Turnbull again misleads public on NBN


analysis Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has this week again made a number of misleading and factually inaccurate statements in a series of interviews and comments about the Government’s National Broadband Network project, on topics ranging from the technology used in the project to its cost and retail broadband prices.

On Twitter this afternoon, the Coalition MP stated that the wireless component of the NBN, which is designed to serve a small rural percentage of the population to whom it would difficult to roll out fibre, wouldn’t offer similar wireless broadband as that available in city areas. “You won’t get the same as the city under NBN,” said Turnbull. “You get fixed wireless and not even at 4G/LTE — our approach would be better.”

However, as a number of Twitter users and NBN Co itself quickly pointed out, Turnbull’s statement was factually incorrect. NBN Co’s wireless rollout uses 4G/LTE standard equipment as provided by Swedish manufacturer Ericsson. NBN Co and Ericsson made this clear in a media release released in June 2011 (PDF), when they signed the contract for the wireless network to be rolled out.

Turnbull is correct that the peak speeds offered under NBN Co’s wireless rollout (12Mbps) will not match the peak speeds offered under the 4G mobile networks being rolled out by telcos like Telstra and Optus at the moment. However, the fixed wireless solution being used by NBN Co will deliver sustained speeds suitable for a household broadband connection regularly using streaming media. The 4G networks built by Telstra and Optus do not aim to match that ability and are generally considered more suitable for mobile or ad-hoc use, whereas NBN Co’s fixed wireless connection is intended to be comparable in quality to a fixed broadband connection.

Secondly, in a radio interview on Sydney’s 2GB Radio this week with host Ross Greenwood (transcript available here), Turnbull stated that he did not believe many Internet service providers providing retail services over the NBN would set the same price nationally for access. “Senator Stephen Conroy the Communications Minister today and I quote him: ‘Across Australia everyone gets the same price.’ Do you believe that’s true?” Greenwood asked Turnbull.

“Well, the Government can deliver the same wholesale price but whether, over the NBN, but whether retailers provide the same price remains to be seen,” Turnbull replied. “And of course from a customer point of view the only thing that matters is the retail price. Now Telstra I imagine will provide national prices but I don’t think many other companies will.” In this statement Turnbull was again factually incorrect. Major ISPs representing the overwhelming majority of Australia’s broadband customers — including Telstra, Optus, iiNet, Primus, Internode, Exetel and more have set standardised national pricing for the NBN, including in rural areas, due to the Government’s policy of providing a uniform wholesale national price. In fact, many existing ADSL broadband plans feature nationalised pricing schemes.

In a further statement, Turnbull alluded to accounting methods for the money being invested in the NBN project, responding to a question from Greenwood.

“So the $36 billion dollars the taxpayer has been promised that is off the balance sheet of Australia, do you believe ultimately that we’ll wake up one day and discover that the bill is more?” Greenwood asked the former Opposition Leader. “I think it’ll be much more,” Turnbull replied. “It is on the balance sheet, they’re just not running it through the budget statements, but it is definitely on the balance sheet. Now the problem is that the money they’ll invest in the NBN is going to be a lot more than it’s ultimately worth.”

Turnbull is correct that the Government has not included the cost of the NBN as an expense in its annual budget statements.

However, this is because — contrary to his second statement — the NBN is projected to eventually be worth more than it will cost to build. NBN Co’s projections, over several decades, show that the project will make an internal return on the Government’s investment of between $1.93 billion in the worst case to $3.92 billion in the best case. According to a research note recently published by the Parliamentary Library of Australia, Labor is technically correct to count for the NBN as an investment and not an expense.

In follow-up statements, Turnbull said that the Coalition’s rival policy would be “cheaper, because the approach we’re going to take will save billions of dollars”. “And it will be more affordable, because we will have spent less money on the network and so we won’t have to charge as much for access,” he added.

However, there is currently no available evidence to support the claim that the Coalition’s rival policy — which would see fibre to the node technology rolled out around Australia, instead of the more comprehensive fibre to the home approach favoured by Labor — would cost less than the current NBN policy, which is actually projected to make a return on investment — it will not be an expense and so will not “cost” anything. The Coalition has not released projected costs or return on investment for its proposal, but a recent analysis by Citigroup found that the Coalition’s policy would cost some $16.7 billion. The Citigroup report didn’t mention what financial return, if any, the Coalition’s proposal was slated to bring in on its own investment.

In addition, like Labor’s NBN policy, the Coalition’s rival policy would also see a substantial payment made to Telstra for the use of its copper network. Estimates of that cost vary, but are likely to also run in the billions. In a separate interview with ABC Radio National this morning (transcript available here), Turnbull said he didn’t believe Telstra would be paid “any more” under such an arrangement (it will receive $11 billion from NBN Co under the current deal), but it would get paid the money sooner as the network build would go faster if it was using fibre to the node technology, which doesn’t reach all the way to premises.

It is theoretically possible that the Coalition’s policy would make a return on investment proportionately greater than that of Labor’s NBN policy, but this would not be able to be estimated until the Coalition releases projected costs for its proposal.

In the same ABC interview this morning, Turnbull also said that although NBN Co’s mandate, allocated to it by the government, was to build a fibre to the home network to cover 93 percent of Australian premises, the organisation was being financially irresponsible. “They’re doing that without regard to cost, there’s never been a budget set for it and it’s going to cost whatever it will cost – it will be a lot of money, many billions of dollars as we know,” Turnbull said.

However, on this matter, Turnbull is again incorrect.

The NBN rollout does have a detailed budget. That budget is disclosed in the organisation’s corporate plan, which incorporates forecasts covering the three years from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2013. The organisation is expected to shortly deliver an updated plan, following the release of the past plan in December 2010. According to NBN Co’s business plan, the NBN will cost between $36.5 billion and $44.6 billion to build over the next ten years, depending on how high variable construction costs range in that time.

