“No debate”: Australia needs “gigabit” fibre, says Atlassian co-founder


news Billionaire software mogul Mike Cannon-Brookes last night stated that there was “no debate” about Australia’s need for “gigabit fiber”, in comments that come in direct contrast to controversial statements made on the topic last week by the chief executive of the National Broadband Network.

Labor’s original Fibre to the Premises model for the NBN would have been capable of delivering gigabit broadband speeds to almost all Australians. However, the Coalition’s replacement Multi-Technology Model will see those speeds drastically cut down, with the Government only focusing on entry-level broadband speeds such as 25Mbps and 50Mbps for many areas.

However, the current Coalition Government and the management of the NBN company believe there is no immediate needs for the higher speeds.

“There’s been no case made or evidence made that there is any benefit from having a speed higher than what we can get now in many of our cities, at least, from ADSL 2+,” then-Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in 2011. “If I connect your house with one terabyte per second speeds – the sort of speed you might get over a transcontinental cable – it would be of no use to you. There’s nothing you could do with it.”

The Member for Wentworth has made similar statements several times over the years since.

And last week, NBN CEO Bill Morrow reportedly said briefings with the team behind the Google Fiber project in the US, which provides gigabit speeds, showed broadband users didn’t want Fibre to the Premise infrastructure or the gigabit speeds behind it.

During last night’s Q&A broadcast, Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes — who recently became one of Australia’s richest people after the company floated on the Nasdaq in the US — noted he disagreed.

“If you want to avoid a two speed economy, you need a one speed internet. Fast. Gigabit fiber. No debate on that,” Cannon-Brookes wrote on Twitter.

The comment was immediately forwarded around and re-tweeted by supporters of Labor’s model for the NBN.

Cannon-Brookes also noted he supported Michael Biercuk on the Q&A program. The University of Sydney associate professor and quantum physicist was outspoken on a range of issues on last night’s program, including his belief that FTTP was the only realistic option for the NBN and that it was time the public demanded an honest conversation from politicians about the infrastructure.

Cannon-Brookes is believed to be influential in the Federal Government’s formation of technology policy. His fellow Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar, sits on the Innovation and Science advisory panel established by Turnbull as Prime Minister, and Cannon-Brookes is often publicly engaged in political issues relating to tech and innovation policy.

However, not all technology sector commentators agreed with Cannon-Brookes’ sentiments about gigabit fibre.

For examples, James Coffey, regional manager of strategic alliance at software as a service vendor Salesforce — a similar company in many ways to Cannon-Brookes’ own Atlassian — noted that the NBN came at a cost. “You of [all] people know efficient use of capital is important,” he said.

And investor and entrepreneur Steve Baxter — known for deploying a swathe of fibre-optic cable around Australia as part of his previous company PIPE Networks — noted on Twitter that he had significant problems with the NBN company being a monopoly, as well as with respect to its charging model for retail ISPs.

“NBN is re-monopolisation. nothing good ever comes from it. Behavior we see now polite, wait for future,” Baxter wrote. “Panel turned into an NBN farce … When the debate starts as fibre [versus] copper — if you say fiber then you’re a dummy there never is much honesty!”

Image credit: Aundray, Creative Commons


  1. ““You of [all] people know efficient use of capital is important,” he said.”

    Doing it twice one after the other is hardly an efficient use of capital, I mean I’ll stand corrected if someone can find an example where it is or has been but I doubt one exists.

    “NBN company being a monopoly” well everyone else simply refused to even bother as the returns for said market basically ‘suck’. How much fibre did his company deploy into the less profitable regions of anywhere regional (or semi) in Australia?

    “as well as with respect to its charging model for retail ISPs” that hasn’t changed despite the different tech so is pretty well OT and just another complaint (I don’t know anyone that particularly likes the model either).

    • “…that hasn’t changed despite the different tech…”

      Surely not, Malcolm was saying his modelled was over $300 a year cheaper for consumers. Is it worth even putting that too him? He will simply claim prices would have gone up that much if the FTTH NBN rollout had continued.

      • NBN plans are all the same price at ISPs. Maybe they will split them but I doubt it (too much overhead and headache with billing).

        Currently its actually worse because there was meant to be a discounting of CVC prices since the FttP revenues and such were above predictions. However: “MTM says no!”.

        • There is one question on NBN pricing you may be able to answer. I thought the wholesale prices were the same across all technologies. Why are the skymesh NBN long term satellite plans way more expensive than the fixed line and wireless plans?

