NBN CEO won’t talk South Brisbane, TransACT


news The chief executive of the NBN company has flatly refused to comment on contentious situations with relation to the company’s rollout in the South Brisbane and Canberra areas, where it appears to be overbuilding existing open access high-speed broadband infrastructure.

For much of the past three years, the NBN company and Telstra have been in talks over selling Telstra’s extensive Fibre to the Premises rollout in the South Brisbane exchange area to the NBN company. Telstra build fibre in the area to replace its existing copper network, due to the fact that a new hospital had necessitated the demolition of its South Brisbane telephone exchange.

However, Delimiter recently revealed that the NBN company had started overbuilding Telstra’s FTTP network in the area. The Department of Communications has also recently written to at least one resident in the area letting them know that Telstra was “unable” to sell the network to the NBN company.

Asked about the issue in a financial results briefing session yesterday, NBN company chief executive Bill Morrow flatly refused to say whether the NBN company was still talking to Telstra about South Brisbane.

“As we look at the rollout, we look at all assets out there that would either speed up the rollout or reduce our net costs,” he said. “The South Brisbane area has very adequate services out there today; [it’s] not necessarily a priority. That’s kind of how we prioritise things. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Morrow was also asked about the NBN company’s activities in overbuilding the TransACT high-speed broadband networks in Canberra.

Delimiter recently revealed the NBN company was planning to overbuild TransACT’s long-established Fibre to the Node and HFC cable networks in Canberra, Mildura and Geelong with more Fibre to the Node cables.

The plans come despite the fact that the NBN company is ignoring other suburbs in Canberra which are not currently covered by TransACT’s network.

The result will be that Canberra will end up with two competing Fibre to the Node networks — one owned by the Federal Government, and one not, but neither covering a number of underserved suburbs.

It is believed that the Canberra TransACT FTTN network is already open access on a wholesale basis to other ISPs, as the NBN network is. This means it is not clear what advantages the NBN FTTN network will bring residents in those areas of Canberra.

Asked about the issue yesterday, Morrow said there would always be some who were not happy about their premises not being at the front of the queue with respect to the NBN rollout. “There’s always somebody first and somebody last,” he said.

The executive said the NBN company always looked at assets that it could buy. If there were, Morrow said, the company would pursue that option. However, he said, if an asset was not going to be sold to the company, then the company would “move forward with our build”. It appears that TransACT owner TPG does not wish to sell the infrastructure in the ACT and Victoria to the NBN company.

Morrow said until an area had been declared as “adequately served” with high-speed broadband — which the TransACT regions have not — then it had an obligation to build its network in that area.

However, Morrow did not answer the question of why the NBN company was choosing specifically to overbuild TransACT’s network in the ACT as a matter of priority, while not focusing on other suburbs in Canberra which do not have high-speed broadband at all.

It is disappointing to see this lack of transparency from Morrow … I am not sure what purpose the NBN company could serve by not discussing the South Brisbane situation at all or by focusing its rollout on suburbs in Canberra and other areas throughout Victoria where high-speed broadband already exists.

I’d love to hear from anyone inside the NBN company about this — please feel free to use Delimiter’s anonymous tips form.

Image credit: NBN company


  1. “[it’s] not necessarily a priority”
    Oh okay so then why are you over building right now when there’s people out there on 1mbps (me) ADSL services?
    Nbn company a laughing stock, except every time we laugh my pockets get lighter with less money.

  2. If NBNCo’s current position or actions, on this is part of an ongoing Commercial negotiation strategy with Telstra, it is not surprising and fair enough that you’ll get a no comment from anyone at NBNCo on this matter.

    • A “no comment” is different from “we cannot comment”, particularly given the overbuild.

      • Indeed when I worked in defence one of the entry seminars revolved around dealing with media or queries from unauthorised persons.

        Basically: “No Comment” is a comment and can be twisted into some form of response.

        Stating you are “not authorised to comment” however is as boring as anything and not really able to be twisted.

  3. Don’t see why they would overbuild – unless the network is off the table. I’m going to go out on a (short) limb and assume that Telstra isn’t going to sell it, at a price NBNco is prepared to pay.

    Competition, alive and well and proving a complete success!

    To be fair, if you were in Telstra’s shoes, would you sell a highly profitable part of the business (without a gun to your head) to a competitor? Exactly.

    • basically, its Telstra and Optus down the same streets, redux.

      20 years later and we are making the same mistakes. its depressing, it really is….

