It’s official: Labor’s NBN project has failed


full opinion/analysis by Renai LeMay
14 October 2013

The National Broadband Network project has abjectly failed every construction target ever set for it, its rollout has slowed to a deadly slow crawl, and even its founder, former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, has admitted the previous Labor Government drastically underestimated the amount of work involved in delivering it. It’s time to admit NBN version 2.0 is dead and that the project desperately needs to be radically reshaped yet again.

If there has been one constant refrain in Australia’s technology community over the past four years; one dominant opinion, one consistent meme, it has been that Labor’s Fibre to the Premises-based National Broadband Network policy, constructed by a new company, NBN Co, is inherently the right path for the long-term upgrade of Australia’s telecommunications infrastructure.

Throughout that period, as the FTTP vision given life by then-Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in April 2009 and raised through infancy by founding NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley came under sustained and massive attack from most sides of politics, the media and even sections of the business community, that one belief has remained incredibly strong: A proud frigate battering its way through turbulent seas; a lonely flag flying high above deeply troubled waters.

Labor’s defeat in this year’s Federal Election, bitterly disappointing though it was to proponents of an all-fibre NBN, merely appeared to fan these long-running flames of passionate support for the party’s NBN vision. You need only look at the 260,000 signatures calling for new Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to support Labor’s policy, the $40,000 raised by pro-FTTP NBN activists in a matter of days to lobby Turnbull to do so, or the ongoing level of antagonism the Liberal MP attracts online daily to see this fact in action. The Coalition might have won the election, but it by no means won hearts and minds when it came to its NBN policy.

Alternatively, another route to viewing this passion in action is to examine the hysterically over the top reaction when any independent expert dares to suggest that the Coalition’s preferred Fibre to the Node technology could be successfully deployed in Australia as an alternative.

It happened when your writer wrote, in April this year, that the Coalition’s NBN policy, although admittedly inferior on every count, represented a “sensible” alternative to Labor’s more ambitious NBN vision. It has happened on countless occasions when analysts such as Informa’s Tony Brown have quietly noted the fact that very similar FTTN strategies have been used internationally to great effect. And it happened last week when consulting firm GQI used the Financial Review to publish a preview of research which showed FTTN might deliver better outcomes in Australia than many had been predicting — that for most Australians, speeds of close to 100Mbps were indeed viable over FTTN infrastructure.

“Viable smiable, the change from FTTP to FTTN is one of the stupidest decisions ever made by an Australian Government,” wrote one angry commenter on Delimiter in relation to the GQI study. “Can we stop trying to market FTTN favourably, as under every measure today it is patently inferior to the FTTP that started to be installed by Quigley’s NBN Co.”

Another commenter continued along the same lines, ranting: “Again these clowns reference European deployments whilst failing to state that the copper is not the same (often better quality, never worse quality) than Australian copper. These idiotic ramblings of Turnbull about vectoring somehow magically doubling the speed of VDSL is just too much. It’s been done to death that vectoring doesn’t improve the speeds, but Turnbull wants to continue along the lines of vectoring will sort out any and all problems.”

And a third added: “Once again, they ignore ‘The Elephant in the Room’: Telstra’s fragile and thinner copper [customer access network]. What speeds are achievable on the BT network will be non-viable in Oz due to the thinner copper, plus the fact that Telstra has not really maintained the copper to the required spec for quite some time. As you say, why bother? FTTN is just a massive waste of money, and will be a continuing money-pit of maintenance. Do it right, do it once …”

However, despite all the outraged bluff and bluster that accompanies any article merely seeking to debate the future of the NBN, significant new information is continually emerging which starkly displays the fact that it is simply not viable for the NBN project to continue on its current path. The project must, it absolutely must, be changed significantly if it is to survive at all, let alone meet any of its long-term goals of improving broadband connectivity in Australia. Sure, FTTP is technically superior to FTTN. But that doesn’t matter a whit, because NBN Co is continually proving it is unable to deliver FTTP under its current model. The evidence speaks for itself.