          • Turnbull was claiming his FTTN price before the election was going to be $16 compared to FTTP of $22

        • CVC prices have already been discounted beyond what is predicted in the NBNCo Corporate Plan. $20 -> $17.50 and free 150Mbps at each PoI.

          If you read the NBNCo Corporate Plan it is very clear that Labor’s plan demanded that ARPU must quickly rise well above $100 for the return on investment to be achieved. That happens by reducing pricing at a significantly slower rate than the increase in data consumption.

      • “Malcolm was saying his modelled was over $300 a year cheaper for consumers.”
        That’s interesting, because as far as I can tell the average NBN plan price has only risen by about that much…

    • These guy’s commenting negatively on the NBN all ignore two things:

      a/ they are thinking on commercial terms (capital etc)
      b/ market failure that was the sale of Telstra as a vertically integrated monopoly

      When it comes to government money being spent, the capital is irrelevant, what is needed is to focus on the long term ROI to the economy (ALP should have done a proper CBA).

  2. nothing good has ever come out of a monopoly – that has been sold as a private interest!! Love how people try to reframe history! Telstra was great at maintaining and building the national network, until it was sold by the liberal and cost cutting became standard, the network was poorly maintained and now the libs have bought it back and have to pay for all the maintenance that wasnt done on the copper after it was privatised. STUPID LNP, they are not the economic managers they talk themselves up to be. INCOMPETENCE in my book

    • A classic example (very similar to the privatised CAN) of government infrastructure sold to the private sector going bad. British rail was privatised. They did so little maintenance that rail travel became unsafe. The government had to by back the rail system and spend a fortune repairing it all. It happened with the CAN, it will happen with the NBN.

    • Prior to the opening up of the telecommunications market in Australia, Telstra charged very expensive prices. I remember when being able to ring after 7pm for $2 was considered a bargain! Telstra engaged in anti-competitive practices to protect existing technology investments (e.g. delay ADSL to protected ISDN; speed caps on ADSL to protect frame relay, etc.).

      I suggest you provide one example of innovation by Telstra in the last two decades that wasn’t directly related to an attempt to entrench their status as a monopoly. If Telstra had their way it is likely ADSL would still be capped at 1.5Mbps with 256Kbps & 512Kbps speed tiers.

      > INCOMPETENCE in my book

      Incompetence is having the leverage to structurally separate Telstra and instead paying them to lease ducting and other infrastructure while also paying for customer migration from an obsolete network.
      Incompetence is building a 1Gbps capable network and yet having 79% connect at 25Mbps or slower and predicting that in 2026 that less than 1% would connected at 1Gbps.
      Incompetence is building a 1Gbps capable network and adding speed tiers with pricing such that if the speed tiers were removed from HFC or FTTN those networks the average user would find their speed increase by 2-7.

        Is not separating Telstra before selling it.

        Is building a network for only up to 25Mbps for $56B instead of labor FTTP 1Gbps for $44B or SR for $64B

        Is claiming it would only cost $29B

        Is claiming to complete it in 3 years but then add another 4 years to in 3 months in

        Is claiming it would cost $41B up for $29B


          Is building a network for $56B for only up to 25Mbps that 65% are NOW picking those speeds or higher but won’t be complete for another 4 years.

          Is charging the same speeds teir price for hfc FTTN FTTP

      • Oh no, no mention of 50/12…? What a let down.

        Oh it’s 79/25 now I see.

        So 50/12 was “wrong” – did someone say conservative estimation?

        After building one’s entire argument, daily for 5 years, on one “now proven conservative estimation”, what a revelation eh?

        Perhaps you need a new incompetence book – starting with using one estimation to argue over as being ridiculously incompetent.

        Then try using Jason K’s ideas, above for other actuals.

  3. They still won’t listen to them. They are not innovative enough for the Liberals They have an agenda to stifle productivity with faulty copper or extort businesses with $10k fibre installs. Considering they already met with Mirvac to sell our technology park to them and shut Atlasssian out.

  4. You’ve mis-represented what Morrow said.

    I was there. He said US telcos have told him they know of know application that requires a gigabit connection or will do in the foreseeable future.

    He also said that most current NBN customers are not choosing higher speeds.

    IMHO this is a chicken and egg problem. Absent ubiquitous broadband, developers won’t try to develop higher-bandwidth services. So there’s no incentive to adopt faster speeds.

    On the flipside, it was always assumed that video on demand would need rather better broadband than ADSL2+. But Netflix is doing just fine …

    • “On the flipside, it was always assumed that video on demand would need rather better broadband than ADSL2+. But Netflix is doing just fine …”

      That would be because Netflix has a whole bunch of different bitrate streams and chooses the best based on your connection.

