Coalition to adopt UK broadband platform



fake news Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed plans to implement the same underlying broadband infrastructure platform in Australia which has already been used for some time in the UK, with the two nations’ incumbent telcos Telstra and BT to collaborate on the exchange over the next several years.

Under Labor’s previous NBN policy, some 93 percent of Australian premises were to have received fibre directly to the premise and the remainder satellite or wireless, with a new government wholesale monopoly set up in the form of NBN Co to both deploy and operate the network. The move was to have seen the majority of Telstra’s existing copper network, which has been serving Australia’s broadband needs for much of the past century, replaced with alternative fibre technology.

However, NBN Co’s Strategic Review published in December last year changed the paradigm, with the company recommending (and the Coalition supporting) a vision in which up to a third of Australian premises will be served by the existing HFC cable networks of Telstra and Optus, with Telstra’s existing copper network to continue to serve as a key part of alternative models used in other areas, and satellite and wireless also to be used in rural and regional areas. This new model is known as the “Multi-Technology Mix” (MTM).

In a statement delivered on Monday night, Turnbull confirmed his Department of Communications had been quietly hosting four-way talks with the National Broadband Network Company, Telstra and British telco BT, as it sought to implement what the Minister described as “completely new technology” to progress its ‘Multi-Technology Mix’ strategy in Australia.

The key to understanding the nature of the collaboration, according to the Liberal MP, was a close consideration of the different cable widths used in the two countries’ existing copper networks.
Telecommunications analysts have consistently pointed out that most of Telstra’s copper cable was in the 0.4mm and below class, which had delivered a limited and unreliable ability to carry fast broadband signals, especially during peak periods of rain.

Early trials of the Coalition’s next-generation broadband infrastructure in Umina on the New South Wales Central Coast and Epping in Melbourne’s northern suburbs have shown that Telstra’s existing copper cables were not able to reliably deliver broadband at the speeds aimed at under the Coalition’s ‘Multi-Technology Mix’ policy.

In comparison, Turnbull said, the majority of BT’s copper network was more than 0.6mm thick. The deployment of large sections of fibre throughout BT’s network as part of its Fibre to the Node rollout had subsequently opened up an opportunity to “change the field of operation” of what Turnbull described as “critical enabling technology for the Digital Economy”, with the Minister noting BT’s technology had already “proven its worth in a comparable commercial environment”.

“This next-generation infrastructure is able to deliver significantly lower attenuation rates (and hence broadband speeds), even in the harsh extremes found in Australia’s diverse environments,” said Turnbull in yesterday’s statement. “By taking a reconditioning approach to this brand new platform, we will maximise the efficiencies of state of the art technology in the Australian context and deliver modern high-speed broadband (up to 25Mbps) to many Australians for the first time.”

In the UK, BT’s Fibre to the Node deployment has enabled the telco to deliver speeds of up to 76Mbps through the company’s “Infinity” plans. In Turnbull’s statement, BT chief executive Gavin Patterson said that following the “re-platforming” process of BT’s legacy brand new copper infrastructure into Australian markets, the telco would be working closely with NBN Co to deliver a suite of plans he described as “sub-Infinity”.

Patterson also emphasised the fact that the UK’s existing modern platform could be easily integrated into Australia’s telecommunications environment. “Everyone says you can’t deploy plug-and-play innovation,” he said. “But in this case, it’s clear that there is an opportunity to progressively reconceptualise global potentialities. To put it simply: We’ll unplug the copper, and Australia can dynamically seize the turnkey bandwidth this next-generation rehabilitated platform can deliver.”

However, not everybody is happy with the revelation of the arrangement. New Zealand Communications Minister Amy Adams (whose government is also going going down the path of a nationwide network replacement project, as the UK is) has written directly to Turnbull arguing that the country also has “existing compatible copper assets which could be contributed, thereby substantially reducing the build cost and increasing efficiencies”.

Adams said BT was “obviously pursuing its own commercial interests” in seeking to have its brand new existing technology re-implemented in Australia, whereas New Zealand was better placed to work with its close neighbour to completely re-implement “matured” but still “ultramodern” telecommunications infrastructure.

Upon the publication of his statement, Turnbull immediately faced criticism from online commentators, who accused the Minister of taking a “hand me down” approach to the rollout of Australia’s broadband network and the replacement of Telstra’s copper. However, the Minister immediately fired back. “Just curious: If connectivity was so vital to you, why did you choose to become a citizen of a country where there was no broadband available?” he asked.

Telecommunications commentator Kieran Cummings (‘Sortius’) had published a blog entry headlined “Malcolm Turnbull suggests BT move network for decent broadband”. “Of course I had said no such thing — the statement attributed to me by Mr Cummings was a complete invention and calculated to mislead readers,” Turnbull fired back. “He clearly had not the slightest interest in reporting the facts – is this the new meta-journalism? Or just a good case of the craziness and outrage of much of the mainstream media bleeding into social media?”

NBN Co executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski pointed out that BT’s copper infrastructure had only been initially rolled out following the “recent” World War. “It won’t need to be upgraded for at least another five years,” he said.

In a broader sense, Turnbull said the Coalition would have not gone down the path of replacing Australia’s telecommunications network at all, but that the Labor Party had delivered it into an uncomfortable position. “We are like the guy that gets lost touring in Ireland with his family and he pulls up into a little pub and asks the barman for directions to Dublin,” the Minister said. “And the barman says: ‘If I were you, sir, I wouldn’t be starting from here.'”