In a separate statement made yesterday, following the announcement that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had approved Telstra’s plan to structurally separate its operations and migrate its customers to the NBN, Turnbull made further inaccurate statements. “Yesterday’s announcement of ACCC approval for Telstra’s Structural Separation Undertaking (SSU) does not, contrary to the claims of Julia Gillard and Stephen Conroy, effect a structural separation of Telstra,” he wrote.

It’s unclear as to why Turnbull made this statement. In follow-up paragraphs, he notes that structural separation of Telstra means that the customer access network (in Telstra’s case, the copper network used to provide telephony and broadband) is separately owned and managed from the retail business of Telstra. In short, to be separated, Telstra cannot have both wholesale and retail customers on its copper network. However, as Turnbull also notes, Labor will achieve this aim through building the NBN and shutting down Telstra’s copper network, with Telstra’s retail customers to be migrated onto the NBN infrastructure. This will have the effect of structurally separating Telstra’s operations — making Turnbull’s initial statement on the matter incorrect.

To be fair to Turnbull, the majority of his statements this week have been either correct or subject to debate. Opinions vary about the extent to which the NBN policy will have an impact on long-term competitive outcomes in the telecommunications industry or to what extent Telstra would be keen to assist a Coalition Government in building a fibre to the node network, for example, and it is impossible in many areas of the NBN debate to say who is precisely wrong or right. In this article we have sought to isolate and correct a number of demonstratably incorrect statements by Turnbull which made up a minority of his comments about the NBN this week — but we didn’t address the majority of his truthful or legitimately opinionated statements.

In addition, the Coalition has not been the only side of politics to have misled the Australian public about issues related to the telecommunications sector this week, with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy on Tuesday appearing to consciously state several factual inaccuracies with respect to the current implementation status of Labor’s controversial Internet filtering project.

However, the incorrect comments made by Turnbull this week also represent only the most recent occasion on which the Liberal MP has made factually incorrect statements regarding the NBN.

In several radio interviews in early February, for example, Turnbull stated that the National Broadband Network project would cause consumer broadband prices to rise higher than those currently on the market. However, unfortunately this statement was factually incorrect, given current NBN pricing. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, also in early February, made several incorrect statements about the NBN’s funding model.

With all this in mind, as Delimiter has previously written, we would hope that the Coalition would tighten up its speech about the NBN in public in future — or at least provide some evidence to refute currently available evidence about the NBN. The debate about an important national project such as the NBN should not be a debate based on incorrect statements, but on fact.


  1. So what more did you really expect the Noalition to say. They wouldn’t know what the word “truth” meant, do we remember the ute affair when Turnbull was opposition leader, the man is a compulsory liar.

    • Almost all politicians ultimately lie about most things. Politics is the art of making your own lies as plausible as possible.

      The hilarity ensues when their lies becomes so easily refutable.

      Like this.

      But don’t think for a moment that Conroy doesn’t spin it either.

      • This is the problem with inaccurate statements about the NBN. The rollout is so technical, it is relatively easy to discern when falsehoods are being told.

        • the NBN seems to just breed bullshit spinning.

          Tony had his turn today, re Wayne Swan – “…and is now digging up people’s streets to give them the national broadband network whether they want it or not.”

          i count at least two things wrong in that statement. we know Tony is self admittedly ‘no Bill Gates’ but really, if he wants to trash his opposition over the NBN the best thing he can do is keep his gob shut and leave it to Malcolm. the amount of misrepresentation and simplistic bullshittery in the name of political pointscoring is fast becoming a tired, old game.

          theres plenty of things you can truthfully bash Swan for but Tony makes himself look the worse for lying to do so.

      • No doubt re spinning but Conroy is at least spinning to get the thing built. Btw ***Go Bombers***

  2. Democracy is about ideas – there is no room for deliberate corruption of the truth unless you’re a thief seeking to steal something, IMHO! How can Liberal voters let this slide??

    • I’ve come to the view that Turnbull must be deliberately white-anting his own party’s position through such absurd statements. Wait for the interview when he admits that his party’s broadband solution will involve the killing of cute kittens and fluffy bunnies.

      The Fran Kelly interview was a corker this morning. I could tell he was rattled when he started blathering about “Orwellian” language on Mike Quigley’s part. Pure bluster – and patently absurd.

      • I lean to the thinking that he is tacitly for the NBN but Abbott and the Liberal hardliners have taken a position of opposition, and therefore he too must oppose.

        He probably figures his lies will be compared to Conroy’s lies, and in that he will probably still come out looking better.

  3. Pretty sure Turnbull is referring to backhaul costs from POI’s when he talks about nationwide equal pricing, it WILL cost ISP’s more to service regional POI’s than metro POI’s, this is a fact – even delivering a service in Perth or Adelaide is going to cost more than doing it in Sydney.

    However, I think it’s a non issue – when we have >80k people on every POI folk like NextGen, PIPE, AAPT, Amcom are going to be tripping over each other to get to them.

  4. Turnbulls wireless comment is curious and a bit hypocritical considering he has forever been whinging about NBNco’s “one-size-its-all” approach:

    “You won’t get the same as the city under NBN”

    “we are dubious about Labor’s determination to impose the one-size-fits-all NBN on every part of the country without regard for either cost or fitness for purpose”

    • I think the fact the NBN includes a wireless component has presented quite a challenge for the government… how do you explain in a sound-bite that fibre is better than wireless, except we’re giving wireless to 4% of people because its cheaper, and although wireless is cheaper we’re giving 93% the more expensive option. Would be nice if people had longer attention spans.

      • Wireless is fine at a low population density – that is, lower than what you would find in the big cities. The NBN wireless component is also fixed wireless, not fully mobile – so it will be easy to maintain the number of connections per tower in such a way that they can guarantee advertised speeds.

        • A lot of those customers would be using wireless already, and not even know it: lots of microwave back haul across the country. But that would be too complex for the average person to comprehend!

