“Fantasy fibre”: Coalition explicitly rejects NBN FTTdp model


news Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has broken cover to openly slam a Fibre to the Distribution Point (FTTdp) model for the National Broadband Network, in the first explicit sign that the Coalition will not substantially modify its NBN model for the Federal Election.

Labor’s original model for the NBN involved deploying a near-universal Fibre network all the way to Australian homes and business premises, representing the best possible technology to serve the nation’s telecommunications need for the 50-100 years.

However, citing cost and speed of deployment concerns, the Abbott and Turnbull administrations have substantially modified this model since taking power in 2013, integrating the legacy copper and HFC cable networks owned by Telstra and Optus, in a so-called ‘Multi-Technology Mix’ model.

Although it has not yet announced its new NBN policy, it is not expected that Labor would return to its original Fibre to the Premises model if it wins the election. Instead, the party is expected to announce it will support a FTTdp model in which Fibre is extended to customers’ driveways but not their actual premises, as well as maintaining the existing HFC cable extension plans.

This model promises to deliver most of the cost benefits of the Coalition’s MTM model, while also delivering significantly enhanced speeds. However, it will also leave those on HFC cable with questions about long-term upgrades.

Like Labor, the Coalition has not yet confirmed its NBN election policy.

However, in an article in The Australian newspaper this morning, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield explicitly panned the FTTdp model. Delimiter recommends readers click here for the full article.

The newspaper quotes the Liberal Senator as describing FTTdp as “fantasy fibre”, adding that a shift to FTTdp would result in the NBN rollout “stopping” for the full 2017 calendar year while the FTTdp model was tested, as well as potentially causing havoc with the NBN company’s financials.

NBN chief executive Bill Morrow has previously stated that the combination of cheaper fibre cables (‘skinny fibre’) and the FTTdp model was still in its early phase of development, and required further trials to be carried out before its viability could be established.

The NBN company said in mid-March: “FTTdp is an exciting prospect for the company but it is a very new technology. FTTdp is not currently being deployed anywhere in the world at scale. A lot more work needs to be done in terms of field testing of the equipment for Australian conditions. We also need to know more about the financials and the rollout logistics.”

Fifield’s comments this week come as the Senator and other Liberal figures have been hinting for the past several weeks that the Coalition would not support a FTTdp model for the NBN, and in fact would not change its current MTM model at all for the Federal Election.

Last week The Coalition appeared to have kicked off a campaign designed to discredit Labor’s management of the NBN, with at least one Liberal MP relying on party-supplied material to claim that “$40 billion was wasted” during its early days.

And during NBN Budget Estimates hearings several weeks ago, Liberal Senator James Paterson — a former long-term staffer of Fifield — asked NBN’s Morrow a number of questions which appeared designed to highlight flaws with the proposed FTTdp model.

The NBN team openly stated that it would take longer to roll out FTTdp than FTTN, that it was far too early to state what precise role it could play in the NBN, that its field trials were not yet advanced, and even that retail ISPs weren’t keen on FTTdp unless it could be rolled out at scale.

“It’s very nascent at this point,” said Morrow.

After some discussion along these lines, Paterson asked NBN chief Bill Morrow to confirm that it would be a “reasonable summary” that he wasn’t “particularly excited” about the potential for FTTdp.

Morrow replied that the technology was just “another tool available to us as part of the mix”.

Here we have it, people: It’s now pretty much official. The Coalition will not be changing its NBN policy for the election. It is remaining committed to Fibre to the Node and HFC cable.

Bill Shorten and Jason Clare, the ball is now in your court. What you got?

Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting


  1. Why on earth would the rollout have to “stop” to test FTTdp? Aren’t they already testing FTTdp now? Or they were supposed to be rolling it out to 300,000 premises, surely they would just continue the rollout as is until FTTdp is ready to start deployment and just stop rolling out FTTN once it is ready to go…

    Just because the Coalition doesn’t know how to change a rollout without stopping it first, doesn’t mean that is the way it has to go.