  4. There’s always somebody first and somebody last

    Amazing insight Bill Morrow. Truly amazing. I do however remember a time when this argument wouldn’t wash, the religious copper zealots wanted their just a bit faster than ADSL2+ connections and they wanted them RIGHT NOW. According to them FttN was quicker to rollout and would be built virtually instantaneously in comparison to FttP, but now “there’s always somebody first and somebody last” but sadly with FttN the reality is everyone comes last.

  5. “There’s always somebody first and somebody last,”

    Disingenuous answer. Problem is some people are coming first *twice*, while their neighbours get nothing at all.

      • The answer is they know they are wasting money & they don’t care. They are already acting as a monopoly! How many buildings are feed with HFC & NBN FTTB?

    • Indeed Lindsay, except now the country is being put last to satisfy some small minded libertarians and their corporate mates!

  6. “The result will be that Canberra will end up with two competing Fibre to the Node networks — one owned by the Federal Government, and one not, but neither covering a number of underserved suburbs.”

    And here we have a classic example of the results of cherry picking by different companies. Both decide it is more profitable to compete in the same areas/markets while ignoring under served suburbs.
    And it highlights one of the great strengths of the ALP NBN. 93% would have received access to the same infrastructure.

  7. I’d just like to re-inforce the claims in this story:

    ACT – Tuggeranong has almost no VDSL2, and variable ADSL. They are not getting NBN FTTN any time soon.
    ACT – Inner North has almost blanket coverage VDSL2, variable ADSL and even a little NBN FTTH. They are getting NBN FTTN next year.

    In some ways I don’t really care that NBN is planning to overbuild TransACT – TransACT’s offering isn’t perfect. But why roll out NBN FTTN to the areas of the ACT that already have VDSL2 before the areas that don’t?

    • “why roll out NBN FTTN to the areas of the ACT that already have VDSL2 before the areas that don’t?”

      That is the question I keep on asking NBN Co, and getting no answer. I live in the inner North in Canberra. I am on TransACT FTTN right now … 93Mbps. My suburb is getting NBN FTTN. Yet the suburb next door has jack, and is getting jack.

      Ludicrous. Someone need to be fired over this.

        • Are we surprised given the number of ex-Telstra executives polishing seats at NBN headquarters?

        • unfortunately in Australia Telecom infrastructure competition at the wholesale level doesn’t work and probably never will.

          If for no other reason than a significant % of the country isn’t profitable to a single enterprise let alone many so if there’s no offset available in the profitable area’s you get a big chunk with nothing and lots of overbuild elsewhere.

          NBN was meant to fix that but hasn’t.

  8. While I was at Alcatel, I led a team that designed TransACTs FTTH network. It was specifically designed to be sold to the NBN Co, and was designed by an Alcatel broadband architect who subsequently went on to be a senior FTTH architect in the NBN Co. Just like the NBN Co, its has been built with Alcatel FTTH and Corning Fibre products. It is mystifying why the NBN co cant re-purpose the TransACT FTTH network, and it brings their judgement into question.

  9. I was under the belief that NBN was a GBE and were accountable to the government and the taxpayers. That makes refusing to comment not an option in my book.
    I live in Conder (far south of Canberra) and I see the city and entire north side of Canberra being looked after with pretty much nothing on the entire south side except for a couple of more affluent (or is that effluent) suburbs. We will probably be amongst the last in the country to get MTM so seeing them overbuilding other areas in Canberra with equivalent equipment cuts really deep.

    • It’s accountable to it’s shareholders. In this case there are just two shareholders, the Ministers for Comms and Finances. At least under the old regime they were fairly open, and would explain why they couldn’t answer a query if they couldn’t answer one. Just had to read between the spin. Now, it’s all fluff and spin, and as soon as a serious question is asked it’s all bluster, attacking the questioner’s motives and if that fails, no comment…Seems like the LNP handed out a booklet to all the government departments and GBE’s about how to handle the plebes…

  10. Absolutely livid.

    I live on the edge of Cook in the northern ACT where there is no VDSL and the ADSL syncs at between 2.1Mbps and 3.3Mbps with regularly drops out. Cook is less than 10 minutes from the CBD and not on the three year rollout plan.

    I can accept not being first in line, but those who already have fast options available should be served after those who haven’t.

    • This is precisely the kind of situation which appears to be ridiculous, based on the current rollout plan. And yet the NBN company refuses to answer questions about it.

  11. I had to laugh at the comment “The South Brisbane area has very adequate services out there today; [it’s] not necessarily a priority”.

    In WA the build clearly has nothing to do with areas of priority, in fact some of the areas the NBN are focusing on are serviced pretty well already. I have one friend who had FTTP through bright when they did the roll out years ago (vic park) he now has FTTP through NBN.

