NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley has addressed the "hysteria" caused by recent claims that decommissioning Telstra's network in favour of the National Broadband Network will cause connected households multiple problems including forcing them to pay significant internal wiring costs.
Just 3 per cent of Tasmanian customers connected to the NBN have changed their internal wiring and only 0.5 per cent have requested additional wiring, according to Quigley, while addressing the CommsDay Melbourne Congress.
"The reality is that in Tasmania, very, very few customers have decided to do anything about their internal wiring," he said. "Most people are using Wi-Fi anyway, and they can choose to take advantage of wiring if they decide; but when the NBN comes along and puts in a NTU [Network Termination Unit] there is no reason why any wiring has to be redone. What gets plugged into the DSL now, can be plugged into the NTU."
"It's simply not an area that we've heard any complaints about, or concerns," Quigley added.
Quigley's comments were aimed directly at recent claims by Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband Malcolm Turnbull, who has added the idea — first aired in an election-eve report in The Australian — to his arsenal of attacks on the NBN.
Turnbull recently took Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett to task on his decision to make the NBN an opt-out network in his state, panning the move as a change that "adds compulsion to Labor's existing plans to shut down competing fixed line technologies".
According to Quigley, however, while consumers might very well want to get their retail service providers (RSPs) to install additional access points, for example, a port in the lounge room to support IPTV services, there were lots of other options, such as running Ethernet over in-home electrical wiring.
"That $3000 to $6000 per home, I have no idea where it came from," Quigley said. "It isn't factual at all."
Pipe Networks CEO Bevan Slattery, also speaking at the Congress, was sceptical of Quigley's claims, noting it was still early days and that consumers hadn't yet been forced to choose between the NBN and their legacy Telstra connections. "Let's see those numbers when they cut the copper," he said. "Let's see the stats on how many people in those houses still have their phone line."
Quigley also addressed "media hysteria" around the decommissioning of Telstra's copper network.
"Some parts of the network are getting quite old," Quigley said. "Almost everywhere in the world where they are doing new fixed-line roll-outs, they are doing it in fibre. [Holding onto Australia's copper] makes no sense at all. [Assuming the deal with Telstra goes through] we will be decommissioning the copper with the fibre. End users get all the same services and then some, so I'm not so worried why they would be worried about that."
"We of course have to deal with the issues around retiring the copper and bringing in a new technology platform. But we have to take a realistic view of this: the fibre network will serve the nation for the next 50 years."
He also confirmed that NBN Co is on track to deliver a business case and three-year roll-out plan by the end of October.