      When you open Netflix in your browser and open a video, click on it and hit ALT + CTRL + SHIFT + S and it will bring up a menu and you can see all the bitrates they stream at, and you can force one.

      Just because it works on lower speed connections, doesn’t mean that it is the best it can be.

  5. What would Mike Cannon-Brookes know about the required speeds for apps?

    After all, he’s only a billionaire, software guy …

    Oh wait…

  6. > “If you want to avoid a two speed economy, you need a one speed internet. Fast. Gigabit fiber. No debate on that,” Cannon-Brookes wrote on Twitter.
    > The comment was immediately forwarded around and re-tweeted by supporters of Labor’s model for the NBN.

    Clearly only by Labor supporters who don’t have any real understanding of what Labor was promising, unless we are to interpret Mike’s comments as meaning that only the 1% Labor predicted in the NBNCo Corporate Plan would have 1Gbps fibre in 2026. As a billionaire I’m sure the cost of 1Gbps wouldn’t really trouble Mike and that he would have the choice to be included in the 1%.

    However in Australia currently based on the pricing model put in place by Labor for FTTP, 79% have chosen to connect at 25Mbps or slower, while only 16% (down 3% in last 12 months) have chosen to connect at 100Mbps. This sounds distinctly like a 2 speed economy and change back to FTTP won’t fix that.

    • Yet the current is following the same priceing model and we where told it was going to be cheaper.

      Turnbull said his “tier” pricing would start at $16 what happen there.

      Yet there are currently less on 12/1 than expected

    • Sigh. At 16% only 1.4 million Australian premises will want 100mbps today. That seem like a lot to anyone else? Might almost be justification for a fully fibre deployment.

    • “only the 1% Labor predicted in the NBNCo Corporate Plan would have 1Gbps fibre in 2026”

      It wasn’t a prediction, it was a worst case scenario…

      • +1 Chas

        But was it Labor who predicted or NBNCo?

        I guess if it was NBNCo and not the previous government as our friend claimed many times above, that’s very revealing.

        But what’s new with those who ridiculously support complete inferiority for us and themselves and completely ignore the complete shemozzle that is MTM.

    • Complete irrationality demonstrated by Mathew right there…

      Once again after finding his argument over 50/12 was WRONG… he doesn’t learn and now uses another estimation 1%/1Gbps 2026, as if gospel?

      Then chastising those who were going to actually supply 1Gbps speeds giving the ability for a one speed (no tiers) economy, that he himself has supported previously.

      Then ignoring over 1 million people already on 100mbps plans and not factoring that with the prevalence of retrograde/pedestrian FTTN (and therefore people not having the ability to readily receive 100mbps) of course the percentage of people on faster speeds must decrease. The fact we are now plummeting down the worldwide broadband ladder, proves this.

      Interestingly, all the while our friend “never criticises” the MTM complete shemozzle, which will (when factoring “everything”) cost as much and take as long as the vastly superior FTTP anyway.

      • Rizz

        Mathew new line on the register is claiming FTTP average speed is around 38Mbps due to the up take rates but then claims if you remove the speed teirs claims FTTN average would be 83Mbps even though that figure includes FTTB averages to try and make his point.

    • @Mathew
      My post was in response to the heading of the co-founder of Atlassian. Gigabit speed I would imagine would be for business use although, in Singapore they have announced 10gigabit residential speed tiers. Business in the past if they wanted high speeds they would pay to have their own network but if NBN could supply it there would be a great savings for business including ongoing cost. Judging by how fast Australia is slipping down the speed world rankings the rest of the world disagrees with the approach that Australia has taken.
      Simply because I stated that you won’t get gigabit speeds under the current government is a FACT and that Labor so far is the only party that has offered gigabit speed is also a FACT and has nothing to do with my political leanings. My political choice is solely based on POLICIES and currently Labor has the best policies, while the Coalition seem to have very little to offer the electorate including their second rate NBN. If it was reversed I would be voting for whoever has the best policies including the Coalition which I have done in the past.

    • Labor’s pricing model is not good. If you build the network properly, then usage, not speed should be the consideration. Artificially limiting the speed of people who pay less is unnatural and unnecessary.

  7. If you want to change the direction of the NBN you will have to change government and the only party that has so far offered gigabit speeds was under Labor.

  8. Billionaire software mogul Mike Cannon-Brookes last night stated that there was “no debate” about Australia’s need for “gigabit fiber”,

    Good to hear, go ahead with a rollout, residents might buy it.

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