NBN Co may be forced to change its rollout style. It may be forced to change its construction partners. It may be forced to change its management. It may be forced to change a whole swathe of things. But those changes must be considered, and must be considered now. Because the current model, in all its complexity, has been given enough time to show it just does not work.

If this sounds like an extraordinary statement, consider for a few moments what we commonly understand the term “project failure” to mean, viewed from a traditional project management perspective.

In general, modern project managers like to look at six different types of what the industry refers to as “constraints” upon projects, these being their schedule, budget, scope, quality, risk and resources. If the project bursts through pre-determined thresholds set in any of these six areas, then it may start to be considered a “failure” in one or more senses — especially to the extent that it starts to negatively impact other projects or stakeholders beyond its remit. This star is drawn from A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, considered the modern bible of the project management industry and published by the Project Management Institute based in the United States.


if you want a more detailed explanation of the concept, I like this detailed post examining project failure on DZone. It’s a software developer site, and written by a software developer, Thoughtworks Studios’ Robert Diana, but the concepts apply equally to project management in the software space as well as massive fundamental infrastructure projects like the NBN.

The key thing to understand here is that what this six prism gives project management practitioners is a real-world, multi-faceted lens through which to view the success or failure of important projects they are working on. The aim of any project should be to largely keep the project within the bounds of this triangle, without blowing its gasket in any one area, or many areas.

Traditionally, many people tend to think of project success or failure based only on the initial scope of a project. So, for instance, if you consider the NBN for a moment, what we see is that most people tend to think primarily of the future success of the project through the ‘scope’ lens. Many Australians will consider the NBN project a “success” if it is able to successfully deliver on its original aim of delivering superfast broadband to most Australians in the form of an almost universal fibre to the premises deployment, irrespective of how long it takes, how much it costs, or who gets hurt along the way.

This is the dominant view which you tend to get on technical forums such as Delimiter and Whirlpool. Readers daily argue on these sites that the only important benchmark in terms of the NBN’s delivery is whether or not its fibre rollout successfully replaces Telstra’s ageing copper network. And they won’t accept anything less than a full-fibre rollout.

However, unfortunately viewing the success of the NBN — or any project, in fact — through the ‘scope’ lens alone — is not useful, as it tends to produce a one-sided view of projects.

It’s also important, for example, to define project success or failure by the other constraints. If a project delivers on its scope, for example, but does so at a massively higher cost than was originally anticipated, as is common for large technology projects, then this could still represent project failure — especially if it caused dire financial consequences for the organisation concerned. a good example of this situation was caused when Queensland Health massively botched its payroll systems upgrade to the tune of more than $1 billion over budget.

The payroll system is more or less functional — but the project blew its budget by huge amounts, diverting funds away from primary healthcare areas and contributing to Queensland’s Labor political administration losing power. That’s pretty much the definition of failure.

Similarly, if a project was successfully delivered, but a decade too late, that would be clearly classed as a failure. If a project starts to soak up much more resources than expected (for example, staff, material resources and so on), that too could contribute to a definition of failure. If a project was delivered on time and on budget, but with a high defect rate, then the ‘quality’ of its delivery could be considered to have contributed towards a project failure definition, and so on. Failure to deliver the project as a whole is not the only way projects can fail.

Now, as a commentator, I’ve consistently taken the stance over the first few years of the NBN project’s life that many of the project’s early failings were understandable and even predictable, given the scale of the project, being Australia’s historically largest and most complex infrastructure initiative, dwarfing other efforts such as the Snowy Mountains Scheme or the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

However, if you examine a number of revelations with respect to the NBN over the past year, it becomes readily apparent that the project has not just coming close to failing to meet one or more of its previously defined standards for the six constraints I mentioned earlier: It is abjectly failing to meet its own standards on virtually all of them, and perhaps most importantly, it’s just not moving forward with anything close to its required degree of speed.

