The Senate NBN Committee should interview MyRepublic


opinion The interjection by Singapore’s MyRepublic into Australia’s broadband debate this morning may have been inflammatory and used mildly offensive adult language. But there are some fundamentally good points being made by the upstart telco. The next step should be for the Senate’s NBN Committee to interview its chief executive in person.

If you are the sort of person who pays any attention at all to Australia’s National Broadband debate (and I very much suspect you are), then you can hardly have missed the raucous comments which screamed across the pages of Fairfax Media outlets this morning.

MyRepublic chief executive Malcolm Rodrigues couldn’t have planned the first news of his company’s imminent launch into the Australian market any better if he tried — and perhaps he did. It was a textbook case of hype creation — post a few hints about your plans on the Internet, drop a few swear-words to a newspaper journalist or two, slam the Government to create a political controversy, and then watch the Internet explode with rancour and speculation.

If Rodrigues isn’t lighting up a cigar right now and sipping a Singapore Sling at some lounge bar with “Raffles” in its name, then he damn well should be. Yesterday, Australia had hardly heard of his company. Today, the name ‘MyRepublic’ has spread across our tech sector like wildfire.

But there’s more this picture than just hype generation — under Rodrigues’ blatant spin lies a series of concrete messages and lessons for for Australia’s small cadre of tech-focused politicians and policymakers — and they are ideas that our political sector needs to pay attention to.

The first thing to realise is that what we’re seeing here is a clear case of a fast-growing foreign technology concern seeking to expand its operations into the Australian market and invest here.

This is precisely the kind of activity which both major sides of politics should explicitly welcome. The Coalition, after all, is all about opening Australia’s borders to foreign investment and opening Australia’s markets to full competition. This is precisely what MyRepublic’s planned Australian launch represents. Labor, these days, is often all about these same things. But it’s also very much about jobs — and MyRepublic will certain be hiring in Australia, even if it’s in a modest way.

Secondly, MyRepublic also represents a breath of fresh air in an Australian broadband market which feels very much like it has become incredibly stagnant and stuck in the past.

If you look at the broadband plans offered by almost all of Australia’s broadband providers, what you will quickly realise is that they are largely byproducts of yesteryear. Minimal quotas, archaic on- and off-peak timing, ridiculously artificial speed tiers and ‘freezone’ content — all of these concepts were only relevant in the world of bogged down ADSL connections which the whole world is increasingly moving away from.

MyRepublic’s service offering in stark contrast, merely sets a flat rate at the highest possible speed the company can offer — typically either 100Mbps or 1Gbps — and offers unlimited quota for one flat monthly cost, often with three free months to start with. You can bundle extra stuff on top, but that’s the basic structure — and it’s pretty much unheard of in Australia.

This type of plan could never have been developed by a legacy telco such as Telstra, intent on protecting its existing customer base with a thousand bolt-ons and package bundles that ensure its large profit margins. Even Optus — with its Singaporean owners — is not capable of producing such plans, as it has its own existing structures to take care of.

It is only a true challenger telco — with no legacy technology, staff, contracts or profits to worry about — that can come up with this sort of broadband plan, and that is precisely why MyRepublic has been able to achieve the success it has in Singapore and New Zealand — because it does not need to worry about the past, and can look only to the future. As it turns out, customers have responded in their droves.

Lastly, it’s important to realise that MyRepublic’s comments this morning only appear so shocking to us here in Australia because so many of us have given up on the dream of fast broadband in this nation.

The incessant political brawling over the National Broadband Network — which has seen our political representatives from both sides engaged in a vicious verbal war over the issue for the past decade — has created such a huge degree of cynicism in Australia about our national ability to get anything done that few people are now willing to seriously debate this topic any more in a political context.

Our own telcos hardly broach the topic of the NBN or the nature of its fibre infrastructure any more in public — for fear of getting their heads bitten off.

But MyRepublic is new, it’s a fast-growing company and it’s rapidly expanding. It has no need to kowtow to Australia’s politicians — it can just loudly and brashly demand what it wants — universal fibre infrastructure — because it literally has nothing to lose. Because of this, it can say out loud what few other commentators in Australia are: Our politicians are bungling this critical infrastructure upgrade … bungling it badly.