  5. After years following this debate I have come to the conclusion that radio journalists are engaging in lazy journalism of the highest order when they distil this very complex debate to sound bites by Conroy and Turnbull. They may feel they are providing editorial balance but all they are doing is providing a mouthpiece for diametrically opposed politicians to say whatever they want and have it go unquestioned.

    Fair enough that the journalists might not be across every nuance of the telecommunications industry but they could at least do their homework enough to realise that there are scads of well-informed analysts out there that could give independent, fact-based opinions rather than just listening to politicians parrot the same responses over and over. Turnbull can be flexible with the truth and journalists that let him portray his opinion as unquestioned fact are compromising themselves and doing their listening public a severe disservice.

    • The only radio journalists I have found to be accurate and thorough with respect to the NBN debate are the ones working at the ABC. I recommend you listen to this morning’s interview with Turnbull on Radio National — Fran Kelly hands him his ass on several points. He actually became quite evasive.

    • Spot on David. Why do you think Turnbull keeps turning up for these talkback radio interviews? The questions he gets asked are so incredibly biased they are designed to get him to provide the exact answer he’s looking to promote. Yet the public is too dumb to pick up on the hypocrisy.

      One minute he bitches that it is irresponsible to have the same technology and price across city and rural and that, I quote, “why should the city users be paying higher prices to subsidise the expensive rural fibre” yet the next day in another itnterview he claims “you won’t get the same as the city under NBN”!!!!!!! Seriously?????

      Yet instead of these “journalists” picking him up on it they just sheepishly ask their loaded quaestions straight out of the liberal party propaganda book..

      • Indeed DJ… they just don’t know, change their minds daily and are simply, clutching at straws…

        “Wireless broadband makes economic sense and places rural and regional Australia at the frontier of current technologies. To ensure prices to end users in rural and regional Australia are comparable to those for similar services in metropolitan areas, the operator(s) of these wireless broadband networks will be required to provide a service over the network at a price comparable to similar DSL services in metropolitan areas. The requirement will apply for the life of the contract (expected to be fifteen years)”.



  6. I used to have respect for Malcolm Turnbull – but his constant lying about the NBN is shocking. What’s going on with him – his b*llshit is proving so easy to refute. Good work.

  7. Sorry to be picky but the NBNCo-Telstra deal will not structurally separate Telstra. The deal decommissions Telstra’s fixed-line CAN within the NBNCo’s FTTP footprint. It does not separate the CAN off into another, separate company. afaik Telstra will be the vertically integrated owner of the fixed-line CAN outside the NBNCo’s FTTP footprint.

    What the deal achieves is the removal of Telstra’s (and Optus’) fixed-line vertical integration for 93% of residences. This is the real goal. Structural separation is one way to achieve it. Decommissioning is another. The important thing is that it will be achieved.

    What Turnbull says in this respect is not misleading, unlike most of the stuff he says.

    • The practical effect of the NBN fibre rollout is to structurally separate Telstra. There is no getting around that, no matter how “picky” you want to be ;)

      • Nope. The practical effect is to remove Telstra’s vertical integration within the FTTP footprint. Whether it’s achieved by decommissioning or structural separation is largely irrelevant as long as it’s achieved.

        Turnbull is correct here. What he is saying is irrelevant, but it’s not misleading.

        That’s about picky enough for now :)

          • With structural separation the CAN, including the exchange buildings, pits, ducts, etc., would belong to a company other than Telstra. This is not what we are getting.

          • Ownership of ducts etc isnt the point , but rather Separation of Telstras retail arm from its Wholesale arm. The decommissioning of the Copper and the regulation of DSL etc effectively does that.. NBNco will be leasing infrastructure from other Companies as well. Thus “Structural separation” provides measures in to ensure existing fixed line services are supplied to wholesale customers on the same terms as they are supplied to Telstra’s retail arm.

          • CMOTDibbler says “With structural separation the CAN, including the exchange buildings, pits, ducts, etc., would belong to a company other than Telstra. This is not what we are getting.”

            And everyone knows that exact scenario is never going to happen. Would cost tens of billions of dollars unless an Abbott led Government is going to do a Government buy back Ha Ha. Telstra split into two is not in my books structural separation. It would have to be a completely non related company with very deep pockets to do that. Any suggestions??

            As Renai said 93% of Australia sounds like good enough structural separation to me as well.

  8. Renai,
    I hope you don’t mind me interrupting the NBN love-in here but let me just deal with your criticisms:

    1. Fixed wireless. Yes it is stated to be a 4G solution, but as you note my point was that it would be running at a much lower speed (12 mbps) than the peak speeds offered on 4G in the cities (and no doubt elsewhere in Australia as it is rolled out) by the mobile wireless operators.

    2. As far as national retail prices are concerned, it is still very early days (hate to confuse you with facts but the NBN still has only 2500 active connected customer premises – or has there been a few more hooked up this week) and if all the RSPs offer nationally consistent prices then that would be great – but I would be surprised if the cut price RSPs do so for example. We shall see. I hope you are right.

    3. On the point of the accounting for the NBN, you seem to be criticising me and then agreeing with me. The reason the NBN investment is not run through the cashflow statement that is the budget statements is because it is being held as an investment and the assumption is that the investment (shares in the NBN Co) are going to be worth not less than the amount invested. However my point is that the value of the NBN Co is very likely, almost certainly in my view, going to be worth a lot less than its cost and accordingly at some point in the future the Australian National Audit Office should require a write down of that investment and the write down should then be expensed through the Budget. But we will see – lets see how many of the cheerleaders for the NBN are prepared to buy shares in it at the same price the Commonwealth is paying?