    • Political posturing. Its justification to do nothing new, and stick with the existing broken plan.

      Thing for me is that the plans are pretty much there already with the existing Labor FttP plans.

      The hardest change will be cutting the last mile planning from the pit to the property, which is childs play. And maybe sourcing/funding the different nodes needed, which to be fair would take some time. Apart from that though, FttP has a termination at the same point FTTdp terminates, its only a different box.

      But actual field testing has been done.

    • Yeah, the LPA is setting it up as a wedge ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_issue ).

      I think they realised early on that Labor would look at it favorably, which is why Morrow backpedaled so hard on it after the initial reports.

      Most of the analysis on FttDP I’ve read so far (an example here: http://goo.gl/qaYk9c ) shows it would be ideal for our environment (as they mention in the report, it’s ideal for places that don’t have FttC and longer loops).

      So….it’s just the LPA doing their usual LPA “dig a deeper hole” and blame Labor.

    • +1. These statements from the minister fall apart with facts and reasoning. They rely on a complete lack of knowledge among the general public.

    • The test for Fttdp was to a SINGLE premises as admitted by Morrow in the senate hearing for a whole year. Yet still, they haven’t tested it thoroughly or at scale.

      It was just a smoke screen to make it seem they were open to changes but in reality not doing anything.

      • The specifically mentioned rolling out the technology to 300,000 premises in NSW. It was even talked about here on Delimiter.

  2. I’ve suggested previously that for the general population NBN wasn’t an important vote winning issue. I still thank that is the case. Agree or not I think this is a really time to ring up your local member, ring up your state senator and let their offices know exactly what you think. And follow up with a letter. We’re in a weird period right know where politicians are spooked and kind of give a shit what voters think.

    • Done that already, local member knows my stance more than enough.

      And luckily she was a minister for regional communications in the RGR years so is somewhat up to speed on the issues.

    • I don’t think the NBN directly is the issue for a significant part of the population but the signifcant mismanagement and politically motivated wasting of funds that the project has rapidly become is.

    • I think this is a really time to ring up your local member

      Been there, tried that. Ciobo is an LPA drone and doesn’t care what his constituents think.

    • Lucky for me there is no need… we’ve got Husic! He’s been plugging away for decent net speeds in our area for ages now! :D

      Possibly the few left over pollies who are actually up to date w/ Tech issues. And as a bonus he’s already Labor! :P

  3. How about mentioning the roll out coming to a slowdown when your(LNP) politically motivated option was put in place? For two and a half goddamn years nothing done. Such hypocrites. And don’t talk about 4 or whatever billion and years nothing happen under labor. They were setting up everything from scratch: design, contracts, new company, sourcing material and labor let alone forcing Telstra to bend for the benefit of Australia. What do we have now? Pay them for copper maintenance, for a silly network that only serves the short term. Massive idiots.

    • Good point.

      My area was scheduled to receive FttP in 2014. Even allowing a couple of years for hypothetical ‘behind schedule’ delays the Lib supporters like to assert, we would have been on FttP this year.

      Instead, we have to wait until next year before they *start* to roll out HFC internet.

      Which, you know, we already have.

    • Don’t forget the coffee pots! (but aye good pts that sadly are mostly lost on people).

  4. No balls…

    Seriously, these aren’t stupid people, so they can see MTM is a complete debacle, even though they wont ever admit it of course.

    But it seems they are thinking, there’s a chance the others might actually get up, so rather than us fixing the fuck up, we’ll say “no FTTdp for you”, thus giving the opposition an open invitation to adopt FTTdp and fix up the fuck up, if they win…

    Be interesting to see how long this farce will/can continue, if the opposition don’t win though?

  5. “A shift to FTTdp would result in the NBN rollout “stopping” for the full 2017 calendar year while the FTTdp model was tested, as well as potentially causing havoc with the NBN company’s financials.”
    Wasn’t he just describing what the LNP did when changing from FTTP to FTTN?

    • Wasn’t he just describing what the LNP did when changing from FTTP to FTTN?