All of these represent very strong reasons why the Senate Select Committee on the NBN should invite MyRepublic’s Rodrigues or one of his colleagues to present to it directly.

Rodrigues would have much to say that could inform the Committee’s oversight of the NBN. He could directly inform them about the experience of NBN-style networks in Singapore and New Zealand, two of Australia’s closest neighbours, and countries which are relatively similar to our own in terms of culture and consumer behaviour.

The executive’s testimony would provide an excellent foil against testimony taken from Australia’s existing telcos. The views of a foreign challenger into the space would be invaluable in helping inform Australian policymakers about how the future of Australia’s telecommunications market should progress.

And, perhaps most of all, this morning’s experience has shown that fresh views, fresh commentary, fresh innovation and fresh broadband products have the potential to re-energise an Australian electorate which has grown weary of bickering about the NBN. Appearing before the NBN Senate Select Committee would give MyRepublic a larger platform on which to put its new and interesting views.

And that is precisely what Australia’s national broadband debate needs right now — a fresh perspective. We’ve been chasing our own tails for too long without considering them in a broader context. We have become stagnant and stuck in the mud.

When it comes to Australia’s national broadband debate, it’s time to peek over the neighbour’s fence and see what they’re up to. We just might learn something.

Image credit: MyRepublic


  1. It’s unclear to me if they are a real challenger or just another Dodo model that ends up oversubscribed.

    On the positive side operating across multiple markets makes the low margin and reasonable performance seem feasible but it’s hard to see how that plays out against TPG or other players who own the backhaul.

    • Largely agree with this comment — much of the competition dynamic in Australia over the past decade was about getting the right backhaul, independent from Telstra.

      • Yes, backhaul. That is precisely what was devastating for Consumers and Competition, when in November 2010 the ACCC caved to four fibre longhaul owners and denied NBNCo the right to do/lease its own regional backhaul.

        The original design would have seen retail providers able to connect to just two POIs in each capital city to service the entire state. The ACCC “compromise” (fibre owners wanted 300 POIs!) meant 40 metro and 81 regional POIs, and backhaul likely to be underprovisioned, especially to less profitable localities.

        The 121-POI decision saw this opportunity to deliver robust network management as a wholesale service of NBNCo blown out of the water by vested interests.

  2. I doubt they’ll be competing on the low end budget spectrum. Down there you need the infrastructure to lower your costs ala TPG and Mr Teoh epic ability for thrift, which is why they can afford to buy up big and be (shortly) the second largest ISP in Australia.

    By the sounds of if they’d be offering in Australian Broad band terms ‘premium’ internet (actually it sounds so good its hard to believe it could be true). No Archaic peak/off, whatever is the best speed that’s possible (so no artificial tiers from last century) and unlimited data.

    There’s a fairly well sized market out there that will pay slightly above the norm for quality/premium grade service.

    • As Beven said recently

      What we have is situation where your ISP will be like the local bank building societies
      It only exist in that area and supported by those around it. So you be the cool isp for Rockhampton or Adelaide

  3. Here the things

    You dont shout at the goverenment to get them todo something

    You need to lobby them and collaborate in a positive light without shouting in all cap rage

    “NBN SUX11111. Ouz is teh best”

    • We tried that Adam, we’ve spoken to our government, we’ve written to our government, we’ve petitioned our government, the only thing we haven’t done is buy our government – mostly because we can’t out do the other offers. It’s not really our government is it.

      • You need to understand how politics work

        Firstly, NBN FTTN produces more jobs. Its good for political because wins voters
        Secondly, Vendor like Alcatel can sell more products. More Nodes, More Money, More resources spent maintaining it $$$

        FTTP turns the entire system upside down with a wreaking ball. Because fix and deployment requires less support while the cost of deployment to premise is higher then FTTN

  4. It wont make the slightest difference who gets up to talk at the NBN Committee. The current government stopped listening a long time ago, that’s the problem. Add least with Labor in Government they will listen and negotiated with the different parties. Under Rudd and Gillard (and Bill Shorten will do the same, negotiation is his main tool of trade in the Union movement) they negotiated with the Greens and the Opposition until Abbott applied his Machiavellian style of politics.

  5. Of all the comments I’ve read today, not one mentions CVC costs. They are saying all the right things in public but once they start operating they might sing a different tune.. Their $80-$90 unlimited 100/40 is not sustainable in the long run unless CVC costs fall.

