Our NBN debate: Where everyone is partly wrong


analysis Like a blade out of the dark, this week ex-ACCC chief Graeme Samuel came from nowhere to drive a stake into the heart of the Coalition’s rival NBN policy, arguing that the FTTN technology it’s based on is “obsolete”. And just as viciously, Malcolm Turnbull fired back. But who is objectively on the right side of this storm in a teacup? As is so often in our flawed NBN debate, the answer is: ‘Nobody’.

There is no doubt that Graeme Samuel can be described as one of most objective and well-informed figures to be involved in Australia’s telecommunications industry. With a long career in law that led to a partnership at Phillips, Fox and Masel (now part of DLA Piper) and a five-year history in the 1980’s as the executive director of Macquarie Bank, as well as his spot in the 1990’s as a commissioner of the Australian Football League, Samuel was already one of the most senior figures in the Australian business community by the time the new millennium rolled around.

But it was Samuel’s role chairing the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for a solid eight years from mid-2003 through mid-2011 that would see the executive’s name come to be mentioned almost daily in the top echelons of the nation’s telecommunications industry at times.

When Samuel came to the chair of the regulator in 2003, the forces of deregulation unleashed in 1997 had not yet fully taken hold of the industry. Most Australians still looked to Telstra as the provider of choice for their telecommunications needs, and if they were aware of other options, it was usually only Optus that got a look-in. Fresh in the memory of many would-be switchers was the 2001 collapse of the ill-fated One.Tel venture. But change was on the horizon, and as has so often been the case in many industries over the past twenty years, the Internet was the cause. Fuelled by the development of ADSL broadband technology, companies such as iiNet, Internode, Netspace, TPG and others were starting to challenge Telstra’s dominance of Australia’s Internet service provider market.

Along with several high-profile ACCC commissioners working under him and focused on the telco sector, Samuel played a critical role in this process. His tenure at the regulator saw the executive and his staff act as the adjudicator in a grinding daily battle hard-fought between Telstra’s rivals, which spent tens of millions prosecuting their case for better terms from the former monopolist, and Telstra’s own rear-guard action, which took its own toll on the company’s coffers.

Throughout this war, Samuel was never less than fair-minded and even-handed. Telstra’s rivals didn’t always get everything they asked for, but Telstra also was never allowed to get away with its more extreme, anti-competitive transgressions, such as the infamous early 2004 move by its BigPond division to lower its retail ASL broadband prices below the wholesale rates it was charging rivals.

It was out of the ashes of this arduous process that Labor’s flagship National Broadband Process was born; an elegant, if capital-intensive project that would sideline the need to restrain Telstra through regulatory means and deliver the structural separation the telecommunications industry has long demanded; while simultaneously delivering a massive improvement in broadband service delivery that would catapult Australia to the world stage in terms of our technological advances.

It is this context which Samuel brings to the ongoing debate between Labor and the Coalition over whether Australia should pursue a National Broadband Network based on fibre all the way to the premise (as under the current Labor NBN policy), or a much more limited fibre to the node rollout, as the Coalition, or more precisely, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is proposing as a cheaper and faster alternative.

Samuel, now a managing director at corporate advisory firm Greenhill Caliburn – yes, the same company which favourably assessed the NBN’s business case back in 2010, although Samuel hadn’t joined it yet — told the Financial Review this week that the neighbourhood ‘nodes’ to be used under the Coalition’s plan were “obsolete equipment”. “You can’t reuse [nodes] or remodel them or develop them to provide fibre to the premises and you basically just have to throw them out,” he said.

Now, when Samuel was leading the ACCC during the height of the regulator’s engagement with Telstra, the Government and the rest of the telco sector on this issue, there was a great deal of truth to this statement.

Industry sources consulted by Delimiter this week noted that only a handful of years ago, it was much more difficult to upgrade the relevant pieces of networking gear (in this case, they are called ISAMs, or Integrated Service Access Managers) from a fibre to the node model to support the new generation of fibre to the home rollouts. As late as 2007, for example, we have been told, such an upgrade would be possible if the fibre protocol used was a P2P model – but not if it was the more capable GPON model which the current National Broadband Network fibre rollout is based on.