    4. As to your assertion that there is no evidence that FTTN is cheaper than FTTP, there Renai you are insulting the intelligence of your readers. If you knew anything about broadband networks around the world (and I know you do) you would know that FTTN is a much cheaper technique for improving broadband services than FTTP – that is why most telcos use it. The Analysys Mason group estimated last year that in Europe FTTP costs more than 3 times FTTN. If FTTP is cheaper than FTTN, why isn’t everyone doing it everywhere??

    5. Your assertion that using Telstra’s copper would require a substantial additional payment to Telstra is no more than an assertion. You seem to forget that under the NBN current plan the Telstra copper is going to be overbuilt and rendered valueless (except for scrap I suppose). Telstra would be advantaged by making their copper available because it would mean the NBN would be completed sooner and their payments for decommissioning customers would be accelerated. So it would be good for Telstra and much, much cheaper for the Commonwealth.

    6. Again you are not correct when you object to my saying NBN does not have a budget. It does not. The corporate plan is not a budget – it is a forecast of what building the network will cost. By budget I am referring to what a responsible government would do which is to say: we want to upgrade broadband, make it affordable, ubiquitous etc and we are prepared to spend $x billion – so do your homework and make sure you can achieve this objective, cost effectively and within the financial limit we have set. What Conroy has done is mandate Quigley to build FTTP to 93% of the population, wireless and satellite to the rest without any limitation on cost at all.

    7. Your point about structural separation is also wrong. The SSU is designed to ensure that there is equitable wholesale access to Telstra’s network in the period from now to whenever the NBN is completed. During that period Telstra is NOT structurally separated, that happens when the NBN is completed. So my point was simply to observe that Gillard should not have said “Hooray, the SSU is approved, structural separation is achieved.” It is, at best, a work in progress.

    Thats all for tonight.


    • Firstly about your 4G comment. They are using the same technology currently used in mobile 4G in the cities with only two major differences. The NBN is not creating a mobile network it’s creating a fixed network with a fixed number of users and every user has significantly larger antennae than those using mobile devices. Both of these things should in theory give better performance. The 12Mbps they quote is the peak speed they expect to get at the edges of the wireless areas so, logically, the peak speeds possible closer to the tower will be much higher. There is no justification for saying that the wireless parts of the NBN will deliver “much lower speeds” than “4G” in the cities.

      As for the prices you’re assuming that both the current prices are going to change AND that they’re going to change in exactly the way which would be politically convenient to you. You have no justification for this other than saying “time will tell”. Your assumption that the NBN won’t be worth more than it’s cost is equally based on nothing more than a hunch. In fact the reality is the NBN remains a popular project. Not only that but according to Quigley on RN this morning people subscribing to the network are buying higher speeds than NBNCo predicted. If true then you’re “it’s worth less than we’re paying” argument work flies out the window.

      On the FTTN network. Your argument that it’d be cheaper and faster now also has to get around the fact that we’re already doing FTTH. If you can detail your plan to, once you get into government, get around all of the contracts and all of the planning money spent already and STILL deliver FTTN quicker and cheaper than a natural completion of the NBN would have been then you have an argument. Untill then even the most “Liberal” of the the NBN “cheerleaders” will remain unconvinced.

      On the structural separation not being an actual structural seperation. I think you’re using a bit of “Orwellean language” there.

    • Malcolm, in regards to FTTN, I agree that it is cheaper today, but I do not believe that it is cheaper in the long-term.

      FTTN would mean the majority of people remain on a ADSL connection, with the average moving somewhere closer to 24Mbps., though likely not beyond half of that (I’m 350 metres from my exchange and I max out at about 17Mbps). Does it give a technical advantage beyond this, and do you believe the rather low upload speeds will be sufficient?

      Do you think the average FTTN speed will be adequate after 1-2 years of cost benefit analysis and negotiation with Telstra, followed by the build time?

      Do you believe there is a realistic upgrade path from FTTN to FTTP? It is well established that every cabinet will require an ADSL2+ DSLAM which will be redundant once the area moves to FTTP. Also, the fibre cables running from the exchange to the cabinet will not be sufficent to service a FTTP area, so more must be laid, as well as those to the actual premises. This would seem to take more work cumulatively than just doing it all in one go.

      I think that FTTN provides a marginal benefit, for the cost. FTTP does require a higher initial CAPEX, but you get a modern network architecture with a clear upgrade path to 10G GPON, which features coexistence with GPON. Technology selection is currently occuring for the standard after 10G GPON, and is also expected to allow coexistence. The move from 9.6kbps to 56kbps modems and up through ADSL was relatively painless to the general public because we were able to keep the same cables in the ground, but this is not possible for our next upgrade. Do we really want to do this twice in 20 years? I would personally prefer to have a larger percentage of the population on fixed wireless, but you’re the one in the Coalition, how well do you think that would go down with the Nationals?

      One final point… I imagine the DSLAMs in every cabinet would do nothing to make switching ISP any faster. There’s no reason why switching Internet provider shouldn’t be as easy as switching electricity provider. Making communication a true utility service would be far preferable to the current mess we have.

    • With due respect Mr. Turnbull I must challenge your comment about the NBN wireless versus the LTE mobile wireless in the City.

      The NBN wireless connection is being constructed for a finite number of users and the speed quoted by them of 12mbps is guaranteed to each customer. This will not be effected by demand variations as the system is designed for the demand.

      The “City” mobile network speeds on LTE are going to vary according to the demand for bandwidth on individual towers within the network. What speeds these networks are going to really deliver to customers is certain, on current experience, going to be much less than the high speeds being touted by the RSPs. Media reviews of the new Telstra 4G network have already shown wide variations in the speeds being experienced in different locations.

      You are in effect trying to compare oranges and pears because the design and implementation of each of these networks are totally different.

    • Here is where you are confused nbnco are not a bunch of lying business men like telstra. Telstra says you will get up to a speed but in actual use you get much much less eg the 3g connection I was forced to used due to liberal inaction it could give up to 40 Mbps at night it gave me less than dial up I would be lucky to load a single web page all for the low price of $99 a month for 12GB.

