Telstra says Govt policy forcing it to deploy brand new copper instead of fibre


news The nation’s largest telco Telstra today said regulatory decisions made by the Government were forcing it to install brand new copper in new greenfields estates, rather than the next-generation fibre-optic cables which many Australians would expect in new developments.

The Department of Communications recently published new statistics which show that Telstra has deployed brand new copper to hundreds of new development premises around Australia as they are being built. The figures, first reported by NBN blogger Kenneth Tsang, show that about 420 new developments around Australia have recently received new copper connections provided by Telstra.

The copper deployments appear to make no technical sense.

In 2016, copper telecommunications infrastructure is considered legacy infrastructure. Where no existing infrastructure exists, it is now standard practice to deploy the latest-generation fibre-optic cables.

Asked to comment on why it was deploying copper to new estates instead of fibre, a Telstra spokesperson said the decision was due to policy laid down by the Government.

“Consistent with government policy, developers are free to pick the carrier of their choice to deploy the infrastructure they need, whether it be fibre or copper, to their new estates,” they said. “Under the current regulatory settings we can’t roll out a fibre network and then retail voice services over it, so where we are approached by a developer to build new telecommunications infrastructure we roll out copper.”

It is currently unclear whose responsibility — Labor or the Coalition’s — the Telstra rollouts ultimately are.

Previously, the NBN company was broadly to deploy its own Fibre to the Premises network to new greenfields developments under Labor’s NBN policy. This meant that the NBN company was able to provide a uniform platform across Australia for broadband infrastructure, but also cut out smaller providers such as Opticomm, which had developed a business rolling infrastructure into new developments.

However, in June 2011 then-Communications Minister Stephen Conroy issued a policy update which appeared to set the framework for Telstra to deploy copper to new estates. You can find the policy online in PDF format here.

The issue caused controversy in May 2012, as Telstra revealed at that stage that it had deployed some 35,000 new copper lines around Australia, as a stop-gap measure ahead of the NBN.

However, as Communications Minister in the Abbott Government, Malcolm Turnbull released a policy in May 2015 which again changed the NBN greenfields policy substantially.

It is believed that the previous Labor Government led by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard had outlawed the installation of new telecommunications infrastructure that was not fibre-optic cable in new greenfields developments, as part of the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Fibre Deployment) Bill 2011.

It appears that requirement may have since been modified, by legislation or through regulation.

The current situation appears to be that developers are able to choose amongst competing infrastructure providers, with the NBN company remaining the infrastructure provider of last resort in developments with 100 premises or more within its footprint.

Telstra is to remain the provider of last resort in developments with fewer than 100 lots and in developments outside the NBN fixed line footprint.

Telstra believes that the current policy means that it is currently prohibited from deploying fibre cables into new developments, and is instead forced to deploy only copper.

A greenfields developer could choose to contract a third-party telco such as Opticomm to deploy fibre into their new development premises, and the Department of Communications data shows that this is happening in some cases.

In cases where no third-party telco is contracted, and the new development has more than 100 premises, the NBN company would take over responsibility for the telco infrastructure, and typically deploy fibre.

But in cases where there is no third-party developer, and less than 100 premises are involved, Telstra believes it is then forced to deploy only copper. This is to ensure that, in future, a competitive third-party developer, or theoretically the NBN company, could come in and install their own fibre.

Delimiter has contacted the Office of Communications Minister Mitch Fifield to invite the Minister to comment on whether the Government’s policy is having its intended effect.

Telstra’s move does not represent the first time that brand new copper has been deployed over the past few years in Australia, despite fibre-optic cables being seen as the way of the future for telecommunications networks.

In October last year, for instance, the NBN company revealed it had purchased some 1800km of brand new copper cable at a cost of about $14 million, to ensure that the Fibre to the Node technology model preferred by Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition Government would function correctly.

Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull


  1. instead forced to deploy only copper.