In addition, as Samuel also stated this week, such a model was actually keenly examined by the ACCC, as well as the Government’s panel of experts commissioned to assess commercial proposals during the first NBN tender process kicked off in early 2008. It was plainly found wanting, with the reality being that any such FTTN network rollout would eventually need to be upgraded to FTTH anyway. Why would you deploy technology that would be ‘obsolete’ in only a few years, Samuel’s thinking continues to go. And many, perhaps most, experts in the global telecommunications industry, not to mention the majority of the Australian public, likely agrees with him.

However, as is so often with commentators in Australia’s National Broadband Network debate, Samuel was only partially correct in his statement.

As Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull pointed out this week, the development of Multi Service Access Nodes by networking vendors over the past few years has meant that broadband can now be delivered over copper (ADSL/VDSL) or fibre (GPON) from a single neighbourhood node. This model is being deployed in the US, UK, New Zealand and many other countries. And it’s getting cheaper.

“ … the cost trend for FTTN to FTTH conversion is falling,” Ovum research director and principal analyst David Kennedy told Delimiter this week. “Equipment vendors are well aware that the cost of conversion is a powerful reason for companies and countries to delay *any* FTTx investment. FTTH is very expensive, while FTTN raises uncertainty about possible costs of conversion. So the vendors have been developing hybrid cabinets that can support both FTTN (i.e. copper loops) and FTTH (i.e. PON fiber). That’s the MSAN technology that Turnbull’s office is referring to. There is no need to rip these out if you want to upgrade to FTTH … the cost trend is downward. Over the next few years, it’ll get lower and lower.”

In truth, Kennedy says, whether countries and telcos decide to deploy fibre to the node or fibre to the home depended on their appetite for risk. Those who believe that the need for broadband capacity is only growing continuously will inevitably invest in FTTH deployments, and face the risk that that capacity needs may plateau before return on investment is made. And while all the graphs for capacity demand head northward for now, there is precedent in the global technology sector for plateauing demand. One need only look at the decline in upgrade cycles for desktop PCs. We no longer buy faster, better processors every year – and many people now only buy them every five years.

Those who want to hedge their bets will deploy fibre to the node instead, wagering that applications requiring 100Mbps speeds may never eventuate. “If they don’t emerge, or if they prove insignificant, then FTTN will be a much better investment,” says Kennedy. “This is all a classic case of investment under conditions of uncertainty. Your attitude to risk will be a key determinant of how you want to proceed.”

However, Turnbull can’t crow just yet. Like Samuel, his argument this week contained truth, but it didn’t portray all of the available truth.

Industry sources point out that almost all known FTTN business cases used so far globally have been put forward by incumbent telcos, who regard their existing copper networks as sunk costs. This isn’t the case with respect to the National Broadband Network project, which would likely have to buy Telstra’s copper network off the former monopolist in order to replace it with a fibre to the node alternative. Just how much would that cost? Nobody really knows right now, and there are few informed guesses. Certainly Turnbull’s camp has been very reluctant to put a figure on such a purchase. And it’s not hard to guess at the public’s reaction to any government move to buy Telstra’s copper network for an amount likely in the tens of billions of dollars … before shutting much of it down.

Then, too, Turnbull has never answered a number of very basic questions about the Coalitions’ FTTN plan to start with, such as:

  • What international examples of FTTN-style broadband deployments do you consider most pertinent to the Australian situation, and why?
  • How long do you estimate it would take, if the Coalition wins the next Federal Election, to deploy FTTN to more than 90 percent of the Australian population?
  • What, specifically, do you estimate would be the cost difference between deploying FTTN and FTTH as part of the NBN rollout?
  • Do you consider it possible to re-work the current Telstra/NBN contract to focus on FTTN instead of FTTH, and how long do you estimate this would take?
  • What broad details of this contract would need to change, and how long do you anticipate the ACCC would take to approve a modified version?
  • Do you have a long-term plan to upgrade a FTTN-style network to a FTTH-style network, or a medium-term plan to allow ad-hoc upgrades of this network to FTTH?
  • What do you consider to be the time frame on which a FTTN-style network would continue to be used without an upgrade to FTTH? Will there, in fact, be a need to upgrade in the long-term to FTTH? On what evidence do you have these beliefs?
  • How would you address the claim that FTTN is a short to medium-term technology that will be superceded over the next several decades by FTTH, and that Australia should only be investing for the long-term when it comes to this kind of telecommunications infrastructure? On what evidence do you feel this way?