  6. How to market your new ISP:
    1. Enter the market reminding everyone that Telstra’s ex CEO said you were a threat.
    2. Throw some pointless and unsubstantiated invective around that plays to the delimiter / whingepool crowd.
    3. Renai et al does your marketing for you for free.

    • I tend to agree.

      We see these people come out offering “Unlimited” internet back in 2000.

      Remember the days of XIS?
      TPG can get away for it. Because they own the PIPES and Submarine cables

    • Common sense from Graham Lynch? I doubt it. It’s clear from that “article” his comprehension skills are lacking. There are far more knowledgeable and less biased sources that can analyse MyRepublic’s statements but regardless Lynch cant be trusted.

      • What’s to comprehend? MyRepublic clearly don’t comprehend the realities of delivering broadband and competing in the Australian market.

        How are they to position themselves as something disruptive in a market already in a race to the bottom?

        Lynch’s article makes the effort to look at how well the service performs in Singapore and it’s not good. If all you can get is 30Mbps over your 1Gbps pipe, FTTN probably isn’t that bad at delivering on their performance targets.

        With all the consolidation going on here, there’s an opportunity for a disruptive startup to offer something new, but I remain to be convinced this is it.

        • I didn’t see MyRepublic mention 1gbps anywhere. Lack of comprehension right there because Lynch then goes on to make an assumption based on what they are offering in Singapore and not what they might offer in Australia. Assumptions work very well in your favor if you have an agenda.

    • Not sure if it is that much cheaper in the long run. Copper will be affected by the things it is affected today and will be only worst than in the future. Also the costs of installing/running/maintaining the X thousands of nodes should be considered. The author seems not to care about that
      It is like buying a car. You can get new for 20K or 10yo for 10k. It is cheaper, but how match you spend to keep it running? What about the reliability and the comfort of the drive. Maybe I’m crazy, but I always buy new cars.

  7. Yeah it’s difficult to compare Australian Internet pricing to other nations, and it has more to do with international backhaul than national carrier networks. I remember a discussion about ten years ago when 100mbps was available in Singapore at half the cost of cheap ADSL here, but back then there were no less than eight separate fibre trunks into the country, all on competing networks. We had one. We still only have two, don’t we? Southern Cross and Pipe Networks?

    Telstra created traffic quotas – the only other place I’ve ever heard it work anywhere else in the world is on mobile plans. I believe they tried it in the USA and quickly dropped it.

    And now we have CVC on the NBN. The only way an ISP can get around that is to own and operate their own network, which they’re not allowed to do.

    Now, under the original NBN as the debt was being paid down CVC costs were to be adjusted appropriately, so as more people (and particularly businesses) signed up to high margin plans the cost of access would gradually come down. But that doesn’t work on an NBN where those high revenue plans simply can’t exist.

    • “Yeah it’s difficult to compare Australian Internet pricing to other nations”

      Yes it is, and Turnbull agrees if talking about FTTP. However if he talks about FTTN he does not hesitate to compare to Germany , UK and others, even in the same article (his respond to MyRepublic) What a hypocrisy on his side.

    • “We still only have two, don’t we?” [submarine cable systems]

      I don’t know when you last looked. There are 3 into Perth and about a dozen into the East Coast. There are at least 4 more due for service by 2017.

      International transit is far more available and competitive than popular perception would believe. A lot has changed over the past 5 years.

      Retail ISPs need a shake up. Whether myReplublic manage that remains to be seen. They have at least raised the point and won column inches. Lets see what they actually offer and deliver.

  8. Now all they need is the sixty thousand million bucks to build their FTTP Network.

  9. Mad Malcolm is who I am watching to figure out the real threat here. If there is a real threat to T$’s dominance of the NBN, he’ll move to do something about it.

    Until then, all is marketing.

  10. They should also bring Axia Netmedia back into the discussion. AN was the Canadian company that responded to the very first NBN RFI saying “…don’t do FTTN, do FTTP, and here’s why…” which was the impetus to persue an FTTP solution in the first place.

  11. Michael, Axia are similar to MyRepublic.. In Alberta , they have 100mbps for $100pm unlimited and equal upload and downloads.. We are way behind the World with our Archaic models.

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