      12 Mbps is a minimum speed and is is a dam sight faster than anything currently available to many residents in the suburbs

      • 12 Mbps is NOT the minimum speed, it is the maximum speed (assuming only 15 houses are online at that time). CONTENTION!!!! Each tower is servicing 360 homes – you do the maths. NBN Co has admitted publically that they will only guarantee speeds of 0.5 Mbps from their fixed wireless towers!

        What ever happened to equity for all – I pay my taxes, just like you lot in the city. In addition, I grow your food – maybe we should start witholding that, save it for ourselves – too expensive to freight to you! That is essentially what the NBN is doing to us. Not happy!

        • Personally as someone who has ADSL2+… for “my current needs”, it is ok. It’s reasonably quick, reasonable quota and reasonably priced. However, the NBN isn’t a) just about me, or b) about current requirements only. This is one reason I like the NBN, as it provides for everyone and for the future.

          Sure not everyone throughout Australia will receive the exact same technologies, due to the population density differences, vastness and harshness of our nation, but I think to most, this is basic, rational common sense. Let’s face it, the $36B bill is already a target of the anally conservative opposition and their media mouths, let alone if the roll out was even more costly fibre throughout the entire nation.

          But as someone who lauds the NBN, not so much for me but for future generations and those currently in need (such as those on RIMs or especially those rurally situated) it is comments like those above which are really starting to irk me.

          For years our rural brothers and sisters have been totally neglected by the private sector and by governments. Yet they copped it and didn’t say a word and of course voted and will always vote for the Nationals (half of the Coalition who will again neglect them by killing off the NBN) and if it wasn’t for the basic USO providing them with telephony, they have either had the choice of nothing, or to pay astronomical amounts for the private sector to provide internet access for them.

          So finally, along comes NBNCo with a weighted plan to make, cost effective, affordable improvements for everyone in Australia. Yet those rurally, previously forgotten/ignored or blatantly price gouged, are the first to whinge about the NBNs vast improvements both in technology and affordability, because someone else will get better?

          They quickly forget about their pre-NBN/current situation (and with a change of government, the future situation) and whine instead of saying, well finally, at least someone is doing something for us both technlogically and especially, in regards to affordability.

          Btw, how can NBN offer more affordable rural plans? Oh, because “those like me in the cities, will have to pay more to cross-subsidise cheaper access for those rurally situated – and I really don’t mind”… So thanks for returning the favour and wanting to hold back my fkn meat, fruit and veg!

          • You are listing a government sponsored initiative as a justification for another government sponsored initiative?

        • @ RoW, they are coming daily now…

          Now that businesses are starting to understand the benefits of the upcoming improved communications systems (yes NBN), especially for dealing with those rurally situated.


          So in just two days, we have plans for improved legal services and banking systems, to help rural people… once these people finally have decent internet access.

          Still not happy?

          • Yes. Still not happy! Although ‘rural’ I currently have ADSL2+ access at reasonable speeds – better than the 12Mbps peak speed of the NBN. Add in the contention and delay issues of fixed wireless – not happy! Glad you all feel that wasting our tax payers money on a white elephant tower is justified. Do you also know about the compulsory “filtering” that will be applied to the NBN? If voluntary – fine, but compulsory? That is censorship!

    • hey Malcolm,

      thanks for your comment; it is much appreciated by myself and the readers. I’ll respond at length later on today when I get a free second — it has been a busy day ;)


    • @1

      You’re comparing a typical speed for a user at the edge of the network (as stated by Quigley iirc, speeds will increase significantly at shorter distances) to a maximum speed of a mobile network that will be bogged down by thousands of users. You’re ignoring Telstra’s awful quota limits imposed on their LTE network to try and keep it from becoming congested.


      I agree that it’s hard to say right now.

      Still, RSPs have a wholesale price guarantee at the moment – with the Coalition plan, RSPs don’t even have an estimate.


      If you’re concerned about write downs, then say that, but try and explain why you think the value will need to be written down.


      Straw man. The assertion is not that “FTTN is not cheaper than FTTP”. The situation is a whole lot more complicated than that.

      I believe that Renai is saying that, with the current situation, a policy shift would be slow and potentially expensive – issues like compensating Telstra could end up more expensive than the capital for the rollout itself – and the new policy has not specified if the network will actually provide any return. If the policy is to leave NBN Co as the owner of the assets with the Government earning revenue from NBN Co, then this should be stated clearly. Then, projections for revenue should be stated and given the same scrunity as NBN Co’s current projections.

      If anything is left unsaid, then the worst will be assumed.


      If Telstra wants $11b to no longer earn revenue from copper, then they want $11b to no longer earn revenue from copper. Their statements on the matter suggest that this point is not negotiable. I cannot see their shareholders accepting any less.


      This borders on an argument of semantics.


      Hard to say without looking at Julia’s exact words.

      @The 29/2 policy announcement

      The main problem is that there aren’t really any numbers. The only real number is the suggestion that (overseas) FTTN has been around 1/3 of the capital cost.

      How much will it cost for us? Will NBN Co own all the related assets? (Copper, the nodes themselves, etc.) How much revenue will be earned?

      What kind of wholesale pricing will be offered? Will it be uniform? Will the same PoI connection model be used, and will there still be 121 of them?

      What speed tiers will be offered? *Can* speed tiers even be offered? Will high upload speeds be offered? Can multiple connections be provided in a single premises (as with current ONTs) without a drop in performance? What sort of typical performance can be expected? (Eg. the typical layer 2 performance of 100Mbps over GPON is ~99.5Mbps (and ~995 for 1000Mbps), while the typical performance of 24Mbps ADSL is ~10Mbps, and this is fixed by line length).

      Saying it will be cheaper than the NBN, and making vague comments about it being “faster” (faster than what? dialup?) don’t really tell us anything.