What does this leave us with? A telecommunications policy debate between a regulatory expert and lawyer who isn’t up to date on the exact nuances of today’s technology, and a politician who correctly points that out, but doesn’t address the much larger fundamental questions about his party’s own telecommunications policy. Not exactly the soundest ground to discuss the finer nuances of a national infrastructure project which will touch every corner of Australia and likely take a decade and tens of billions of dollars – whether it’s fibre to the home or fibre to the node – to construct.

We’re left with this flawed conversation because as human beings, we tend to take those with domain expertise seriously. Graeme Samuel must be reliably informed about the technical nuances of today’s MSAN products, because of his decade regulating Telstra, right? Wrong. He knows a lot, but we can’t take everything he says as technical gospel. Malcolm Turnbull, a notably more transparent and up-front politician than many of his colleagues, must be telling the whole truth about the Coalition’s NBN policy, because he has more ethics than anyone else in politics, right? Wrong. Turnbull is more transparent and ethical than almost anyone else in the Federal political arena, but like others, the Liberal MP will use half-truths or withhold information when he suits him.

And yet this is so often the make-up of Australia’s NBN debate. Half-truths and misleading statements; a lack of context and a lack of insight. Different sides bludgeoning each other with perjoratives such as “NBN cheerleader” – but not acknowledging the objective flaws in their own argument. It’s enough to fill onlookers and the general public with dismay; but then by this stage, with our poisonous political debate covering so many different areas, surely we’re used to it. And that – beyond the issue of whether Graeme Samuel or Malcolm Turnbull is correct this week – is the desperate main issue here. Why do we put up with such a pointless display of sound and fury, signifying nothing?


  1. “the Liberal MP will use half-truths or withhold information when he suits him.”

    I think that should be “when it suits him.”?

    “Why do we put up with such a pointless display of sound and fury, signifying nothing?”

    Why indeed, I miss the old days of politics when there were actually some very good bi-partisan policies made and Australia is much stronger/better for them. All this political “bitch slapping” going on is a real drain on our countries political productivity.

    Excellent article Renai, sums things up pretty accurately and has a few things to mull over.

    • “Why indeed, I miss the old days of politics when there were actually some very good bi-partisan policies made and Australia is much stronger/better for them.”

      It says a lot that the most recent bi-partisan major reforms have been in the Hawke-Keating era (Float of the dollar / removal of tariffs / dereg of labour market etc and Fair Work Act (possibly)). Why has politics gone so far downhill in the last 20 years.

      • The crazy thing is that the coalition could be legislating, right now. They’d just need the occasional support of the greens and independents for individual pieces of legislation and they could be passing through both houses.

        This minority government is the ultimate opportunity for proving that a party can work in a non-adversarial-only way, but they’ve been a miserable failure at doing that.

  2. “There is no need to rip these out if you want to upgrade to FTTH … the cost trend is downward. Over the next few years, it’ll get lower and lower.”

    OK, so once everyone or even the majority make the jump to fibre we then have a bunch of nodes that most likely still need to be powered when what we could have had is a far more efficient setup. The best part is instead of having to upgrade lines incrementally people can get whatever speed that want or need right from the start and if they move it’s just one less thing to worry about.

  3. Leaving aside the analysis of the rhetoric – which I find admirable – I should like to commend you for the technical and policy analysis while remarking that something that I, having spent years managing telco faults teams, find salient rarely seems to get mentioned by commentators: it is that Telstra’s last mile is of very uneven quality, having been maintained poorly, if at all, for some decades. In many places around the country it is in such poor condition that even customers close to exchanges cannot get ADSL2+ and distant customers struggle to get broadband service at all. The copper is thin and old and has multiple joints, the pits flood in any sort of rain … it is often not even good enough for reliable voice, let alone data. Malcolm Turnbull is never held to account on what his answer is to this, will he upgrade the copper or go full FTTH where the copper is too bad, what implications does this have on his assertion that FTTN is going to be so much cheaper.

    I really pity the call centre and faults staff that have to handle customers who expect NBN era speeds from FTTN architecture in places where the copper is rubbish.

    • @Bill Tarrant

      Indeed. The copper is very much uneven quality.

      And no wonder the Telstra pillar the end of my rod has been open for 4 days now….it has ruined twice….and people wonder why their connections are so bad….

