Fibre to the home the ‘preferred’ option, says NZ


news New Zealand’s conservative party technology minister has hailed fibre to the home as the preferred option for national telecommunications infrastructure, stating during a visit to Australia this week that it made better “fiscal sense” to deploy fibre all the way to the premise where possible, instead of only to neighbourhood ‘nodes’ as Australia’s Coalition is proposing.

Amy Adams is New Zealand’s Minister for Communications and Information Technology and a member of the National Party, which is a centre-right party in New Zealand similar to the Liberal Party in Australia. Currently the National Party holds Government in New Zealand. Adams was in Australia this week to launch a bilateral agreement on mobile phone roaming charges. In a joint press conference with Australia’s Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, Adams was asked why New Zealand switched from a FTTN-based rollout for its own version of the National Broadband Network to a predominantly FTTH-based deployment.

“All the information we had was that the most comprehensive and future-proof network we could build was a fibre to the home package and that effectively it made far better fiscal sense to invest the funds we had available in a fibre to the home package initially,” said Adams. “We’re very committed to it. We’re very comfortable with the decision and all the feedback we’ve had has been that it has been the right way to go.”

“It made better sense to do it now rather than have to come back in the future and retrofit fibre to the node to the fibre to the home connection.”

Adams acknowledged that New Zealand wasn’t deploying fibre to the home throughout the entire country, however, with fibre to the node also being used in some rural areas where fibre to the home wasn’t economically feasible, as well as fixed wireless services in some areas and satellite broadband where no other option was possible.

“We’ve made a commitment that every school in New Zealand will receive speeds of 100 megabits initially and to get that in some of our most remote areas it just made no sense to do it on a fibre basis so we’re using satellite there,” said Adams, “but in the main it’s a combination of fibre and fixed wireless.”

“Into the rural areas of New Zealand, if you are familiar with New Zealand, you’ll know that it’s a long, mountainous, and very sparsely populated country – for the rural network, what we wanted to do was reach as many people as we could and bring up that rural connectivity which has been sadly lacking. The best way to do that in that area was roll out fibre to the node; enhance copper from there into the communities, fibre to schools, hospitals, and medical centres; and then a fixed wireless connection to the remaining premises.”

“… fibre to the home is always our preference. But you have to be realistic about how you reach a farm in the, you know, the back blocks, and how you best spend taxpayers’ money.”

Adams’ comments come as there continues to be strong debate over the Coalition’s alternative NBN vision, which would see fibre to the node rolled out in Australia instead of the current Labor Government’s fibre to the home platform. Both sides of politics, however, have agreed that faster broadband speeds are needed in Australia, and that wireless and satellite services are best used in regional and remote areas where fibre deployments may not be economically viable.

To me, Adams’ comments seem eminently reasonable and common sense. In short, you use fibre to the home in built-up metropolitan environments, because it’s the most efficient option. In really remote areas, you use a combination of fixed wireless and satellite services. And in the middle, where it may not be the best way to deploy fibre all the way to the sparse premises that exist, you deploy fibre to the node to get faster broadband on the existing copper network.

Why can’t our politicians agree on this kind of technological rollout, as they appear to have in New Zealand? I don’t know why everything has to be along such ideological lines — fibre to the home versus fibre to the node — when it is clear that different horses suit different courses.

Image credit: Clix, royalty free, New Zealand National Party


  1. I’m not sure fibre to the node would be the ideal solution for sparse premises … remember, with fibre to the node, to get speeds above current DSL speeds, you need to run fibre to within less than 1km of each house and install a wardrobe-size actively-powered cabinet.

    So, for sparse premises, fibre to the node would be an expensive solution (the cost of putting fibre directly to premises is probably roughly equivalent.) Of course, wireless/satellite is much cheaper than FTTN for sparse premises, which is presumably why NBN Co is using it.

    FTTN is better suited to dense metropolitan areas where the wardrobes can be installed down suburban streets, and fibre can be brought close to people’s homes. But it’s still a half-arsed solution because it tops out at real-life speeds of about 50Mbps for most people and that’ll only give us a few more years’ headroom before it’s necessary to update to FTTP anyway.

