The thing about doing something right is that problems related to it will generally be much nicer to deal with.
That's certainly true for our fibre broadband, with Chorus now having made its Hyperfibre wholesale offering available throughout the areas it operates in. Enable told me they're looking at a similar offering, and maybe Northpower is thinking about it too.
Hyperfibre moves UFB up several notches with symmetric 2, 4 and later on, 8 gigabit-per-second offerings, some of which offer prioritised data channels for business customers.
• Three big players snub Chorus' Hyperfibre party
That's really fast: I've used a Hyperfibre connection since July through Orcon which calls it Fibre 4000 and retails it for $199.95 a month and having 4 gigabits per second up and down is something else. It's mainly the upload speed that's the "killer feature" for businesses that depend on being able to shift data around.
Jacking up the already fast 550 Mbps upload of standard Gig connections by more than seven times for just over twice the money is excellent value. A bargain even, when you consider how many thousands much slower dedicated links cost not too long ago.
For business users, there are some things to think about as you breach the gigabit barrier, as Auckland tech and network specialist firm SearchLight founder Nathan Ward points out.
First, can sites and services that you connect to keep up with a 4 Gbps connection? To give you a hint, Fibre 4000 is so quick that some speed-test sites on certain networks can't handle it.
Hyperfibre offerings open up new possibilities though, Nathan says, like software-defined networking services for distributed offices over standard internet connections rather than expensive private links.
"In this Covid-19 remote work era, a lot of businesses may see benefit in being able to provide faster remote access to office resources like file servers and hybrid clouds, or providing security for remote workers on company devices when accessing the internet by bringing these connections through the company network without bottlenecks," he added.
Speaking of security, while the Nokia optical network termination (ONT) box with a single 10 Gbps and four 1 Gbps Ethernet ports that Chorus installed is pretty good, Nathan points out that it's not a fully-featured firewall.
Organisations with specific needs may need to look at 10 Gbps-capable firewalls, and be careful to select ones capable of high data packet rate. Internet data is "wrapped" in packets of different sizes that a firewall looks at and monitors, which in turn requires plenty of processing power in the device.
That makes them expensive, and the firewall will likely use quite a bit of power with noisy fans to cool it.
Distributing the Fibre 4000 bandwidth bonanza around your premises will take some smarts as Orcon chief exec Taryn Hamilton notes.
The 802.11ac Wi-Fi on the Nokia ONT/router works well but it's not 802.11ax or Wi-Fi 6 which promises the multi-gigabit/s speeds that Fibre 4000 needs. More on new wireless networking in a different column, and let's look at the wired options currently.
One problem is that most wired network ports are still single-gigabit speeds (yes you can bond them together for faster performance but that's a bit of a hack) and the copper Ethernet cables are not up to faster speeds.
That last thing can be annoying if you've neatly hidden away Category 5 wires in walls and ducts because you want 10 G Ethernet-capable cabling.
Cat 6a and Cat 7 is needed to get the full 100 metre reach for 10 GE. Those cables can transmit signals at hundreds of megaHertz and for that needed good interference shielding which in turn means they're quite thick and can't be bent much.
Ideally, we should be looking at more future-proofed passive optical internal networks but they're not common yet. I did a few trials with optical patch leads which are easy to connect (keep 'em clean though) but again, they're only "bend tolerant" and a little tricky to install nicely.
If I had a Mac Pro workstation, which I don't, I would've plugged some cables into its 10 GE ports and been done, but my 2018 MacBook Pro uses Thunderbolt 3 connectors.
These are great, with 40 Gbps data speeds and OWC sent a 10 GE Thunderbolt adapter, and Nathan lent me a QNAP and a Sonnet one as well. Hooked up with short Thunderbolt cables, the 10 GE adapters are minimum fuss and give you 4/4 Gbps speed with ease.
However, they're not cheap at $200-$400 each, and come in biggish boxy cases. And, like 10 GE switches, they use a fair bit of power (5V / 3A) and run hot. Using one with a laptop on battery is suboptimal and it's better to be on mains power at a desk.
Things will change with more elegant home and small office solutions becoming available for multi-gigabit connections like Fibre 4000 soon.
Meanwhile, it's good to see how easy it was to future-proof the UFB network, so much so that it's perhaps a little ahead of its time right now.