      Yes, yes he was. Only they took longer than a year (2.5 years IIRC).

      • For all his cries about stopping the boats, Abbott couldnt even stop them in his own electorate. A ferryload of people still land at the rate of one every 30 minutes…

        • They didn’t even stop the boats, at least not to the degree they claim. They just made it so that anybody in customs and immigration (now border force) will lose their job if they mention that they now refer to the boats as foreign fishing vessels. Back in April in one week 130 people turned up. A dozen Chinese fisherman who brought motorcycles and took off as soon as they hit shore. Stop the boats is just another lie from these Fascist’s.

          • @GongGav,

            Yeah, I know you were. It’s just that after I listen to Ray Hadley I just get so worked up and then I forget my manners.

          • Fair nuf. What I find funny, and seems to have been missed by the electorate, is that around 90% of the successes the Liberals had with reducing boats was when they first took over.

            So was because of Labor policies that started in July 2013, not theirs, which werent put in place for months after Abbott started dragging us down. If you can find figures, thats shown in weekly numbers from around that period. Probably buried now though.

            By the time Abbott’s policies started taking effect, most of the boats had stopped.

        • Right on cue…

          This morning (as I mentioned earlier, below) MT was spruiking “innovation” (yes via 1800’s copper)…

          Tonight I hear on the news he’s now spruiking border protection… STB!

          It appears after being laughed at for the innovation ploy (via 1800’s copper) it’s back to old faithful…


  6. Called it. Was an easy one to predict given the coalition clowns destructive nature.

    • Yeah, I could see this coming when Morrow started back peddling in the senate committees after being so positive about it to begin with.

      • I didnt want to believe it. I refused to believe it. And until Turnbull announces his election policy, I still dont want to believe it.

        • Same here, but you could see the signs. Once again, Malcolm and the LPA make the political choice, not the correct choice.

          • Nup. Not until the comms policy is announced…

            But seriously, this is what pisses me off with politicians in general, and the Liberals specifically. They play the party line purely for political reasons, and not for the public good.

            FTTdp is such an easy thing to get behind, and they STILL wont do it. Its not FttP, so theres no political backpedaling, and the easy sell is that it justifys their policy that new options come along often enough that FttP was too soon.

            If they sold it that way, enough people would buy it that they’d gain so much political ground on comms its no longer an issue for the entire election.

            Instead, they seem to want to deal with their ‘full funded’ plans of Feb 2013, or whenever it was, come hell or high water. Despite the obvious nature that the world has moved on, and is still moving on, they are willing to shoot themselves in the foot AGAIN on comms, for political pride. Which is insane, and could see them lose their 3rd election out of 4 because of comms.

            I thought Turnbull was smarter than that, and until he releases the election policy, I still hold hope this is just Fifield posturing with the existing policy.

            That hope is fading by the day though.

          • I’ll just get this out of the way to save everyone the trouble: “it’s not about the LNP policy is it …… What’s the Labor policy then ….. Nnnyahhhh (pokes tongue)”.
            Right – the debate can move on ………

          • I thought Turnbull was smarter than that, and until he releases the election policy, I still hold hope this is just Fifield posturing with the existing policy.

            I’m not sure they’ll release an updated/revised policy Gav, I’m pretty sure they’ll just try and bluff their way through by saying the MtM NBN “will be rolled out and completed much sooner and at much less cost to taxpayers and, accordingly, more affordably for consumers”.

            Anything else and they’ll be worried the ALP will start hitting them hard with things like “Malcolm backflips on key signature policy he even implemented himself, how can you trust him?”, You know I’m right, both sides play these games.

          • Nup. Being stubborn on this one. As slim a chance as it is, its not official yet…

  7. Mitch confirms they’ve dug their “Hole of Obsolescence” ™ a little to deep and no amount of backflipping can get them out so they’re going to shout ‘look over there’ instead of ‘help we’re stuck in a hole’….. Will the electorate bury them or go looking for Chicken little?