  2. I too have often wondered why Australian politics are so ideologically opposed with such zealotry. Some of it seems to be the leaders, Mr Abbott in particular is extremely combatative from what I’ve seen. Some of it could be the press, and I suppose we ourselves must take at least a portion of the blame.

    Why can’t we all just get along and be friends (apart from there not being a lot of newsprint in it)

    As it is with the LNP stance as it is they are once again setting themselves up to lose votes because they won’t accept an alternative point of view that disagrees with their own. The NBN was one of the deciding factors that lost them the election last time, there seems a credible chance it will do that again.

    • IMHO the LNP hate the NBN primarily because it is not their brainchild. Were it MT and his merry men that came up with the idea in 2006, I’m sure the LNP would be championing FTTP while the opposition would be bemoaning the relevance and cost (because let’s face it, NBN opposition meant you lost the 2010 election, so the party name is irrelevant; you are just “the opposition”)

  3. Can’t wait to hear Turnbull’s response to this, given he’s often cited NZ as an example of a country doing it right with FTTN. Now that NZ are seeing the light, will our esteemed shadow comms minister be willing to concede that maybe FTTN isn’t the way to go for Australia? (I know there’s probably as much chance of that as Tony Abbott embracing the carbon tax, but a man can dream can’t he? :) )

    I wonder how well this wil be covered (or whether it’s mentioned at all) by our much loved conservative media outlets?

    • Oh Tony does embrace the carbon tax. He is on record as saying that there should be a carbon tax. He is only against it now because he is against everything Labor does.

      • ETS has bi-partisan support.
        If tony repealed the carbon tax, he’d pay business, with tax payers money…..
        Sounds like a tax to me…

    • NZ already did it right with FTTN. The got it rolled out, in about 3 years or something, to over 80% of the population. It’s done, working, operational, you get it?

      Now they have the opportunity to expand out from there, but the new FTTP rollout is being delegated amongst local fiber companies, and won’t be as rapid as the FTTN, nor is it expected to cover as many households. At least NZ had the good sense to work with existing private greenfields installers who already knew what they were doing.

      • See but what you are advocating is for us to start FTTH, Now.

        They started it some while back. And only achieved 10mpbs in alot of cases.

        The main problem that the coalition have with the NBN (other than the fact that Labor came up with it), is that it doesn’t reach those in need fast enough.

        But if you look at the people who are actually in need (anything say below 5mpbs), there is no way whatsoever that the coalition could get an improvement to these people any faster.

        Sure, If they had of rolled out FTTN back in 2000, which is around when heaps of other countries took five minutes to look into the future, FTTH would have been a good idea.

        But last I looked at the calendar, it’s nearly 2013.

        And given the fact that half the world is either heading to FTTP, or switching their (already installed) FTTN to FTTP, don’t you think we should go there to?
        (in in saying that, spend up so we can get in front of the pack?)

        Or should we just go out and buy the 2nd hand crane, when all others in the construction industry are buying new cranes so that they can offer a better price and beat us to the tender…?

        Do you get it yet?

        • *”FTTH would have been a good idea”

          Sorry, should be:
          “FTTN would have been a good idea”

  4. This news certainly doesn’t surprise me. Fibre is the future after all. If the coalition clowns stop the fibre roll out and fail to complete the NBN as planned we’ll look like an even bigger laughing stock.

  5. Let me save Malcom Turnbull some time here.

    “Zealot journalists, pathetic argument dodging the real issue, misinformation about costs, hipocrisy”

    • Well done. That’s very Turnbull-like. Email it to him for use as today’s headline article on his website.

  6. And what are the opposition party doing in NZ?
    It looks like they have moved on and are more concerned with how the failure of Pacific Fibre will impact the success of the FTTP roll out. Actually, It surprised me that National party have taken the progressive position they have.
    Australian politicians seem to have a focus in fighting their opposition regardless of what is better for the country.

    • Some people are surprised that an intelligent person like Malcolm Turnbull seems blind to the benefits of first rate national comms, despite rapidly mounting evidence demonstrating those benefits.

      But as you say, our pollies focus more on fighting than fraternity. Malcolm is a very clever lawyer, merchant banker and politician, so he is highly skilled at putting the best face on something ugly.