    • i disagree, i think the copper is just fine, you are probably mixing in regional and rural copper.

      in the cities, theres not problem getting adsl, and every place ive been to sync near theoretical rates.

      If the copper was really in bad shape there would be lots of people complaining, but as it stands, telstras adsl and ISP adsl hold up pretty well even if telstra has stopped maintaining it for some time.

      I’ve had my dsl connect for 6months never had any issue and my modem syncs at 18mbps, which would be the case for a lot of people in my area and closer to the exchange, im about 1km away.

        • The broadband survey has had something like 13,000 replies so far. I’ve calculated it out, and that’s just about one data point of questionable value for every 600 premises. Never mind the sampling bias. There is no statistical confidence in this thing.

          It might make for some good anecdotes and lots of averaging, but that averaging will have to go over areas the sizes of councils to be of any use.

      • One day when you get out of high school, get a job and build a house near the CBD that costs over $500,000 but then get told that you can’t get ADSL at your house because of the copper, maybe you’ll get a new point of view.

        In fact, Springfield which is a new, major development near Brisbane has virtually no ADSL connections. Maybe you should go and spout your views over there too.

      • @brutally handsome

        You are aware that just because you and your neighbours get decent ADSL, the rest of Australia can actually be different?

        I’ve lived in 4 houses in 6 years. 3 of them I couldn’t get above 4Mbps. 2 because I was on a RIM and 1 because of dodgy copper, as I was only 1km from the exchange.

        If the copper was really in bad shape there would be lots of people complaining, but as it stands, telstras adsl and ISP adsl hold up pretty well even if telstra has stopped maintaining it for some time.

        Have a wander over to Whirlpool sometime in the Telstra or ADSL thread….also:


        That’s just from Delimiter.

        My Telstra pillar has been open and uncovered for 5 days now. It has rained twice. I WAS going to wait to see how long it took them. But considering I don’t want my own or my neighbours copper getting worse, as it is working reasonably at the moment, I’m going to take a picture and send it to Telstra today.

        It is exceedingly obvious you wish to believe the best about the system we have. Then answer me this: why does it cost $1 Billion a year to maintain? Surely, if the copper was good, most of that labour wouldn’t be required? Only the equipment at end of life and the occasional failure would need replacing….and yet $1 BILLION….

        • So out of four houses you found one with dodgy copper, and you live in rural Australia. The cities are considerably better so we could average that out to perhaps one house in eight that has dodgy copper. I would find that quite a plausible estimate.

          If the ALP had the brains to specifically target blackspot areas then they could have spent vastly less money and got faster results with less complaints.

          • @Tel

            No. Out of 4 houses, 3 had dodgy copper. The RIM should’ve been capable of 8Mbps. I got less than 4 and was less than 1Km from it.

            Secondly….Rural???? You’re off your head. I live in a town of 40 000 less than 70km from Sydney. If you consider that Rural, it shows you really don’t understand Australia.

      • I can see the exchange from my front gate, there is exactly ONE corner between me and that exchange, and thanks to the crappy copper line I can only sync at ~6 mbps. The greater Wollongong area has circa 500k people so its not rural, yet thats the best the copper line can offer.

        And under a FttN scheme, I figure I’d be approximately haflway between two nodes, meaning the service is no better than what I currently get, and most likely worse. Copper IS the problem, and while its part of the solution, its always going to be THE problem.

        Taking the cheap arse option and leaving it in might work well with the dollar jugglers, but not with the service users. It forces everyone to keep playing copper loop lotto, which is one of the things the NBN is trying to get rid of.

      • What? You get 18mbps so everyone else must as well?

        I live in a city suburb and get 3mbps! How do you think I feel – paying the same amount as you for 1/6th of the speed?

        The NBN can’t come soon enough – not necessarily for 100mbps (straight away), but certainly to create a level playing field where if you pay for a particular speed, that is what you get!

        • “I live in a city suburb and get 3mbps! How do you think I feel – paying the same amount as you for 1/6th of the speed?”

          You are effectively subsidising his lifestyle. According to the coalition of clowns this is a bad thing but will happen naturally with a FttN patchwork too. I myself get about 13mbps (down) and get quite a buzz knowing there are suckers in my town further from the exchange that get what you get and less. The fact that they are paying the same prices as me makes it just that much sweeter. Too bad my fun will come to an end when the NBN comes to town :-(

      • I’m inner-city, 317 metres from the exchange… peak speed is 13Mb/s on ADSL2+. I think that qualifies as dodgy copper.