  8. Sad the LPA has no plan to help the NBN apart from forming a committee to try and find experts to help them figure out a way to sort out the mess they made…

    To deal with the issue, the Government has tasked the Department of Finance, in consultation with the Department of Communications and the Arts and the Department of the Treasury, to seek independent expert advice on strategies to meet the NBN company’s future funding requirements.https://delimiter.com.au/2016/05/03/budget-2016-nbn-co-running-money/

    Lets hope those “experts” aren’t the ones that ballsed up the Strategic Review…

    • But I thought the Strategic Review was perfect (until such time as it is contradicted and then CP16 is the be all end all) and then when that is shown to be incorrect, its back to pointing to the SR.

    • Oh there are probably a few but they are in panic mode as well as tehy really do need to figure a bail out strategy. I mean which govt. wants a $9b budget deficit (this assumes it doesn’t get worse) to take to the public and say ‘woops’! (or in Labors case it will be well ‘we told you so’).

  9. Some interesting revelations coming out of Whirlpool. Apart from the fact that, after completion of FTTN, any speed increase requires complete replacement of the node cabinets, no components usable.

    There are four fibres, each several hundred metres long, running to each node cabinet. All of that fibre would be left there unused, unless at the time of upgrade (from FTTN to the next thing) a cutover was arranged of all customers served by the node at once, which would be prohibitively impractical.

    Such enormous waste is what we have to look forward to. The Coalition has no permission to mention waste.

  10. Let’s not forget that the whole reason for doing MtM was to give Murdoch time to bring Foxtel into the 21st century, he needs the real NBN delayed till 2020 when he can walk away from his very expensive HFC contract.

  11. imho stopping the fttn disaster can only be seen as a good thing, get your head out of the sand Fifield.

  12. full prosecution of these economic vandal criminals. Forcing businesses on faulty copper where they are offline for months like they are currently is a crime.

    Totally am forced back to faulty telephone lines in a temporary home until these dickheads are jailed and a real network access is available and don’t have to stuff around with what area has what.

    Chasing an area with fibre internet is needle in the haystack and in Sydney for the priviledged who can afford 600k for land.

    Seriously who are they defending ? Telstra is dumping Foxtel now after all this !

    FTTDP is bullshit anyway it’s still faulty copper. I would rather run an ethernet cable out there myself.

  13. Their faulty obsolete HFC “upgrade” by the thieving corporate criminals they bought it from will be good enough I believe. For the priviledged in their million dollar homes where it still falls over.

    I had to reboot the cable modem again as it disconnected randomly. The modem on the bridge ip is totally not accessible and crashes when there is a cut hence the reboot.

    Its touch and go as after the reboot it takes up to 5 mins for a reconnect or it could be hours, half a day, 3 days.

    Their shitty systems could detect a fault and constantly monitoring it but they are too cheap for that and paying customers are the network monitor I believe.

    An overly complicated trash network.

  14. Continuity with change. Or I am dumbstruck!

    Since the Luddite called Mitch Fifeld is also living in denial of global warming. Mitch’s current denial of how NBN technology works is not an unexpected bonus. For stupid is as stupid does.

    Still, every time Mitch opens his big mouth, the luddite LNP coalition, leaks more electoral votes. If he keeps up this denial nonsense of how technology works. Mitch will be in part responsible for making the Abbott/Turnbull Luddite LNP coalition die at the polls on election day 2016. ;)

    You get what you pays for and pays for what you get, when you elect fossils and luddites to federal parliament.

  15. I heard the PM on the radio this morning again spruiking innovation as being his priority for Australia

    Innovation via 1800’s copper…


  16. It seems to me they would rather lose an election rather than look like fools by changing to a more upgradable system, either that or Rupert has put his foot down and won’t let them change.


    • I think it’s pretty obvious that MtM was designed to give Murdoch time to bring Foxtel into the 21st century, he needs the real NBN delayed till 2020 when he can walk away from his very expensive HFC contract and switch to IPTV/Sat only.

