Turnbull unveils Coalition’s broadband plan


Turnbull unveils Coalition’s broadband plan

By science and technology correspondent Jake Sturmer, ABCUpdated April 9, 2013, 9:33 am



The Coalition has released the details of its alternative National Broadband Network plan, proposing a cheaper, but ultimately slower internet service.

The Opposition’s communication spokesman Malcolm Turnbull says the network will cost $20.4 billion and be completed in 2019 – two years ahead of Labor’s plan.

“We obviously don’t have access to all of NBN Co’s books but we’ve made very conservative assumptions, both about our plans and [NBN Co’s],” Mr Turnbull told AM.

Labor’s NBN is expected to be completed in 2021 and cost $37.4 billion.

But the Opposition believes the NBN could cost more than $90 billion, a figure rejected by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

On Twitter, the chair of the parliamentary committee investigating the NBN also dismissed the number.

If todays Daily Telegraph was true on NBN costing $90 billion, the INDEPENDENT Treasury/Finance boffins would have it on-budget.They don’t.

— Robert Oakeshott MP (@OakeyMP)

The difference between the two policies comes down to just a few letters – FttP or FttN.

Fibre to the premises

NBN Co is implementing a fibre to the premises (FttP) network.

The company is aiming to provide a fast, high-capacity fibre-optic broadband network that is available to 93 per cent of homes and businesses in Australia.

The remaining 7 per cent would be connected via fixed wireless and satellite.

At the moment, the maximum speed over the fibre network is 100 megabits per second, but NBN Co says speeds of one gigabit per second will be available.

That means you could download a one gigabyte movie in about 8 seconds.

Fibre to the node

In contrast, the Coalition has long advocated for a fibre to the node (FttN) network, a system which relies upon the existing copper network and theoretically has peak speeds of around 100 megabits per second.

It could be rolled out faster, but means fibre would not run past every home and would be subject to degradation similar to existing ADSL broadband connections.

Internet speeds would drop the further you are from the exchange/node.

In his interview with AM, Mr Turnbull said the goal was to ensure all Australians had access to at least 25 megabits per second.

“[25 megabits per second] will enable anybody in residential situations to do everything they want to do or need to do in terms of applications and services, and is six times faster than the average speed people are getting right now,” he said.

In , NBN Co chief Mike Quigley conceded the capital costs of the Coalition’s FttN plan could be more than 20 per cent cheaper.

“[But it would] be a more expensive network to maintain over the long term because you’re using much more sophisticated… technology to try and get the very best performance you can out of that copper which is an ageing asset,” Mr Quigley said.

Telecoms analyst/journalist Richard Chirgwin has to Labor’s FttP down the track would be $21 billion.

People could connect their homes directly to the fibre network under the Opposition’s plans, but Mr Turnbull has estimated it would cost thousands of dollars.

“The sort of person that would want to do that would be the very rare example on a residential area of somebody that has a very high bandwidth-demanding business, [like] an architect or a software designer,” he said.

Recent troubles for the NBN

The NBN has been hit by a series of setbacks lately.

Last week the competition watchdog ordered NBN Co to.

Last month NBN Co revealed it would .

Meanwhile a by up to 10 years and cost anywhere between 50 to 100 per cent more than before.

It ties in with News Limited reports of Coalition analysis claiming the network would cost up to $90 billion – a figure that .

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says the Opposition has not produced any evidence to support the claim.

Industry reaction

Many big internet service providers have thrown their support behind Labor’s plan.

The Coalition has indicated it will do a cost-benefit analysis of both systems if it wins government.

iiNet says it is confident it would show Labor’s FttP system to be superior.

The company’s chief regulatory officer unimpeded irrespective of whether the Coalition wins.

“That cost-benefit analysis ought to look at what the benefits are not just in terms of say simple performance but on the outcomes, improved outcomes for education, improved outcomes for health,” Mr Dalby said.
“It seems to me that common sense will prevail and we could see a… continuation with a change of shareholder in effect but with the plan continuing as it is.”

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