      • Well done. Of the 400 odd people in the company I work for you managed to get as high as the highest speed of all the people throughout Melbourne. Average seems more like 6 or 7 Mb of those who could get ADSL2+. Some people still cant get it in normal established suburbs because they are too far from the exchange and if they aren’t near cable or are in one of the increasing number of MDUs they are stuffed.
        I was surprised how many had flakey sub 3 Mb connections with regular drop outs or a line that couldn’t be used when it rained. Something like a good 10%.

        So congrats on being in the in the 0.25 percentile. I guess your right (or making up stories to suit your agenda) so screw the rest hey.

      • http://www.netindex.com/promise/2,18/Australia/

        Our Telcos (and you I suppose) are great at talking up “how wonderful” things are currently, but we (Australia) have some very woeful stats when it comes to a national broadband system.

        Take, for example, the link above. That shows where Australia ranks in the world for “Promised speed” Vs “Actual speed” of connections. We rank 60th.

        Quality of connection we rank 26th. Value were 46th.

        At least we’re world leaders when it comes to “talkin’ it up”…

  4. There is no question that FTTN can be upgraded to FTTH . What is questionable, however, is:

    – The long term cost (of FTTN + upgrade to FTTH, versus going straight to FTTH)?
    – What is the benefit/advantage of doing FTTN first and then upgrading to FTTH (excluding the potential political benefit to the Coalition by using it as a trick to outflank Labor’s project), and
    – Is this benefit so valuable that it overcomes the disadvantage of ending up with a less efficient network design?

    This statement in the article above is also puzzling to me: “…FTTN is a short to medium-term technology that will be superceded over the next several decades by FTTH. It reads as if FTTH is some future technology that is yet to be discovered, or at least something that is in an experimental stage and is yet to be proven… when in fact, FTTH is not only in current wide-scale rollouts in many developed countries around the world right now, but has actually been in use for years. FTTN has already been superseded and is obsolete, without ifs, buts, or future tenses.

    • Turnbull effectively agreed on Lateline in August that FTTP would eventually come, stating:

      “…now, you may say in 20 years time things will be different. Well, if they’re different in 20 years time, we’ll make some further investments in 20 years time.”

      So clearly he expects to get 20 more years of life out of the copper network, that is already degraded, and in many cases, unable to support DSL signals.

      How he expects to get VDSL signals onto copper that Telstra technicians have declared incapable of supporting ADSL, must be derived of some kind of magical fungus at the bottom of his garden.

  5. I think what Samuel missed is valid- I have known for sometime MSANs/ISAMs can have both VDSL and GPON ports. There is a valid argument at FTTN could indeed be ‘upgraded’ without wasting much, if any, equipment, IF the back haul provisions to the nodes are made when building the FTTN. (Which would be more expensive than a straight out FTTN back haul capacity requirement)

    However, Turnbull’s argument misses 3 important points:

    1- We are currently building a network designed, regulated, legislated AND who’s backbone (POIs and transit) is built around FTTH. Changing now WOULD take time, WOULD cost extra (over straight FTTN) money and would likely see us getting better broadband to the majority perhaps only 2 years ahead of the NBN

    2- FTTN could very well provide us with, mostly, sufficient bandwidth for another 5, perhaps 10, years for RESIDENTIAL use. But what Mr Turnbull NEVER mentions, ever, is the limitless and ASTOUNDINGLY cheaper opportunities for BUSINESS bandwidth and services over the NBN. He does not mention this, because in a FTTN network they would not be apparent. Speeds greater than 100Mbps on a single connection would be impossible and multiple connections raises the price very quickly. Certainly, the business could pay for an on-demand upgrade to FTTH (IF, as I said above, it was properly provisioned to begin with…..something we have NO idea about because Turnbull refuses to give details) But then that would, depending on their needs and location, take a good portion of savings they would make away. And essentially, this is all Turnbull is asking us to do accept that WE AS INDIVIDUAL S pay the cost, much higher, based on demand, rather than having it all done and the coat spread out over years to be cheaper for all.

