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  • News, Telecommunications - Written by on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 11:23 - 73 Comments

    Copper network rotting? “Nonsense”, says Turnbull


    news Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has described as “nonsense” claims by unions that Telstra’s existing copper network is on the verge of collapse, which would make it unsuitable for use in the Coalition’s fibre to the node National Broadband Network strategy.

    Last week Telstra chief executive David Thodey was asked about the state of the telco’s copper network, given that Telstra has several times over the past decade warned the Government that the network would not last forever, including on one memorable occasion in 2003 when the telco said the network was “at five minutes to midnight”.

    Thodey’s comments that the network was in good shape and could last another 100 years (referring to its century-old history) spurred an angry response from unions on the issue. For example, the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union, which counts many Telstra staff amongst its members, alleged that the telco’s telecommunications pits had been nicknamed ‘bad-dad’ or ‘Baghdad’ because of the extensive use of plastic bags to keep water out of the infrastructure.

    The issue is particularly pressing for the Coalition, as the Coalition’s NBN policy will see a large portion of the copper network reused as it rolls out fibre only to neighbourhood ‘nodes’, rather than all the way to premises as under Labor’s existing NBN plan.

    Turnbull conducted an interview on June 19 with ABC journalist Jake Sturmer with regard to this and other issues associated with the National Broadband Network rollout. However, Sturmer failed to use material from the interview in a segment broadcast on Monday’s ABC News at 7pm. Because of this, Turnbull has published the full text of the interview on his site.

    In the interview, Turnbull said: “It is obviously a big network and it’s delivering the bulk of our telecommunications services, at least in the last mile at the moment but there are areas where it is in poor repair, areas where under any regime where it’s going to be used there would need to be remediation. But the proposition that copper is obsolete or is rotting or is on the point of dissolving is nonsense.”

    “Under our approach of fibre-to-the-node most of the copper is replaced in any event, it’s only the copper from the street cabinet to the premise that is left in place and that by and large is the part of the copper network that has the least maintenance problems because it is least touched. You’ll find that with telecom networks, whether they’re copper or fibre, the greatest number of faults occur where the most hands are put on them.”

    Turnbull said he had heard about the term ‘Baghdad’ in reference to Telstra’s network, but encouraged Sturmer to take “a reality check” on the issue.

    “That copper network, which you are trying to paint the picture of just being on the verge of collapse is actually carrying almost of all Australia’s fixed line telecommunications over that last mile. So you just have to have a bit of a reality check here,” he said.

    Yesterday Turnbull also published a statement on his site regarding maintenance costs on the FTTN network constructed in the United States by massive telco AT&T. It is generally considered that FTTN maintenance costs are expected to be higher than FTTH costs, due to the inclusion of the legacy copper technology in FTTN rollouts, as well as the necessity of using powered ‘nodes’ to connect the copper and fibre infrastructure in FTTN networks, compared to the lack of powered nodes in comparable FTTH networks.

    In the transcript of the May conference, AT&T president of network operations Bill Smith was asked about cost savings with respect to FTTN networks compared with FTTH networks. “I don’t agree with the hypothesis that most of the problems are from the node to the home,” said Smith, referring to the portion of FTTN networks which consists of copper. “That’s a very short distance in the model that we’re using – you know, generally  speaking it’s less than 3,000 feet.”

    “And so in today’s world — look let’s say we’ve got a home that’s 20,000 feet from the central office. Maintaining 20,000 feet of copper – yeah, there’s maintenance costs there. In the fibre to the node architecture, I’m only maintaining 3,000 feet. Everything else is fibre. And the reality is that in some regards, there is a lot of activity that goes on in the neighbourhood. You know, I drive into my neighbourhood and I see somebody planting a bush or something – you know, I kind of react to that. Because any time I see a shovel going into the ground that’s a potential problem for me. But fixing a copper cut cable is a simpler deal than trying to repair fibre. So you know, I think we will see frankly – we’ve got a pretty broad base of footprint for our u-Verse build, our project light-speed that we built our u-Verse on.  And the fault rates are low so we get a lot of cost savings on that.”

    Look, it’s pretty hard to disagree with what Turnbull’s saying here. He’s right — the majority of Australia’s broadband needs are currently successfully served by Telstra’s copper network infrastructure, and that isn’t going to change any time soon. The network is not at five minutes to midnight; in fact, its fault rate is generally pretty good, owing to the constant investment which Telstra is ploughing into it. Also, remember that unions typically support Labor and love criticising Telstra, so it’s no surprise to see them criticising the copper network to be used in the Coalition’s FTTN plan here. These are political comments as well as technical comments.

    And while it’s easy to criticise his use of AT&T’s self-serving comments regarding FTTN maintenance costs, it’s also true that this is a major telco, comparable to the size of Telstra, saying this publicly in response to financial analyst questions. Turnbull is fully entitled to refer to AT&T’s comments on this issue as an international example to help make his case locally for FTTN. Let those who don’t agree with Turnbull’s use of AT&T statements in this regard stack up evidence for the other side.

