Moments after shadow Minister for Communications Tony Smith criticised the government and NBN Co for proceeding without a business plan, NBN Co chief outlined his plan for business: ubiquitous 1Gbps services.
Mike Quigley, NBN Co chief.
(Credit: Liam Tung/ZDNet.com.au)
"We will have one consistent set of products across the whole national footprint. And that means consistent ubiquitous service up to one gigabit per second (Gbps)," Quigley told the Australian Telecommunications User Group conference today, held at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney.
"Everyone keeps talking about 100Mbps. But that's obviously when we're talking about residents. For business we are allowing for a certain percentage in our dimensioning to structure point-to-point services up to 1Gbps."
Quigley later explained that this capability would be built in under-serviced areas, as opposed to Sydney's central business district which is sufficiently covered. He gave the example that Commonwealth Bank's Sydney headquarters might have a fibre connection; however, its branches often lacked such infrastructure.
"Even in large places — down in Hobart — I got people to show me which buildings were 'fibred'. I was quite surprised at how few there were. Sydney, of course, is fairly different," he said.
"In the short term, we believe business has the most to gain ... I can assure you that we really are focused on what is important for business."
Another benefit for business would be that retail service providers under the NBN would be able to more easily guarantee "committed speeds".
"We're looking at a guaranteed, reliable bandwidth on access links. We are going to have extremely high availability across the network; we are going to be making sure we align restoration and response times; we will have the potential to add redundancy where a customer requires it; and the ability to provide high speed symmetrical services," he said.
Quigley's comments, which might cast the NBN in a new light for the business community, followed Smith's damning the government for failing to hold to the precepts that the same community holds dear — forming a business plan before starting a venture.
Shadow Communications Minister Tony Smith
(Credit: Liam Tung/ZDNet.com.au)
"To embark on this sort of project out of the ashes of the failed NBN without any cost-benefit analysis or any business plan is reckless," said Smith. "It is not something we are apologetic about. But importantly, it is not a view that we express solely. It is a view that has been echoed by so many business analysts and business councils, and the Productivity Commission," said Smith.
It was the first time Smith has talked at any length about the NBN Co or the telecommunications sector, and he took the opportunity to remind delegates that the Liberal's $1 billion OPEL plan, killed by Labor after it won the election, would have delivered benefits to regional Australia already.
"I think governments are very bad at picking technology. This is not a political point, but we are bad at picking technology for a one-size-fits-all approach," he said.
"The Rudd Government likes to talk about speeds — very high speeds — as if these newer and higher speeds will be delivered for the same price as the speeds of today. And of course, as you know, that's not the case. Analysts have rightly pointed out there has been some debate about how those costs may be. The one certainty is that it will be significantly higher than what people pay today for a similar service."
Quigley begged to differ on this point. NBN Co was going to price with reference to existing services. "Nothing else makes much sense," he said.
"Forget all this stuff about $200 wholesale access prices. Don't worry. We will not be pricing at those sort of levels."
NBN Co, said Quigley, would be assessing the economics of retail service providers and asking itself how it could give superior performance at around entry-level prices. Flexibility would be key, with people only paying for what they value. "And there will be modest charges for incremental services, for example, upstream speed increases," he said.
Quigley, however, refrained from outlining exact wholesale pricing it plans to offer since it will be required to negotiate with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.