    3- Turnbull’s FTTN solution misses one of the most important factors about the NBN- ubiquity. He will use FTTN, HFC, FTTH AND wireless and satellite. HFC will NOT cope, even with the hundreds of millions likely they would propose to throw at it for node-splitting, with the increasing bandwidth. FTTN will soon be eclipsed, be it even in 25 or 30% of cases straight away just for business and much more over the next few years for residential needs. FTTH will likely be at premium prices, to try and garner some profit back from the waste money in redesign, although, again, we have no details. If Turnbull were to guarantee a fixed price for a fixed speed at wholesale, as NBNCo. does for 12Mbps and only marginally increasing it as speeds rise, there may be some validity.

    The simple fact is, while Samuel’s argument was and is flawed and Turnbull is at least partially if not wholly correct in his rebuttal, there are so many other holes and pointless ignorances in his policy that it STILL doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

    As many people have said before- FTTN would’ve been fine…..if deployed 5 YEARS ago. It is too late now and apart from that, at election time, more than 15% of the way through an FTTH build, it is too late to change or risk huge delays and massive extra cost.

    But he is unlikely to admit that…..we can hope though….

    • +10 for mentioning business usage. There isn’t much commentary on FTTP benefits for business, but business could be one of the biggest proponents of the NBN if they knew what was coming e.g. cheap and reliable outsourcing of all their basic IT needs.

      • Add to that another reliable avenue of communication direct from business to customer, which is gold for businesses far outside the realm of IT. But it only works if the high-speed internet is bulletproof reliable and comprehensively widespread.

    • Unfortunately if we go by the example of Medibank Private it doesn’t matter how far along any Labor legislation/project will be.. if the Coalition don’t want it then nothing will stop them from systematically undermining it and slowly dismantling it.

  6. Do you need any sort of node or junction box between the exchange and your home if you have FTTH ?, if not than a fridge size air-conditioned box wouldn’t be necessary. The FTTN to me sounds like a lottery, some will get an improvement and some wont. Add least Turnball gave out the second part of the NBN debate, the Coalition wont be upgrading to full FTTH until 2032 and then xxxx years rolling it out, I’m 60 years old I could well be dead by the time that comes around, some modern comms future. I can see our broadband speed ranking in 2032, some where in the middle of the 3rd world.

    • @Mike K

      Yes, you do. It’s called the Fibre Distribution Hub. It sits between the FAN (located normally in a nearby exchange) and your premises. They are about 1.2m high and 70cm wide. They contain passive equipment- optical splitters and joiners, no electricity required. They need one from every 200 premises.

      • Don’t we love passive optical transmission distribution. It’s all mirrors without the smoke! *longing sigh*

  7. Well done Ranai. An excellent summary of where the debate stands now between FTTH and FTTN (though the HFC portion of the plan I hope is dropped). It all comes down to the Coalition providing a cost or eveb roughly sketched out plan. All we have now is contradictory tidbits here and there. Until there is more substantial information forthcomming beyond saying they did it in the UK it cost a third and give from real cost and specifications the debate is stalled.

  8. “Why do we put up with such a pointless display of sound and fury, signifying nothing?”

    The major problem I can see is that we have an implemented policy being compared to an incomplete competing policy. This leads to much speculation and frustration.

    In the absence of knowledge, anyone can have an opinion. Just think how different things would be if the coalition had a fully articulated and costed policy. A majority of the discussions would be about comparing facts, not facts versus suppositions.

    • No, the major problem is that people keep comparing the implemented policy to what Turnbull is saying. We should all just stop doing that, Abbott and Hockey have made it plainly obvious that what Turnbull is saying is not party policy, so such comparisons are a waste of time.

      • My sentiments entirely! Turnbull can puff and postulate as much as he wants, but all the time Abbot and Hockey are white anting him behind his back, his pronouncements are worth diddly squat.

  9. While there is now an option to build a FTTN system that can be more easily upgraded to FTTH in the future, did the LNP actually use that technology in there calculations?

    Also Renai, you wrote:
    “the development of Multi Service Access Nodes by networking vendors over the past few years has meant that broadband can now be delivered over copper (ADSL/VDSL) or fibre (GPON) from a single neighbourhood node. ”

    I need to point out a few problems with this:
    1. It clearly says “single neighbourhood node”, so what happens to the other nodes in the neighbourhood? Is there cost simply wasted at a time in the future when you upgrade FTTN to FTTH?
    2. Also touching on this “single neighbourhood node” comment that was used? If MT and the LNP is looking at taking that approach, then surely you would see how that approach will be much worse for broadband in AU?

