NBN Co overbuilding Turnbull’s 100Mbps FTTN election case study


news The NBN company appears to be deploying its own competitive infrastructure to a housing estate in Sydney which Malcolm Turnbull specifically used during the 2013 Federal Election to highlight the strengths of his chosen Fibre to the Node technology.

In the months before the 2013 Federal Election, a debate raged between the then-Labor Government of the day and the Opposition as to which broadband model the NBN company should deploy. Labor supported a near-universal Fibre to the Premises rollout for Australia, while the Coalition supported a Fibre to the Node-based alternative, which they would abandon following the election for a more complex ‘Multi-Technology Mix’ including HFC cable.

One of the centrepieces of the argument which then-Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull made in favour of the FTTN model was a deployment by independent fibre company OPENetworks in the housing estate of Sydney Park Village in the suburb of Erskineville.

At the time, the Shadow Minister attended a launch in Erskineville of the deployment, using it as evidence that the Coalition’s preferred FTTN model could deliver broadband speeds of up to 100Mbps using an existing copper network.

“I would like to open by thanking Malcolm Turnbull for opening and launching our product in Sydney Park Village, it’s a great honour to have you here,” Open Networks’ chief executive Michael Sparksman said at the time.

At the event, Shadow Minister Turnbull was explicitly asked whether a Coalition Government would allow companies such as OPENetworks to continue deploying their own infrastructure in competiion with the NBN.

“Yes,” the Member for Wentworth said in response. He added that where a housing developer paid a company like OPENetworks to deploy telecommunications infrastructure, and as long as that new network complied with the NBN specifications, then the NBN company itself would be likely to acquire that network and run it as its own or leave the company to operate the infrastructure on an open access basis.

“… what that really means is that a developer then knows that he or she can get the fibre deployment company they know and trust and work with to get the work done so that it can either be operated as a network run by the developer or by a company like OPENetworks or it could just be sold over to the NBN Co,” Shadow Minister Turnbull said at the time. The full transcript is available online.

However, the NBN company’s coverage map now appears to show that it is deploying its own infrastructure in the Sydney Park Village area. The Australian reported several days ago allegations and bitter complaints by OPENetworks’ Sparksman that the NBN company is overbuilding its infrastructure in a number of areas around Australia.

It is not clear what style of infrastructure the NBN company is deploying in Sydney Park Village, but the company has generally focused on Fibre to the Basement-style deployments in major cities. It is trialling Fibre to the Node in some areas, but it is not believed to be trialling FTTN in Erskineville.


Delimiter has invited Minister Turnbull and the NBN company to comment on the situation. Delimiter has sought to contact OPENetworks regarding the situation but has been unable to speak with anyone at the company.

Wow. Just wow. We are seeing some particularly amazing stuff here.

Two years ago, in the days before the 2013 Federal Election, then-Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull attends the much-hyped launch of a FTTN network in a new housing estate in the Sydney suburb of Erskineville. Flanked by the telco which built the network, the Liberal MP uses the event to demonstrate the strengths of the FTTN platform and assure OPENetworks that its infrastructure would either be acquired by the NBN company or the company could continue to provide its services on an open access basis to other telcos, with its housing development partners receiving certainty about how they could get telco services into their estates.

Fast-forward two years, and the situation is starkly different. The NBN company appears to be overbuilding OPENetworks’ infrastructure, not acquiring it. OPENetworks is no longer enjoying a congenial relationship with Malcolm Turnbull but instead appears to be involved in a shouting match with a Government which appears determined to compete — not cooperate — with it.

And meanwhile, the NBN company itself appears to be ploughing money into city housing estates in metropolitan areas where decent levels of broadband already exists, instead of acting as a telco of last resort in areas nobody else will go into and focusing on areas of underserved broadband.

Now, I will readily admit that I do not yet have all the facts about this situation just yet. We don’t know precisely what infrastructure — Fibre to the Premises, Fibre to the Node or Fibre to the Basement — the NBN company is deploying. We don’t know precisely where in Sydney Park Village it is deploying it, or exactly what style of broadband was available in precisely which area in the region.

The NBN company, when it comes to its engineers, tends to make good decisions, and I suspect it is deploying infrastructure for a reason in this area. Then too, OPENetworks has a bit of a history of grandstanding when it comes to the NBN issue.

Perhaps there is a rational basis and underlying common sense to what appears to be happening in Sydney Park Village with OPENetworks. I’ll be the first to publish an article on the subject admitting that I’m wrong if evidence to this effect appears — I’d welcome any way we can clear up the situation.

