Deployment costs of rural broadband technologies

The penetration of broadband services in rural areas is constrained by the cost of network deployment. Deployment costs are higher than in urban areas due to the lower population density. In this paper, we examine the deployment costs of three broadband access technologies; passive optical network (PON), fibre-to-the-node, digital subscriber line (FTTN DSL) and broadband wireless (WiMAX). We show that access technologies with a range of 60 km can reach most rural customers (99% in Victoria). We have demonstrated that long-range PON can provide error free service at this range.Based on a number of assumptions, we have calculated the deployment cost of optimised networks for each technology for a range of rural areas in Victoria. A geographic information system was used to identify actual household locations and distances along roads. The deployment of optical fibre is the largest single cost component for both PON and FTTN DSL (and is significant for wireless) because the broadband access networks must be node based to span the distances needed. Consequently, the cost differences between the alternative technologies are not as great as might be expected.For broadband services with access rates around 20 Mbit/s without contention, FTTN DSL offers the lowest deployment cost for most rural households. For 50 Mbit/s and above, PON offers the lowest deployment costs for rural households. Copyright 2009 John Ellershaw, Jennifer Riding, Alan Lee, An Vu Tran, Lin Jie Guan, Rod Tucker, Timothy Smith. No part of this article may be reproduced by any means without the written consent of the publisher.