Coalition launches alternative NBN policy

Coalition launches alternative NBN policy

Summary: Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull have promised to deliver at least 25Mbps NBN download speeds to all Australians by the end of the first term of a Coalition government.


All Australians can expect to be able to get download speeds of up to 25 megabits per second on the National Broadband Network (NBN) at the end of the first term of an Abbott government, the party has promised.

(Image: Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

"At the end of a first term of a Coalition government, there will be minimum download speeds of 25Mbps. By the end of our second term, the vast majority of households will get access to 50Mbps," Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said of the launch of the Coalition's broadband policy in Sydney on Tuesday.

"We will be able to do this because we will build fibre to the node, and that eliminates two-thirds of the cost," he said.

The Coalition has promised that should it win government in September, the NBN would be scaled back, so that instead of fibre-to-the-premise for 93 percent of Australian premises, it would only be pushed out to 22 percent of premises in areas already being constructed by NBN, new housing premises, or in areas where the copper is too degraded to deliver 25Mbps speeds; 71 percent of the population would get access to the NBN via fibre-to-the-node, which would continue to use the existing Telstra copper line from the node to the premise.

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull told journalists that he expects his network to require around 60,000 cabinets across Australia where the fibre connection would be passed onto the existing copper network to the premise.

In order to acquire access to the copper network, a Coalition government would be required to renegotiate with Telstra over its AU$11 billion deal with NBN Co. Turnbull said today that he has had a number of discussions with Telstra, and he is confident that, despite Labor's negotiations with Telstra taking a number of years, he can get Telstra to agree to changes to the deal in a short period of time.

The Coalition will rely on a line test of the existing copper connection to determine what premises will be able to get 25Mbps. Those that are unable to get that speed will have their copper connection remediated. If it is too expensive to remediate the copper, Turnbull said the line will be upgraded to fibre to the premise. People wishing to upgrade to a complete fibre connection but are already able to get 25Mbps on the fibre to the node network will pay for the upgrade, Turnbull has said.

The fixed wireless and satellite components of the NBN for the last 7 percent of premises will remain the same under Labor or the Coalition.

Construction will take place between 2014 and 2019 under the Coalition's plan, with capital expenditure at AU$20.4 billion, with the total amount of funding required to be AU$29.5 billion. This compares to AU$37.4 billion in capital expenditure for the current NBN project, with an AU$44.1 billion projected total funding requirement. The Coalition disputes the latter figure, suggesting its own estimates put the total funding requirement at AU$94 billion.

The Coalition estimated that the capital cost per premise for fibre-to-the-node is AU$900, versus AU$3,600 for fibre-to-the-premise.

The current NBN project is set to be completed by June 2021, but the Coalition has claimed that given the delays already occurring with the construction of the network, it could be delayed until 2025.

Turnbull has said that Australians can expect to pay less for broadband under the Coalition's policy, however the lower price will not be immediately apparent. The policy document says that the 2021 wholesale price under the Coalition would be AU$38, compared to AU$62 under Labor's NBN. This translates to roughly AU$66 and $90, respectively, for retail prices.

Turnbull said it would allow infrastructure-based competition against the NBN, meaning companies would again be allowed to rollout their own fibre networks, and Telstra and Optus could continue to use their hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) networks. He admitted, however, that given that Optus has signed an AU$800 million deal to decommission its HFC network, it is unlikely that the company would keep its HFC network.

While the initial plan is for initial minimum download speeds to be at 25Mbps, this will be upgraded to between 50 and 100Mbps in 2019 in the fibre footprint, using similar technology as those being tested by BT in the UK and being deployed by Telekom Austria.

Though the policy document does not detail what upload speeds people can expect on the Coalition's NBN, Turnbull told journalists this afternoon that people can expect upload speeds around a quarter of their download speed. On the 25Mbps plan, this would mean just over 6Mbps, while on the 50Mbps plan, this would be slightly over 12Mbps.

"Generally, the upload speeds can be configured at around one quarter of the download speed. I know there's a school of thought that there's this screaming need for symmetrical broadband, but this is really something for the industry to determine," Turnbull said.

Abbott said that immediately after the September election, the Coalition would conduct a 60-day commercial review to see how quickly NBN Co can change to meet the new policy, and after that, there will be an audit of the current NBN to see how it "got into the current mess".

There will also be an independent study to look at Australia's telecommunications needs, he said, with a cost-benefit analysis of the Coalition's policy.

The NBN will be kept off-budget under the Coalition as it has been under the current plan.