    Of course, we also need to ask: Is Turnbull telling the whole story here? The obvious answer is ‘no’. There is also a lot of truth to the union claims that Telstra’s network has many, many problems, many of them literally fixed with plastic bags over copper cables. We’ve all seen the shocking photos and everyone has stories about abysmal MDUs etc. Telstra’s copper network does have issues — things aren’t as pristine as the telco would like us to believe. If you dig under the surface of Telstra’s copper network, a thousand little problems crawl out like cockroaches, as we’ve seen with the recent asbestos scandal.

    As for the ABC reporter who Turnbull claimed neglected to include his comments in the ABC News piece, I have to say that I also agree with the Liberal MP on this one. You can’t simply claim that the Opposition “was not available for comment” on an issue on which you’ve interviewed their representative only days before. That’s misrepresenting the situation. At worst, Sturmer could have drawn from the many other publicly available interviews in which Turnbull has made his opinion clear on the copper, or from the Member for Wentworth’s parliamentary speeches. That’s what I usually do when I can’t get a direct comment on an issue. You say something like “The Coalition has previously said that its stance is this …”.

    Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull

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    1. Wayne
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink |

      I can agree with the fact the copper network is kicking along fine.
      By my whole issue is the fact the copper network can NOT sustain the speeds we are after.

      • clownface
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 5:15 pm | Permalink |

        question: if we all get VOIP then what would happen to Emperor Turnbulls clothing?

      • 1984
        Posted 27/06/2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink |

        @wayne – you and Turnbull obviously don’t do ULL & PSTN faults.

        The biggest lie from Turnbull in the entire article is: “the greatest number of faults occur where the most hands are put on them.”

        As a Telco Business Analyst, with direct experience (and reporting work) on faults I can say that this is utter bullshit.

        When reviewing Time-domain reflectometry results it is clear that the vast majority of faults on the line run are those within 0-1000m from the far end (the customer).

        You will often see attenuation (db) spiking over 60db within 0-500m of the house, which when you transpose over Telstra cable run reports it will usually indicate a bridge tap, battery.

        The other common occurrence are faults just where the cable enters the house and the socket. See as you’ll note from the pit/pillar to the exchange the run is under ground. From the Pit to Pillar the line run is strung via the telegraph poles and thus exposed to all nature of issues like birds and animals chewing out the insulation.

        Of course one reason why Telstra’s offical reports on faults does reflect the severity of these issues is that the techs will often have Alcatel speed touch ADSL devices that they use for testing.

        These things can sync at 60db attenuation when most consumer quality devices will flap or just outright fail at 50db.

        The larger problem though that Turnbull has is that there is simply no way that they will be able to offer 50mbps. Look at iiNet’s ADSL2 sync distribution maps. At present the vast majority of people on iiNet’s ADSL2 sync less then 50% the theortical throughput.

        You buy a 24/1mbps service and you barely get 10mbps.

        The same and worse will happen with VDSL. You buy a 50mbps and you’ll barely sync at 19mbps – and that’s if your a clean line run.

        If your unlucky like hundreds of thousands of inner and outer (especially) metropolitan residences are you’ll be lucky to get a few stable periods of very low throughput.

        That said if you want to know the true motive of a liberal you only have to see where his wallet is. I wouldn’t put it past Turnbull to have secret shares in the leading VDSL modem manufacturer. I worked for Turnbull at OzEmail and the sweat shop conditions they put us under in St Leonards (concrete floor, no air-condition) was a nightmare. If he can do this to the company that made him his first major fortune then he’ll do it to the rest of Australia.

        • Geoff
          Posted 27/06/2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink |

          I wish I could highlight your post in bold. The last mile is touched FAR more often and that’s where all the faults are. Turnbull wants to rip out the only reliable part of the network and leave the unreliable part as copper. What a joke, I used to think he was a smart man but he obviously has no clue.

    2. Nich
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink |

      Are the electrical costs of FTTN actually higher overall? Read somewhere, recently, that the costs of a powered node are basically the same costs as the optical termination hardware that’d otherwise sit in every premise in a FTTH rollout.

      • AJ
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink |

        That is Wrong

        The reason is simple people still need a Modem for ADSL and the power used by the modem is equal to or more than the NTD.

        • Brian
          Posted 27/06/2013 at 12:05 pm | Permalink |

          This is not an apples with apples comparison. With the NBN, you will need an additional WiFi gateway to distribute the signal through your house. The NTD provides only a single Ethernet port (yes there are 4 ports on the device, but they don’t work like normal routers). This additional WiFi device will chew as much power as the single DSL modem/WiFi base station needed for a FTTN solution.

          Like it or not, FTTP is the more power hungry option within the premises.

          • Posted 27/06/2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink |

            This is true. However as has been well established overall power requirements including end user equipment are higher for FTTN.

            The difference however isn’t as huge as most have been lead to believe. The “two extra power plants” often quoted comes to mind

            • Brian
              Posted 27/06/2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink |

              “Well established”? By whom? When? References?