      Sadly, it is clear that the New Zealand conservative government has a much better understanding of how to act in the national interest than our conservative alternative government.

  7. As my old dad was wont to say: ‘Malcolm, put that in your pipe and smoke it’…

  8. Renai writes:
    >”And in the middle, where it may not be the best way to deploy fibre all the way to the sparse premises that exist, you deploy fibre to the node to get faster broadband on the existing copper network.”

    >”Why can’t our politicians agree on this kind of technological rollout, as they appear to have in New Zealand? I don’t know why everything has to be along such ideological lines — fibre to the home versus fibre to the node — when it is clear that different horses suit different courses.”

    Because Fibre to the Node doesn’t suit Australia.
    It doesn’t suit a GBE.
    It doesn’t suit our copper condition.
    It doesn’t suit our population density.
    It doesn’t suit our workforce wages

    If you have to use the man power, better to run the new stuff than the old stuff……

    And it doesn’t suit our climate:


  9. While I’d hate to be stuck with fibre to the node in my ‘sparse premise’, I have to agree that the plan as laid out in NZ seems like the best compromise, and certainly superior to the unannounced plan from The Coalition which seems (from the statements made) to be largely based on cost effectiveness. And worse, cost effective for domestic consumers, not cost effective for home workers and small business.

      • You could do a quick search on the success of New Zealands NBN.

        In fact, the coalition stopped mentioning it, as it was discovered that it was a waste of money and time as it didn’t deliver the needed/promised speeds.

        Just like they stopped mentioning south korea as it is actually FTTP.

        And the fact that yesterday Turnbull praised FTTP in Drouin that was delivered in a Greenfield estate by a private operator, that Labor had set up the legislation so that private operators could do just that.

        Or should we given an Honourable Mention to Joe Hockey, for stating that Telstra’s 4G would make NBNco’s fibre redundant.

        Or should we give Helen Coonan and Tony Smith one too for their ability to think that Opel Networks could provide the needs of Australia somehow magically.

        Or should we give Tony Abbott an Honourable mention for chanting ‘I will destroy the NBN’ and ‘We don’t need those speeds’, when if you take 5 minutes to look at the facts, He can’t destroy the NBN, and in fact, we do need those speeds.

        Or should we give Malcolm Turnbull an Honourable mention for chanting that wireless is the future in 2011, and then on Lateline a week ago stating that in fact, we do need need a fixed line.

        Or should we give an Honourable Mention to the whole coalition for saying that Fibre to the Node is the way to go, when back in ’07 when Kevin suggested the idea, they did nothing but lambast the idea ad nauseum.

        Take 5 minutes to look at the fickleness of every communications policy of the coalition, and then do a couple of sums, and then you will see why Fibre to the Node isn’t suitable to Australia.

        It seriously doesn’t take that long. It’s just that the majority of Australian’s don’t have the time to do it (as they’re to busy watching youtube and on Facebook), and the coalition is playing to that naivety.

        Are you going to play to it too…..?


  10. It’s worth remembering that NZ has a nationwide FTTN network that was was completed 18 months. 3500 FTTN cabinets delivering 10Mbps+ speeds to 80% of the population via ADSL2+ and VDSL2.

    Now that this is complete we’re moving on to FTTH, a project that will take 10 years to complete. Copper will still be the primary access medium here for a number of years until FTTH coverage increases, and unlike Australia our copper won’t be culled once fibre is deployed.

    • Oh we remember all right steve. It was your folk who came out and pointed out what a fail FTTN is.

      I hope you aren’t suggesting that we start rolling out FTTN, the same time as everywhere else is now switching to FTTH? 10mpbs? Seriously. What can we do with that in 10 years time..?

      Unlike other countries, Australia never switched to FTTN because we had a Telstra Monopoly that didn’t invest.

      Our copper in Australia will be culled as we will no longer have a need for it.
      You don’t need copper once the fibre is installed. It’s pretty much useless. All the pollies are doing is mandating a turn off date to speed up the process. In the exact same way as they did with Analogue TV here.

      Further, our population is definately more spread out than yours when you make per capita adjustments, making coppers use into the future, a rather expensive waste of time…


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