As with Labor's current policy, the Coalition would also look to privatise NBN Co after the NBN is completed, and whatever the government of the day is, it can be confident that it could get a return on the investment. Turnbull joked that it could be well into the second term of 22 year-old Liberal MP Wyatt Roy's second term as Prime Minister.

Ahead of the announcement this morning, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said that the proposal would "disconnect nine million Australians from Labor's NBN".

"Tony Abbott says Australia can't afford to have the best communications system in the world. Well Labor says: Wwe can't afford not to have it. They are so short-sighted, that they only want to build a broadband network for today," he said.

"They don't think about the applications, the extra connectivity, the extra machines, the extra devices that will be connected up by all of you here, all of our children in the future; they don't think about that."

He suggested that despite a slow start to the construction of the NBN this year, the construction crews were beginning to ramp up the number of premises being passed by fibre.

"Malcolm's in a for a bit of a surprise when the next stats come out very shortly, and he'll be in for a bigger surprise each week and each month as we move towards the election, because all of the companies that have been involved in the discussions with NBN Co are now in a process of ramping up and starting to pass multiple, multiple, hundreds and thousands of homes as we speak. You'll be quite surprised to see the ramp-up is starting to come into play."

Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam said that the Coalition's policy was out of date.

"The Coalition's technically inferior proposal is based on an out-dated and degraded copper network, which is enormously expensive to maintain and vulnerable to weather events," he said in a statement.

"This approach was explicitly rejected in 2009 prior to the government's announcement of the fibre-to-the home project, because it would be obsolete on the day it was built."

In 2009, Telstra had submitted a proposal to the then-Rudd government for a fibre-to-the-node network that was ultimately rejected by Labor in favour of the fibre-to-the-premise NBN announced just over four years ago on April 7, 2009.

Topic: NBN


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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  • Coalition and Abbot a joke

    Wont be voting them for sure!
    Nicholas Beament
    • That makes 3 of you

      The rest of us will be.
      • Yes

        Let the fun begin...
  • Sting in the tail

    This surely part below, I would say certainly will cause a cost blowout. I also wonder what the "uplink" test is.

    The Coalition will rely on a line test of the existing copper connection to determine what premises will be able to get 25Mbps. Those that are unable to get that speed will have their copper connection remediated. If it is too expensive to remediate the copper, Turnbull said the line will be upgraded to fibre to the premise.
  • Terrible document

    Having read the document its hard to be anything but worried. Lots of imaginary numbers which are explained as coming from unnamed background documents as well as some faulty logic.

    All the timelines seem to assume that Telstra will donate their copper network for free the election day. And that Telstra, the only organisation with the skills and equipment to maintain the copper, will not charge a high margin for maintenance on 30 year old very low redundancy copper.
    • Indeed...

      They will waste $30B for an obsolete, stop-gap network... all because they are unable (in politics 2013) to admit the others actually had a good policy.
      • 'They' will be in power

        And every day you will suffer.

        Bit like the 70% of Australia that suffers under the current administration.

        Suck it up.
        • Tell us...

          Your views of their plan ...LOL.

          Like we really care what you think...
  • In addition to the build cost....

    Everyone is fixated on build cost, but can someone please tell me how much it is going to cost to maintain the existing copper network for the next 5 years, 10 years, 20 years etc and also how much it is going to cost in additional power and maintenance to run all of the nodes? I think once those costs are factored in then the LNP plan will start to run to a similar amount as Labors plan and we will end up with less for it.

    I understand that the cost of maintenance for the copper network runs at about $1bn a year. Someone has to pay for that. I wonder who?
    • It makes me wonder

      That why in Australia do we have government's building all these infrastructure projects. Take the US for instance -

      I don't see any govt interference here. Telstra was quite capable of building a fibre optic network and the rest (Optus, IINET, Vodafone, etc) would have followed suit.

      Why do Labor and Coalition insist on building this? No wonders its the biggest govt infrastructure project in the world. No other govt is foolish enough to build infrastructure on this scale.

      Having said that, I find it funny to read arguments that are in favor of high speed networks. Care to explain exactly how that affects the average Joe here? 100Mbps will help me in doing exactly what?

      1. Download videos faster? That would depend on where the video is coming from.
      2. Education? Well wouldn't that mean the end of universities if everyone decides to study from home.
      3. Medical? Besides hospitals, how does faster internet help the average citizen?

      People don't realise that anything in excess of 20Mbps is pointless for 99% of internet usage.

      Higher speeds than that is only beneficial for highly specialized usage. And then, it would be expensive to get the 100Mbps speeds.

