news Enacting Labor’s new NBN policy wouldn’t cause further delays in the project, Mike Quigley said in a press conference with former MP Tony Windsor, because it will primarily focus on established technologies such as Fibre to the Premises, unlike the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix switch in 2013.
Labor’s original version of the NBN initially saw the network being constructed using the best possible Fibre to the Premises technology from April 2009, when the then-Rudd Government created the NBN company, shortly after appointing Alcatel veteran Quigley as its executive chairman.
However, the rollout of the network was delayed initially by a number of factors, such as the need to negotiate a detailed contract to access Telstra’s pipes and pipes and transfer Telstra customers across to the new infrastructure, as well as the discovery of asbestos in Telstra’s pipes and problems with contractors.
The rollout was further delayed by from late 2013 when the new Abbott and Turnbull Coalition Governments enforced a switch on the NBN company to incorporate legacy technologies such as Fibre to the Node and HFC cable into the rollout.
Speaking at a press conference with former independent MP Tony Windsor, who championed the FTTP NBN during his time in the House of Representatives and is now seeking to return to Parliament, Quigley said Labor’s new NBN policy would not cause further delays. You can download the full transcript of the press conference here in Word Doc format.
The policy announced several weeks ago will see Labor continue with the Coalition’s planned HFC cable rollout for up to a third of Australian premises, while dumping its Fibre to the Node plans and returning the NBN to FTTP for millions more premsies.
At the press conference, Quigley said he didn’t think another switch would push the NBN’s rollout back again.
“I think everybody has now learned if you make a big change you will disrupt things if you change,” he said, “which is why I think what the Labor party has said reading their policy is they’re going to wind down the FTTN and they’re going to wind up the fibre to the premise.”
“The advantage they’ve got by the way is that fibre to the premise is a technology that’s proven. When the Coalition’s MTM started they were starting on 2 different technologies again.”
“In other words they had to start it from scratch and they had to renegotiate a deal with Telstra. I think they anticipated that renegotiation would be very simple, it was anything but simple which is why it took so long.”
Quigley noted that the current arrangements with Telstra — negotiated under the Coalition — still contained a lot of the protections from the original deal negotiated under Labor.
“If you were to see that shift take place to do another two million premises you wouldn’t see the same sort of disruption you saw before,” he said.
Quigley also repeated the broad message he gave in a speech at the University of Melbourne last week, telling listeners to the press conference that the “whole world” was moving to the Fibre to the Premises model, and that the FTTN model preferred by the Coalition was a mistake.
“If you wind forward 5, 10 years you’ll find that the speeds that are talked about now 25 to 50 [megabytes per second] will not be enough,” he said.
From a financial point of view, Quigley added that the original FTTP model would have made more sense than the Coalition’s model.
“I can tell you is if people are concerned about prudency and efficiency and a good use of tax payers dollars,” the former NBN chief executive said, “that original plan would have been the right use”.
“The company that ended up with a fully fibreed network would have ended up creating and generating a lot of cash which it then could have returned to the government or it could have used it to continue to expand the fibre footprint to bring better and better services.”
“It is a big economic issue. My view is it literally is tens of billions of dollars that are going to have been wasted on the NBN because that fibre to the node network is going to have to be upgraded.”