“Well, what we found out along the way was that the Irish bartender actually had pretty decent copper cable,” Turnbull added. “So we decided to follow his lead and ask him where he got it from.”

Image credit: Screenshots of ABC broadcast of Turnbull press conference


  1. Haha damn April fools! Got us good… Wait.. What? :)
    Well it rained for the first time in about 120 days in my suburb in Perth… Let’s just say it reminded me of the Kali95 days with 36k modem :(

    • Well, yes, but what’s the bet that a few Liberal staffers will see this and send it out to coalition members with a note saying: “See, told you not to worry, Malcolm is going to save the NBN after all, just like David C has done in the UK”…

    • Hint: it’s tagged “Fake News”.

      Honestly, though, I read a fair bit before I scrolled back up and checked. Because I seriously can’t tell if this idea is worse than the current MultiTragedyMess that he’s actually proposing.

  2. Brilliant work by Malcolm. In Australia 50% of the connections were only going to be 12Mb under Labor’s wasteful plan. This copper enables us all to get uncapped speeds of up to 76Mb, probably more since Australia is drier than the UK.

    • Seriously Matthew?

      You see it as wasteful, whereas I see it as giving the power of choice to the consumer. Most (if anyone) won’t see the claimed 76Mb/s, and when it rains many won’t see any connectivity whatsoever, let alone a dial tone…

      • Matthew has some sort of mental condition. He has been trotting out the same discredited “50% will be 12Mb/s” line for the past several years and has been pointed out conclusively time and time again why he is wrong, but he just sticks his fingers into his ears and goes LALALALA IM NOT LISTENING.

        Then, after pretty much the entire comments section has jumped on him by pointing out all the wrong figures and assumptions he made… the next day on a new broadband story he’s posted the EXACT SAME SENTENCE. At best he isn’t to blame and there is something literally wrong with him, otherwise he is the most dedicated and blind shill that Turnbull has ever hired. He has been laughed out of Whirlpool and no longer posts because every single post he made was full of nothing but lies and misinformation.

        He doesn’t understand the NBN. He is willfully ignorant about what its for, how its built and how it was funded and there is no amount of education or debate that will convince him. Tech news websites and those who actually know what is going on and value the quality of their comment sections would lose absolutely nothing by IP-banning him, but i cant recommend that with a clear conscience as people shouldn’t be banned purely for simply voicing an opinion. However Matthew truly tests that resolve when they consistently voices an ‘opinion’ that is objectively wrong while using manipulated figures towards supporting a political agenda

  3. Oh man, this got me right up until:

    “However, the Minister immediately fired back. “Just curious: If connectivity was so vital to you, why did you choose to become a citizen of a country where there was no broadband available?” he asked.”

    It’s scary that 95% of this seemed believable – my heart sunk as I read through it!

  4. premise

    a previous statement or proposition from which another is inferred or follows as a conclusion.
    “if the premise is true, then the conclusion must be true”


    base an argument, theory, or undertaking on.
    “the reforms were premised on our findings”

    • Turnbull is reading this article going “How did Renai get hold of my secret papers?!?”

  5. Thanks Renai, that is a very assuming April Fool article! You still managed to catch some people. ;-)

  6. Scary? Bit of a joke I know, but I wonder how close to the truth this really is,?

  7. The best April Fools jokes are ones that are believable.

    It is actually sad that this one is as believable as it is – it is probably not so far from the truth.

  8. This is a great april fools, actually got me! Until the last sentence.

    (Directly due to the previous content!)

    (Also – I admit I somehow skimmed past the comment about moving into a country without broadband, missing that choice quote did leave me in a hole!)

    But, the inconsistency:
    “In comparison, Turnbull said, the majority of BT’s copper network was more than 0.6mm thick.”

    followed at the end by:
    “Well, what we found out along the way was that the Irish bartender actually had pretty decent copper cable,” Turnbull added. “So we decided to follow his lead and ask him where he got it from.”

    If you wanted to stick with these 2 quotes then the article should have more clearly explained that Turnbull was planning to buy copper from BT, not just unlabelled “technology” :)

  9. Mathew’s response (no offence, guy) was hysterical. Yay for 12mbit! much better than 100mbit or gigabit! :)

    Nice April Fool Renai – it was ALMOST too good. ;)

  10. I disagree with your implication that the Dublin metaphor has been overused.

    He’s only used it five times, you know.

    According to his own blog.

    In the past 1.5 years.

    In interviews.

    in Sydney.

    On 2GB.


    I’m guessing what they say about 2GB listeners and senility… there might be something to it.

  11. In related news, Turnbull said that the only other option he has is to blow air down every copper cable to “expand the 0.4mm Aus cables by 50%, thus matching the UK standard and providing a much needed boost to Australia’s broadband needs.”

    Ziggy agreed with this audacious plan, saying “this bold move will extend the copper life by at least another 22 years and I’m not surprised our Glorious Broadband Leader had such inspiration”.

  12. It’s a sad state of affairs when an April fools joke is not so far off the truth… :( RIP NBN. I never knew the wonders of ubiquitous high speed broadband..

  13. “This new model is known as the “Multi-Technology Mix” (MTM)”

    Ha! I’ve always thought MTM was Malcolm Turnbull Model! :-)
    I still like my version better…

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