      • Dan
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink |

        Active switched nodes will need infinitely more power than passive, but that is being disingenuous. (x / 0 is infinite i.e. #DIV0! in Excel)

        The whole GPON network will use X kWh per annum, up to the user boundary
        The whole FTTN network will use X+Y kWh per annum up to the same point.
        The only argument (that is valid) is the value of Y.

        If there are 70,000 cabinets using 1 kWh per day, that is 25.55 GWh per annum.
        NBN Co could be paying an average price of $0.10 per kWh ($100 per MWh), or thereabouts.
        That is about ~$2,500,000 a year for each kWh consumed each day (average per node), over the power cost of GPON

        • Tel
          Posted 26/06/2013 at 8:42 pm | Permalink |

          Why measure it up to the user boundary? The user power is still power, still has a cost, no?

          The other thing is that DSL modems don’t actually draw power from the phone line (not DC power anyhow).

          • Harimau
            Posted 26/06/2013 at 10:55 pm | Permalink |

            Yes, but a cost to who?

            Do you factor in the cost of running your television as part of the cost of having Foxtel?

            That’s not even the right analogy. The more accurate analogy would be, would Foxtel factor in the cost of you running your television as part of the cost of providing that service to you?

      • encryptor
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 8:24 pm | Permalink |

        Charts I’ve seen show FTTN as double the electricity per subscriber as GPON.

        I think Simon Hackett might have referred to the chart (it’s from a research paper) in his recent CommsDay talk but I don’t remember for sure: http://simonhackett.com/2013/04/09/cd-syd-2013-problem-with-fttn/

      • Magus
        Posted 27/06/2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink |

        Both FTTN and FTTP solutions requre a NTD. With the FTTN is is BYO, Some of these can act as a router also, as per an ADSL router.Power consumption of the NTDs is abour the same for both networks, although some people will buy a VDSL2 modem/router not just a VDSL2 modem.

        Power differences for network delivery are quite different. The addition of ‘mini nodes’ and FTTB will drive up electricity use also.
        There will also be additional civil works to get power to some nodes.

    3. AJ
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink |

      Saying they are replacing much of the copper is a furphy as most of that copper is fine and has been kept in good condition. It is the last mile that is stuffed which makes sense from a business perspective faults that affect many people are fixed as they are worth fixing but faults affecting a single house are not fixed.

      The AT&T comment does not provide any data for actual costs of maintenance of FttN vs the current network since according to Malcolm Everyone is doing FttN this data should be readily available.

      Then there is the Fault Rate or as it is properly called the Voice Fault Rate as not getting an internet connection is not considered a Fault by Telstra so how is this number relevant at all?

    4. GENIII
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink |

      To use an analogy why should be get to eat steaks when shit will suffice….

      Thanks Mal.

      • GENIII
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink |

        that obviously should be “should we get”

        Really really need edit button Renai.

        • Posted 26/06/2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink |

          No problem for me; I have an edit button ;)

          I’m planning to look into reforming the Delimiter comments system shortly, so I’ll look into it at that point. Should be some way to allow editing in the first few mins of posting.

          • David
            Posted 26/06/2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink |

            Yes please do, a like/dislike rating system would go a long way in my opinion.
            As well as a minimize reply function with an activity icon if possible. Makes everything look and feel cleaner.

            • RocK_M
              Posted 27/06/2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink |

              Yes to Edit.

              No to dislike/like. Honestly this is not FB or a forum folks. As much as I disagree w/ some of the stuff people post it’s not a popularity contest. Like/Dislike is just a silly addition. The important part is the discussion

          • Harimau
            Posted 26/06/2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink |

            I think there are too many nested comments, it’s hard to read and hard to keep track of who replies to what. On The Conversation, they (relatively) recently changed it to a single nesting, with the top of each sub-comment saying “in reply to X”. So it’s more like a traditional web forum in that sense: OP starts a thread, everyone replies to it. I find it works very well.

            • PeterA
              Posted 27/06/2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink |

              That only really becomes a problem on the mobile client though.. I have little trouble figuring out the nesting otherwise. (though an “in reply to xxx” in the heading might be ok)

    5. Deep Thinker
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink |

      Great article! Balanced, objective and truthful.

      • Posted 26/06/2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink |

        Troll :)

      • Michael
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink |

        Come on it is funny when they bite onto such an obvious line.

    6. Alex
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink |

      Of course MT would say this, just as Conroy will say the opposite…

      Regardless, some are missing the point IMO… dirt roads would have sufficed too, but would they have been a better option than asphalt…?

      Once again, here’s what MT’s conservative colleagues abroad say about copper related technologies…


    7. Kevin Cobley
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink |

      Mal can live at my place on a wet day and see how good the copper is.

      • Wayne
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink |

        That’s my point Kevin.
        Your internet works. It may be slow but it works.
        Telstra don’t care about the speed you get. They will just say you copper is fine

        • clownface
          Posted 26/06/2013 at 5:17 pm | Permalink |

          Does Kevin use VOIP?