Perhaps the most visible way in which the NBN project is failing is in terms of its schedule. Its original corporate plan, published in December 2010, contained the stated aim of passing some 1.2 million Australian premises with fibre by the end of June this year. By August 2012, primarily due to delays caused by negotiations with Telstra, that figure had shrunk to 341,000. NBN Co actually delivered just 207,500.

Then, too, those are only the start of the delays. In September, as the Coalition took power after that month’s Federal Election, it was revealed that NBN Co had revised its fibre rollout forecasts down two more times this year since an initial downward change in March, with the company now projecting that only 729,000 premises will be passed by its fibre by the end of June 2014, a little over half of what it was projecting in August 2012.

But wait, there’s more!

This morning the Financial Review reported (and Delimiter verified) that NBN Co would also miss its targets to the end of December, with NBN Co currently adding only 83,700-odd new fibre premises in three months — or about 910 premises a day. Its rural wireless network construction is similarly delayed.

In short, right now, the NBN is just not being delivered, virtually at all. We like to talk about NBN Co’s “rollout”, but on any meaningful scale, the network is, in fact, not being rolled out. I repeat: The NBN rollout has hit skid row right now. Its rollout has almost completely stalled, with NBN Co beset by contractor problems, issues with asbestos in Telstra’s network infrastructure, problematic council approval processes for wireless towers, and more. As I wrote as early as March this year:

“The first and most pressing issue that is confronting the NBN right now is that Labor and the management of NBN Co itself appear to have drastically underestimated the complexity and effort which will actually be required on the ground to deploy this largest and most complex of telecommunications networks.

… The NBN is still a wonderful dream; wonderful enough that anyone from overseas who visits Australia tends to praise it as a fantastic undertaking that they wish their own government had undertaken.

But let’s be real about this: For the foreseeable future, the NBN is going to remain just that — a dream. The NBN is not coming to your house or business any time soon, and in the next five or so years Australia can expect the current disgraceful level of political infighting about the project and delays in its rollout to continue. This dreadful situation is not going away any time soon, and neither are the problems with your broadband connection. So get used to the dropouts.”

These extensive and ongoing delays are also linked into a wider and very systemic, society-wide risk which the substantial delay of the NBN project is pulling Australian industry and the community as a whole into.

For starters, it’s important to realise that the NBN policy Labor has been implementing since April 2009 is not the first of its kind. Version 1.0 of that policy was a much more limited, $4.7 billion private/public partnership version which Labor took to the 2007 Federal Election, but which subsequently failed, after the Government was not able to satisfactorily enlist the participation of industry in the effort. This effort itself came after several years of bickering between Telstra and the Howard-era Federal Government over a potential Fibre to the Node-based upgrade to Telstra’s copper network, of the style successfully pursued in the UK by British incumbent telco BT. And even that came after the failure by the Howard Government to structurally separate Telstra into retail and wholesale arms, a move which would likely have led the new wholesale division of Telstra to start upgrading its copper network.

The NBN policy was designed specifically to address what the Labor Federal Government of the day saw as a failure by the telecommunications industry to resolve its own issues, when it comes to the rollout of fundamental infrastructure. This, in essence, is the role of the Government in these cases — to prop up industry in cases where it can’t prop itself up, so that essential services can continue to be delivered to the community.

If, as a project, the NBN had been succeeding, then this would have resolved the risk of the lack of any progress in terms of Australia’s broadband capacity. However, because the project has not been succeeding, a bigger risk raises its head: That that eight year period in which various NBN policies had been proposed could have been all for nothing, because the NBN didn’t end up solving Australia’s telecommunications infrastructure woes. This is particularly troubling, because in the interim period, if the NBN had not existed, other telcos could have deployed some of their own infrastructure. Hence, a failing NBN does not only entail the loss of its projected benefits for society; it also entails the loss of the opportunity cost of any potential alternatives that could have been developed, if it had not existed.