    What a load of BS, Telstra has the choice to rollout fibre if they chose to do so. That would mean the other greenfield fibre rollouts are forced to deploy copper as well.

    What an absolute joke.

    • The question needs to be asked, why are Telstra rolling out services to greenfield sites anywat? That should be the responsibility of the NBN Co, and the “problem” also goes away.

  2. The Telstra spokesman is incorrect (at least for the data reports 419 connections); evidenced by 2 lots reported using FTTH (see link previous article).

    The remaining 417 are single lot subdivisions (presumably) in non-FTTH RFS areas. These have always been given copper (fibre cost prohibitive, even for Quigley) for USO mandated voice. Ducts were/are required for future rollout.

    Non-Telstra contractor preferred for larger projects (policy changes designed to encourage).

    Developers have greater technology options for larger greenfields. It would be interesting to scan the data to see what number of lots before fibre is preferred.

      • Richard and Telstra kepping up with the “as long as competition delivers levels of network performance and retail diversity and choice comparable to those provided by the NBN elsewhere.” I didn’t know we could get upto 100Mbps on ADSL and Telstra isn’t rolling out FTTN to those areas.

        • So Richard Telstra gets to hide behind the USO so they don’t have to whosle sale out a nbn competing network. Wasn’t there $B going to be invested and that should be competition get to see private sector showing what it can do.

          But then that article was before FTTP started and before the 2011 policy. Which Turnbull claimed was unfriendly to the private sector. So really that private investment you claim was Telstra supplying 3G now 4G.

          • @jk needs to learn about the USO. Just joking won’t happen.

            Clearly mine/Turnbulls fault;-)

          • Lol Richard trying to play the victim again I didn’t say it was your fault.

            But it is Turnbull for his change in policy to allow ADSL to be rolled out to greenfields

          • @jk mine and Telstra’s apparently. Link show the USO predates Turnbull. Sensibly because fibre infrastructure not in the area, NBNCo hundreds of thousands of stalled premises. (nice to get the cost figures for the fibre connections;-).

            Continue to jk reality.

    • Data gets better, sites with NBN still not RFS since 2011. Some under construction commencement date in 2012.

      The folly of this policy is staggering. The cost to taxpayers will be enormous.

  3. “The copper deployments appear to make no technical sense.”
    Didn’t you get the memo Renai? Copper is the future

    • “Copper is the future”

      People keep on telling me that, but my brain just revolts in horror against the prospect that I could still be using a copper connection in 5 years.

      • 5? I don’t think my place will even have an upgrade from ADSL in 5 years to HFC let alone getting off copper…

      • Its going to take NBN more than 5 years to pay off all the excessive copper expenditure and since your in an overbuild N area I’d say get used to seeing Cu wires around ;)

      • Copper was the choice for the telegraph, broadly rolled out in the 1860’s. It was on the back of that the phone services built, so yeah, 19th century.

        This gets missed a lot. We’re using 150 year old technology, its gotten to its used by date. Reset the clock to something that will last longer than a decade or two, which at this time, means fibre.

        All fibre, or enough of it to make the copper loop irrelevant.

  4. Fascists do not make sense. Don’t even try to understand them

    meanwhile new zealand is getting a fibre rollout. A friend just got 200/200

    • “Something something Australia is bigger something something Australia has more people”

        • Than New Zealand… I thought that was implied.

          However, it was just a generic jab at the anti-FTTH crowd who claim more premises in Australia means that using NZ as an example of being able to roll out FTTH is apparently invalid.

      • Actually, New Zealand has a higher proportion of rural to urban population than Australia. Australia has around 89.4% urban, while New Zealand has 86.3% ( What I think this means is that reaching the urban population with fibre would actually be more reasonable in OZ than NZ.

        • I am aware, I am just preempting the inevitable anti-FTTH crowds inane responses.