    Simply put – building a FTTN network with limited nodes will directly impact the speeds available across the areas where the FTTN network is constructed.

    The LNP need to come clean on exactly how far each node will be spaced in the FTTN rollout areas. because each time I read a comment MT makes about the LNP FTTN network, it makes me believe the nodes will be so far apart that there will be negligible difference in connection speed for the majority of Australian’s then there is with ADSL2 now. And if that is how it will be, then why even bother building a FTTN network at all?

  10. The FTTH component is approx $12Bill for 92% of premises out of $37Bill, considering all practical factors including the fact that Telstra owns that copper and the state of the copper, Savings would at the most for a short term fix be only in the order of 10% and lose the higher capacity higher revenue plans, thus placing a substantial downer on the income earning capability.
    As I keep saying, considering Australia’s situation and options, the coalition option is in reality a Play School optionas presented, but then The Brilliant Abbot and Hockey are happy to screw over Australia’s economic future. just to protect their mates interests and gain the power they so desperately crave, a reprise of the reason Howard reversed the separation of Telecom leading to where we are.
    Deja Vu

  11. Renai, in the Australian context, where one private company owns most of the copper tails, FTTN is economically obsolete.

    Ironically, Malcolm Turnbull now praises FTTN – BECAUSE it can be upgraded to FTTH! He therefore (correctly) considers FTTN to be at or near end-of-life.

    If his August 2012 costings ever see the light of day, I wonder if they will include the two phases of install and upgrade?

    In the meantime, we already have rock solid costings of FTTN from 2009 which, when combined with even modest compensation to Telstra, far exceed the $12 billion cost of laying fibre to 93% of premises once and for all.

  12. Where is the mention of mobile or wireless substitution? Do we as consumers want to have any sort of cable – fibre or copper. My telly, laptops, tablets and smartphones all run wirelessly so will I ever want to replace that wire to my house with a fibre ?
    Is FTTN+Wimax/LTE a better proposition?

    • @NZGannet

      This is a question that has been asked dozens of times. Your copper line is what your wifi connects to. If you want more wireless speed, you need more speed over your copper. If your copper can’t handle that, as is the case in many circumstances, because of distance, quality etc via FTTN, then fibre to the home, FTTH, is the only option.

      “Wireless Last Mile” is EXCEEDINGLY expensive and brings about ALL sorts of interference and spectrum capacity issues. It is only an option for special circumstances.

      Nobody in their right mind would expect mobile wireless, like 4G, to be able to give them the sorts of quotas they need for watching TV or playing/downloading games. That’s 80% of the population.

    • @NZGannet

      There are 2 different issues with wireless. The wireless networking that happens around your home, and the 3G/4G/LTE wireless you use when mobile. Your tele, laptop, tablet options, when used at home work on the first sort, which revolves around the quality of your router. If it can deliver wireless fast enough (and most modems do), you get the speed the line into your home can deliver.

      But there is still a line into your home, which is what the debate is over. Copper in any part of that line slows things down, and is a technological limitation.

      If you’re out and about, using your smartphone while out with friends, having lunch, shopping, whatever, then its a different story. You’re not tied to the modem, you’re tied to whatever mobile tower you can connect to.

      Speeds there are dependant on your phones capabilities, what towers are in your area, how many people are using it at the same time, and what technology that mobile tower is connected to.

      hat last part is important, because if it connects to a copper line then thats a limitation that everyone has to deal with. So to get around that, it needs to connect to a fibre line.

      Either way, if you’re just using wireless around the house, or 4G while out of the house, you will need a FTTH connection to get the fastest speed for that wireless experience. That connection all the way to the home lets your home modem give you the fastest wireless speed possible at home, and lets the mobile towers deliver the fastest speeds they can.

    • “My telly, laptops, tablets and smartphones all run wirelessly so will I ever want to replace that wire to my house with a fibre ?”

      And how does that wireless network, access the broader internet?

      If you say ADSL or CABLE, then you have the answer already.

      The NBN is primarily designed to provide the backbone to support FTTH. It also happens to be an excellent method to connect Wireless and Cellular networks. We know this, because that’s the preferred method to do so, already.

