Monday, 15 May 2023 | 7 min read
What is network infrastructure and how does Aussie do it differently?
Written by James Oana, Communications Officer
The internet has become a universal part of our daily lives. Even so, not many could tell you how internet infrastructure works – how your hardware at home connects you to people on the other side of the world.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to understand the complexities and technical jargon, but understanding the basics can help you make an informed decision when picking an internet service provider (ISP) and plan.
We get it. In the words of the famous Paul’s milk ad, you just want milk that tastes like real milk, and the same applies to your internet. So, we’re going to break down the complexities of a no-fat, high-speed internet connection.
What is the internet?
Let’s set the record straight: the internet is not a little black box.
At a basic level, the internet is a web made up of kilometres of cables running between hardware housed in data centres. This includes using giant underwater cables to link different parts of the country, or other continents.
Everything from TikToks to Roblox to your emo blog from back in the day needs to be stored or hosted somewhere. When you click on a video, you are sending a request to where that video is being stored (sometimes on the other side of the world) and asking it to send you the data required for the video to load and play on your device.
This also helps to explain latency and its impact on online gaming. Latency measures how quick you can request and receive that data, a lower latency means that transactions happen faster, helping you get the edge over someone with higher latency.
How do we deliver your internet?
In Australia, the government created and built the National Broadband Network (NBN), which is owned and operated by NBN Co.
This is important because the network that connects you to the internet is split into two separate parts:
The first part is the physical cable that NBN have laid from one of their 121 Points of Interconnect (POIs) directly to your house and all the properties around you.
The second part of your connections is provided by your ISP as they build into and connect their network to each NBN POI. Or an internet company can piggyback on another company who has connected to those POIs.
It’s the strength of this second part that differentiates the internet you receive from various ISPs.
What is the Aussie Broadband network and what makes it different?
With the basics done and dusted, we want to explore how networks differ and what makes Aussie Broadband better, at least in our opinion.
A reliable network is much more important than having a plan with higher speeds. You may have the same connection type as your neighbour (e.g. Fibre to the Curb, Fibre to the Premise, HFC – find out more about connection types here), but very different speeds or connection reliability. This is because reliability and speeds are generally managed and influenced by the ISP you choose.
How an ISP manages their network directly impacts things like congestion, latency for gaming, stability, and reliability – picking a higher speed plan won’t solve the congestion or reliability issue your ISP is having.
ISPs manage these important factors in three main ways (plus our own secret sauce)
1. Building and controlling their own network
As we mentioned earlier, ISPs can either choose to build a network and connect it to each of NBNs 121 POIs or piggyback off another ISP’s network.
Aussie Broadband has connected our network to all 121 NBN POIs. This connection takes place in data centres across Australia.
Here’s how we connect to each NBN POI:
Connecting to NBNs POIs and having our own network means that we can control, manage and upgrade our network to keep up with the demand of customers and give them a better experience.
If a piggybacked network is having capacity issues and needs upgrading, then that ISP is reliant on their third-party network to perform upgrades, which they may or may not do.
Controlling our own network also helps when troubleshooting issues, as we will be better equipped to test and check when problems arise.
2. Network capacity & redundancy
Earlier in the piece we mentioned that the internet was data centres linked by cables. Each green dot is a major city where we have multiple data centres filled with networking hardware, all linked by fibre cabling. The green lines are our cables that connect each city or country.
We’ve put a lot of effort into ensuring that we have built a reliable network, with lots of capacity and different paths in case something goes wrong (which is called redundancy - read our blog on it here).
Redundancy is crucial for having alternatives in place to keep your connection online when things don’t go to plan, or someone doesn’t dial before they dig.
As you can see from our snapshot, we have lots of different paths and capacity for high-usage links, like Melbourne to Sydney. Think of it like adding lanes to a freeway, allowing more cars on the road without anyone slowing down and having different paths is like adding a second freeway.
If your ISP doesn’t add enough lanes to their freeway – e.g. having a 100G link but having 120G worth of traffic* - you’ll get the dreaded congestion and slower internet speeds.
*Side note: 100G means that the link can deliver data at 100 Gigabits per second (that’s pretty fast)
3. Bandwidth management
When an ISP, like Aussie, purchases wholesale network plans from NBN, they usually come with a certain amount of bandwidth. However, customers will often use more than the allocated bandwidth – especially in peak hours. It’s then up to ISPs to purchase more bandwidth allocation, also known as CVC, from NBN to make sure there is enough capacity to keep up with demand.
Aussie Broadband has always tried to have more than enough bandwidth during peak periods. To help us manage bandwidth allocation, we developed a CVC bot to keep track of bandwidth and automatically purchase more if a certain area gets close to their capacity, putting our customer’s experience before profit.
Here’s a CVC graph showing that we always prepare for use in peak times with lots of extra bandwidth, but if it looks like we need more, we will buy more from NBN – as you can see with the blue line going up during peak times.
Not all ISPs purchase enough, or any, extra bandwidth from NBN or increase their CVC if it looks like they are going to go over, which is why you might be experiencing slow buffering.
Our secret sauce – transparency
One of our values is ‘No Bullsh*t’ and that applies to how we talk to our customers.
From giving our customers access to their NBN CVC charts, so they can see our capacity, to notifying you about outages – we will always be transparent with our customers. We want to be accountable to the people we are providing a service to.
It’s also why we are writing this blog, because we want to help Aussies everywhere, regardless of who their ISP is, make informed choices about their internet connection.
We place a lot of importance on these three factors. It’s why we built our own network, so we can be in full control and improve the experience for our customers. It’s part of the way we are changing the game.
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