    8. Adam
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 1:30 pm | Permalink |

      FTTN has always struck me as a more sensible plan, just on a cost vs quality angle.
      Sure, to the door would allow for better speeds, but:
      a) most users won’t need these speeds
      b) getting the last mile as fibre is available for a charge, and to be honest you can probably afford the charge if you’re eyeing off the high performance plans anyway.

      Complaining that the general speeds are not fast enough under the FTTN plan is (IMAO) like complaining that neither system is the speed that some areas of Japan are rigged for (where’s my 2gbit link). The amount of money saved by going FTTN could be better spent elsewhere, as long as people who “need” it (or must have it) can pay some smallish amount of cash (a few grand, depends where you live compared to your node) to have the last mile as fiber then it is suitable.
      And before you complain about paying for the last mile yourself (if thats what you want) consider it as an investment in your home, as you could use it as a selling point.

      • Non Puto
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink |

        “If” we end up with an LBN I’ll wait for Telstra/ Optus (even the Chinese government) to roll out FTTH as I WILL NOT PAY FOR FTTN, I’d rather stay with my crappy ADSL which cuts out when it rains and I cannot use the voice component due to interference and I’m just under 600 cable metres to my Top Hat enabled RIM.

        Screw FTTN, I agree with the dirt road to bitumen analogy, copper’s day as a communications medium has done it’s dash in Australia and it’s time to move on today, not in 5-10 years time.

        As Gough said – It’s Time!

      • Non Puto
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 2:19 pm | Permalink |

        “And before you complain about paying for the last mile yourself (if thats what you want) consider it as an investment in your home, as you could use it as a selling point.”

        What about the renters you Douche!

        Digital divide much? Most tenants find it hard to get needed maintenance done let alone installing FoD.

      • Lionel
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink |

        Well, if your predictions on network speeds and who needs them, is correct as opposed to all the major network companies, we will indeed save money going FTTN. If however the lay mans opinion is incorrect, we have just wasted billions.

      • Ben
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink |

        “FTTN has always struck me as a more sensible plan, just on a cost vs quality angle.”

        FTTN is probably OK if you aren’t looking more than 10 years down the track. FTTP is as close to future proof as we can build at the moment. With the current growth of demand in speed, by the time the FTTN network is complete it will be just about obsolete and it will be time to start spending just as much money again to update it.

        While technology will be cheaper in the future, the costs of labor will only go up, most of the costs of “last mile” connectivity is in the labor so putting it off is a false economy.

      • Rohan
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink |

        @Adam, this is the type of arrogance I expect from Turnbull and the coalition supporters. To say that the speeds delivered by FTTH aren’t needed by residential users is idiotic and myopic.

        Copper IS the weak link in Turnbull’s “plan” I’ve had BT infinity when I lived in England and the service was up and down like a blue arsed fly, because the copper is the weak link.

        Turnbull is in denial about the copper, like Abbott was in denial about climate change. Sticking his head in the sand and hoping that the copper is ok is just idiotic.

      • Bob.H
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink |

        I would have to label you as a Turnbull true believer.

        1. The demand for internet speed and capacity is growing at an enormous rate. Copper is not able to provide the capacity that is going to be required by a household in the foreseeable future and the only material that will is fibre optic cable. Fibre is the only available material that is capable of handling the increasing demand over the next 50 years. You might like to note that more than one user and more than one device will be increasingly using the available internet capacity in a premises.

        2. Building a network that you know is going to have to be replaced by the time it is completed is a waste of money. Turnbull claims that his FTTN is going to be about $3billion cheaper than the current NBN FTTP roll out. What Turnbull hasn’t revealed is how much extra he is going to have to pay Telstra for the copper from the node to the premises or what the replacement cost of the FTTN network is going to be when that becomes necessary. Postponing asset purchases often is poor financial management. I hate to think what the lost opportunity cost will be if we end up with FTTN instead of FTTP.

        3 There is no money “saved” by going to FTTN that can be used for anything else. The money for the network is being borrowed to construct the network. This money is to be repaid by NBN Co. to the Government together with 7+% interest. The money to repay the government will come from the NBN Co customers. ie RSPs. Therefore there is no money just floating around that can be used to bolster budget expense items like education or health.

        4. The furphy of paying for fibre for the “last mile” is another disingenuous mouth flap by Turnbull with absolutely no consideration about the practicality of what he was saying. The first thing that comes to mind is that if it was tried it would be a “lawyers picnic” and my great grandson or granddaughter, who isn’t even a gleam in there fathers eye yet, will be dead before the first fibre drop is allowed to be made.

        Everything you have presented is old hat offerings from Turnbull and each one has been well and truly rebutted by experts. I would suggest that you need to take a good long hard look at the subject and what has already been written by knowledgeable people. You can then decide if you really want to regurgitate Turnbull’s tripe.

