FTTP too hard: Informa analyst backs Coalition


NBN fibre rolling out to Blacktown

blog When it comes to knowledge of broadband infrastructure throughout Asia — Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and so on, I’ve long had a great deal of time for the opinion of Tony Brown, a senior analyst with Informa Telecoms & Media. When it comes to this space, Brown gets it. He spends a lot of time up north speaking with operators in these countries about their rollouts and commercial pricing structures. That’s why I take seriously this opinion piece by him in The Sydney Morning Herald this week backing the Coalition’s rival NBN plan. Brown writes (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“The Asian operator executives I spoke to in Hong Kong … go ashen faced when asked to consider the possibility of deploying similar networks in Australia. These guys have had a hard enough time deploying their FTTH networks in their own highly urbanised markets where most people live in multi-dwelling units. Doing it in the vast suburban sprawl of Australia is a chilling prospect.”

We’ve certainly seen in Australia with Labor’s NBN rollout that both the Government and NBN Co itself appeared to underestimate the complexity of rolling out FTTP in Australia. The concept of fibre to the premise in most locations in Australia may be the right one, but when it comes to actually deploying the infrastructure, there have been a myriad of obstacles in the way. Brown’s view — that FTTN represents a middle ground which provides long-term opportunities for upgrade — is compelling, as it avoids the absolute last step to the premise that has appeared to be so bedevilling NBN Co’s rollout so far.

Image credit: NBN Co


  1. Then let’s all just go home. – Rodney McKay.

    MDU are always going to be difficult. If that means NBNCo has to deliver FTTB in that area, so be it.

    Look, Australia is not Hong Kong. We have a lot of fully and semi detached houses, they don’t.

  2. This goes against the massive amount of FTTP projects that are currently being run around the world. Everywhere from Spain to Pakistan have some sort of FTTP project. I can’t say I agree with any of his sentiments, seeing as Korea has one of the highest FTTP adoption rates in the world, & somehow it was “too hard”?

    His claims are so far from reality that I question the intention of such an article & why he would put his name to such drivel. Reality vs rhetoric is easy to debunk, & with an inbox overflowing with articles on FTTP deployments going ahead, I don’t see these comments as reality.

  3. Tony Brown is all very good and reasoned but still the focus is on today, this is infrastructure for the next 50-100 years.

    The cost now is minuscule to what the cost will be in the coming decades Australia should be going for Gold not the top 20.

    All points to a lack of imagination, relying on digging up minerals for the next 100 years is not going to keep Australia in the lifestyle we have become accustomed to.

    • Yes, it seems to the blind spot of those supporting the Coalition plan. I’ve seen him questioned on future needs on Twitter and in comments to his article. He ignores the question or uses similar replies to Turnbull, asking what current application needs it.

      • I just can’t fathom the kind of thinking that leads to those kind of conclusions. Is it really likely that although bandwidth requirements have been growing at a fairly constant rate for 30 years, it’ll just stop next year and suddenly current speeds will be all we’ll need for the next fifteen or twenty years?

        Saying 25Mbps will be all people need by the time the rollout is finished would make them as correct as somebody in 2003 saying that 256kbps should currently be enough for the average home user…

        And the other thing I don’t get is people supporting the Coalition’s plan, because it’s cheaper and “some technology better than the Labor NBN will probably come out in the meantime”. Let’s just ignore the fact that fibre is completely future proof – their argument fails even without considering that. They’re saying, “Since the Labor plan _could_ become obsolete, we should install a technology that is _already_ obsolete”. How does that make sense at all? That would only work if the Coalition’s plan was dramatically cheaper than Labor’s (like 10 to 20% maybe). But it’s 60-80% of the cost!

  4. Really Renai, you think this is a good article? It takes the opinion of a foreign body who have no experience at all rolling out to a country like Australia, and uses it to present misinformation about FttP rollouts.

    From the article:
    “To them the NBN in Australia represents one big non-standard connection.”
    Which is why their opinion holds very little weight.

    The second point he relates from Asian markets, about speed wars, he doesn’t even try to make relevant to Australia! The whole thing comes off as an attempt to justify the myopia coming from the right.

    • Tony Brown is a respected analyst on these matters. I’m not going to link to all the hogwash out there, but there is an alternative point of view on these issues, and it deserves to be represented on Delimiter.

      • And you can do a much better job representing it than he can, though I understand your time is limited.

      • And I’d like to point out that being respected doesn’t mean everything you publish is unquestionable perfection.

      • Tony Brown is pretty right. FTTP is damn hard. But taking one Hong Kong data point or saying that no one wants to pay for higher speed when 44% are on 100 Mbps doesn’t seem right either. Never mind how 10 Gbps is made for purposes of a point but never mentioned in the context of how much worse the coalition plan is in comparison after that. I’ve previously left a comment on that article.

        But here’s the thing… Tony Brown has previously said that on balance those on the coalition side are loose with the truth. And the most compelling evidence for his support of the coalition plan in this article is the statement “is much more realistic and could be delivered cheaper and quicker because it avoids most of the last-mile construction work.”

        It’s hard to, even as an ardent FTTH supporter, to disagree with the truth of that. He doesn’t say that the coalition plan is better or even sensible considering a whole bunch of issues that are yet to be addressed that don’t involve the choice between FTTN or FTTH. Renai, I really don’t think Tony Brown wants to make a judgement call here.Maybe outside this article, sure, but within the context of this article I don’t think so.

        • “is much more realistic and could be delivered cheaper and quicker because it avoids most of the last-mile construction work.”

