Huge surprise: FTTN trials already delayed


blog Well, we knew it was coming. The extensive delays suffered by NBN Co during its rollout under the previous Labor administration are starting to hit the project under the Coalition as well. Last week it was revealed that NBN Co’s new deal with Telstra may not be inked until the end of 2014. And later on in the week ZDNet confirmed (we recommend you click here for the full article) that NBN Co’s trials of the Coalition’s preferred Fibre to the Node technology have also been delayed. The site reports:

“NBN Co was due to commence live trials of fibre-to-the-node technology in Umina in New South Wales, and Epping in Victoria at the start of May, however neither trial has yet commenced.”

The particularly amusing thing about the situation with the trials, as NBN Co COO Greg Adcock told Senate Estimates last week, is that NBN Co has been struggled to find a “power solution” with respect to some of the infrastructure. If you will recall, this issue has been one of the most controversial with respect to the FTTN infrastructure from the start — the fact that the ‘nodes’ themselves (the point at which the fibre/copper signal transference occurs) need to be actively powered, which can cause problems in inclement weather, as well as issues in, as we’re seeing now, just getting power cables to the right place on the street. The previous Fibre to the Premises model does not suffer the same issues, being weatherproof and only requiring active power at each premise — not in the street.

There is no doubt about it: Even in its initial phases, the Coalition’s rival Multi-Technology Mix/Coalition’s Broadband Network model is starting to be delayed, just as Labor’s previous FTTP model was. One wonders how much further things will get off track before the next Federal Election.


  1. The NBN will face constant delays as every 3-4 years a new poli redesigns the project to suit their ideology and we face the same start up delays over and over again.

    • SMEMatt, sadly I fear that you are right, however, when it comes to demented ideology, only one side of politics is playing that game.

    • how can this be?

      Turnbull told us this was cheaper and faster – was he just pulling BS out of his ar*e, or had he actually costed some REAL solution?

      • He said it was “fully costed”. Although how that could be when he had no idea how much the copper CAN or the HFC would cost upfront and in continuing maintenance is one of life’s great mysteries.

  2. “One wonders how much further things will get off track before the next Federal Election.”

    This would imply that as far as Turnbull is concerned the NBN is actually not on exactly the track he wants. I don’t see that.

    Turnbull and Abbott want NBNCo dead. They’ve said as much many times. This means that a failed rollout of fraudband is a plus, not a minus, as it allows greater scope for the replacement or sale of NBNCo infrastructure to private interests at a later date.

    There may or may not be political costs to such an approach, but they are dwarfed by the financial benefits that will accrue to the owners of what really will be the “roads of the 21st Century”.

    What Turnbull is determining at present is not the technology of broadband infrastructure going into the 21st Century, but the ownership of that infrastructure.

    In this sense, he really is technology agnostic.

  3. No surprises here, the FASTER/CHEAPER claims from The LNP were pure lies – like just about everything they said in the lead up to the election.

    I for one am still hoping the other parties stonewall The LNP and force a dissolution.

  4. I can remember clearly Mr Flawedband and the Mad Monk promising 25Mbs to 90% or so of the population by 2016, it was a fully costed and expertly planned policy read to roll the day they were voted in.
    There was never any chance of that happening.
    I’m just waiting for Thodey and his mates at Optus to work out they have Flawedband tied to the mast waiting for a really good whipping.
    Look how long it’s taken for him to work out that Bolt’s demented, he’s not the sharpest pencil in the box.

  5. Turnbull has conflated several outcomes under an incorrect value assumption. Once can only presume he is working to someone else’s drum.

    Because I don’t really think he’s quite that incognisant.

    It is very very simply law of trade; a thing has greater perceived value the moment it is required more than it is not.

    The only people deploying FTTN are infrastructure owners. The only people doing so, are doing so precisely because it maintains value and ensures longevity. The longer an in-ground asset can be used, the longer you can amortise costs against return.

    And eventually the costs drop to such basic maintenance costs that much of the income becomes profit. Apart from recent Top Hat work, Telstra has all but ceased non-critical investment in the CAN.

    The fact that a conclusion to negotiations is now outstanding and delayed points to Telstra perceiving more value than the government does.

    And we’re stuck with this outcome simply because the Minister’s ego outweighs any sense of logic and reason. A wise person might realise Telstra can actually be scuttled by simply reverting to Fibre. The CAN immediately loses considerable value, and you are not further funding an entity that will use said funding to over build.

    At a certain point there are wiser decisions to be made, over any religious ideology. Regardless of political ideology, dogma sometimes has to give way to logic for the better outcome.

    The Opposition within the NZ Government has understood this. They do not agree with a number of decisions, but in principle they support the underlying outcome and do not seek to rail-road it.

    Here? Political prejudice reigns supreme and entirely stupid outcomes exist purely because of a lack of bi-partisan capability in our government (outside of token groups).

