news The chief executive of the NBN company has stated in a radio interview that the National Broadband Network will eventually go to “the same place” as Labor’s original Fibre to the Premises model through continual upgrades to the network over time, in a move which appears to offer long-term hope for those displeased by the Government’s controversial multi-technology model.
Last week NBN chief executive Bill Morrow conducted an interview with 2GB presenter Chris Smith (available in full online). On the show, Morrow was asked about the Coalition’s controversial Multi-Technology Mix model for the NBN, which is seeing Labor’s original near-universal Fibre to the Premises model for the network significantly watered down, and the technically inferior copper and HFC networks owned by Telstra and Optus re-used.
Morrow said the previous FTTP model would have caused “driveways to be dug up, a lot of gardens to be destroyed, and a lot of frustration in terms of going out to each and every one of our homes” to deploy the model.
Labor’s FTTP model would have seen fibre cables deployed all the way to customers’ homes and business premises.
The new model, Morrow said, allowed the NBN company to re-use existing infrastructure, in a technique that would see the NBN deployed faster, and the NBN company not having to spend as much money initially on the rollout.
“Now, ultimately we’ll go to the same place,” Morrow told Smith, “but it will be with different technology enhancements — we’re not constrained by speed or limitations that some people had believed.”
Smith said the MTM rollout didn’t necessarily mean that “in 25 years we can’t go fibre all the way to the home”.
“That’s right, and in fact when you look at it, our build will be complete in the year 2020,” said Morrow. The executive added that 1.7 premises premises could already access the NBN today, out of the approximate 12 million planned nationally.
“The technology is changing so fast,” he added. “We already know that over half of those homes and businesses already have access to super high speeds like 1Gbps already, with these networks that we’re putting into the ground right now. And as that technology evolves, it gets cheaper, it gets easier, as demand increases, we’ll continue to evolve that technology.”
“So this really is a ‘grow as you need it, as you’re willing to pay for it, as you actually use it in your home or your business’.”
Morrow said he did not believe the NBN company needed “any more money” than the $29.5 billion that the Coalition Government had committed to the NBN project.
I think what we’re seeing here from Morrow is a combination of two things.
Firstly, the executive is conflating technologies such as Fibre to the Distribution Point and the G.Fast standard, as well as the DOCSIS 3.1 standard which the NBN company plans to implement on the HFC cable networks, with the speeds and capacity available via a full FTTP rollout as Labor had planned.
Although FTTP is substantially technically superior on a range of measures compared with these technologies (upload speeds, congestion, reliability and ease and cost of maintenance are just some of the more obvious issues), it has become common for the NBN company to mention these technologies in the same breath as FTTP recently, conflating their capabilities in an apparent attempt to assure the Australian public that they’re not missing out on anything under the MTM model.
Of course, this is misleading — even as it is par for the course for the NBN company these days.
However, I think Morrow is also hinting at the long-term upgrade prospects for the MTM.
It is clear that Fibre to the Node or Fibre to the Distribution Point can theoretically be upgraded to a full FTTP rollout down the track, and a similar fibre extension process also exists for the HFC cable networks. What Morrow appears to be hinting at here is that 2020 is not that far away — after that date, when the MTM will supposedly be complete, the NBN company will then start looking at further upgrades. The FTTdp process has already begun, but there are also plenty of further options.
Perhaps I’m putting words in his mouth here. But perhaps also what we’re seeing from Morrow here is the first glimpses of an acknowledgement that the MTM model is not the end goal for the NBN — even as early as from 2020.
I certainly hope so. Because I do not personally want to be left on a crappy Fibre to the Node service in 2020 or 2025 when others in my neighbourhood have long had access to a full FTTP installation to their premises. That is a fundamentally unjust situation which I don’t think the Australian public should put up with.
Image credit: NBN company