Home broadband users will finally get upload boost

Maximum upstream speeds in Australia are expected to more than double within the next three months, as Internode finally breaks through a year-long negotiation process with the Australian Communications Industry Forum over ADSL2+ Annex M.

Driven by a growing demand for sharing photos, music and video over the Internet, the new technology will provide speeds as fast as 2.5Mbps.

With the existing ADSL2+ Annex A, upstream speeds are currently limited to 1Mbps. However, as ADSL2+ is still a non mainstream broadband technology, the majority of Australians are signed up with plans where 256Kbps - dubbed "fraudband" by some -- is the norm.

A 3MB audio file that would typically take two minutes to upload on "fraudband" takes a mere 12 seconds on Annex M, and 24 seconds on Annex A.

Annex M obtains its greater upstream capacity by sacrificing some downstream speed. For a 1Mbps increase in upstream speed, it loses the same amount downstream, resulting in a slightly slower download speed when compared with that of Annex A.

"It's literally just turning the direction around on some of the channels that ADSL uses," explained Simon Hackett, managing director of Internode, expecting that the loss of downstream will be insignificant, especially in light of the upstream speed gained.

One megabit is only 4 per cent of Annex A's 24 megabit per second download speed.

"From a consumer standpoint, we are finally hitting the era of publishing information from home," Hackett said.

The increased upload speed is expected to appeal to: businesses that communicate via Virtual Private Networks over several branches or with employees working from home; to information producers such as Web site managers; and to schools requiring greater computing capability for their students.

Because the two are essentially the same technology, retuned, the transition from ADSL2+ Annex A to M will be achieved with a surprisingly simple "flick of a switch", said Hackett. Internode's two-year-old Annex A infrastructure has long been capable of also supporting Annex M.

Consumers may expect to pay a little more to upgrade from Annex A to M. They also may need to update their ADSL routers, as ADSL routers with Annex M capabilities have only been available for less than a year.

When Annex M is fully ratified for use in Australia, it will be available to those on Internode's Annex A business plans (SOHO and above), for no extra charge.

In the meantime, Internode has called for participants to take part in a national ADSL2+ Annex M trial. The trial, which was announced on a forum (http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?t=559405) last week, will be carried out in most capital cities, and some rural deployments in South Australia. Participants will be handpicked from an already large pool of volunteers for a good sample of geographical locations and line lengths.

"We want a good spread of people in real world situations to get a realistic expectation of speed... to try a variety of lines and different links to make sure it all works nice and smoothly."

Participants in the trial are expected to cover the cost of their own routers, for which Internode has negotiated an exclusive supply agreement with Billion (www.billion.com.au). In accordance with the agreement, which will expire in three months time, Internode will sell 7404VGP-M routers.

Billion, Open Networks and Cisco will also be releasing new ADSL2+ Annex M routers over the next three months.

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