      So tell me again what is the real benefit of having high speed internet for everyday use. Businesses are running fine as of now on current infrastructure. And if Fibre is to help business then a FTTN will suffice, with business paying the extra for last mile FTTH depending on whether they need it or not.
      Kunal Nanda
      • Counterpoints

        To understand why this is so important in the future, you need to look to the past.

        For a decade, Telstra invested as little as possible into infrastructure. They are a business, with a need to make as much profit as possible, and they dont do that by spending big. Telstra WAS quite capable of building a fibre optic network, yet didnt. Which is why Labor stepped in and decided to build around them.

        As to WHY we need faster speeds, I cant give you that one deal making reason to be honest. Just like 10 years ago I couldnt have given you a rock solid reason why we needed the 24 Mbps we enjoy today. Yet here you are saying 20 Mbps is enough.

        All I can say is that for the past 2 decades, our net speed needs have doubled every two years, and there still hasnt been a reason to stop. 28.8k wasnt enough, neither was 56Kbps, 128k, 256k, 1.5m, 8m, or 24Mbps.

        So do you really think we're just going to stop needing more speed? You're right, 20 Mbps is enough for 99% of the population. Today. But what about 2019? Or 2025?

        If you use your imagination, its not hard to think of things that will fill the gap created by faster speeds. I can think of 4 or 5 off the top of my head.

        There is potential. Most happen, but they could. If the communications structure is in place to let things evolve. And FttN isnt that infrastructure. Neither is letting private enterprise control it. They will be too slow, and maintain their cheapest option stranglehold as long as possible.

        History has taught many lessons on this. I can only hope we arent doomed to repeat things. 10 years ago, could you have pointed to a reason why we needed 24 Mbps speeds?
        • I enjoyed reading

          Your response. I agree that come 10-15 years we may well have need for faster speeds. The way I see it, a govt's job is to create an environment that is inducive for private businesses to build future infrastructure. I see this happening everywhere, 1st world or 3rd world.

          Secondly, even though FTTN may not be able to deal with speeds needed in 2025 and beyond, at least it can be upgraded to provide fibre from the node to the home in the future.

          My real beef here is with the amount of money that is being spent. At the end of the day it has to be repaid back. The govt is struggling to meet expenses, and here we have a behemoth gobbling money like a black hole.
          Kunal Nanda
      • Kunal

        Go back on dial-up for a month... you will then answer your own questions.

        After all not so long ago, who needed any better eh?
        • @RS-ef540

          What's with Labor supporters and not answering questions with reasonable answers?

          Why should I go back to dial-up? Do you even know what era the dial-up internet belongs to? I have been on ADSL2+ for the last 8 years.

          The questions I raised were as follows:

          1. Why is a govt building this and not a private company?
          2. What are the net benefits of 100Mbps speeds to an average person?

          Can you come up with reasonable answers? If not, then I think it's better to keep your trap shut and not make a fool of yourself in front of the whole world.
          Kunal Nanda
          • Kunal

            It's obvious that you have no vision, but surely you have some reasoning powers, even if minimal?

            1. the government are building it because private enterprise didn't. Do you need proof that they didn't build it? Der...

            2. my analogy, means (now listen and learn) perhaps 100Mbps isn't required by "everyone right now". Just like dial-up was fine for many not so long ago. Hence my advice to you (but again infantile reasoning = err what)

            But to be fair, I suppose if you are unable to comprehend anything, 100Mbps will always be too much for you and heaven forbid, any offspring.

            Now why don't you show us you do have minimal intelligence, by telling us why MT's marginally cheaper $30B, obsolete (yes copper is obsolete for comms) FttN plan, that again hands Telstra the reins of our comms is ridiculous...?

            Ready... go tiger!
  • Strange how the coalition

    Claims to represent the country but with this policy country people will have to pay MORE!
    Voted National for local member and Greens for upper house last time. Both will be different this time around but who or what to vote for is hard.

    In Australia we lack leaders with vision, the NBN is the only real policy that embraced the future.
  • Enforceable by law

    Why is it that a company director can be legally accountable for misrepresentation when seeking a vote of members ... yet our law makers cannot.

    What is the risk of lying?
  • Fiber to the Premises or Nothing.

    I sure wont be voting for the coalition, Id rather stick with my 8Mbps ADSL1 then use there inferior system. I don't care what they say, its gonna cost the same, if not more than the Labor NBN. I don't know about the rest of the country but I need 100Mbps bandwidth for my job, heck id even pay the extra for 1Gbps.