      • Chas
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 4:48 pm | Permalink |

        “FTTN has always struck me as a more sensible plan, just on a cost vs quality angle”

        Let’s look at that…

        1. FTTN has a very short lifespan because of it’s data transmission limitations. Therefore, a FTTN network must be amortized over less than 10 years, while a FTTP network can be amortized over 60 years or more.
        Result = FTTN is more expensive

        2. Copper in general has a much higher maintenance cost than fibre. The main reason is that locating a fault with fibre can be done very quickly while with copper there is a lot more work involved (and time is money)
        Result = FTTN is more expensive

        3. Let’s just suppose that Australian business and the Australian people want the capability to grow at whatever pace they can rather than be limited by the communication systems available. Now if FTTN can offer upload speeds to the vast majority of the population that allow for 2-way HD communication (say at least 10Mbps up), then FTTN could work for that…but FTTN cannot, so it is a huge limitation.
        Result = FTTN is a major barrier to success

      • Travis
        Posted 27/06/2013 at 12:19 am | Permalink |

        @Adam – “b) getting the last mile as fibre is available for a charge, and to be honest you can probably afford the charge if you’re eyeing off the high performance plans anyway.”

        Err what? Last time I checked, current NBN plans are comparable (sometimes even cheaper), then the current ADSL2+ plans from the major ISP’s. So if people are on the current 1TB iiNet ADSL2+, and then wish to go onto the 1TB 100/40Mbps NBN plan (both $99.95).. those people are ‘living the high life’?

        Get off it. That’s the best thing about the current FTTH NBN, for a new technology there isn’t the whole new technology tax! Yes Telstra, I’m looking at you (3G, 4G when they first came out, and even now).

      • PeterA
        Posted 27/06/2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink |

        29 billion for fttn
        32 billion for fttp

        Where was the cost advantage of FTTN again?

      • Simon
        Posted 27/06/2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink |

        “a) most users won’t need these speeds”

        Of the people I know only their parents/grandparents would necessarily be able to state this. Even then things like netflix which hopefully might one day reach us would then suddenly turn that statement on its head (my parents whom are now in the US use it exclusively and love it now they have discovered it).

        Current copper isn’t currently able to provide decent speeds let alone enough. Most of my friends luck out with bad copper/infrastructure and are stuck at below 5mb speeds (one should be getting 18ish). Even at 10 I can generally only do one thing on my connection (youtube/streams(in HD) or torrents or gaming). For my friends and their internet savvy kids its a nightmare to fight over the limited bandwidth (and its bandwidth not quota which is the issue).

        b) getting the last mile as fibre is available for a charge, and to be honest you can probably afford the charge if you’re eyeing off the high performance plans anyway.

        a 25mb or 50mb plan is more than affordable currently and on par with our current BB plans! Sure if you want the 100/40 with heaps of quota it gets more expensive but even then that far in the way pales from being able to fork out a lazy $2-3k (and probably much like solar panels its not something that will boost the $value of your property more likely just make it more appealing to buy at the same price point).

    9. Soth
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink |

      This is not the copper network that is rotting *waves hand*

      • Rohan
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink |

        LOL. *waves hand* FTTN will be fine.

    10. TrevorX
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink |

      1) Yes, the copper network is currently carrying Australia’s telecommunications. But is it ‘fit’ for the purpose? If you’re only talking about phone calls, then sure. But this is not 1984 – it is 2013. The question is, does the current copper network provide reliable infrastructure upon which Australians can perform the breadth of telecommunications tasks they need and desire? The fact is, even if all the ‘evidence’ against the reliability of the network is anecdotal, that’s a hell of a lot of anecdotes from Australians using the network and reporting it to be inadequate. Forget about speed – the existing copper network is incapable of supporting a reliable Internet service at any speed 24/7 for many people, particularly during bad weather. That makes it not fit for purpose, and ignoring these problems (which are predominantly last mile issues) when upgrading to FTTN will leave us with a network which is simply not up to the task.

      2) You’ve quoted Telstra’s claim that the fault rate on the network is ‘generally pretty good’. But that claim relies on Telstra’s fault reporting processes which have been revealed through anecdotal testimony of various Internet discussion boards to be vastly misleading (if not deliberately falsified) – it appears to be common practice for Telstra technicians to submit job summaries with ‘no fault found’ as a result of discovering and then fixing a reported fault. The result of such concerted activity is clearly a massive alteration of fault statistics, it means Telstra can’t be trusted to report the fault rate and most importantly it means we have no way to reliably estimate the actual quality of the network. That’s not important for FTTH, but it is critical for FTTN.

      • Rohan
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 4:38 pm | Permalink |

        @TrevorX yes, you’re 100% correct. The CAN is ok (for the most part) for voice, like a dirt road is fine for horses or wagons, but not late model sports cars.

        Just take a look at whirlpool at the number of people who bitch about their ADSL being unreliable or unusable when there’s rain. This is the ‘D’ side of the copper that Turnbull in his idiotic dismissive arrogance claims is fine and in perfect condition to support the much higher frequencies required for VDSL2.