However, right now we do know one thing. Two years ago Malcolm Turnbull stood up in Erskineville and praised Sydney Park Village as a fantastic example of everything Fibre to the Node could be. Today it appears as though things in Erskineville are an unholy commercial mess. And that’s not a good look for the Minister.

Image credit: Sydney Park Village and the NBN company


  1. Given that most of Waterloo is still not covered, it is ‘wow’ that the NBN would be building over I.e duplicating a fitout that was already nearly there. Is there another side to this story?

  2. Well Turnbull did say NBN Co will prioritise areas identified as poorly served to the extent commercially and operationally feasible.

    Which means poorly server areas with stay poorly server for the foreseeable time being.

    • Atypical Telstra play from the Execs. During the initial ADSL2 deployments by Internode et al., Telstra only upgraded those exchanges that it had too. Often leaving people on ADSL1 until someone actually installed competing equipment and then magically, ADSL2 was available.

      This has all happened before and will happen again.

  3. Are we really surprised? We are talking about the same minister who rushed through legislation just before Christmas break to stall current FTTB roll outs by TPG to give NBN time to catch up and be “competitive”

    • To be fair on the libs TPG was being rather largely anti-competitive and abusing a ‘loophole’ with their FttB rollouts. If they’d been let loose there would be hundreds of MDU’s around Australia locked into TPG only broadband as no-one else could have installed equipment in them.

      At least now they’ve been forced to offer it as a wholesale service as well + have some seperation of retails and wholesale.

    • Are we really surprised?

      If it turns out to be true, no, I for one wont be surprised.

      Private sector always in favor of competition until an actual competitor comes along. Certainly not an endorsement for overbuilding FttB with FttB, but there’s that competition they wanted. Hey and then the chimps at OPENetworks can do the same and compete with GimpCo in FttN areas, roll out FttP there and see who wins there too. Go guys! Infrastructure competition ftw! Woooo!

      Also note that OPENetworks still insist on calling their product FttN, they originally called it FttN rather than the more accurate FttB to give credibility to Turnbulls plan before the election so no sympathy from me however this story concludes.

      • NBNCo losses approach $2b a year, near unlimited equity (currently up to $30b) injections coming from govt borrowing to fund their shortfall. NBNCo is exempt from competition legislation, ACCC restricted in its oversight.

        Of course they’re complaining, no private company can compete against such a “competitor”.

        • If NBNCo didn’t exist they’d just have Telstra to deal with. Their complaints would be valid then. Coalition clowns failure to break up Telstra the problem in that case. As it stands the NBN is wholesale only, open access. We were told for many years “the private sector” can handle it. Sure they can handle it, in easy cherry picked areas like OPENetworks do. Apparently they want someone else (GimpCo) to take care of the “poorly serviced areas” so commenter’s can come onto Zdnet and Delimiter and whine how bad Labor was for wasting money on a GBE that wont be profitable due to targeting “poorly serviced areas”.

        • ACCC restricted in its oversight.

          Once again, cite a source.

          Getting pretty sick of your opinion being cited as an authoritative source Richard.

          • Tinman a bit of tolerance please, just do like me, assume the source is The Australian and move on ;-)

          • Unfortunately, this is par for the course Tinman.

            As are continued unfounded and ridiculous inferences/slurs.. that our friend is the lifter and we are the leaners. Apparently too, through the blinkered eyes of bean counters, unless you are a bean counter (or agree with said bean counter ill-logic of course) your non blinkered bean counter opinion is worthless. Regardless of whether one has years of expertise in comms management, or hands on experience, or just an interested bystander like me who has been interested in our telecommunications for over a decade, or whatever?

            Don’t be surprised too, when inevitably stuck between a rock and a hard place and unable to answer questions, because “those darned facts would compromise one’s position entirely”, to simply be told…”get a haircut and get a job”.

            I kid you not :/

          • @Tinman You can’t possibly believe a new monopoly like NBNCo can exist without statutory exceptions. The major policy objective (universal service with uniform national wholesale pricing achieved via cross subsidy) is by nature anti-competitive.

