Telcos back coalition-style NBN, slam Labor

A new telecommunications lobby group laden with telco chiefs has trashed the $43 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) and backed a privately-run wireless network worth some $3 billion that is reminiscent of coalition policy which it dubbed NBN 3.0.

A new telecommunications lobby group laden with telco chiefs has trashed the $43 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) and backed a privately-run wireless network worth some $3 billion that is reminiscent of coalition policy which it dubbed NBN 3.0.

In the lobby group's manifesto (PDF) — in parts aimed squarely at the Independent MPs who have the power to decide which party forms government — it attacked the government's ability to efficiently manage a multibillion-dollar telecommunications network and questioned the need for gigabit internet access speeds.

The criticism comes from telecommunications chief executives including AAPT's Paul Broad, Pipe Networks founder Bevan Slattery, Vocus Communications' James Spenceley, and others including BigAir's Jason Ashton, Allegro Networks' David Waldie, EFTel's John Lane and Polyfone's Paul Wallace.

Slattery said the Coalition might be closer to an ideal broadband solution.

"The area of most concern with the Coalition policy is that there is still much more detail to be delivered," Slattery told ZDNet Australia.

"However, we also believe there is a need for a fibre-based fixed line network, just that there needs to be a business plan and cost-benefit analysis to support it and should be done without trying to create a new infrastructure monopoly."

The group claimed the government should wrap conditions around its appetising 4G spectrum to force a buyer to deploy a national wireless network, and reform communications regulation to promote competition.

It also wants public-funded fibre backhaul to be deployed to rural areas identified by the NBN Co.

"The National Fibre Backhaul Network would almost replicate the majority of NBN Co's proposed backhaul routes," Slattery said, noting that the NBN Co may be sunk under a coalition government for its politicised commentary in recent weeks.

Fixed line and wireless broadband should be brought to schools and hospitals as a priority, according to the group.

Under its manifesto, metropolitan areas supplied with sufficient access technologies like hybrid-fibre coaxial would be left to market forces.

Slattery said most major global telcos are decreasing their investments in fibre in favour of 4G wireless technologies.

"As easy as it is to say that wireless is no substitute for fibre, you can simply turn that around and say that fibre is no substitute for wireless — and this is coming from a fibre guy," he said.

He said consumers could shun the government's massive broadband investment if it fails to conduct adequate planning.

The manifesto further states:

  • We believe the Federal Government's primary role is setting policy frameworks that incentivises markets to build this infrastructure. We acknowledge markets fail to deliver universal service, and where they do governments should assist or directly invest.
  • We believe in preserving existing infrastructure competition where it is assisting in the delivery of affordable fast broadband.
  • We believe the argument for a national fibre-only NBN solution has failed to convince. For the short to medium term we see, globally, no demonstrated mass requirement for the "up to 1Gbps" speeds.
  • We believe the case for "100Mbps to Gbps" connectivity to schools, hospitals and businesses is convincing.
  • NBN 3.0 could contain:

  • 4G national wholesale network coverage, to 98 per cent of Australians, at up to 100Mbps;
  • Fibre or equivalent high-speed broadband for backhaul, school, hospitals and most businesses, at speeds up to 1Gbps;
  • A fibre-based solution (whether that be fibre to the premise or FTTN or a combination of both) for areas of demonstrated need via commercial return, or where there is a demonstrated and justifiable improvement in productivity and/or social equality to justify taxpayer contribution;
  • Satellite for remote areas, at speeds up to 12Mbps;
  • We believe that a well-informed Independent member of parliament might wisely favour an NBN 3.0 public/private model on a mix of technologies, with deliverables within a term, over a more costly and more risky eight-plus year NBN 2.0 roll-out.

The group has called for telco professionals to register their interest with the group.

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