        When it rains, my ADSL is up and down like a blue arsed fly, often up to 60 reconnects in 24 hours. It’s not going to be better under FTTN, but worse.

        Telstra have no obligation other than to provide a functional telephone line to make and receive voice calls on. If you get ADSL that’s a bonus. Try and get Telstra to guarantee any speeds out of copper and they’ll just laugh at you.

        • TrevorX
          Posted 26/06/2013 at 5:49 pm | Permalink |

          Which raises the question I have made countless times over the past few months – what precisely will the LNP ‘guarantee’ of 50 & 100mbps minimum consist of? By what mechanism will the guarantee be introduced, monitored and enforced? A guarantee that’s not guaranteed against anything (in this case, some form of binding legal mechanism) is not a guarantee, it is a platitude.

          And sure, the LNP can’t guarantee a new law will pass without a majority in parliament, but they can at least describe their intentions. Despite the insistence of the media that the LNP have provided guarantees, right now we have nothing but empty political promises from a party that has consistently demonstrated an eversion to honesty and accuracy in its statements for years. There’s a word for people who continue to believe statements from those with a history of dishonesty – suckers.

        • Andrew
          Posted 26/06/2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink |

          Agreed, we have now the opportunity to invest in new technology and these recalcitrants want to do CPR on the copper network. For what? An incremental speed increase? Zero reliability improvements.
          Come on… Spend the extra 3 % for the passive fibre network and don’t even bother with the copper from the node interim measure.
          I don’t want a slightly better speed for tens of billions of dollars.
          I am absolutely opposed to spending money on propping up the copper.
          AT&T is trying to divert questions about their own technology. Message to the shareholders: Nothing to see here…We have the best systems on the face of the planet. It costs nothing to run, is reliable and oh so fast.
          Prove it. Prove that copper is more reliable and cheaper to run. Otherwise it is hot air.

      • RocK_M
        Posted 27/06/2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink |

        Completely anecdotal.. but I would settle w/ Telstra just getting the phone lines to work properly =/

        Mine has carked it at least twice a year. And every time I have to go through the fuss of calling Telstra to get it fixed. And then pray they actually *fix* the damn thing as I’ve had several occasions where the supposed tech went and reported it as “fault fixed” and my phoneline was still dead…

        and how did i know besides the obvious? My alarm is connected to my phone lines and likes to “gently” remind me the connection has gone faulty w/ a small high pitched *beep* that I can hear all throughout the house. Yes that was a very fun experience when Telstra sent techs that said it was “fixed/no line fault” over the span of 3 weeks till it was eventually resolved xD

    11. D
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink |

      I live in a regional area and have ADSL 1 currently (only option besides dialup or non-existent mobile broadband).

      When everything is peachy, it works reliably and is plenty fast enough for my uses. Pings are fine etc.

      The problem is when everything is not peachy. If it rains for more than 1 day, suddenly I lose reliable internet access. If it rains for a couple of days, I lose the phone line completely.

      If you were to look up the faults reported on my line per year, you’d see only 1 or 2 per year. 2 days of faults out of 365 days per year.. that’s a pretty decent line you might say. But that doesn’t take into account the process behind resolving a fault, which goes like this:
      1) Call ISP, lodge fault.
      2) ISP books Telstra tech, who can’t come out immediately.
      3) 2 or 3 days later, Telstra tech appears. Of course by now, the rain has stopped (techs can’t work in the rain after all, it’s dangerous to mix electricity with water) and whatever was causing the fault has started to dry out.
      4) Telstra tech can’t find any fault with the line, other than “it’s a bit staticy, but you have an internet connection so that’s all I can do”.
      5) I get charged a call out fee ($140 or so).

      I can’t afford to run this rigmarole more than once or twice a year, especially given that I can’t get anyone to come and look at it while the fault is actually occuring!.

      So, we end up with “low fault report count”.

      • Paul
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 11:36 pm | Permalink |

        If only (like the current NBN hardware) Telstra had some form of testing/monitoring equipment at the customer end. So they couldn’t blame your hardware, the ISP, Zeus, Martians, plus it would run tests on the line when it went down and located the approx location of the fault.

        I’ve seen this sort of fault myself, its due to a damaged conduit that has cut into the cable. Takes a couple of days for the water to soak into the ground far enough to kill it. No wonder they can’t find the fault to fix it. Could even be in your front yard.

    12. Francis Young
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink |

      Turnbull’s perfect copper must be why my ADSL2+ which normally delivers 2.1 Mbps is running at 288 Kbps during the current wet weather today. Yes, all the cabling is good, and the router is a top of the line Fritz!Box.

      We have been swapped onto every spare copper pair in our street.

      There are no improvements on the horizon without replacing the copper with new copper or fibre, and in the 2010s it makes no sense to thread new copper into the ground.

      Fibre is the answer, not copper, no matter how much Turnbull panders to Telstra as it proposes the same eight-year-old plan which John Howard rejected.