Similar complaints can be made when it comes to the other project management benchmarks. In terms of its talent, NBN Co is a company packed with 3,000 of Australia’s most experienced and talented workers, especially from the telecommunications industry and it is tying up national construction firms left and right. But it has very little to show for such a huge inhalation of resources, and it’s not likely it’s going to be able to show much any time soon. NBN Co’s rapid growth as a company illustrates again that the previous Labor Federal Government dramatically underestimated the complexity of the project; its size and ‘block’ on construction resources is both a symptom of underlying problems as well as a cause of others.

Evidence that NBN Co is not delivering on the scope of what it had promised to do can be seen that the company has frequently been claiming publicly this year that its fibre network has “passed” a certain number of premises, despite the fact that around one third of those premises NBN Co claimed to have passed cannot actually connect to its infrastructure, due to the complexity of deploying fibre to separate apartments in blocks of units, or separate business offices in office blocks, for example. NBN Co is just not delivering what it says it is: Its deployments are not “feature-complete” in that they do not meet the project’s original scope and bring broadband all the way to premises for many users. Even while it is failing to meet its project schedule, even NBN Co’s claimed successes are not truly successes; because its work on these areas is far from done.

In terms of its ‘quality’, NBN Co has also notably been suffering problems. In April, the Financial Review revealed the company was being forced to re-do portions of its fibre rollout in some areas, for instance, because of the incompetence of its contractors. “In one instance, up to 15 per cent of fibre cables in the northern Canberra suburb of Crace have to be redone,” the newspaper reported at the time. This, again, is a disturbing sign that NBN Co is not capable of delivering on its stated goals.

There is one bright spot in the six pointed star of project management constraints: There’s not a huge amount of evidence that NBN Co has blown its budgets, and it does have a hefty contingency reserve for this kind of eventuality. However, it does seem likely that the company’s failure to roll out its network in any kind of timely fashion will have some impact on its customer revenues, and hence its ability to return its invested capital to the Government. The Government cannot keep plowing money into NBN Co at its current rate; and the company’s inability to meet its targets damages its ability to repay that money on an timely basis.

When you view the NBN project as a whole through this project management prism, what you see might surprise you. This is a project which has never even come close to meeting any of its rollout targets, and which is now revising those targets almost on a monthly basis. Even when it does roll out infrastructure, its deployments often don’t yet meet the project’s original scope, in that the company is not dealing well at all with multi-dwelling units such as apartment blocks. It also has suffered faults in its rollout and had to re-do segments, and meanwhile it’s tying up construction resources and high-level telecommunications engineering expertise nationally.

The NBN is not just “late”. It does not just have “contractor problems”. It does not just have “faults”. What it does have is systemic project failure. It has issues in every area of its operations; and taken together, those problems reflect an overwhelmingly strong argument that the project is headed straight down the failure path. It has already failed to a very large extent, and if it is not radically altered, it will continue to fail harder and with worse consequences.

In addition, there is a much wider and more important risk that the project’s failure is bringing forward: That NBN Co’s lack of ability to deliver the project makes real the opportunity cost of the alternative. Without an NBN policy, Australia’s telecommunications industry would have had to invest in its own fundamental infrastructure over the past six years — at least to a certain extent. There is no doubt Australia would have seen more rollouts of fast broadband similar to the fibre to the basement rollout TPG recently revealed. The failure of the NBN project, like the realisation of a debt, makes that cost real and adds it to Australia’s books.

In short, because the NBN project has failed, we also missed the chance to take advantage of the next best option.

Where the NBN project as a whole needs to go from here is relatively obvious: In short, much of its entire underlying model needs to be completely re-thought and the project rebooted and heavily modified. This isn’t just an evolution of the process; it’s pretty much an entirely new project, because everything is up for scratch once again. The clock starts now on the Coalition’s version of the NBN. Labor’s version failed; now, unfortunately, we can’t go back. Something still needs to be done.

The Coalition Federal Government desperately needs to get Telstra involved in constructing the project, at a minimum, as I have previously argued at length, with its current construction industry contract model failing it completely and some in the industry describing NBN Co as being ‘at the mercy’ of the construction firms.