      Don’t bother pointing to overseas examples. FTTN deployments can vary from (at retail) dirt cheap (in Europe and Asia) to costing a fortune (for VDSL in NZ), and performance can vary from ~80Mbps (Europe and Asia) to ~12-15Mbps (NZ). In short, what are we getting *here* and how much will it cost?

    • I have to say it is very brave for Malcolm to even post here. He is not going to convince anyone. Anyone with technical knowledge about networks understands that the mostly-FTTH NBN that is under construction is far superior to any of the various plans the coalition has come out with in the past few years.

      Most people who are against the NBN are mainly against it because of either a politically ideological point of view (ie. because they are died-in-the-wool Liberal voters and everything that the ALP does, ever, is bad, just because the ALP are doing it) or because their understanding of the NBN comes from misinformation and lies propagated by Abbott, Turnbull, and their supporters in the media. We are still seeing comments on NBN articles from people complaining that they don’t want the NBN because they don’t want more expensive internet, despite the fact that retail prices from a multitude of RSPs are freely available and demonstratably NOT more expensive.

      Of course there is the overlap of “technically knowledgeable” and “died-in-the-wool Liberal voters” – people who have stated that they are voting Labor for the first time because of Abbotts ignorance in this area. They are the people that Abbott/Turnbull should be listening to.

    • To answer you in turn Mr Turnbull, I will place my responses to you in point form, matching numbers with your like discourse:

      1. Mr Turnbull, you have taken the 4G solution (located in cities) and applied it to the NBN wireless solution (a solution for 4% of the population on the fringe of capital cities. Not only is this disingenuous, it shows a flagrant disregard for the citizens (let me use a term you may understand better … voters) of it’s target group. I invite you to please talk to those people to find out exactly how well 3G is turning out for them, let alone the promised 4G.

      2. Also disingenuous Mr Turnbull. With you consistently arguing for competition in order of retail pricing (most recently shown in your latest interview) I find you are lacking in candour that you would then argue for nationally consistent prices for RSP’s. NBNCo is already doing this wholesale, as promised. Are you expecting a method to enforce prices across RSP’s as well? Hardly in the spirit of competition.

      3. To refute this Mr Turnbull, you need look no further than Telstra, and it’s wholesale fixed line profits. I imagine that you could argue that they have been falling, however I would hope that you would acknowledge that it is partly due to several reasons (rather than the one I’ve seen you tout before, that is, your perceived popularity of wireless), that is, that incessant regulation has eroded Telstra’s commercial profits.

      Because NBNCo is required to deliver (at this time) a 7% return, when measured against the existing incumbent Telstra, and taking into account the anticipated market penetration of NBNCo (that is, 100% of the Australian population minus those that opt for alternative technologies) I would hope that you have some solid numbers to back up your “view” that it’s going to be “worth a lot less”, because the existing incumbent’s view would disagree with you, as you may find out if you happen to gain power and attempt to bargain with them.

      4. You are correct Mr Turnbull, FTTN is a much cheaper technique. However I haven’t seen you address in any detail the long term ramifications of this strategy. If we are to upgrade to fibre to the home at a later date, how much does that add to the cost of your FTTN upgrade? As a taxpayer and a concerned citizen for the long term health of our country, I find it reprehensible that you would be advocating a solution that, while initially cheaper, ties the Australian public to a rapidly outdating medium (copper), and do not address the follow up question of how much it will cost us, the Australian people, to eventually extend fibre from the node to the home. If you cannot come up with an alternative, or an incentive to business to at least offer fibre to the home on a reasonable user pays basis, then your FTTN strategy is extremely short sighted and duplicitous.

      5. Mr Turnbull you seem to forget that the copper is owned by Telstra, not the Australian public, and Telstra will do whatever it damn well pleases with that copper, to it’s advantage. For you to suggest that we use that copper through whatever means necessary (buying from Telstra, or renting it) means a reversal of your predecessor’s strategy of selling Telstra in the first place (don’t worry, I equally blame the ALP for creating that monolith, but your party is responsible for the sale of Telstra as a private entity, which I might add, was not the wishes of the Australian public).

      You are acknowledging, with this strategy, that your party’s previous policy, that is, privatizing Australian telecommunications infrastructure to the homeownerhas, by and large, failed. You are also continuing the failed strategy by lining Telstra’s pockets once again with very little to offer the Australian public other than the nebulous idea that somehow, your party will “make it all better”. After your party’s abysmal track record in the telecommunications sector, do you seriously expect us to just trust you to do so again?

      6. Mr Turnbull, the Australian public wants more from it’s government. The Australian public desperately want to believe in a government that is there for its people, that it will stand proudly by it’s achievements. If the Australian public wanted cost effectiveness, I would advise them to invest in any blue chip organization.

      Quigley has, at every opportunity, demonstrated that he takes our taxpayer dollars seriously. You have been invited to meet with him. Have you done so? The limitation on cost that you refer to, I suggest you take up with Sen Conroy, as on the DBCDE site itself, specifically the media release for the NBN, it specifically refers to $43 billion dollars, jointly invested.

      7. In this Mr Turnbull, you are correct. However, the SSU has accomplished exactly what previous government was unable to accomplish, equitable wholesale access to Telstra’s network. This is a milestone that I have witnessed both yourself and certain media outlets attempt to blunt via rhetoric. Your colleague, Paul Fletcher, documented the attempts of the Coalition to do this in Wired Brown Land. While it is understandable that you focus on the inaccuracies in order to gain political capital, you cannot deny that this government has delivered something in 2 terms, what your party’s government failed to deliver in 3.