          It’s hard to, even as an ardent FTTH supporter, to disagree with the truth of that.
          I argued with that pretty coherently in a comment on his article. (Under the name Karlww)

          • What’s so unrealistic about it? The coalition will just give Telstra ultimately whatever they want and do a half-assed job of the network. It’s also more realistic to just ignore the future and build said half-assed network in a very pragmatic and frankly stupid and short-sighted way. Cheaper, sooner and more realistic. I didn’t say it was any good.

  5. Some people are allergic to hard work. News at 11.

    Please, let’s not roll out FttP my biggest fear is that some of the workers will stub their toes in driveways or get eaten by grumpy cats.

  6. Hence why private enterprise was never capable of delivering a FTTP NBN. A model was selected where based on research done, a viable user pays network could be constructed by a government owned NBNco.

  7. Tony Brown may ‘get it’ regarding telco infrastructure but his ‘getting it’ appears to one of consistent negativity. For example …
    1. “Informa’s Tony Brown recently traversed the broadband scene in the AsiaPacific [6]and concluded that unless 100 mbps or faster speeds were offered as or at the same price as entry level products they were not being taken up.” (Sept 2011) http://www.wa.liberal.org.au/article/broadband-world-forum-malcolm-turnbull-0
    2. Multi-dwelling units a major issue for the NBN (Dec 2011) http://delimiter.com.au/2011/12/02/multi-dwelling-units-a-major-issue-for-the-nbn/ wherein he warns of the problems and challenges that NBNCo will face with MDU’s and now,
    3. Broadband utopia is a pipedream: analyst (April 2013) except this time is also posits that Australia’s urban sprawl is even more difficult than dealing with MDU’s, in particular Hong Kong and Singapore’s high rise towers.

    Is there Anything else that Tony Brown doesn’t have concerns about? No doubt there are a few more articles wherein he expresses worries about other aspects of the NBN roll out and that problems it will face. But I think it can be safely assumed that Brown simply thinks it’s all too hard and can’t be achieved. Well what a misery guts. What a naysayer. What perfect example of negativity. Just one worry after another.

    Again he’s quite entitled to express those opinions but it’s worth noting that the challenges of dealing with MDU’s and high rise towers in Hong Kong and Singapore were met and overcome – just as they will be overcome here. And a case in point is the recent formation of the MDU Corporate bodies register to facilitate the installation of NBN hardware.
    And the opposite to MDUs, the urban sprawl, which Brown refers to is not such a problem. Similar environments are being encountered in areas of Europe and more commonly in US and being dealt with. But then given Brown’s focus on Asia where such circumstances are virtually unheard of he may be unaware of these facts.

    And finally with regards to his reporting of take up rates, pricing, and plan services as per 1., then the figures provided by NBNCo regarding high cost plan take ups would appear to contradict this. And yes I’m aware it’s still early days and the figures are expected to change over time, however Tony Brown also conveniently ignores the fact that all users of fixed line telecommunications will be switched over to the NBN 9 months after an exchange area is fully serviced by the new network, thus ensuring an almost guaranteed take up rate.

    But what also concerns me is the emotive language used in his latest article. Talk of executives “going ashen faced” and of “chilling prospect[s]” crosses the boundary from analytical to that of persuasive rhetoric.

    It is the continued negativity, the ‘too hard’ attitude, the omissions contained within some of his articles, and the recent use of descriptive language in his latest article that lead me to believe that rather than simply proffering an opinion, he is actively engaged in trying to sell that same viewpoint to achieve an alternative proposition. (Oh all right – I’ll say it. An advocate for the FTTN alternative.)

    Yet in all Brown’s numerous articles, there seems to have been very little analysis of what impacts either plan would have Australia’s economy or society. Just – it’s too hard’ and Aust can’t do FTTP. Well pfft.

    As a footnote, it’s worth noting that “In 2012, the global wire line broadband market revenues from DSL, cable and Fiber to the Home (FTTH) rose 7 percent year-over-year to $188 billion.” and is expected to reach $251 billion by 2018 according to ABI Research http://uspromodeals.com/att/2013/02/broadband-service-revenue-to-climb-to-251-billion-by-2018-says-abi-research/ and this despite most economies still recovering from the GFC. Interesting.

  8. I don’t care if this so called respected analyst is an “expert” but alot of these issues NBNCo would already know about them.

    But this doesn’t mean the NBN should be cancelled in this regard.

    It’s pathetic that Coalition can get away with these “soundbytes” while at the same time that NBN can get cancelled due to “MDU” or some “expert” thinks it’s bad for Australia.

    Deployment will NEVER be perfect.

    FTTN will also have issues, because it relies on Telstra Information, It will require power companies to connect the nodes, it will also require cutover’s, All these things will come into play.

    I cannot believe some of the excuses that people come up with just to get rid of something. FFS.

    Deployments will always be a hassle even in MDU’s, it’s a fact of life, don’t put shit in the “too hard basket”.

  9. I’m sorry, but this sounds like “a little bit bullshit” to quote Hungry Beast.

    If you’re going to lay a fibre backbone to 60k corner boxes, what’s the problem with finishing the job (to the premise)?

    Call me cynical but every time I read this sort of comment, I can’t help wondering what the angle is…

  10. Hey everyone, it’s gotten a little feral on here over the weekend, so I’m closing the NBN threads for now. I’ll re-open new NBN threads on Monday after everyone’s had a bit of a chance to calm down. If you want to continue to debate this stuff right now, there’s always the forums.


    Editor + Publisher, Delimiter

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