue per user] amounts they are trying to achieve, because the mobile guys will wipe the floor with them,” Britt said.

“As to when it will occur, that’s hard to predict. They have released a short term promotion around the 100/40Mbps services currently but it has some conditions around it that requires a customer to stay with that service provider for X period of time, so its risky to implement.”

Aussie Broadband already has 26 percent of its users on the 100Mbps tier, Britt said, but added that average users find the 50Mbps price point as the sweet spot.

Giving evidence to the Joint Standing Committee looking into the business case for the NBN on Monday, NBN CEO Stephen Rue maintained that there are no impairment issues that would see the company needing to write down the value of the company, and that those calling for such action are just after a wholesale price cut.

“When people say there should be a write-down, I don’t think that is what they are really calling for. Essentially, they are calling for the wholesale price to fall dramatically,” Rue said.

“Calls for a large wholesale price cut puts at risk the long-term viability of the company … without that, I truly believe you put at risk the digital future of the country, and all the benefits that flow.”

Related Coverage

People calling for NBN write-down actually want dramatic price cut: NBN CEO

NBN claims that should a wholesale price cut occur, Australia’s digital future is over.

Good enough 5G fixed-wireless broadband could change everything

Fixed-line broadband will always be better, but it might be to 5G what Betamax was to VHS.

ACCAN: Low-income Australians cannot afford NBN

Australians have been forced onto higher-end plans, ACCAN has said, and should be offered 50Mbps unlimited NBN connections for AU$30 a month under a government concession.

Aussie Broadband kicks off network upgrade

NBN retailer Aussie Broadband is buying international capacity on four subsea cable systems, as well as upgrading its core network with Cisco.

TPG keeps top spot for download speeds in fourth NBN report

TPG delivered the highest percentage of maximum plan download speeds, while Exetel delivered on upload speeds and latency in the ACCC’s final broadband speed monitoring report for 2018.

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Ford reveals the Mustang Mach-E EV for police testing

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Ford has been building cars used by police departments and other law-enforcement agencies around the country for many years. In the past, its Mustang with the 5.0 liter V-8 and the Crown Victoria, among other Ford vehicles, were widely used as police cars. Many police agencies are pushing towards automobiles that get better fuel economy and pollute less.

To meet the demand for zero-emissions police vehicles, Ford has submitted the all-electric Mustang Mach-E for testing with the Michigan State Police. Ford is exploring fully electric vehicles built specifically for police as part of its $30 billion investment in electrification through the year 2025.

Ford is aiming to demonstrate that its electric vehicle can deliver impressive performance and operate on demanding police duty cycles. The all-electric police vehicle is based on the 2021 Mustang Mach-E. It will be part of the 2022 model year Police Evaluation performed by the Michigan State Police on September 18 and 20th.

Ford says that the pilot program is going to be used as a testing benchmark as it explores purpose-built electric police vehicles for the future. The automaker expects that demand for green zero missions police will continue to grow. Previously Ford revealed a Mach-E police car for the United Kingdom.

As regulations tighten for emissions around the world, many police departments and law-enforcement agencies will be forced to seek green patrol vehicles. One potential downside to an electric vehicle for police work is long charge times and short driving ranges in pursuit situations. However, despite its drawbacks, electric vehicles offer impressive performance. It would be no surprise to see the Mach-E police car record the best performance of all vehicles in the test.

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The NTSB is probing another fatal Tesla crash

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Over the years, there have been multiple accidents involving Tesla vehicles that were allegedly operating on Autopilot at the time. Autopilot is Tesla’s semi-autonomous driver assistance tech. To use Autopilot, drivers are supposed to keep their hands on the wheel, but some owners have found ways to defeat that system.

Recently police in Coral Gables, Florida, were called to the scene of an accident involving a Tesla Model 3. The accident occurred on Monday evening of this week and happened in a residential area. According to police, the vehicle was using the Autopilot system at the time of the accident.

After the Model 3 crashed, its battery packs caught fire, and the two deceased occupants were badly burned. The bodies were damaged enough that they haven’t been positively identified at this time. The fatal accident occurred when the Model 3 impacted a tree. After that impact, there was a fire.

The NTSB has confirmed that it has sent three investigators to the area to look into the cause of the fire. This accident isn’t the first allegedly involving Tesla’s Autopilot system that NTSB has investigated. Previously, the NTSB also investigated an accident involving a Tesla that happened in Texas in April.

In that particular accident, police believe no one was in the driver’s seat. Some Tesla owners have discovered how to activate autopilot without being in the driver’s seat. In August, the NHTSA opened a formal probe into Tesla automobiles and its Autopilot driver assistance system after 11 crashes involving Autopilot-equipped vehicles and police and fire vehicles. There have been 11 crashes involving Tesla’s that have led to the death of occupants since 2016. Whether or not autopilot is at fault is unknown.

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Chevrolet Bolt production stoppage extended until mid-October

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GM has announced that it will extend its production stoppage for the Bolt electric vehicle through at least mid-October. The announcement marks an extension of its production stoppage announced in late August due to a massive battery recall for the electric vehicle. The defective battery packs have caused 12 fires.

Most recently, a Bolt caught fire in the owner’s garage, destroying the vehicle, damaging the home, and causing damage to another vehicle stored in the garage at the time. GM has confirmed that Bolt production at the Orion Assembly plant will not commence until at least October 15. The massive battery recall has already cost around $2 billion, and GM says it will recover most of that money from battery supplier LG.

Chevrolet’s latest production stoppage for the Bolt comes in the middle of a massive chip shortage that has forced production on other vehicle assembly lines to stop. Sales and production of the Bolt won’t begin until the automaker has a confirmed fix for the battery issues.

An investigation laid the blame on misaligned robots at the battery assembly factory. According to that report, the misaligned robots caused a torn anode tab placing it closer to the cathode leading to short-circuiting and fires. After another fire that happened this month, GM issued a new warning to owners of the small electric vehicle.

The new warning tells Bolt owners to keep their vehicles at least 50 feet away from homes, offices, and other vehicles. Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that any owner who heeds the warning and parks 50 feet away from homes or offices would be able to charge their vehicle, essentially making them useless until a fix is available. Defective battery packs have led to three injuries and multiple fires.

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