    13. Nakerjack
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink |

      Its funny how an ‘intelligent’ person does not realise, the copper network was built for making voice calls… (that is what it was specifically been designed to do – way back when)

      Nowadays, we are using the same old technology (as a stop gap) and forcing data down the same old cable that is designed to handle voice.

      Fibre is meant for data, voice, TV, and who knows what else.

      Copper is simply old fashioned, unreliable, and not as good as Malcolm makes out (go figure) and is better used to power your home, street lights and the FTTN cabinets that will most likely be built (if at all)

      I used to work for a Telco and have sent this first hand.

      Fact: If you were to pick 500 pits (that’s the Telstra ones out the front of your home) at random, open them up and inspect them – you WILL find that MOST, if not all, have rotten, green copper cables instead of the COPPER colour they once were, again – way back when/then.

      Fact: The cables going TO the exchange from the pillars are in much (MUCH MUCH) better condition then the last mile is.

      But seriously, it is depressing just how stupid us Aussies can be – especially if we vote in a govt that has no idea.

      Please call me a zealot, and an IT professional that has no idea – I’d gladly wager that 500 RANDOMLY PICKED pits contain nothing but badly damaged cables. Hell Malcolm, Tony or Pine can even pick the 500 pit…thats really how bad they are. But make sure you have the MSM there to report on it when they inspect them.

      That is all :)

    14. Andrew
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink |

      I like Thodey’s comments about going another 100 years. It is exactly the opposite of what Telstra has said for years. Impressive reverse somersault with a half twist. Malcolm must award him with a perfect 10 out of 10.
      “Some may say that the last hundred years have left the copper degraded, oxidised and nearing the end of its life cycle. I say they are are all wrong… Copper doesn’t oxidise. I have miraculously changed the nature of this metal and it will now be better, stronger and faster than the 6 million dollar man. It will never, ever, ever be a poor transmitter of electrical current ever! Over to you Malcolm…”

    15. Sean
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 6:16 pm | Permalink |

      Maybe Thodey is eyeing off the contracts for the copper remediation? Maybe the bean counters worked out that’s more than what they’ll get for cutting over to fibre…that and the paypacket they get when the Libs have to BUY the last mile off of Telstra.

      • Andrew
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink |

        I think so too. His comment has a commercial motivation. But it’s our money he will get yet again. As if Telstra hasn’t had enough of my money, my parent’s money and your money over our lifetimes…

    16. Ray Herring
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 7:56 pm | Permalink |

      A lady in the town i live in whose computer i fix on the odd occasion it needs fixing was having massive issues with her telephone line after a storm, 6 months she had been paying for an internet connection she was unable to use.

      We tried everything from a new ADSL router, to a new telephone cable in the house, etc…

      Got onto Telstra, they sent out a technician, said the issue was at the exchange and that he had fixed it, still didn’t get the DSL modem to sync up, called Telstra again, they did another call out, said the issue was somewhere else, supposedly fixed, nothing.

      In the end she decided to cancel her broadband with Telstra. She got a new computer the other week, decided to give broadband another shot, first thing Telstra said to her…. “There’s a problem with your phone line just outside the house”.

      At least Telstra eventually refunded her for the new DSL Modem and the money she paid when she wasn’t getting a service from Bigpond.

      But still, the fact that it took a disconnection of DSL and then later on a reconnection before they finally decided there was a fault with the copper (in the last mile) just shows how crappy Telstra’s fault report database must be.

    17. Bpat
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 7:57 pm | Permalink |

      Lets hope Rudd can keep Turnbull in check

    18. Harimau
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 8:10 pm | Permalink |

      As much as I respect Turnbull as a writer and an orator, I think Turnbull needs to expand his vocabulary.

      Claims of “nonsense” without qualification, I’ve heard this all before.

    19. Mr Creosote
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 8:31 pm | Permalink |

      Saying that all is rosy because copper currently carries broadband is really just avoiding the bigger issue. Are people getting the best broadband they could over that copper? The answer, based on public feedback, has to be no. Does copper provide us with a a long future (Thodey misleadingly said its got another 100 years in it)? The answer is no. Shortening the copper does little to fix both these problems. It’s just prolongs the inevitable and adds a lot more expense to get to the same end point -FTTP. Out here in the regions, if FTTN goes in, it will ensure a digital divide that will exist for at least another decade and ensure there is no ubiquity. The job needs to be properly from the outset, and the copper needs to be placed with fibre. It makes little sense to do it any other way.

    20. IanJ
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 9:33 pm | Permalink |

      So Malcom Turnbull thinks that the copper network is ok and everyone who says it’s not is a cretin. I invite Mr Turnbull to inspect any pit in my street and then make the same statement. Plastic bags don’t lie whereas politicians can please themselves.

    21. Jeffrey ONeill
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 9:44 pm | Permalink |

      I just want to know if MT will resign from his position as communications minister should his target of a minimum 25 Mbs for all by Dec 31 2016?

      It can only be due to his incompetence that this target is not met.

      I’ll have to chat with betfair about setting up some bets on when the first node goes live and if the rollout will meet the 2016 and 2019 targets. Oh and the budget tart too.