            Specific statutory exemptions in the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA):
            Division 16–NBN corporations
            151DA. Authorised conduct–subsection 51(1)

            Wholesale basis only exemptions in the NATIONAL BROADBAND NETWORK COMPANIES ACT 2011
            Subdivision A–Supply of eligible services to be on wholesale basis
            10. Exemption–transport authorities
            11. Exemption–electricity supply bodies
            12. Exemption–gas supply bodies
            13. Exemption–water supply bodies
            14. Exemption–sewerage services bodies
            15. Exemption–storm water drainage services bodies
            16. Exemption–State or Territory road authorities

            Exemptions in the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth):
            141A. Exemptions

            144. Exemptions–Ministerial instrument
            145. Exemption–transport authorities
            146. Exemption–electricity supply bodies
            147. Exemption–gas supply bodies
            148. Exemption–water supply bodies
            149. Exemption–sewerage services bodies
            150. Exemption–storm water drainage services bodies
            151. Exemption–State or Territory road authorities

  4. If true (looks legit) this is a disgrace, yet another Govt/NBNCo failure (surprised?). Millions of Australians without broadband ignored whilst money wasted on over building. So much for prioritising poorly serviced areas.

    Many broadband options currently outside the NBN Telstra/Optus payoff including FTTN and regional HFC. The waste is disgusting.

      • I’d lul your post, but unfortunately Richard seams right.

        With the way our economy is heading, the governments stance is disgusting.

        • Just a bit of friendly banter from a discussion long ago, Tinman_au

          You see, when Malcolm first announced his stupid plan, my dear friend Richard, whilst claiming to have no definitive political leanings (Labor or Coalition) per se`, as a L/libertarian, then went on to say he believed Mal’s plan was brilliant. So brilliant in fact, that he modestly suggested he himself could have written every word.

          This is why MT’s plan is otherwise, defended tooth and nail 24/7. Even in the face of massive cost blow outs (to $70B) and being woefully behind schedule (literally SFA in 2 years)… far worse than anything relating to FTTP ever was.

          But yet my dear friend the bean counter, keeps harping on about these lesser FTTP problems from years ago, whilst completely ignoring these immense FTTN problems now or pretending they don’t exist.. nay worse, continually lauding the problem plagued FTTN.

    • Richard
      “NBN Co will prioritise areas identified as poorly served to the extent commercially and operationally feasible.”
      If that didn’t tell you Millions of Australians without broadband being ignored than I don’t know what will.

    • So much for prioritising poorly serviced areas.

      Indeed. The government should stay out because the private sector is so good at prioritising poorly serviced areas. Just think how many beautiful OPENetworks nodes would be in the streets if NBNco hadn’t come along.

  5. Well, we did warn everybody that we would regret the mess we are about to receive.

    This MTM mess will be a millstone around the nation’s neck for decades to come! The Abbott Govt will go down in history as being the most virulently-opposed to science and technology ever.

    I only hope that I don’t get “NBN-Ready” before these clowns are turfed-out, then I may get a chnace to receive FTTP, like we all need to have (subject to the FW & Sat options of course)

    • Well you may get FTTP, but then you may not get quite what you imagine

      I have FTTP, it is pretty good
      http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/4587535717 93/37, pretty good
      but wait, there is more
      comes the evening peak 8-12pm lately I get
      http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/4591432595 8/34
      http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/4591437791 5/34 , yes 5 down
      not downloading anything and some huge pings,
      4ms offpeak 97ms peak ping adelaide to adelaide wtf?
      Note that the upload is always pretty high and I can get near 100/40 offpeak so it probably isn’t my hardware.

      Up until a couple of weeks ago it was 25/5 pretty solid night or day
      http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/4500320453 24/4.88 4 ms ping
      but with dual netflix channels running , sbs vod and other stuff a tiny tiny bit of buffering,
      so went up to top tier
      and it went to hell, last years adsl2 was faster at peak times

      • Sorry, tell a lie, we had a movie on Fetch downloading, for an hour and still half an hour to go, that would have bumped it down a bit but it should have been done in minutes.

      • You haven’t even told us what ISP you are using? You do realise that different ISPs have different core networks further upstream, and have different costings based on how much bandwidth they buy right?

        Not all ISPs are equal, just because they’re using NBN. They route their own networks that get congested too. Thats what marks the difference between a cheap ISP and a more premium one.

        • Optus
          It still shows just because you have ftth it doesn’t mean you are necessarily going to get it all the time.
          The thing is this started happening immediately after switching from a fairly solid 25/5 to 100/40.

          Now 12:20am and magically
          4ms ping 94/38 , why would congestion change ping so much?
          Can’t seem to get much more than 94 but not worried about the little bit off. Running through house cat 6 wiring but only a cheap 100Mbit switch at the end to 2 pcs and a laser printer in the back room.

        • This isn’t just optus either. Telstra, Exetel, TPG on their community boards and whirlpool.
          The lower speed tiers seem to be more stable than top tier.
          NBN may be fine, it could be running absolutely perfectly as designed but you have to go through an ISP.
          So roll a dice on exchange and isp, you may find it fine or you may be unlucky.