It desperately needs to open its options to Fibre to the Basement models, and very likely Fibre to the Node. It desperately needs to order NBN Co to abandon its ‘outside in’ rural to the cities rollout schema and start deploying in the most populated areas first. If the Coalition is serious about maintaining Australia’s HFC cable networks, it desperately needs to develop legislation to allow more HFC deployments into MDUs such as apartments. In some areas such as Tasmania, a full Fibre to the Premises-style rollout may still go ahead, but even in that case, drastic measures will be needed to get the rollout back up to speed.

It also desperately needs to get new management into NBN Co, especially at the board level, to wrench the troubled company back on track. It should specifically be listening to experts such as Internode founder Simon Hackett, who have a swathe of similarly innovative ideas which could help cut the rollout’s costs and speed.

But the Coalition already knows all of this; and in fact already has most of this on the way.

With this article I am really targeting my thoughts less at politicians and more at the popular industry understanding of the project. It’s perception. It’s important for people to realise that things cannot go on as they have previously; because that model has just not worked. It has failed; the NBN project has failed, and it’s not the first time. Labor’s first attempt at an NBN policy failed after 2007; its new policy has failed in the years following 2009.

Even Labor has acknowledged this fact, at this point. In one of his first wide-ranging speeches since leaving the post of Communications Minister earlier this year, last Friday Stephen Conroy finally admitted the previous Labor Government had “clearly underestimated” the NBN FTTP challenge. I don’t agree with News Ltd’s spiteful dig at the Minister following his admission; but I do agree that the Government didn’t pay enough attention to keeping the NBN on track; and may have even taken steps during the election campaign to deliberately obscure how bad things truly were with the rollout, by not releasing NBN Co’s latest set of rollout figures.

We’re about to enter what I like to call NBN 3.0. It’ll be a project in the same clothing as the previous two incarnations of the NBN and with many of the same aims, but with radically reshaped underpinnings, almost to the extent that it’ll be unrecognisable compared with either of Labor’s original NBN visions. Well, let’s hope the Coalition can get the model right third time around. Because if there’s one thing that’s become clear, it’s that Australia is not good (at all) at developing and implementing good broadband policy. We desperately, urgently, need to get better. We simply cannot afford to fail at this again.


  1. No offence, but framing any response to FTTN as “ranting”, regardless of validity, is poor form. It can be an emotive topic, but to lump any kind of valid commentary this way is, imho, an incredibly cheap shot.

    Further, dubious reports (supporting either FTTN, or FTTH) don’t deserve any less scrutiny that quite technically competent alternatives. Indeed, if it were not for public pressure, the LNP is likely to have gone to the election without any policy at all (the prefered option of Mr Abbott).

    We are about to find out just how technically “agnostic” a politician can actually be, as they make a very, very critical decision that will have far-reaching impact over a non-trivial time frame that may or may not follow along strong party lines.

    – edited for spelling.

    • hey mate,

      firstly, I’m not lumping all of the FTTN commentary in this one basket. I merely pointed out that every single article anyone writes which contains any positive viewpoint on FTTN or the Coalition’s NBN policy gets excrement poured all over it, regardless of any actual merit the argument contained in the article may have.

      “dubious reports (supporting either FTTN, or FTTH) don’t deserve any less scrutiny that quite technically competent alternatives”

      Yes, and I’ll scrutinise such reports as and when they get released. I couldn’t go into detail last week regarding GQI’s FTTN study as they didn’t release it … most likely because they want to sell it to their clients ;)

      To conclude, did you even read the article? You have to realise that this argument is NOT about FTTN versus FTTP any more. It’s about how anything at all can be delivered. Labor failed to deliver FTTN as it promised in 2007, and now its FTTP strategy has also failed. NBN Co has proven it cannot do FTTP under the current model.

      This is why I really think we should STOP talking FTTN versus FTTP, which is a highly bullshit debate at this point, and START talking what HOW NBN Co’s model can be changed to support either model. Because right now there is a great deal of evidence to show that it probably can’t do either.


      • Right now NBNco is mired in unrealistic timeframes, has been harangued by a hostile Media and Politician alike since inception. It was never, ever, going to have a “good day”.

        What we have here, is a failure to communicate.

        The government failed to communicate the scope and importance. NBNco failed to recognise the true vastness of what was to be accomplished, the opposition failed to understand (even remotely) the importance (and necessity) of the job at hand.

        I welcome a review, and perhaps refreshed vigor in getting the job done, quickly and efficiently. However, if this turns into the typical political witch-hunt and desire to murder NBNco (to, in effect, hand the problem over to commercial interests) simply because it is of Labor origin, and thus verbotten, then no-one wins.

        Everyone loses. Nothing will happen faster, or cheaper.

        The technology choice is important, the outcomes between copper and fibre are non-trivial, but not the most important thing. The key driver here is a WILL to get the job done. And so far, we have a government keen on stoping, not starting.

        The “technology agnostic” comment is swell, it’s now time to deliver to those lofty goals.

        And I am forever concerned that, given how Turnbull has invested so much in destroying the NBN, that it’s reconstruction it may be beyond the new government to achieve.

        Even before any review provides findings, the minister is sacking board members and talking down any effort wherever possible. It’s one thing to hold project owners responsible, another to actively destabilise.

        This is not the actions of a new ‘boss’ looking to move things forward. This is a new boss trying to figure out how to build someone else’s bridge. Preferably with as much complaining and back-peddling as possible.

        It wasn’t me, you didn’t see it, can’t prove anything.

        Time will tell, whether Turnbull can genuinely build a bridge, or can only demolish it.

        • +1, I agree with pretty much all of this.

          I think NBN Co is always going to be the operator of this new network, whatever that network is going to be, but what I think we have learnt now is that it cannot build a NBN. Historically, only one type of company has been able to do that, and that is an incumbent. The Government needs to get Telstra in to upgrade its own copper network and NBN Co to operate that network as a wholesale-only property. That is, frankly, the only way this thing is going to work from home.

          FTTN or FTTP, it doesn’t matter when you’re doing ~ 900 premises a day as NBN Co is at the moment. At that rate it’ll take the company 3.5 decades to get the job done.

          • Anyone building such a complex network, is not going to deliver to mythical timeframes. Not NBNco, and certainly not Telstra.

            I think “getting” Telstra to do anything much beyond either forking over the network, or getting remediation done and getting the hell-out-of-the-way is part of that mythical perfection.

            Never mind that they have critically downsized contracts for line support. To ramp up again, assuming they even have the desire to rebuild a copper network, is a non-trivial task.

            Despite appearances, they aren’t ready to start a huge rebuild, tomorrow.

            The key outcomes, to my mind, are getting the review done as quickly as possible, and making an actual decision on the technology and then..

            DOING the job. And getting the support to DO that job. The constant white-anting of NBNco by Turnbull does not currently instill confidence, in this reader.

          • So who are you going to get to “do the job”?

            The past several years has shown that the NBN Co -> building industry contractor model does not work for FTTP. That is precisely the point. I suspect it won’t work for FTTN either.

          • Renai, methinks it goes further than that.

            “NBN Co -> building industry contractor model does not work for FTTP.”

            2 things
            1) Available trained installers, commisioners etc. – the pits, pipes running the fibre are not hi tech.
            2) The whole Contractor construction model.
            Excellent for relatively short term one off projects, as we can see not suited to truly major long term (10 years) projects.

            Telstra and the Tier 1 contractors are all hiring the same pool of workers and subbies.

            As I always said NBN should have followed the PMG’s model when they initially built Oz’s comms infrastructure.

            First task before even starting planning on the NBN, build a training arm and employ trainers, build their own construction arm, even if they twiddle their thumbs for a few months, they could have practised on small trials to work out initial optimum procedures etc whilst honing skills.
            Building sector was quiet, plenty of sparkies and apprentices available, trained up local sparkies and contractors in areas they would be going to in advance and dealt with the subbies directly.
            There still would have been a role for Tier 1 Contractors, but under tight oversight with specialist and training support available.
            After all the population is growing and there is that 7% and there will be maintenance, upgrades and repairs to be done.