          • If you think providing FTTP to about 75% of the population of Melbourne to a area about the size of Victoria is exactly the same as the nation wide NBN infrastructure rollout in Australia and is a fair comparison then go for it, but the reality is it is a fantasy.

          • Yet Reality, Turnbull was comparing us to England for FTTN which has 3 time the pop density no wonder the cost blowout from $29B to $56B

  5. Won’t be hard to gather a list of places you don’t want to build a new house if you value good internet.

  6. What was said.
    “Under the current regulatory settings we can’t roll out a fibre network and then retail voice services over it, so where we are approached by a developer to build new telecommunications infrastructure we roll out copper”…

    What wasn’t said, but could have been implied.
    … ” to maintain our monopoly on the rental of the telecommunication infrastructure going to the homes. If we deployed fibre we would have to open it up to competition. With copper we can hold on to it and then as an added bonus, we get to sell it well over our installation cost price due to our negotiated contract with the Government regarding the switch to the NBN”

    • Add to that “We also get to make more money with the maintenance contracts on said copper.”

    • also saves them a heap of money as its the cheapest option out (for good reason). Who wants to bet that copper won’t be short enough for FttN either so that in and of itself is probably going to cause issues!

  7. Would this not make sense to Telstra from a business point of view?

    I understand that Tesltra are getting paid for each and every copper connection that transfers to “NBN”?

    So as long as they are getting the new copper cheap enough (I would imagine they are), then it makes perfect (yet immoral) business sense to do so? They spend as little as possible for as much reward as possible.

  8. Telstra wont roll out fibre unless they can keep the monopoly on it. Ridiculous prices, no wholesaling, a phone that isn’t optional and still costs $35/month (see south Brisbane). What a load of bull that they ‘cant’ roll out fibre.

  9. So many “it appears” and “it is believed” that with a bit of effort could be verified with evidence.

    How can this article be taken as anything but speculation, and then assertions based on speculation.

    This isn’t journalism, it’s propaganda, pandering to the pro-FTTP crowd.

    (I read the articles here occasionally for the entertainment – how far away from objective journalism is the article today and how much are the FTTP crowd being pandered to?)

  10. Meanwhile every developed country is rolling out fibre and Australia sticks to copper. And don’t forget coal, we love our coal!

    • Except for the developed countries that are not and are rolling out a mixed model just like Australia.

          • ooh, that’s right. The article mentioned nothing about mixed models, neither did the post you responded to. But you did!! If I remember correctly, you said: “Except for the developed countries that are not and are rolling out a mixed model just like Australia.”

          • Just a note, there is no rule that says mixed models need copper. For example, I could envision a multi-technology mix of fibre to the premises in 80% of urban centres and 100% of schools. We would increase the number of 4G antennas and raise plan capacities to 100GB minimum to cover the remaining 20% of urban regions. We could assign satellite and fixed wireless to rural areas (defining rural being >20km from a city/town population >2000). Finally, we would use drumbeats, lung blown horns, and loud whistles in the most remote regions to round out our non-copper multi-technology mix.

          • yes I know how the MTM model works and that it can be a mix of infrastructure types, the point is what Australia is doing is not unique as the FTTP only zealots try to push that tired false inference, nor is our copper unique and not suitable for FTTN.

  11. “Under the current regulatory settings we can’t roll out a fibre network and then retail voice services over it, ”

    Huh? that doesn’t sound right.

    • Oddly enough, I believe Telstra. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe Telstra is the Ogre in the Pantry–but even Ogres get caught with their pants down. And this interference by hands-on Ministers with Executive Powers is almost guaranteed to produce Friendly Fire casualties.

      Doesn’t that make you feel happy? Telstra caught in Ministerial Friendly Fire?

      But seriously, until Australians work out how to cooperate with each other and develop a Parliamentary (read: legal and legitimate) strategy to eliminate all four major Parties and start legislating cooperatively and consensually, then this is the enduring format of misrule we will cop.

