NBN Strategic Review shows FTTP still very viable


blog If you believe NBN Co executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the NBN Strategic Review released last week is all about re-using HFC cable, implementing Fibre to the Node and minimising the use of Fibre to the Premises. However, a close reading of the document shows that it also finds that former NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley was right: Labor’s original FTTP vision can still be delivered very affordably and in a timely manner. I analyse the issue in an extensive, 3,500 word article on Delimiter 2.0 this morning. A sample paragraph:

“A close reading of NBN Co’s Strategic Review report published last week shows the former chief executive of the company was overwhelmingly correct: A predominantly Fibre to the Premises National Broadband Network can still be rolled out with only modest cost and timeframe implications. But that’s a truth that nobody currently involved in the process seems to want to hear.”

I’m not the only person to have noticed this. I note this article by Informa senior analyst Tony Brown, published on the Sydney Morning Herald. In it, Brown writes:

“… the Strategic Review concludes that NBN Co could actually build the all-FTTP NBN by mid-2024 – just three years behind its original schedule and only four years after the completion of Turnbull’s hybrid model … From a political perspective it now gives his opponents the chance to ask, ‘Why are you delivering a second-class network when we could have a world-class FTTP network with just a couple more years’ work?'”

Politicians are fond of telling selective versions of the truth. It is true that the NBN Strategic Review recommends a model which heavily favours re-use of the HFC networks as well as FTTN/FTTB options … a model which nicely dovetails with the Coalition’s policy requirements. What is not clear at this stage is why this makes any sense at all, when Australia could have a fully fledged almost universal FTTP network for only a few billion dollars more and only a few years later, if a different path was taken.

But then, that’s politics. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has conclusively demonstrated he doesn’t want to hear sense … or even, really, hear the public at all, when it comes to NBN policy. No doubt the Minister would prefer that commentators such as myself and Brown not continually raise these inconvenient truths. No doubt the Australian public, or at least the 70 to 80 percent of it which supports Labor’s NBN model, would prefer the Minister actually, you know, do his job and get Australia a better broadband network, one which would propel us into the future rather than looking squarely into the past.

Image credit: NBN Co


  1. Yesterday you tell me to lose hope, now today you give me hope!
    What are you doing to us! :P

  2. Fibre viable, in Australia. Ha! Everyone knows that refurbished HFC and copper is where the exciting future of telecommunications lies in this country. We don’t even need to be thinking about fibre until at least the year 3020.*

    *this message brought to you by the dishonorable prime minister of Australia, Tony Abbott.

  3. Even their review built with the intent of creating a convincing picture for their policy doesn’t sell it very well. I hope that this shitstorm in the context of the latest polls make them give up their pride and back something closer to full FTTH. I hope that, I don’t really expect to see it.

    So frustrating….

  4. This is one of the few causes that I disliked myself for voting for TA.

    Labour had a great plan and it should have been implemented.

    • Then why did you vote for Abbott??

      It was quite clear that his mission was to destroy NBN, he even said it publically.

      I say this with the upmost respect but you can’t cry about something that you helped happen.

      • the same reason i voted for the liberals: the world does not solely revolve around the NBN. whilst it would be great to have it (and i fully support the labor plan), there’s more to life than the NBN.

        • “the same reason i voted for the liberals”:

          and what a spiffing, professional and enlightened job they have done in all those other areas of government to date… no doubt after fukcing up the joint for another three years you will have all sorts of good reasons for voting for the miserable cretins yet again, eh?

          • +1

            Voting for the Liberal Party is like voting for shape-shifters, neither is what you expected…

      • If they have policies in 10 areas, and you agree with 7 of them, then you’re only agreeing with 3 out of 10 for the opposition. Which one are you going to vote for?

        Politics isnt an all or nothing area, its a reflection of balance. You weigh up both sides of the argument, and see which one has the most points you agree with. You might dislike the NBN policy, but agree with their health, boat people, and education policies (as 3 random examples), so you’re going to vote for them because of that 3 to 1 majority.

