How close is the NBN to meeting Australia’s connectivity needs?

The NBN is almost halfway to completion, but will it meet Australia’s connectivity needs?

By Leon Spencer
Jan. 25, 2017

The initial price tag of the network build had been a major point of contention between the ruling Labor government and the opposition, with Abbott making it a priority in the lead up to the 2013 Federal Election.

When planning and work for the network's rollout was first being undertaken by Rudd's administration, the idea was that the network's wholesale broadband service would be would be delivered predominantly via Fibre-to-the-Premises (FttP) infrastructure, with some fixed wireless and satellite coverage thrown in for hard to reach places.

Yet this plan changed when the Abbott and team won office, with then Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, subsequently introducing a multi-technology mix (MTM) approach to the network's rollout, which included Fibre-to-the-Node (FttN), Fibre-to-the-Distribution Point (FttDP), and Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC), among other delivery technology.

The move would see existing infrastructure used to connect homes and businesses to the network, including Telstra's existing copper network and Optus' HFC network - the latter of which has subsequently been found to be "not fit for purpose".

The deal, under Turnbull's MTM rollout, was that Australia would get the network finished faster, at a lower cost, than the previous model would allow. Rudd's original plan, which was aimed at delivering the service to 93 per cent of Australian premises by 2021, put the total build cost at around $43 billion.

Although nbn later revised the capital cost of the build down to about $37.4 billion, in its latest annual corporate plan, the company placed its top end peak funding range between $46 and $54 billion. At the same time, the company is confident it will complete the rollout by 2020.

Forecasted costs and funding aside, the ongoing politicisation of the network's rollout has polarised many Australians, with some accepting the government's rationale for its MTM approach, others settling for nothing less than a mostly-fibre network, and the rest simply eager to have a new option for their internet connection.

Malcolm Turnbull - Prime Minister of Australia and former Minister for Communications
Malcolm Turnbull - Prime Minister of Australia and former Minister for Communications

Laurie Patton, CEO of Internet Australia, a not-for-profit peak body that aims to represent all Australian internet users, seems to fall into the middle category, taking the government to task over its current approach to the NBN rollout.

In a statement released on January 18, Patton blasted Morrow over nbn's warnings of civil works disruption in cities during the company's proposed metropolitan rollout push this year.

"The sad thing is that much of the disruption Mr Morrow is talking about would be avoided if they [nbn] immediately abandoned the rollout of their inferior copper wire FttN network," Patton said.

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