After the Coalition win in yesterday’s federal election, Australians now have a new Minister for Communications and Broadband, Malcolm Turnbull (@turnbullmalcolm). Formally the new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has to name his new cabinet and their portfolios, but Turnbull will get Comms & Broadband. Turnbull’s key policy for the election was his faster and cheaper Fibre to the Node National Broadband Network. While we’ve been focusing a lot on the FTTP model under Labor, we now need to turn our attention to what will be delivered under Turnbull.
The $29.5 Billion price tag will deliver upgraded speeds to most Australian’s faster than the alternative. It will mean installing 60,000 nodes (powered fridges 1.1m high, 1.3m wide) on each street and changing to Vectored DSL (VDSL) to achieve a minimum of 25Mbps. it will be the floor speed under the Coalition’s plan and most consumers in the fixed line footprint will be able to access 50 mbps or faster. In realty a lot of connected Australians in capital cities already have access to 100Mpbs on Cable.
Turnbull has heavily criticised Labor and NBNCo for not hitting their rollout targets, so now the pressure will be on for him to deliver on his 2016 timeline. If they were to win the next election, by 2019, they expect at least 90% on Australians will have access to 50Mbps, using the existing copper. Under the Coalition plan, greenfield estates, business districts, schools, hospitals, universities and anywhere that fibre is commercially justifiable will be connected to fibre. It’s estimated this number is around 2 Million premises. this compares to around 12.2 million proposed under Labor, that Australia voted against.
Turnbull anticipates the vast majority of consumers in the areas serviced by FTTN, to have speeds that will be “more than adequate”. However there is the technical possibility to run fibre to customers in an area served by a node. In the UK this product, known as “fibre on demand” is made available for a fee. For a customer living 500 metres from a node, for example, the charge is GBP1500 or about A$2,250. Best to start saving now.
One issue with the rollout is the cost of line rental each month. Its now common for younger households to not have a landline phone connected, in favour of just using mobiles. In select areas Naked ADSL means internet access doesn’t require a phone plan and line rental each month. Unfortunately there’s plenty of areas where this is still required leaving $20pm, $240py going out the door for nothing. The NBN Q&A on Turnbull’s website says line rental will go away under the FTTN model. Of course you can still purchase a VOIP plan which is typically $9.95pm plus call charges.
Turnbull concedes the NBN Co has a series of construction contracts which cannot simply be cancelled. The Coalition will also conduct a cost-benefit analysis and an audit of the current rollout. It is important to note that Turnbull says the rollout will not stop while that’s done. Large scale changes to the network design – like the implementing of fibre to the node – would commence in mid 2014. This means if the NBNCo coverage map has you scheduled for rollout within the next 12 months, there’s a chance you’ll still get FTTP. Outside that, it’s really an unknown until the Coalition release a new rollout schedule.
If you’re someone currently connected to the world via a RIM (Remote Integrated Multiplexer), FTTN architectures effectively leapfrog the RIM by pushing fibre (and the active electronics previously located in the exchange) further into the field. This will allow these customers to finally and quickly receive fast broadband over copper lines.
Turnbull has been very public about his distaste of the NBNCo board, especially after CEO Mike Quigley recently resigned. We can expect some significant changes to the positions at the top of NBNCo. Turnbull has complained that none of the members have real world experience in building a large scale communications network. If I was on the board, I’d start today by updating you’re LinkedIn profile, you’ll need it when searching for a new job.
Just remember Australia, you voted for this, so you just gave up your right to complain about broadband speeds. In terms of average internet speeds, we could have been the envy of the world with our FTTP NBN, but are now set to be an also ran.