Turnbull plan 'economic vandalism': Conroy

Summary:Conroy has declared Malcolm Turnbull an "economic vandal", and said that his broadband policy based on the New Zealand fibre model would be the equivalent of building the Sydney Harbour Bridge with only one lane.

Conroy has declared Malcolm Turnbull an "economic vandal", and said that his broadband policy based on the New Zealand fibre model would be the equivalent of building the Sydney Harbour Bridge with only one lane.

At a doorstop following his speech at an Australian Information Industry Association lunch in Sydney yesterday, Conroy lashed out at Turbull's plan to hand off existing NBN infrastructure to private companies that would offer wholesale services to other telcos. According to Conroy, Turnbull must promise to the 500,000 users expected to be on the NBN by the time of the next election that prices won't go up for them.

"Will he promise those 500,000 users there will be no increase in price because of his economic vandalism that he has engaged in on the National Broadband Network?" he asked.

Turnbull's proposal of a $10 billion upgrade of Optus and Telstra hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks and the deployment of a fibre to the node (FttN) network similar to the New Zealand Ultra-Fast Broadband plan would not deliver higher speeds, Conroy said.

"You cannot deliver those speeds on a single copper to the home. The vast majority of copper to the home in Australia is a single copper; Malcolm wants to lock us into a 13[Mbps] world," he said. "We won't even bother talking about upload speeds. He's trying to pretend they're the same but he's not acknowledging that the technology that you need for the type of speeds he is claiming doesn't exist in Australia."

Conroy also said that convincing Telstra to grant access to its copper network would be costly.

"There are billions of dollars of compensation that will be required to allow access to Telstra's copper network," he said. "He's got to explain what money he's going to be paying Telstra on top of the network."

Under the deals that the government and NBN Co negotiated with Telstra and Optus, both telcos will decommission their HFC networks and migrate customers onto the NBN. Turnbull has proposed extending these networks in urban areas, but Conroy said that he doubted the two telcos would be keen to make them wholesale.

"I'm looking forward to him negotiating with Telstra and Optus to make it an open-access network. Let's be very clear: the HFC network has failed to deliver competition because they're closed networks. If Malcolm can convince them to open it up so everybody can provide on HFC, you might get some retail competition."

Even if the networks were opened up, Conroy said that the most that users could hope for would be speeds of 100Mbps down and 2Mbps up, although Turnbull spoke of 240Mbs/12Mbps speeds.

"He wants to lock us into speeds that will not be sufficient for the applications that are here today and will be used in the future," Conroy said.

"His network is the equivalent of building the Sydney Harbour Bridge with one lane."

The minister branded Turnbull's claim that Labor's fibre, wireless and satellite mix resembled the defunct OPEL plan as ridiculous.

"It was a dodgy D technology that was not compatible or upgradeable. The OPEL network was a dog that had no spectrum. It couldn't propagate more than 1.2 kilometres from the tower," he said. "It was a dog that got put down."

DIDO no NBN threat

Conroy said that he had been reading many "geeky" sites over the weekend in regards to the white paper published by US entrepreneur Steve Pearlman that claims that his distributed in, distributed out (DIDO) wireless broadband technology can support many users simultaneously without sacrificing data speeds. Pearlman estimates that he will be able to get speeds of up to 1000 times those available on wireless today. Conroy said that this didn't pose any threat to the "future-proof" status of the NBN's fibre.

"I hope that this wireless breakthrough is developed, because wireless and fibre to the home are complementary — people will want both," he said. "Fibre is the backbone of all wireless networks ... so suggestions that we should do nothing, because in 10 years time they might invent something that is warp-speed broadband over wireless, [is] a ludicrous situation."

Topics: Government, Broadband, Government : AU, NBN

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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