      Additionally, with regards to these comments:

      “I hope you don’t mind me interrupting the NBN love-in here”
      “hate to confuse you with facts”
      “lets see how many of the cheerleaders for the NBN”

      I find these sort of snide comments (and in this, I don’t only refer to you or your party, but politicians as a whole) counterproductive to what I, the Australian taxpayer expects from anyone who would like to be responsible with running this country. I (because I cannot speak for everyone) am personally fed up with politicians condescending and snide remarks, it smacks of a superiority complex. Please remember, that you work for us, the Australian people, of all persuasions. We are deserving of your respect. If you can’t offer at least that, then perhaps you are in the wrong job.

      In closing, I should perhaps tell you a little about myself, in order to deflect criticism based on political influence. I am not affiliated with any political party. I voted neither for the Coalition or the Labor party at the last election. Neither of you deserved my vote. I am a simple Australian taxpayer that wants to see the Australian government, regardless of which party is in power, step up to the plate and deliver a first class telecommunications network to the benefit of it’s citizens. The current NBN (and the ALP by association) is doing so. Your NBN will not, this is aptly demonstrated by the fumbling of the portfolio by previous Coalition ministers (and in fumbling, I’m talking about dealing with Telstra), and the sparse detail you have provided on your competing policy now.

      I know the Coalition is capable of more. Please give me a reason to believe that if the government changes to a Coalition, that you are changing policies not to differentiate yourselves from your ALP counterparts, but that you are progressing this country forward by giving us, the citizenry, what we deserve, a first class telecommunications network for our children and grandchildren.


      • Excuse me, my first paragraph should read as follows:

        1. Mr Turnbull, you have taken the 4G solution (located in cities) and applied it to the NBN wireless solution (a solution for 4% of the population for the fringe dwellers and semi-rural citizens) . Not only is this disingenuous, it shows a flagrant disregard for the citizens (let me use a term you may understand better … voters) of it’s target group. I invite you to please talk to those people to find out exactly how well 3G is turning out for them, let alone the promised 4G.

    • 1. fixed wireless vs mobile wireless is not a comparison you can make – fixed has *guaranteed* speeds, mobile is toss up, too many users on the tower and your speed will drop. why do you expect mobile 4g to be any different to mobile 3g?

      2. i dont think its legally or politically possible to force a consistent retail pricing across the entire market. you would have to declare every single part of the pricing chain, especially backhaul (you know, the market where great pains were taken to keep it intact by having 120+ pois).

      3. feel free to aliente your supporters some more, not all of us “cheerleaders” are labour supporters you know, some policies are more important to us than party lines, im sure denigrating us is the way to go to win us over.

      4. perhaps you should clarify which fttn you are basing your costs off? after all i would agree that an fttn with nodes every 4km would be much cheaper than ftth (although speeds would be pathetic), whereas an fttn with nodes at 500m (to ensure decentish speeds, and almost allow for bonding) wouldnt be so cheap, and could end up just as expensive, if not more so, than ftth.

      5. so your assertion is that you wont have to pay telstra for access? or are you using the words “additional payment” in regards to piggy backing off the current telstra deal? although im not sure how you could use that deal under fttn.

      btw, copper scrap prices were pretty decent last time i looked.

      how can you build fttn sooner? you need to go through the pc (to find the best solutions) and do a cba (you said you would do both of those, and then choose). nodes have to be built, the copper last mile needs to be redirected from the exchange to the new nodes. if you have to re-negotiate with telstra then that could add another 2 years.

      im not sure how telstra getting their payments faster is of any incentive to the taxpayers? actually why are you paying telstra for customer cutovers under your fttn? nbnco is paying them a fee because they want the customer base off fibre and onto fibre, your fttn plan has the customers already connected, surely you should only have to pay telstra for the last mile segments from the node to the home (im presuming you are planning on creating an nbnco style company to own and wholesale them)

      7. so according to you we have “equitable wholesale access to Telstra’s network in the period from now to whenever the NBN is completed”, but we dont actually have structural seperation, just its benefits – youre pointing out a semantic issue

      seeing as it starts from now then im not sure you can call it a work in progress either, the result has been achieved immediately, they dont have to do anything else except wait for the nbn to be completed. wheres the downside?

    • On second thought I may not need to answer — looks like quite a few of the readers already raised the issues I was planning to raise with respect to your comment ;)

      Just wanted to emphasise again how grateful we are that you respond to these kind of things in such detail. Not every politician does — and this is a large point of difference between your approach and that of Minister Conroy. Openness and transparency can only help democracy and the policy debate process.

      • Indeed Renai,

        Kudos to Malcolm Turnbull (even though I totally disagree with his party’s stance in relation to the NBN) because he knew what to expect, but nevertheless, commented anyway.

    • Malcolm Turnbull says “Fixed wireless. Yes it is stated to be a 4G solution, but as you note my point was that it would be running at a much lower speed (12 mbps) than the peak speeds offered on 4G in the cities (and no doubt elsewhere in Australia as it is rolled out) by the mobile wireless operators.”

      Malcolm that “4G in the cities and no doubt elsewhere in Australia as it is rolled out” can I have that with a monthly quota of 300GB at a cost of $79.95 per month. As I live in a regional centre that is the price I want to pay (no more/no less) for it because that’s what I pay for my current ADSL2+ plan.

      But since I achieve a sync speed less then 12mbits and since this 4G you promoted will be much higher (syncing) then what I’m getting now, it sounds great. So when can I have it?? But it has to be at the said quotas/cost/much better consistent sync speed or not at all.

      BTW my regional centre (Whyalla) will be getting FTTP if allowed to be completed by Labor.

      Over to you Malcolm, you have to convince me Please!!

      • Ha ha, “that is the price I want to pay (no more/no less)”… want to pay $400k for a small block of land with a fibro house sitting on it? That’s what we pay here in the city, (no more/no less).

    • MT,

      As a reader of Renai’s work – I’m somewhat offended that its referred to as an “NBN-Love in”, given that I’m a contributor to some discussions here. What you insinuate is that we know little of how networks are costed, managed and built – something I’ll totally contradict you on.