          • It’s a backhaul issue. And it’s not the lines problem it’s an ISP problem. If they don’t provision enough backhaul you can’t use the line at optimum capacity during peak can you? It’s like blaming a tunnel w/ capacity for five cars for slowing down traffic because the person in charge of the gates didn’t plan to open enough gates as required.

            The same happened w/ HFC and ADSL1/2 when they came. People got congested on higher speed tiers because the existing systems did not account for the rapid growth of use on their lines. It eventually panned out when ISP’s got the measure of optimal usage during peak…

            Lower tiers seem more “stable” because they aren’t bucking the original usage trends. It’s the higher end tiers that will usually be the “test subjects” when you get these increased capacity. What normally should happen is once the network usage has matured the ISP’s should adapt to allow better backhaul.

          • If the ACCC had not, in November 2010, mandated 121 Points of Interconnection, then RSPs would only need to haul to 14 of them, all in capital cities. NBNCo would have been the backhaul provider for all regional areas. As it is, we see minimal leased capacity by a whole bunch of providers to reach the 40 urban and 81 regional entry points.

            Blame the ACCC for this one.

  6. So isn’t it the often repeated argument that NBNco should own and do everything, because that will make everything cheaper and better than the “3rd world Internet” we currently have in Australia? By that argument, isn’t it better that NBNco are overbuilding, because they’ll apparently “naturally” be cheaper than what ever exists? Shouldn’t NBNco overbuild everything so that the rest of the industry die, and the “naturally” cheaper, government backed NBNco monopoly is the only one left?

    Why, on the one hand, are there complaints about how bad the existing and competitive industry are doing at providing Internet access and corresponding assertions that NBN is the superhero that will fix it, and on the other hand, there are complaints when the superhero who should theoretically be “saving the day” is overbuilding the “bad” existing industry’s infrastructure.

    So what are people for? A competitive industry, or a NBNco monopoly? Being for both is being hypocritical.

    • Perhaps you should come up to speed with the fact NBN has dropped the “Co” part of its name, so I would assume anything you have to contribute is a little dated based on the fact you still use the NBN Co tag.

    • @ Mr Shark…

      “Why, on the one hand, are there complaints about how bad the existing and competitive industry are doing at providing Internet access…”

      Simply because the existing competitive industry didn’t provide the necessary internet access we as a nation need(ed). Do you need proof that they didn’t? If so, where is our competitive industry built nationwide FTTN or FTTP network?

      “…and corresponding assertions that NBN is the superhero that will fix it…”

      NBNCo was to save us with FTTP, as it gave coverage to 93% of Australians with world class FTTP and the most remote (7%) areas still received vast improvement with… 4% wireless and 3% satellite (iirc)… but as you haven’t been paying attention, most here aren’t too excited about NBN’s MTM and consider it anything but a superhero.

      This latest fiasco just cements that even further.

    • Spot on Shark calling out the hypocrisy. Most commenters support Labor/Greens overbuilding (FTTH), just not the coalition. Lost also the irony that the private sector had already delivered high speed internet in this market.

      • Name something else besides digging holes in he ground that will make Australia’s economy competitive with foreign economies Richard?

        Seriously, where do you think we are heading if we can’t compete with the rest of the world?

        • There’s millions of profitable businesses creating value today. Better internet will improve businesses without access to broadband but with diminishing results as speed increases. Many technology options exist for most businesses.

          Large data users collocate servers (still will after NBN) or increasingly use cloud computing, businesses already have a number of data options (1:1 contended EoC or fibre).

          Running fibre to all premises (including those not even participating in the workforce) is not going to alter business competitiveness in any measurable way. The demand to recover cost from the overspending new monopoly will actually cost the economy.

          • Running fibre to all premises (including those not even participating in the workforce) is not going to alter business competitiveness in any measurable way. The demand to recover cost from the overspending new monopoly will actually cost the economy.

            Care to cite a source on that or it it just your opinion?

          • Running fibre to those not in the paid workforce makes them reliably and more cheaply able to be served by businesses, health and education providers, and governments.

            Savings in health, education and the cost of doing business are good for the economy.

            Your myth is busted.

          • @ Tinman_au you can’t be serious, those not engage in business activity can make a business more competitive?

          • Francis answered it better than I.

