news Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has rejected what he described as MyRepublic’s “confounding” comments on the Coalition’s Multi-Technology version of the NBN, among other arguments reminding the Singaporean company of cost differences when deploying fibre in Australia.
This morning MyRepublic CEO Malcolm Rodrigues — which is on the cusp of launching in Australia — reportedly told Fairfax Media that the FTTN component of the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix version of the NBN was “shit” and that the current Coalition Government had “completely stuffed it” in terms of its policy model for the NBN.
MyRepublic provides its services in Singapore and New Zealand primarily over the all-fibre networks that those countries are currently rolling out, based on the Fibre to the Premises architecture. This is the same architecture that Labor’s previous version of the NBN used. However, the Coalition has significantly modified this model to incorporate in some areas the technically inferior Fibre to the Node and HFC cable models — which do not deploy fibre broadband all the way to homes and business premises.
The Liberal MP welcomed MyRepublic’s plans to enter the Australian market, but said it was “worth putting some of his comments into perspective”.
Minister Turnbull rejected Rodrigues’ comment that the FTTN component of the Coalition’s version of the NBN was “shit” and that it would only deliver between 20Mbps and 30Mbps. “… the early FTTN trials from Umina show that the nbn is achieving speeds of 91Mbps download and 36Mbps upload over a variety of loop lengths, he said.
Minister Turnbull alleged the NBN company was “hardly” the only company in the world rolling out a multi-technology mix. “In Germany, Deutsche Telekom has recently announced an expansion of its fibre-to-the-node network, to cover 80 per cent of its fixed line footprint by 2018, while there have also been mass deployments by BT Openreach in the U.K., AT&T in the U.S. and many others,” he said.
In addition, Minister Turnbull noted that the cost of deploying fibre in a small country like Singapore was dramatically cheaper than it was in a large, geographically dispersed country like Australia.
Minister Turnbull also addressed Rodrigues’ statement that MyRepublic would lobby the Government to deliver free upgrades to Fibre to the Premises.
“It may be true from the [retail service provider’s or RSP’s] point of view. If they do not have to invest in the network, well then that investment is ‘free’ of any direct contribution from the RSPs,” Minister Turnbull said. “But it is certainly not true from a customer’s or taxpayer’s point of view. Either the customer will pay more and/or the taxpayer will have to shoulder the cost of an even larger subsidy.”
The Minister also addressed Rodrigues’ comments on the time frame to deliver full fibre to Australia. Rodrigues had reportedly said that Australia should have progressd to full fibre — even if it had taken 20 years rather than 10 years — and even if it required a FTTN step in the way.
“When the Government measured Australians’ access to broadband, and the quality of their connections, the report revealed there were up to 1.6 million premises which had either no broadband or very poor broadband connectivity, with peak median download speeds of less than 4.8mbps,” the Member for Wentworth said.
“The Vertigan study found that the MTM rollout had a net benefit of $17.9 billion compared to the net benefit of an all FTTP rollout of just $1.8 billion.”
“Just as importantly, were the Government to take his advice, it would mean that many Australians with no or very poor broadband will not get an upgrade to superfast speeds within the next few years but rather would have to wait, as he recommends, for another decade. When his company has spent a little more time in this market, he will find out how little appeal his twenty year timetable would have to Australians.”
I’d like to make a few small comments in response to the Minister’s statement.
Firstly, I’d like to point out that Minister Turnbull’s argument is not clear or succinct. It will be difficult for the average Australian to understand what he is talking about here. “Cost benefit”? “Vertigan study”? These kind of terms mean little to most Australians. This is industry jargon.
In comparison, the argument that Rodrigues is making is very clear and succinct. All he’s saying is that Australians are not getting a full fibre broadband network, so are missing out on higher speeds and performance. It’s pretty basic. The CEO is promising everyone better Internet.
Even if you do agree with the arguments that Minister Turnbull is making, and I don’t, he is communicating them very poorly. He is not responding to MyRepublic’s very clear position with a clear position of his own. It’s almost to the point where I do not believe the Minister is responding to Rodrigues’ overall point directly at all.
Sure, FTTN delivers high speeds, as the Minister said. But Rodrigues’ point is that they’re not the best speeds. His company already offers 1Gbps in Singapore. Sure, taxpayers are paying for this rollout, as Minister Turnbull said. But does anyone really think that Australian taxpayers would agree that deploying universal FTTP is a waste of money? I don’t think so.
Secondly, I’d like to make the point that Minister Turnbull’s argument that other countries globally are deploying a Multi-Technology Mix is not accurate. As far as I can tell, no other country in the world has a model like Australia’s — where the Government is buying HFC cable and copper networks and extending them with fibre. That’s unheard of. In pretty much every other country the Government is restructuring the telco industry to incentivise upgrades and foster infrastructure-based competition.
What’s happening in Australia is quite unprecedented globally.
In terms of FTTN generally, I have made this point before. This is my view on it:
I’m on TransACT’s FTTN network in Canberra, and the speeds here are very good by Australian standards. I’m getting 65Mbps and that is quite a good speed for our household’s needs. We watch a lot of Netflix, ABC iView and so on, and download more than 100GB of data per month. I’m quite happy at the moment.
Secondly, Singapore and New Zealand are much — much! — smaller countries than Australia. Deploying fibre around those geographies is a much easier task than doing the same in our fair land.
However, I will also note that the NBN is not being built for this decade or even for the next decade — it is being built for the next 50 to 100 years. FTTN is sufficient for my household’s bandwidth requirements now, but my and our bandwidth requirements have increased every year for the past two decades, and I don’t see that trend slowing down any time soon.
Eventually, there is no doubt that all fixed telecommunications networks will trend towards fibre. Australia can be dragged kicking and screaming towards that future, or it can get ahead and reap the rewards and competitive advantages that such a rollout would bring. Other countries such as Singapore and New Zealand are already doing so, and it would be foolhardy to pretend that they are not competing with Australian industry by doing so.
Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull