Telstra 4G makes NBN unviable: Turnbull

Summary:Telstra's announcement that it will upgrade its Next G networks to Long Term Evolution (LTE), or 4G, by the end of this year calls into question the viability of the National Broadband Network (NBN), according to Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Telstra's announcement that it will upgrade its Next G networks to Long Term Evolution (LTE), or 4G, by the end of this year calls into question the viability of the National Broadband Network (NBN), according to Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Malcolm Turnbull

(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona overnight, Telstra CEO David Thodey announced that Telstra plans to upgrade its Next G network to the new mobile technology in the CBD of every Australian capital city and a select number of regional cities by the end of 2011.

Turnbull seized upon the news, saying that wireless services would make the NBN less viable.

"This is going to be a real competitive force," Turnbull told ABC radio.

The NBN business case assumes the increase in demand for wireless broadband won't continue, he said.

"The problem, of course, is that wireless broadband is improving as well."

But telecommunications consultant Paul Budde said he didn't think growth of wireless services will affect the long-term viability of the NBN because sectors such as health, education, media and energy, will favour the NBN's fibre-optic technologies.

"Yes, there will be an overlap ... but there are applications that are impossible to run over a wireless network," Budde told ABC radio.

The revelation of the upgrade overnight by the telco giant came as a Greenhill Caliburn report on the business case for the NBN also warned of the looming threat of wireless technologies.

"Trends towards 'mobile-centric' broadband networks could also have significant long-term implications for NBN Co's fibre offerings, to the extent that some consumers may be willing to sacrifice higher speed fibre transmissions for the convenience of mobile platforms," the report stated. "The prevalence of such [wireless-only] homes should be carefully monitored in connection with ongoing performance management efforts."

In a blog post yesterday, Turnbull said the report commissioned by the government admitted that wireless would undermine the NBN.

"LTE or 4G wireless can operate at speeds comparable to fast fixed-line broadband with the added functionality and convenience of mobility," he said. "The significance of the wireless revolution, and its threat to fixed-line networks, is not lost on the telecommunications sector any more than it is lost on President Obama who is making 4G wireless broadband his key broadband priority. But despite the fact that every second MP and senator is now clutching an iPad, the government seems oblivious to the wireless revolution."

Turnbull drew a comparison with the classic BBC comedy Fawlty Towers highlighting that each report the government has commissioned on the NBN has specifically pointed out that it is not a cost-benefit analysis.

"Senator Conroy, like a latter day Basil Fawlty, hires one consultant after another instructing them 'don't mention the cost-benefit analysis', and everyone, just like the dinner guests at Fawlty Towers, does just that highlighting very plainly that they were told NOT to perform such an analysis and in so doing confirming how negligent it is not to ask and answer the fundamental question about the NBN," he said.

Topics: Government, Broadband, Government : AU, NBN, Telcos, Telstra

About

Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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