          • “As I always said NBN should have followed the PMG’s model when they initially built Oz’s comms infrastructure.”

            To be honest, I don’t think this would be a solution.

            The issue we’re facing with NBN Co, as I outlined in the article, are that its problems are endemic. It has a systematic lack of corporate knowledge about the basic process of doing its job, in every area, from the actual details of network topography (it has none of the institutional knowledge Telstra constractors have, and has to develop its own), to the details of laying fibre etc.

            I think you’re looking at it at a micro level — if you solve one problem, and do that often enough, you can start to solve the bigger picture issues. But I’m not looking at it like that. I’m looking at it like a macro level. Why should NBN Co even be trying to solve all of these little problems, when Telstra already has staff with the answers who should be applied to the network they’ve been working on for decades?

            I think we need to realise that Australia is not “special” and that we need to start following international best practice — deploying a mix of technologies, and getting the incumbent involved as much as possible.

          • Telstra was responsible for remediation and asbestos.
            They were incapable of handling that.
            Bluntly, with all those voluntary redundancies over the years they lost too many good ones and only have a skimpy pool remaining. Their practises have been poor. for example in my area there were endemic subs cable issues and the pipes and ducts were full with old cable and existing faulty cable, so they ran the new cables aerially, never bothering to clear the pipes and ducts, this will be an issue in so many areas, especially where private sector has already run their fibre in Telstra infrastructure.
            That Telstra gift horse deal should have had it’s mouth inspected

          • Telstra has little interest in upgrading the CAN unless Turnbull throws gobs of money at them to do so.

            Fibre is the future here. FTTN should have been done 10 years ago if it was ever going to be considered in Australia. We’ve missed the boat on this. Time to just accept this and focus on what can be done to get FTTH built before we miss the boat on that too.

          • hey Rohan,

            I’m sorry, but I don’t think the debate is FTTN versus FTTP at this point. I think it’s more in who builds it and using whatever technology is more appropriate/faster to deploy in whatever area. We need to move beyond ideology and towards pragmatism. Some areas *should* get FTTN because FTTP is impractical, such as apartment blocks with FTTB. Some areas should get FTTP because it just makes sense geographically (such as greenfields). That kind of pragmatic approach is what we need right now.

      • The main problem here was to do with construction partners failing to deliver for whatever reason.

        This won’t change with FTTN, no matter how much Turnbull hopes that it will. The same companies will submit RFP/RFTs and the merry-go-round will limp on.

        The construction should have been in the hands of NBNCo only, removing more layers of administration and overhead. Too many fingers were in the construction pie and we all saw the results of this.

        This is a national infrastructure project. They’re expensive and time consuming to build. Trying to rush it will result in more expense in remediating poor quality building.

        The problem today is there’s no patience anywhere. There’s a strong sense of entitlement and impatience. I want it *NOW* and I’ll piss and moan if I can’t get it *NOW*

        • I think the problem must be with the contractors unless NBNCo keep sticking their oar in. Laying fiber in location X isn’t exactly rocket science.

          • “Laying fiber in location X isn’t exactly rocket science.”

            Actually, history shows it’s one of the hardest things any country can do, on a mass scale.

        • hey mate,

          there is no doubt the contractors have failed at their job, but NBN Co’s governance of them has also failed. That is one of the key things people quickly learn about government technology projects — vendors and contractors always fail somewhat, but at the end of the day it’s often underlying project governance that is the real problem.

          The contractors, after all, are also relying on NBN Co’s guidance in terms of the network build. I don’t think the company has demonstrated it’s competence in that, or any other area.

