news Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has confirmed the Government is open to using ‘skinny’ fibre and Fibre to the Distribution Point models as part of the National Broadband Network, as speculation continues to mount the two technologies may form the basis of a new Coalition NBN policy to be released ahead of this year’s Federal Election.
Over the past several weeks, a series of leaked documents have revealed trials that the NBN company has been carrying out of ‘skinny fibre’ and Fibre to the Distribution Point technologies.
The combination of the two technologies appears to offer the NBN company a mechanism for delivering Fibre to the Premises-like speeds at a cost not incomparable to the Coalition’s preferred Fibre to the Node model. This has led to speculation that the NBN company could, in line with a potential new Coalition NBN policy, announce a shift from FTTN to FTTdp/skinny fibre as part of the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix approach to the NBN.
At the National Press Club last week, Communications Mitch Fifield was asked by Fairfax journalist Matthew Knott whether he would support the FTTN policy being replaced with the skinny fibre option. You can see the full transcript online here.
In response, Fifield repeated the Government’s ongoing line that it takes a “technology-agnostic” approach to the NBN, supporting whatever technology that would see the NBN rolled out “fastest and cheapest”.
“That’s why we have fibre-to-the-node. It’s why we have HFC. It’s why we have fixed wireless. It’s why we have satellite and there is still some fibre-to-the-premises which was instigated by our predecessors. We think that’s the right approach,” said Fifield.
The Minister noted that skinny fibre could reduce the civil works cost of the NBN in some circumstances, “so we’re not against skinny fibre”.
“That’s why NBN is looking at it,” he added. “It’s not been a secret trial, as has been reported. In fact, it was referred to by NBN in their half-year results, so secret it is. So skinny fibre could have application but not just to fibre-to-the-prem but could also have application in parts for HFC and fibre-to-the-node.”
“So we’re not averse to doing things that will see lower cost … if there is a good role for skinny fibre, hey we’re all for it.”
Fifield also gave a second indication that the Government was open to the FTTdp/skinny fibre combination in a media release the Minister issued last week in response to Labor comments on the issue.
Although the release was largely concerned with rebutting specific Labor comments, Fifield also noted as part of the statement that FTTdp was already part of the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix approach to the NBN, with it being referenced in the Executive Summary of the 2013 NBN Strategic Review.
“In fact, the company has advised that the FTTdp footprint will reach around 300,000 premises,” Fifield said.
However, Fifield also attempted to pour cold water on some of the claims being made around the FTTdp/skinny fibre technologies in general.
The Minister told the National Press Club that Fibre to the Node still cost around half as much as Fibre to the Premises, even if skinny fibre was included as part of the FTTP model.
for the Opposition to pretend that somehow skinny fibre represents their dream of a low cost fibre to the prem is not the case.
In addition, his separate media release, Fifield said the claim that the FTTdp/skinny fibre combination could bring costs down to the same level as FTTN was not true.
“Yesterday the nbn CEO advised a Senate committee that FTTdp optimised with skinny fibre would in fact be 25%-30% more expensive than FTTN,” he said.
Image credit: Parliamentary broadcasting