      Geeks of Australia Unite! You have nothing to lose but Contention!

      • I don’t know what is unique about Telstra or any other private company FTTP rollouts, voice services are available off the FTTP NTU UNI-V port on the NBN for ISP’s to resell, still not sure what Telstra not being able to sell retail services off their FTTP is all about.

        • Perhaps they’re splitting hairs. They may look at voice services as an analog service, which FttP doesnt deliver. It delivers a digital service.

          Thats the sort of hair splitting thats usually behind these weird statements, just to justify a stance.

          And that goes both ways.

  12. We could have saved 11 billion or more by simply adding a realistic data qualification to the USO.
    “Supply it, or cough up the entire network, ducts & all, and fix the asbestos while your at it! Your property, public health hazard, so fix it!”
    There’s still exchanges with no ADSL, no ADSL2 or no spare ports. Even fixing that right now, would provide better service {for some}….. cheaper, faster, sooner!!!

    Malcolm’s oft quoted, “world leading” UK government system has finally taken this step.
    From 28.8kbps to 10Mbit required under USO by 2020

  13. I just get so angry at thees so called experts that seem to bumble along cocking up every thing they touch.My father,god bless his sole work fairly high up the PMG IN SCOTLAND in the mid sixties but big businesses with millions in-shares in the copper side where very anti change frightened to lose out.It ‘suspended work on fttp for almost 45 yrs and they are still fucking around,stupid bastards It shows 1 thing fuck the benefits to the country as long as they get a brown paper bag at the back door every month.The greedy self centered shits, should all be jailed and stripped of all assets. I see that they all seem to be multimillionaires , the turds.

  14. What gets me is the developers not choosing a provider that gives them fibre. I bought a house 6 years ago and good internet was a condition in the contract. The agent was quite confused when I insisted that good internet was a condition of sale. I told him then that this is going to happen more and more. If people are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a house, more and more people are going to require good internet……here we are 6 years later and developers are going for the cheaper option……(scratches head and walks away looking for better internet)

    • I prefer “Malcolm Turnbull’s Muddle”, which is more descriptive of something that became mixed up and spoiled with an air of improvisation. However, I agree that “mess” is also fairly apt.

  15. Tell me please:- if 1800 klms of new copper cost $14m then what would 1800 klms fibre optic cable cost?

    Is that cost laid or on the barrels?

    • What is the comparison you have in mind here?

      1800 klms of fibre optic cable allows the NBN Co to do what relative to the same copper equivalent mainly used to connect existing Telstra pillars to NBN FTTN cabinets?

  16. Telstra was not forced by anyone but themselves to deploy less than the required amount of copper and other telecoms infrastructure in my suburb in Metro Brisbane, even before the NBN was born. Decent ADSL… Still waiting!

  17. Why couldn’t we just have a proper state of the art national fibre optic network that was owned by the country? Everyone could have used it but no…they just had to make a great big pig’s breakfast out the whole thing. FFS what a shambles.

  18. I think they will lose the next election or the one after that, leave a hugely multiplied debt, and the new govt will need to borrow even more to fix up the mess, to enable our data connection speeds to step into the 21st century.. Making the next govt look like the financially irresponsible bad guys.. Paving the way for the truly incompetent to bleat that they need to get back in again..

    In the meantime, they’re making sure we won’t be able to communicate properly to complain when they implement the ‘final solution’ – we’ve already bn told our cars are an unnecessary ‘luxury’ .. What else is on th chopping bloc ??

  19. Backn in the day, Telstra used to roll out copper, knowing that developers want fiber. So they made fiber A PRODUCT” which mean that developers had to specifically want to pay to install fiber (thus absolving Telstra of ANY cost to deploy). The developers had to recoup the costs as blocks were sold. Needless to say, many developers didnt want to wear an up front cost before the lots were sold, so they went with the “default” option. It would have cost no more money to deploy fiber instead, was what I was told.

Comments are closed.