      Wireless and 3/4G is ideal for short bursts of traffic. It’s a terrible solution for “base load”, if you will. It’s also why Turnbull is all but silent (apart from occasionally distorting references) on Wireless/ 3/4G technology.

      Or rather, falls very silent when pressed for clarification on his many tweets on the topic. :)

      Turnbull is hamstrung by a party that is disinterested. Many might like to see him replace Abbott, in some kind of hail-mary win for geeks everywhere. I would too. At least then the “internet” would be on the L/NP rader.

      But it isn’t. People really, honestly need to grasp that he is being white-anted by his party. They don’t care. They have never cared. Nor will they ever care.

      Our one shot at this, for at least the next decade is the NBN. That’s it. It’s costed. It’s being built. It’s more than just a rough-plan of what someone might like to do, if his party actually gave a sh!t.

    • Apart from what the other guys have already mentioned, there is also a problem in the amount of available wireless spectrum available, at best this could cause slow speeds, at worst folks wouldn’t be able to connect at all.

    • Here’s the thing.
      If we don’t invest anything, LTE will have the speed crown (in ideal situations) and absorb all customers who want speed hang the cost.
      ADSL will retain the bargain customers.
      Over time LTE will be crushed under the demand (repeat of the vodaphone network crunch).
      Thing is, if we build ftth LTE won’t get crushed, because the wire into the home will be the cheaper option (for same or better speeds). LTE will still be viable, but ironically only if we build an alternative.
      It ends up a win win for consumers.

      in an attempt to draw customers LTE gets cheaper, and ftth will stay cheap due to government limits on profit for NBNCo.

      The ideal outcome requires both networks to do what they do best. LTE convenience, fibre – heavy lifting.

  13. Even though it is technically possible to upgrade from FTTN to FTTH does not mean it is in anyway economically or logistically a good idea.

    So we get 50000 to 70000 nodes rolled out by 20xx. From day one any of the poor miserable sods stuck at 25mbs or even people on higher speeds who NEED to upgrade to fibre would have to pay for the upgrade themselves. So I am 900m from a node no one else in my street has the cash to help with the cost so I now have to pay NBNco (or more likely Telstra) to open up all the ducts and pits and run a fibre just for me and install a conversion card in the node. What would this cost? $5000, $10000 who knows. Then 6 months later my new neighbour has to repeat the process for how much you say. Well at least as much as I paid. The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result. The whole idea of FTTN is insane and will be proved so if god help us Malcolm actually gets to implement his “policy”.

    Even if after 30 years of having to put up with a maximum of 80mbs some benevolent telco upgrades all nodes to fibre we now have at least 50000 powered, air conditioned nodes that would not have been required under the current NBN FTTH rollout.

    So the idea of upgrading is so ludicrous that technical feasibility doesn’t matter a toss.

    • What happens to MDU’s? Do they run dark fibre in for every premise when the first person asks for FTTH, and connect as each subsequent person requests it? Do they charge that first person for the whole lot? Double dip (triple/quad/…/100 dip) and charge every following person the same?

      As asked elsewhere, is everyone charged the same? By meterage? From the nearest node, or the most direct route to the nearest exchange?

      What about from the RDF box outside? Whos responsible, the contractor or the strata? Last I checked responsibility for comms ends at the property line. So are two contractors required if the body corporate demands their own guy?

      Right now its all the same tech and an opt out approach, so its a moot point. But a FTTN to FTTH plan is opt in by default giving the new client (or more importantly the property owner) rights.

  14. “But a FTTN to FTTH plan is opt in by default giving the new client (or more importantly the property owner) rights.”

    Sorry, the owner has always had, and will always have rights. That includes stating that NO, they do not wish to join everyone else in fast internet.

    That’s also the right to say YES to a bill if they decide later, that being all angry at a government for laying on fast internet, perhaps wasn’t such a good idea afterall. I’m sure credit card companies will love that.

    MDUs have always been, and will always be a special case, because of where the boundary exists.

    FTTN would be the same as FTTH, in that context. It’s no different simply because the connectivity INSIDE of the boundary will ALWAYS remain the responsibility of legal representatives. Be that a body corporate, the building owner(s) or the property owners.

    So, end of the day? No difference. Apart from one offering a genuinely fast, capable service that delivers what it says, versus ADSL+VDSL. Where it terminates is a bit of a moot point; it uses copper, resulting in variable outcomes.

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