  17. Called it. Was an easy one to predict given even a passing knowledge of the alternate technologies and the inevitable delays & costs of rolling fibre further into the network. Therefore expect to see it front and centre in Labor’s policy announcement.

    As pointed out several months ago; accepting HFC & FTTB they’re left squealing the 30% FTTN;-)

    • I think you are suffering from delusions again there Richard, besides the cat is already out of the alp policy bag for those paying attention:


      Lisa Chesters (ALP): Labor has said loudly and clearly that we will prioritise fibre to the premises. What we will do when coming into government is to see where the contracts are at, and where possible, roll out more fibre to the premises.

      We’re looking at the map to see where we’re at, and we will be coming up with a statement, so street-by-street people in Bendigo will know what Labor will deliver.

      Our ultimate goal is fibre to the premises, so every household, every business, it may be a two stage process where people already have fibre to the node, but for the rest of them, fibre to the premises.

      • The Bendigo Advertiser has the scope!

        Lisa is parroting many here’s superficial understanding of Labor’s superficial NBN policy direction.

        The best insight to their upcoming policy announcement was given by Jason in his childlike CommsDay summit presentation:

        “The results of the [skinny fibre] trial were extraordinary. It virtually eliminated the need for civil construction work in the local fibre network -that’s between the fibre distribution hub and the pit out the front of your house.

        NBN Co has now admitted that this has cut the cost of Fibre-to-the Premises by at least $450 per premises. The leaked document indicates it is more than that.

        But that admission alone is very important. It means that all the numbers Malcolm Turnbull and Mitch Fifield have been sprouting about the cost of going back to Fibre-to-the-Premises are wrong.

        The difference is currently about $400. According to NBN Co Fibre-to-the-Node is now $1,600 per home and the cost of Fibre to the pit out the front of your house (Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point) is $2,000 per home.”

        Labor uses FTTP to describe everything other than FTTN/B (even later not definitive).

        Personally looking forward to another Albanese-esque debate performance before the election, rolling out their “big guns” like Clare. Most Australians lost interest in the NBN a longtime ago (another politicians’ thought bubble), so unlikely it’ll make debate status this time around.

        • . It means that all the numbers Malcolm Turnbull and Mitch Fifield have been sprouting about the cost of going back to Fibre-to-the-Premises are wrong.

          You finally noticed eh?

          *double face palm*

          • Funny, Clare (like those here) doesn’t even understand the figures. They’re so cute CPP.

            There must be one with some knowledge (rather than the sniff test). We’ll see, perhaps the Bendigo advertiser;-)

        • “Labor uses FTTP to describe everything other than FTTN/B”
          Given that Fifield has come out and said that FTTdp is completely off the table, Clare referring to FTTdp in among their plans is a Very Good Sign indeed.

          Not a single person outside of the Coalition shills would argue that FTTdp isn’t a dramatic increase in quality over FTTN.

    • Wow Richard, you appear to have called it all…according to, err, you, you have anyway?

      Well called it all, except for of course not calling that your plan would blow out by between $15B-$40B (depending upon which adult’s figures are trusted, if any) and being 4 years behind…

      Oh that’s right we called that, didn’t we… yes we did.

      So apart from that complete MTM mess, fuck up and unmitigated disaster. we called.. you’ve got it nailed (again according to you) dude.

      You’re welcome.

  18. at least one Liberal MP relying on party-supplied material to claim that “$40 billion was wasted” during its early days.

    i need to refresh my memory on this, but as it hazily stands now, i was under the impression that at the turn of the last election the govt had only put in 8.5 bn in equities… if it has now wasted another 30 bn there is only one mob who could possibly be responsible….

    looks @ MT…

  19. Now that’s innovative, trying to compete with other nations by ensuring Australians with IT skills either move to other countries to launch new businesses, seek employment or decide to change industries.

    Another innovative area could be to build rack sized equipment hiding storage devices with video that fakes radical new compression techniques pretending to perform IT functions that are usually only achieved on networks with speeds of 100MB+.

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