December 13, 2013
The Coalition's alternative NBN policy was based on the core pledge that the party would deliver download speeds of between 25Mbps and 100Mbps by the end of 2016 — effectively the end of its first term in power — and 50Mbps to 100Mbps by the end of 2019, effectively the end of its second term.
According to the Coalition’s statement, the 25Mbps to 100Mbps pledge applied to “all premises”, while the higher pledge by 2019 applies to “90 percent of fixed line users. These speeds would predominantly be delivered over the long-term with fibre to the node technology through upgrading Telstra’s existing copper network, focusing on areas where “the poorest broadband” services are currently suffered by residents and businesses. By the end of 2019, some 71 percent of premises were slated to be covered with fibre to the node infrastructure.
Behind this policy was Abbott's initial directive to Turnbull to destroy the NBN, even though the whole NBN idea was created to overcome a clear and demonstrable market failure that had already cost Australia 10 years. Well, the NBN is history. It was the ALP's infrastructure project, and they failed to deliver. We are left with the Coalition's FTP model, which implied that the NBN project would survive in a reasonable form under a Coalition Government, and that it would be built quicker and cheaper.
What we now know after the release of the NBN Strategic Review, is that this is not the case. What we discover is that there is a fundamental gulf between what the Coalition says it is doing, what is technologically achievable and what it is actually doing.
Those areas currently “served” by the HFC cable footprint will get no upgrade at all, only 43 percent of premises will have access to 25Mbps by 2016; many will doubtless still be on ADSL2+ when the Coalition’s “NBN” is completed; and NBN Co is not able to guarantee a 50Mbps connection on an FttN network as that is highly dependent on Telstra’s copper network.
The new strategy, dubbed the optimised multi-technology mix, will see 26% of premises reached by fibre to the premises (FTTP), Labor’s preferred technology.Thirty percent will receive HFC connections, and 44% will get fibre to the node (FTTN) – the slower option which relies on copper wiring to carry data from fibre connections into homes and businesses. So a quarter of Australia will be on the cutting edge, while the rest of us will be lucky to get that 25mbit download figure that Turnbull is so fond of. You can forget 50mbits down or higher.
We currently live in a world where many of us use ADSL2+ technology that is theoretically capable of 24Mbps, but many users are lucky to see one fifth of that speed. The coalition will need to spend $41 billion on its mixed-technology network that is not even delivering super-fast broadband to most Australians.
This is fundamental infrastructure which will underpin the future of the Australian economy and the public sector. Technology is an enabler and driver of innovation and Australia has suffered from poor telecommunications infrastructure for a decade or more. With the Coalition by 2025 the government of the day will be planning the upgrade of our cut-down NBN to be completely based on the same fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) technology that Labor had been implementing now.
Moreover their FttP model won't generate enough revenues to justify the expense of implementing FttN---we are going to be up for another $30 billion in expenditure for an FttP upgrade from 2025.