    Another who has ADSL synching at 22Mbit down, he also has access to HFC and NBN co is kindly upgrading the HFC for him. Another that syncs at 18Mbit through adsl, doesn’t have the HFC network available to him however NBN co is going to deliver him FTTN.

    I live pretty close to the Perth CBD (5min drive), old area, when I first moved here it took an entire year to even get a phone line because none of the free lines actually worked. After eventually obtaining a line I manage to sync at 4Mbit down with a crap load of errors on the modem, 4G is also down to about 1x bar if you’re lucky.

    Heck even the previous suburb I lived in where I synced at 24Mbit via ADSL (new estate) is getting FTTN and it’s only down the road from me, I’m not in the three year roll out plan ;(

    • I’m in the same boat, except in Melbourne. Older suburb about 5 minute walk from the CBD and copper that is going downhill. No mention on the rollout plan. Just glad I’m not working from home full time any more.

    • “Another who has ADSL synching at 22Mbit down, he also has access to HFC and NBN co is kindly upgrading the HFC for him. Another that syncs at 18Mbit through adsl, doesn’t have the HFC network available to him however NBN co is going to deliver him FTTN.”

      This likely happens as you drag your fibre backhaul to where it needs to get and radiate outwards from there for the last mile. (either POI or FAN etc).

      Typically that means those with better ADSL (closer to their exchange buildings) end up getting the upgrade sooner.

      In SA we have a blackspot in modbury They have probably finished 75% of Modbury with FttH guess which part is in the 25% (yup you guessed it the actual blackspot area some of the worst ADSL in the state). Usually those BS are trouble area’s so the rollouts there hit hurdles after hurdles (to the point they now have to wait on FttN or HFC) and also tend to be fairly distant from that central point.

  12. Overbuilding the iiNet HFC network occurring in Geelong, Ballarat and Mildura as well. Complete waste of taxpayers money!

  13. Remember this?


    Meanwhile, in the real world, overbuilding is happening precisely because it’s permitted and because NBNco can build wherever they choose; so highly profitable areas are going to be targeted first.

    One might argue Labor’s bass-akwards outside-in deployment model was flawed. It was. However NBNco has no constraints on where and when. So we’ve swung from one extreme, to the other.

    ACCC don’t care, it suits their agenda; so get ready for increasingly overbuilt areas where NBNco can make money sooner. Can’t really blame them. The policy changes ensure this is the automatic outcome.

    Cluster-fuck, whilst vulgar, doesn’t really come close to describing the current situation. Welcome to 2.0. For added hilarity.


  14. I welcome the rollout in Kambah (event though it probably won’t be available till 2018).. I’m in a part of the suburb that does not have transact. Gleneagles is on RIMS, with crappy copper (with water issues) very poor speeds, no 4G coverage and we have been trying to talk to NBN for the last 2 years about co-funding FTTP.. at first they were supportive.. but then they put out the new technology choice program which basically makes it impossible to do (all or nothing, an impossible task with 400 homes), instead they will roll out FTTN over the same crappy copper that barely works when it rains. Basically, nothing NBN does these days makes any sense.

  15. Hmm. If the buying out the existing infrastructure is not feasible, why the hell overbuild it with the same technology? Apart from the priority of to where to rollout first, why, if so important, not to run FTTP there to be competitive?
    Why the hell they run new HFC cables in the HFC trial areas instead of using existing ones? Trials on the new cable to determine the outcome for the old cables is a farce.
    They just should do the trials on existing HFC, and continue with the rollout in the other areas meanwhile.
    Faster, cheaper in poo deeper.

  16. https://delimiter.com.au/2014/04/15/nbn-co-kill-tpg-rollout-minister-dithers/


    I think your past articles should make it obvious what is going on.

    As mentioned by someone its the same MO that was deployed by Telstra back when Optus started rolling out their HFC network.

    As I understand, we are also now beginning to see NBNCo target FTTB where TPG and other providers have gone in.

    The strategy seems to be all about lowering the rate of return for other providers and increasing the financial risk to them.


    These don’t appear to be isolated events, they are literally being done on a national scale.

    It’s scary how much of their current resources are going into these over-builds.

    Atleast Greg Adcock is gone..

  17. Gee, it’s a wonder the usual suspects aren’t here demanding full transparency of Morrow & Co as they did daily of Quigley & Co…

    Oh wait, of course.


    • @rizz drop in from time to time. On the record denouncing this joke.

      Nice to be thought of though. Enjoying Diwali.

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