    • “The Opposition within the NZ Government has understood this. They do not agree with a number of decisions, but in principle they support the underlying outcome and do not seek to rail-road it.”
      Surely you don’t mean to suggest that the opposition to the NZ government maintains their view of what is best for their people, instead of simply ‘opposing the government because we the Opposition’ (Abbott’s opening statement after replacing Turnbull)? That would be fair minded lunacy.

    • aiui ownership is something the CBA is supposed to address. If that’s the case it shouldn’t be long until we find out. Unless, of course, the CBA is delayed as well.

      • cmot,

        CBA is now an irrelevance as Turnbull has already made a decision. It could recommend FTTH, FTTdp, or even Internet over Carrier Pigeon and it would not remotely influence outcome.

        FTTN can only continue if NBNco have access to physical copper pairs. Telstra will not simply hand over a multi-billion dollar on-going concern for free.

        Something has to give; either Malcom’s wallet is pried open, massive regulatory concessions occur, or Telstra cease to play ball.

        There are only so many ways this can play out. All of them telegraphed well before the election.

      • As Malcolm has shown, a CBA on the NBN was always just a furphy designed to cause friction for Labor. If you really needed a CBA to advise the design of an NBN, Malcolm would have waited until it was out, yes?

        But then, we all know that the CBA they release will be ‘doctored’ to show FTTN is the only possible way an NBN could be built, so yeah, there was no point in him waiting anyway.

  6. Before the election the then opposition said they’d deliver faster broadband sooner than Labor would and at a lower cost. Since the election they’ve shown that both their’s and Labor’s options would have indeed made a return. So the cost thing is more or less gone even though it’s maybe the strongest point they have left. We know it’s not faster than FTTH so the whole thing must have been a “you’ll get faster speeds sooner” thing. So it was really just two points. Sooner and cheaper. Now even sooner seems debatable.

    They’ve gone from “Sooner, faster, cheaper” to “well it is kinda cheaper”

    • It was never cheaper. The only way it is cheaper is if you fabricate fictional costs (just as they have done). The difference in government spend was an artificial $1bn because the LNP artificially capped their spend with no regard to real world costs. Go back to the original LNP plan from April ’13, the way they ‘costed’ FTTN was to assume it would cost a quarter as much as the FTTP build because that was a general conclusion drawn from some international examples… But those international examples were as much about PR and spin to make them factually meaningless in the first place. The LNP plan ignored the cost of acquiring the CAN, ignored the disparity in maintenance, ignored the different wire gauges used, ignored the significantly lower population density, ignored the impact of competitive FTTP over building, ignored the calculations suggesting the number of nodes required would be four times their predictions to achieve any sort of performance upgrade over ADSL (VDSL2 is slower than ADSL after 500m) and ignored the difficulty and cost of both getting and paying the ongoing costs of electricity to their cabinets; any of which would immediately soak up and then dramatically exceed that $1bn difference.

      FTTN has always been the more expensive option in Australia if you’re planning to deploy it to more than the most lucrative 40% of the country, something most people deny/don’t understand/ignore even when presented with evidence. Because, you know, other countries have FTTN and it didn’t bankrupt them. Oh, well that’s OK then.

  7. @Renai – slight grammar nazi edit; “is that NBN Co has been struggled to find a” struggled > struggling.

    So when is the transparency kicking in ;)

  8. “One wonders how much further things will get off track before the next Federal Election.”
    With all that’s happened in under 1 year, I doubt there’d be anything left in another 2 years; leaving us exactly as we were 7 years ago – stagnating under a Liberal government at the mercy of a few major telcos and over 8 billion dollars worse off. Meanwhile, other parts of the world adopted similar strategies to ours and are either progressing on track or finished already. Truly, the Liberal government have the interests of the Australian public in mind.

    • With luck, by the time of the next election the case for FTTP will be even clearer and the job will be done properly. In such a case, the three year hiatus in the roll out might be worth it to achieve this result.

      • Your relentless optimism in the face of significant evidence demonstrating the futility of such rationalisation is simply staggering. In another two years do you think the telco/ISP industry is going to sit idle? No, they will be doing their utmost to capitalise on this farce and deploy their own fibre where it is most profitable, locking those areas into their own gated fibre communities. That will undermine any hope of future NBN being cost neutral – it will be cost negative and subsidised indefinitely, unless the government nationalises those private fibre networks. Sure, I see that happening…

        • +100
          The end game
          Look after the private sector and it’s shareholders and screw the taxpayer for any service to the poor dumb rural and regional voters that keep on voting them in, must be something to do with gumboots, or wait that is the wrong way around.

          Effectively the private sector is sucking off the taxpayer teat in terms of Essential National Infrastructure.
          Once Labor is back in scrub the whole lot, including regional and rural subsidies and leave regional Australia to the private sector, their problem, they voted for it
          Sell the remnants to Telstra and lift all regulation of broadband.
          That is what the Productivity Commission and ACCC want.
          Their problem

  9. Now we need someone from the Labor Party to start giving Mal & NBNCo the same rogering as was handed out to them. Please, please, please dont let this go without questions being asked!!!