            But what “workforce” and “business” are you thinking about exactly? It certainly doesn’t seem to be about the “maker culture”, Kickstarter/Indiegogo/et al, Uber/Airbnb/et al , etc…

            Get with the times Richard :)

          • @tinman Francis didn’t answer anything ; the comment a avoided entirely Australian business competitiveness (addressed new markets (open to all) or lower service cost (also all)). Not one of the examples given increase our competitiveness.

          • I’ll leave it to the reader to come to their own conclusion about Richards assertions.

            From the nbn(tm) company website (http://www.nbnco.com.au/connect-home-or-business/information-for-home-or-business/benefits-for-business.html):

            Better engagement, stronger relationships – access to fast, reliable broadband brings video conferencing to life. Meet with customers, suppliers and colleagues, regardless of location, face to face without even leaving your desk, saving time consuming and costly travel.

            Connectivity counts, so does cutting costs – the benefits of cloud based services are realised with access to high-speed broadband. With access to customers, suppliers, staff and information at home as well as in the office, on any connected device, you have the freedom to work smarter.

            New markets, new opportunities – fast internet can improve the online experience for your customers, remove geographic barriers and as we connect more homes in Australia, grow your potential local market too.

            Flexible working, boost productivity – widespread availability of fast, reliable broadband could allow more flexible working, the ability to open up new employment opportunities, including those in more remote locations. The nbn™ network has the potential to boost productivity of your existing staff.

            Improve performance, focus on the future – the nbn™ network provides potential to sell new products and services, exploit new channels to market and to offer services globally. It could provide the opportunity to improve operational efficiency and change the way you do business in the future.

            Celebrating collaboration – bring together the best possible team regardless of location and when team members are away from the office they can still be connected to the project. The ability to share resources, meet and work together could help drive team productivity too.

            And from Malcolm’s own Strategic Review (https://www.communications.gov.au/sites/g/files/net301/f/Cost-Benefit_Analysis_-_FINAL_-_For_Publication.pdf):

            Productivity factors: the Strategic Review assumed very substantial productivity gains during the NBN construction phase for all technologies. These were particularly high for FTTP, incorporating large productivity gains that were in addition to the efficiencies achievable from the Radically Redesigned FTTP network.

          • Some people work from home. One colleague is not permitted to work from his home because his internet is inadequate, instead he drives 80Km each day to the office.

      • Speaking of hypocrisy… missed this did you?

        “The NBN company appears to be deploying its own competitive infrastructure to a housing estate in Sydney which Malcolm Turnbull specifically used during the 2013 Federal Election to highlight the strengths of his chosen Fibre to the Node technology.”

        BTW for most here (I believe).. its about the architecture of the network, not the political party rolling it out, which is the key element.

  7. Meanwhile apartments in Sweden have had FTTP since 2006. They don’t muck around there.

    The overbuilding sounds like they are trying to setup their flakey fraud network for a sell off to Murdoch later on. Seriously who would buy this crap. A massive liability just so 1% can get 75mbps llke in the UK.

  8. “Now, I will readily admit that I do not yet have all the facts about this situation just yet.”
    if you could have put that at the start of the article i could have saved myself reading.

    look im upset too, im not getting nbn anytime soon, but get facts first please

  9. You don’t need to think about this case study. I live in an apartment with cable, and the NBN is installing FTTB and moving everyone off HFC, even though HFC is definitely better, and they will have a HFC product released next year. It’s all a sham to boost the premises passed numbers in 2015 to the max.

    On top of that, I can already get a 100Mbps+, more than I would get on FTTB most likely. Underserved my ass, it’s all a farce, they want to reduce my download speed as well apparently.

  10. I’m actually very disappointed at how well Malcolm took his orders from Tony Abbott to “demolish” the NBN.

    He’s lost any cred he ever had with tech folks. Early on I thought he was just hedging his bets, but he really does seem to have sold his soul to the devil.

    • >but he really does seem to have sold his soul to the devil

      Did you mean Simon Hackett?

  11. Friend of mine was bragging that he had cable and was getting 100/2 in Para Hills SA. He comes into work the about 3 weeks ago and mentions that NBN Co. just finished installing fibre to his home… And here I’m stuck on just 5mb ADSL. ARGHH! How is this cost efficient? Why are we buying HFC and overbuilding with FTTP!?

    • That would have been an old contract in place from the previous government. They certainly are not planning on building FTTP over any existing and serviceable HFC going forward.

  12. So glad I live in a Labor electorate that has full NBN FTTH in my suburb. And now I have the option of upgrading to 100/100. Life is good.

  13. I live less than 500 meters from that block of apartments and I cannot even pay for to be put on as I live in a terrace house…

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