  2. If you roll out fiber to 93% of premises why restrict it to Internet access? Google fiber provides 200 ch of Pay TV. Reduces random IPTV downloads if implemented as broadcast using WDM or spare fiber, instead of multicast. Currently, multicast supports 1 or 2 Pay TV aggregators per premise which limits revenue for NBNCo. ( no on selling of more content) If NBNCo becomes the aggregator by wholesale selling of bandwidth to free and pay TV providers, revenue could be enough to pay for fiber roll out! Then NBNCo can reduce its stupid speed tiers and combine the remaining tiers with a low level of usage based pricing. Might get more revenue from (large) industry that way as well! So ACMA should get of its but and consider how 100? Free to Broadband TV channels (4k HD) can save the Australian Broadcasting Industry from a deluge of overseas content!

  3. I guess we’ll find out soon if Ziggy S was hired to lead NBNCo out of the wilderness, or as the NBN Co’s “undertaker”.

    • I think Turnbull has honestly hired Switkowski to do a good job, but I don’t know whether he’s going to make much headway. I’ve previously mentioned I don’t have a lot of confidence in the guy, based on his prior experience.

      • Agreed. Ziggy has never had any construction experience. Turnbull needs to stop making bullshit statements and just get the job done.

        CBAs, reviews, etc all add to delays in getting something, anything built.

        Henry Ergas’s bullshit claims of being able to complete a CBA into the NBN in 3 days are just nonsense and he should just be ignored.

        As much as the FTTN Vs FTTP debate rages (and it will continue to rage) it’s only a vehicle to delay building the NBN.

        As has been discussed ad. infinitum, there’s so many reasons why FTTN is doomed to fail here in Australia and I’m not going to regurgitate them again. Those who have been following the NBN and Turnbull’s alternative already know the limitations of FTTN and why it’s likely to fail here, even before the magical fairy dust of Vectoring, and yet to be ratified standards like G.Fast are considered.

        The bottom line is that Turnbull has made a promise of cheaper to build and sooner to build, something that he’s just not going to be able to do. 2016 will come and go and the often flaunted 25Mbps or better goal/promise will fail to eventuate.

        I suspect by 2016, Turnbull will throw his hands up, claim it’s “too difficult” and sell everything to the highest bidder (Telstra probably).

        • hey mate,

          Agree re Ergas — he should *always* be ignored.

          On another note, I’d appreciate it if you could please move beyond the FTTN versus FTTP debate — the NBN debate really isn’t about that any more. It’s more complex than that, and the construction experience has shown NBN Co isn’t going to be any better at deploying FTTN than FTTP. We need to move beyond ideological technical debates and towards real debate about how the construction effort in general can be done better.

          As I wrote above:

          “I don’t think the debate is FTTN versus FTTP at this point. I think it’s more in who builds it and using whatever technology is more appropriate/faster to deploy in whatever area. We need to move beyond ideology and towards pragmatism. Some areas *should* get FTTN because FTTP is proving impractical, such as apartment blocks with FTTB. Some areas should get FTTP because it just makes sense geographically (such as greenfields). That kind of pragmatic approach is what we need right now.”

          • I did try to not go into a debate of the merits of FTTN Vs FTTH, but I’ll not derail the conversation further.

            I think that expecting *any* construction partner (regardless of what is being built) being able to build any faster than the FTTH NBN under labor is a pipe dream.

            FTTN, FTTB, FTTH all involve major civil works, with none really faster than the other.

            I believe that the only way to get anything built is for NBNCo to do this themselves and remove the failed construction partners who have proven that they can’t build anything.

  4. “The AFR reports a Leighton Holdings Ltd’s subsidiary
    Visionstream – which is responsible for the rollout in Tasmania – said
    the slow progress was due asbestos-related delays.”

    Yes there may be management issues but they would be inter related to the problems at the coal face , but regardless of the macro picture it boils down to the capability at the coal face. The rollout was going well untill the asbestos issue appeared (incidentally it surfaced and was the cause of delays and reschedules back in 2012 and is 100% Telstra’s responsibility yet no stop occurred untill the ramp up was actually happening).
    Wireless delays, Nimby’s and towers who will end up with the short end and whinge like those sort of people usually do

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