  10. > One wonders how much further things will get off track before the next Federal Election.

    I’d suggest quite a fair way.

    The only thing worse for the LNP than an MTM rollout delayed until after the election is the substantial rollout before it.

  11. Liberal never actually planned on doing anything in their first term.

    Things will further stagnate over the coming 2 years and we will no further to a solution wile the copper rots away.

    The fact that all of these cabinets need power is also a complete joke.

    The really depressing part of this is that no one is holding them accountable on not being able to deliver what was promised and also how ‘green’ this solution is. Lets just build some power stations to power the NBN……..

  12. I only see two endgames here:

    [1] the NBN goes ahead with bipartisan support as an essential service that is above party politics.


    [2] Both sides of politics are clueless kids in a sandpit. Google or Amazon etc builds the NBN for us for a profit.

    Sadly either endgame is a long way off, if ever.

  13. The other one I hope Renai is looking at

    Once we change the open equal access, the floodgates are open, next will be zoned charges, i.e higher cost for regional and rural, and higher Satellite charges closer to parity with private sector to facilitate sale of the Satellites. Govt. can not be seen to be instructing, leave it up to Malcolms Mates to “require it” due to impact on revenue and profit margins of the true cost of the mish mash network, but especially all the cherry pickers

  14. I can only say that the supply of power is one of the frustrating issues here in the UK, and highly variable. If power isn’t easily available, or isn’t available at the standard cost, then it is usually enough to make the upgrade of a cabinet financially unviable.

    The standard charge for provision of a new electrical supply in the UK is around £1200, and includes trenching for up to 3m. However, if that new supply (nominally rated at 100A, same as a standard domestic supply) would take the local transformer out of spec, then the transformer upgrade charge is passed entirely onto the orderer (there is no principle of sharing the cost here) – which could amount to £50k.

    I have seen reports from one council, where 3 cabinets in their town had a problem with power supply. The extra cost for these 3 cabinets amounted to £90k.

    • That’s extremely useful Mike. You don’t have any references you can share, do you?

      • Hope this link works:

        It is a report on the state of one of the county council publicly-funded projects in the UK, this one known as Superfast North Yorkshire, one of about 45 covering the UK. The report is for one of the smaller district councils within the county. It gives a lot of the background, and then focusses into the situation within that one district.

        I should point out that financial problems with power are not the norm, but it did take a little work to get both BT and the power companies singing from the same hymn sheet to sort out physical problems: The bureaucracy involved in getting roadwork approval in the UK meant that for the first N thousand cabinets, the power connection would happen weeks after the cabinet was installed. Nowadays they aim at simultaneous work.

        In this case, SFNY is responsible for subsidising the upgrade of ~630 cabinets. It seems that 12 were originally deemed unviable because of power costs, for which 7 got some kind of work-around. Of the remaining 5, three are covered in this report.

  15. Ignoring the fact it’s a bad “solution”.

    You’ve got to wonder who they have on staff.

    Telstra sorted this out 20 years ago, every phone box had a 240v supply. Citycycle, parking meters, bus stops all powered and waterproof.

    You’ve got to wonder how much load one of these cabnets are using if the utilites wont just hook it up. Or how much heat they need to disapate that they cant find a good power filtering/ups set up that works for them. It’s not rocket science.

    • 70,000+ nodes that were not and have not been scoped into the power distribution grid. Someone has to pay for all that juice (guess who); someone also has to supply it.

      It’s not the technology itself, that’s the problem. It’s the capacity to actually service it; and it’s not clear where that would come from.

      Between Telstra’s obvious position of strength, delays in trials, and the clear lack of consideration put into what MTM actually needs to function – it’s pretty evident that we’re not going to see a positive outcome of any sort within the current term.

      It’s patently obvious MTM is an ideological solution, not a logical decision to extend the life of an existing owned asset.

      The only people who would actually want to make this decision is Telstra; and they chose not to without massive regualtory changes.

      Any agreement with Telstra looks to be as late as early next year. Any broad trials would consume at least 6 months or more (never mind the construction time) so we’re looking at election year before anything happens.

      We are looking as late as 2016 before anything of substance actually occurs. Meanwhile, the copper continues to age..

  16. Labor started out FTTN, but changed once the experts told them about issues like this.

    The Liberals ignored the experts and decided to wind the clock back to the year 2003 (the same year John Howard ignored advice to build a national FTTH network) and go with the “Lets help Telstra” option.

    All were seeing here is the usual Australian big business mismanagement,,,in fact I’m becoming more and more sure that the NBN under the Libs will miss targets, not achieve it’s stated objectives and not get anywhere near the ROI that the original NBN would have achieved thanks to hidden costs like this.

    But I’m sure there will be bonuses all round anyway…

Comments are closed.