        Or it might be that you simply disagree with their opposition in too many areas to endorse them – kick the bastards out mentality. Plenty of reasons to vote against a policy you agree with, its just up to you as an individual to decide which GROUP of policies you agree with the most.

        • Though this is all the more reason why Turnbull cannot turn around and say “Well we got voted in so that means that everyone loves our NBN Policy so shut up”

        • Except for the fact that the election was only really on a small handful of stated policy differences. They said they’d match Labor’s promises on Education and Health so those two were off the table. They said they’d also match investment in infrastructure more generally outside of the NBN. So the only real differences were:

          – Boat People
          – Cutting Mining/Carbon Taxes
          – Paid Parental Leave
          – NBN

          So when someone says “I voted for them but the NBN was the one thing I disagreed with” you have to wonder. Could anyone really be that worked up about Carbon Pricing? PPL was generally an unpopular idea so it wasn’t that. Was it the Boat People bit? Is there really much difference there? … Or was it not about policy at all and did people just not like the Rudd/Gillard show? In which case what are you doing?

          I get that some people voted for them if they were indifferent about the NBN and it makes sense if they voted for them if they were against it. If they supported it though? …… yeah, they have no right to complain about what they did. Surely they could have worn the Carbon Tax for the sake of the NBN

          • Dont get me wrong, I agree with you. Just pointing out that everyone has their own reasons, and usually they are different to yours or mine.

            To be fair to them, the Liberals did a wonderful job of selling to the public that Labor needed to be voted out. Not to vote the Liberals in, but to vote Labor out. They lied about Carbon Tax, boat people were up eleventy trillion percent, we’re $666.67b in debt, BER, Pink Batts, and so on and so on.

            Political spin across the board, but it worked. So plenty of people may not actually have decided to vote for the Liberals, but decided to vote against Labor, with the same effect – Abbott won enough votes to get into power.

            It was sold to the public that Labor was a disaster, despite the rest of the world throwing accolades at them over how well we were doing compared to everyone else, and the mud stuck. Not complicated, so when people looked at the 2 parties side by side, that sales pitch was always there – what makes Labor worth voting back in.

            And if someone looks at it from that perspective, even the NBN was a political tool. It was going to take 80 years, going to cost 3 times as much, Quigley didnt have experience, etc etc, versus “quicker and cheaper” – 1/3rd the cost, and you’ll have something by 2016.

            And that very last part – 2016 for FttN – sold the Liberal vote to plenty of people.

          • Australia’s voting patterns can be measured thus:
            1. We vote on the lower house based on the performance of the incumbent government.
            2. We vote for the senate on the basis of how much we trust who we voted for in step 1.

          • Not true. Lower house and senate gets a different number of seats. One is based on population somewhat so if you are massive enough to be an electorate (people number) which is the house of reps whilst the other is based on rights of representation of states and territories i.e. senate gets a set amount and that is why preferential voting gets smaller parties in. Well that is what I remember from primary school :)

          • I think that is how the system works but isn’t how people choose to vote.

            In seriousness (the previous post was a little in jest) I do think people who are in the ‘swing’ group choose their vote for the House based on history (past performance of the Govt) and their vote for the senate on the future (how much they trust the promises of the mob they voted for in the house)

          • Indeed, I never vote for a major party in the Senate.

            Absolute worst thing you could possibly do in my opinion. Having power in both houses means there are no checks on your power at all. And you only have to see some of the crazy shit both parties try to get through to recognise that as bad.

          • Had this conversation with my mum and she voted liberal because because labor was moving funding arround in the areas she cared about and affected her, she didn’t believe me when I said LNP where going to do exactly the same, it is very much looking like they are going to go deeper than labor. The issue is all anyone remembers is good times Howard when record spending was able to be matched by record revenue, they didn’t bother to look deeper I something wonder where we would have been if the GFC had hit 3years earlier.