      TBH, I’d prefer the Libs to just say they don’t believe in the Govt being involved in Telecoms and not waste the money on FTTN.

      • Harimau
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 11:07 pm | Permalink |

        You mean… you want the Libs to tell the truth?

        Now there’s an election-losing strategy if ever I heard one.

        I think it did lose them one or two elections…

    22. Martin
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 10:40 pm | Permalink |

      Dear Mr Turnbull, it’s our tax dollars that paying for this so give us what I want, not what you think we should have and after that keep you mouth shut because you don’t know what you’re talking about

      • Harimau
        Posted 26/06/2013 at 11:04 pm | Permalink |

        Well, it’s not exactly our tax dollars, but our internet bills…
        …which is only greater justification for your sentiment. So yeah, Turnbull should stop trying to sell us a product he doesn’t truly believe in. He’s a lot like that Telstra rep who was trying to sell me a more expensive, inferior broadband with historically bad customer service. He even tried to entice me with a $50 credit… Yeah, thanks, but no thanks, buddy.

        • Martin
          Posted 28/06/2013 at 1:11 am | Permalink |

          Technically it’s both, our tax dollars are paying to build it and then we pay to use something that we paid to have built.

          • Bob.H
            Posted 28/06/2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink |

            Like Mr Turnbull, you don’t know what you are talking about.

            The NBN Co and the build of the NBN is being financed by borrowings. It is not being financed out of tax or other earnings if it was it would have to be included on the budget. The NBN will repay loans out of its earnings from selling its services. It will also return 7%+ to the Government on the Government investment.

            Out of the money you or I pay our RSP there is a percentage that pays for the cost of capital works. It may come as a shock to you but when ever you buy anything there will be part of that money being used for capital expenditure. It is called commerce.

            No one is paying twice for the NBN or paying for it by their tax, although Turnbull could stuff that up, The system devised to pay for the NBN is as equitable as possible. The users contribute to the repayments of the capital cost depending on how much they use the NBN. I can’t think of any thing fairer.

    23. Paul
      Posted 26/06/2013 at 11:25 pm | Permalink |

      The current minimum speed is quoted as 900Kbps according to one of Telstra own former staff that wrote that policy. Although I’ve also seen a figure of 1400Kbps on the bigpond website.

      Therefore Telstra have set the bar really low, only if your ADSL service drops below that minimum speed will they investigate. Turnbull has dug himself a very big hole by stating publicly that the minimum speed on the new network is going to be 25Mbps.

      Its going to cost billions of dollars, and incur an incredible level of frustration for the poor technicians who have to locate and repair all the faults in the old copper cables.

      Where do you draw the line ?
      When 50% of the copper on the node has multiple faults (per customer line) ?
      When 50% of the copper on the node has multiple faults ?
      When all the copper on that node beyond repair, and has to be scraped (joints corroded, wires broken, no slack left to rejoin cables) ?

      The awful truth is the cost of a new length of fibre is LESS than the cost of the same length in copper. Why risk $31 billion of tax payer’s money on a FTTN network that keeps the oldest and less reliable section of the existing network ?
      That being the existing copper cables, which can vary from perfect to scrap value. It’s a massive unacceptable risk and certain to be hit by huge delays and cost overruns.

      This FTTN plan is proof the coalition are going to waste money in poorly thought out plans, much in the same way they accuse the current government as acting. No matter what plans Tony Abbott has to better run the government finances, spending $31 billion in this way proves he doesn’t have the ability.

    24. Steven
      Posted 27/06/2013 at 2:02 am | Permalink |

      Renai, why did you link to an article with claims about telephone service faults in an article about the use of the copper network for high speed internet access?

    25. Matilda
      Posted 27/06/2013 at 8:12 am | Permalink |

      I think the fact that most of the country is still classified as “MSD” while Telstra recovers from the floods in January says something about the state of the copper network. Ignoring the fact that it may be *possible* for the copper to survive another 100 years (doubt it), do we really *want* to deal with it for another hundred years?

    26. NPSF3000
      Posted 27/06/2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink |

      “Look, it’s pretty hard to disagree with what Turnbull’s saying here. He’s right — the majority of Australia’s broadband needs are currently successfully served by Telstra’s copper network infrastructure, and that isn’t going to change any time soon. ”

      I fully agree! The bulk of our current needs are handled by copper.

      Current needs.

      Now, can we return to the NBN debate, that’s about our current and *future* needs?

      • Frankie
        Posted 27/06/2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink |

        My current needs aren’t, and neither are a lot of other people’s.

        Anyway, reading between the lines we can see what Turnbull is really saying. “The copper network is very valuable, but I still expect Telstra to hand it over to me for free.”

        His idiocy would be laughable if it wasn’t for the fact that the joke is on Australia.

    27. Peter
      Posted 27/06/2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink |

      Why not referendum about NBN let people decide

    28. Tony Gratis
      Posted 01/07/2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink |

      Copper sucks

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