      I’m a certified, degree level – IT Network Engineer. One with two degrees and continuation at the moment for my Masters. I currently work for Optus and Vodafone via the Joint Venture agreement, one which allows me unfettered access to both networks and their layout. I’d wager that there are few people around you that would be qualified to make assertions of how mobile network operations run, so i’ll target the one point here that you’re way off the mark on.

      “1. Fixed wireless. Yes it is stated to be a 4G solution, but as you note my point was that it would be running at a much lower speed (12 mbps) than the peak speeds offered on 4G in the cities (and no doubt elsewhere in Australia as it is rolled out) by the mobile wireless operators. ”

      4G peak speeds are just that – theoretical. They do not confirm limits, they pose no correct speeds and are totally dependant on everything from users connected to weather conditions. Optus claims theoretical speeds on their 4G testing to upwards of 100mbps, our real-world tests with active users connected reduces this speed substantially.

      The second problem you face is that 4G networks REQUIRE hard-line fixed cabling to be laid from mast to mast. Users on Whirlpool have posted consistent speeds well under the “estimated peak speeds” of Telstra’s 4G, average posters from the Gold Coast are benchmarking at around 4mbps consistently. If you’re saying the peak speeds are faster – sure they are, but they’re not consistent. This is where your arguement falls down.

      Lastly, lets define “Mobile Network Operators”. This term should be used loosely, because Optus and Vodafone dont cover the same area as Telstra does. What your really saying here is TELSTRA. We know how previously Telstra’s milked the market dry – every time people in a small town spot us with our company logos, the first thing they’ll ask is whether they will have access to Optus or Vodafone, because they might be able to pay less for basic services than they do now.


  9. Malcom why do you need to be condescending? (NBN love-in, hate to confuse with facts, cheerleaders for the NBN). Why don’t you instead offer a detailed and costed alternative? It is nice to say we will do it cheaper and quicker but it would be more useful to spell it out. Criticism is always easer that performance. Don’t be shy, show us what you’ve got and then let see what we’ll get and for what.

    Also,some of your arguments are based on your opinion (eg: “I would be surprised”, “very likely, almost certainly in my view”). Subjective assessments of future events hardly constitute strong evidence, even less so when it is from someone with a brief to destroy the NBN.

  10. Seems to me to be a very unbalanced and biased article. The insulting language (call people liars) is juvenile. It demeans your argument in favour of the NBN. Many of the other contributions are insulting and make the contributors look like schoolkids. Shame. State the facts and let the voters judge.

    • Journalists should try to be unbiased rather than being balanced because balanced tends to mean “this says something I agree with and I can ignore the rest”. Unbiased does not mean you represent both sides despite the facts, it means you represent the facts despite both sides. The comment Turnbull made on 4G in particular was very misleading and I don’t think Renai was at all wrong in his response.

      As for liar being a juvenile insult that demeans the argument. Then again Renai didn’t call Turnbull a “liar” he just said he was incorrect and misleading if that’s any better. More to the point, where have you been? Spend five minutes anywhere on the political parts of the Australian internets and say something positive about federal Labor. You’ll get five people calling you a liar before you can press submit!

      • Absolutely no one is “unbiased”, and anyone who claims to be is kidding themselves.

        The point is not to eliminate all bias, but to give balance to correct for that bias.

  11. Turnbull is nothing but Mr Rabbits puppet. Abbott told him to rubbish the NBN and the only way he can do that is LIE!

  12. You do not discuss or debate the NBN, but put out a continuous stream of NBN propaganda. If you are truly interested in the truth, you would be calling for a cost benefit analysis. So the arguments and costs are clearly laid out for everyone to see and discuss. Name calling passes for debate on this site. Just look at the posts.

    • Yes let’s have a CBA done…

      Even though a lot learned people not associated with politics, suggest doing a CBA for such a build is pretty much impossible. This isn’t a road or hospital which can be easily gauged by other previous builds. It’s is and one which spans10 years of construction time and 40 years of projected technological benefits, to guesstimate.

      But of course if one was to be somehow done and then comes out to show the NBNs cost vs benefits to be viable, the CBA could then be totally disregarded too, like the Mckinsey report, Corp/Business plan. Or even better still, those on a crusade could ignore 98% and highlight the 2% they scoured through and inevitably found, which suits the endless, mindless critiquing.

    • This article is analysing statements made by Turnbull. Similar articles exist covering Conroy as well.

      To call it “NBN propaganda” suggests that you didn’t even bother to read it and consider the issues yourself.

      Sticking your fingers in your ears, shutting your eyes and screaming for a CBA is just pathetic.

      A CBA being performed or not has nothing to do with the fact that politicians are continuing to mislead the public – sorting out the facts from the fiction is an important function of journalism.

  13. Malcom Turbull writes:
    “4. As to your assertion that there is no evidence that FTTN is cheaper than FTTP”

    Till recently (although you went very quiet on this now) you have advocated NZ’s FTTN ‘solution’ as something Australia’s NBN should be modelled on. We now know that NZ decided to ‘start again’ and go for FTTP deployment instead.

    Clearly, NZ found ‘cheap’ FTTN to be inadequate.

    Since network topography for these two solutions are quite different and much of a FTTN network infrastructure (e.g. thousands of cabinets) would be made redundant, how much cheaper would have been for NZ to start off with the FTTP in the first place…?

  14. I reckon that anyone who wanted to figure out how to become a really good liar would do well to follow this issue. Both sides of politics have mad skills in melding a truth with a lie, in order to present the lie as a fact, especially when it comes to technological issues that most people don’t understand at all (NBN, Internet Filtering etc.).

  15. The truth can be a slippery thing.

    Can someone confirm the widely reported number of 5,500 “on the NBN”

    Smarthouse reports this as “5,500 on the fibre”, but is it 5,500 on the fibre or 3,500 on the fibre plus 2,000 satellite customers transferred from existing deployments?

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