    • “This is one of the few causes that I disliked myself for voting for TA”

      Given what they are doing in no way resembles what they said they would do, is there anything you voted for him for that has come to fruition?

  5. I believe we are talking about Scenario 4 here. Although from the press (Renai excluded) you would not know such a thing existed.

    This is where a couple of years and maybe 20% more money gets you a fibre network worth many times more than Turnbull’s fraudband. One that actually makes money.

    However, I do think that Turnbull’s endgame is coming clearer now. It will be Foxtel sitting on a nice little pay TV monopoly and Telstra with bulging wallets overbuilding the FTTN with fibre where they feel like it.

    As an aside, can anyone actually tell me whether or not HFC will be opened to all players? I’ve heard conflicting reports. If not, it’s got to be a scandal of major proportions. Although I have no expectation of reading about it in the MSM.

    • In reality, Scenario 4 is the ONLY FTTP Solution that can be compared to Scenario 6. As Scenario 1 and 2 both include overbuilding the HFC areas. So that is truly 100% of the fixed line rollout, where as far as I read, Scenario 4 included fixing and filling in the HFC Area and building FTTP everywhere else in the fixed line rollout. Basically it was a comparison of FTTP to 70% of Fixed Line and HFC to 30%, versus 24% FTTP, 30% HFC and 56% FTTN for Fixed Line.

      Yet, all we are going to see from the MSM is a comparison of Scenario 1 & 2 with Scenario 6, which is extremely disingenuous.

      • Well, yeah, it *is* extremely disingenuous, but that’s what happens when the mainstream media refuse to spend any time understanding a topic, and prefer to regurgitate politician’s press releases. If we’re lucky, they’ll include a one-line quote in the final para of the story with an opposing view from a Labor politician, which will be selected to sound like sour grapes whining.

        There you go, 10 minutes work, story written, on to the next celebrity scandal.

        I’d call it lazy journalism, but I think a lot of the time it’s more managerial pressure to spend as little time as possible on each story in the name of ‘productivity’.

      • Scenario 4, even if spun, does have the feel that Turnbull is admiting he is wrong. He is never wrong. He wasn’t wrong with Utegate either. Never wrong, never.

    • “However, I do think that Turnbull’s endgame is coming clearer now. It will be Foxtel sitting on a nice little pay TV monopoly and Telstra with bulging wallets overbuilding the FTTN with fibre where they feel like it.”

      This looks fairly obvious.

      I wonder if there are any possible grounds for ICAC involvement?

  6. Mark Gregory raises an interesting point.

    Hidden deep in the review report it indicates that between now and about 2025 the difference in cost between the Labor and Coalition NBN approaches will be about $1 billion if maintenance and operating costs are added into the mix. So why pay all that money for 25 Mbps when you can pay $1 billion more for 1 Gbps, traffic class management, QoS, better upload speeds, better capacity, etc., etc.?


  7. You don’t even have to ignore the HFC.
    You just move those areas to last place and accept that while some people cannot access it, there are a larger number of people whom can.

    Do the areas with no high speed first, that brings the revenues forward because frankly, most people will move off their decrepit service when they can.

    But I think the entire modelling and assumptions are plain wrong

  8. But Malcolm and Ziggy have said that politics won’t play a part in the NBNco decision making process. I completely trust their judgement that we should use HFC over 1/3 of the country such as I currently use which grinds to sub 1Mbps between 5pmish & 7pm each day, rather than FTTP that has far greater bandwidth plus that all important massive boost to upload speeds. I mean it’s not like Malcolm, Ziggy or any of the NBNco board have any vested interests anywhere else within the industry that would be swaying their decisions…

    Actually, thinking about it, it’s probably not political at all. They’re right. They’re making decisions based solely on their own private investments.

  9. Very amusing how the HFC cable networks are predominately in the areas of safe Liberal seats… I guess the political logic of it is sound; pork barrel the marginals with FTTP :)

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