Coalition NBN will be better for the bush: Turnbull

Coalition NBN will be better for the bush: Turnbull

Summary: Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that through price caps and extending the fibre-to-the-node network, his NBN policy will be better for regional Australia than the current policy.


Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has rejected a claim by Labor and Independent MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott that regional Australia will be worse off under his broadband proposal, saying fewer premises will be connected to the fixed wireless and satellite service.

Under the Coalition's policy announced on Tuesday, the network will be scaled back from being a 93 percent fibre to the home and 7 percent fixed wireless and satellite network to a 71 percent fibre to the node, 22 percent fibre to the home, and 7 percent fixed wireless and satellite network.

Turnbull confirmed yesterday that a ban on infrastructure-based competition would be lifted under a Coalition government if it wins the September election, and instead of setting a wholesale price for NBN Co, there would be a national cap on the wholesale price that NBN Co and other wholesale providers can charge for services.

Independent MP for New England, in regional New South Wales, Tony Windsor doesn't believe that this price cap will offer better prices for regional Australia.

"What the policy says is that the upper movement of wholesale prices will be capped; it doesn't say anything about the downward movement," he told the ABC this morning.

"Competitive forces would drive the wholesale price in the city down, and leave the wholesale price in the country at the upper cap level. So you create a disparity between country and city, not only in terms of price, but in terms of product."

But Turnbull rejected Windsor's statement, saying that the price disparity would be minimal.

"I think what Tony Windsor has got to recognise is that if you want to have a competitive market, there is always the possibility you'll get some areas — they won't be large areas — where [there] will be some facilities based competition," he said.

"I don't see that as being a significant issue because the areas for facilities-based competition, the areas where that is likely to occur with any degree of force are limited to some of the more densely settled areas close to the centre of the big cities."

The shadow minister said that the Coalition's policy aims to strike a balance between preserving competition and making sure people in the bush get a fair deal.

"People in regional Australia will have wholesale prices that do not reflect the cost of delivering the service to them, so that it will represent, in effect, a very considerable subsidy," he said.

The Coalition policy would also be better than Labor's, he said, because in the towns with less than 1000 premises, which would be otherwise served by fixed wireless or satellite services, the Coalition would look to deploy its fibre-to-the-node network.

"Plainly, if you've got a community with 500, 600, 700 premises within a kilometre, or a couple of kilometres from an exchange building which has got fibre into it, you could easily see that you could readily provide good VDSL either from that exchange, or from that exchange, plus a couple of nodes," he said. "It gives you another string to your bow in terms of providing broadband solutions to the bush."

But he could not commit to how many more premises would be covered by this proposal.

"Logically, it would increase the percentage of fibre to the node and decrease the percentage of fixed wireless and/or satellite," he said. "It may be of critical importance to a lot of communities, but in aggregate, it's not likely to add up to hundreds of thousands, in my judgement."

For Tony Windsor, however, the notion of not continuing with fibre to the premises was a step backwards.

"It's a dumbing down on the whole process. I just can't believe someone like Malcolm Turnbull would base this century's infrastructure, in terms of communication, on last century's copper wire," he said.

In his Communications Day Summit speech, Turnbull also flagged that the fixed-wireless towers could be shared to improve mobile coverage, which NBN Co is already investigating.

"There are some things we know we can do. We can make the NBN Co's physical infrastructure available to the existing wireless companies — Optus, Vodafone, Telstra — and also assist with backhaul. All that is very feasible. Beyond that, I'm not sure how much flexibility we'll have," he said.

Huawei ban to be reassessed

In other fibre-to-the-node deployments across the world, Chinese network vendor Huawei has been called on for the node technology, but the Australian government has banned Huawei from competing for NBN contracts due to security concerns. Turnbull told ZDNet today that the ban would be reassessed if the Coalition wins the election in September.

"We're not privy to the security advice the government was given on this. We had a briefing and got sort of the desultory stuff that oppositions get from governments," he said. "We will review all of that in light of the complete briefing and analysis that you can only get in government."

The news comes as Prime Minister Julia Gillard wraps up her visit to China, where she was meeting with both government and business leaders, including the global chairwoman of Huawei, Sun Yafang.

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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  • Hilarious!

    7% get wireless and satellite under both plans.
    93%, including most rural towns of 1000 premises, get 100/40 fibre if they choose on the NBN, that actually delivers those speeds, in both directions, all the time.
    Turnbull proposes that rural towns will get 25/5, on country copper wires.
    How is that better for the bush, exactly?
    • Isn't it obvious?

      "Turnbull confirmed yesterday that a ban on infrastructure-based competition would be lifted under a Coalition government if it wins the September election, and instead of setting a wholesale price for NBN Co, there would be a national cap on the wholesale price that NBN Co and other wholesale providers can charge for services."

      Under the Coalition, any teleco has the option compete on infrastructure, which is great for the bush because we all know low density areas are where Telstra, Optus and others will fall over each other to provide services for. This is what has worked so well for the bush previously.

      To make the deal even better for these areas, Malc & friends will ensure price caps are set, meaning people in the bush won't get charged too much. It also means that nobody will bother building the infrastructure to compete with in the first place because it won't be possible to make a profit, but hey, those are just annoying details, don't look at that, look at this shiny thing!

      Back on planet earth, fiber is actually great for the bush because it'll work (at near enough the speed of light) no matter where you are whereas FTTN only works if everybody huddles around a node which, given the distances involved, simply doesn't reflect reality.

      I think the Nats must feel pretty stupid right now. If they don't, the people that vote for them should.
  • What will Nationals response be?

    Please read what Nationals said about FTTN back when NBN was FTTN:
  • Logic suspended

    Under Liberals, less will mean more.

    Had this approach been taken in regards to original telephone lines a century ago, only some Australian homes would have had actual telephones, while others would have to rely on telegraph and carrier pigeons. Not everyone NEEDED a phone in the 1900s, surely?

    Funny that today's "market-friendly" broadband policy from Liberals is dependant on everyone having access to those ubiquitous copper wires, while at the same time denying future generations the benefits of having ubiquitous access to fibre.
    • News flash Zok76

      Not everyone could afford or justify a phone in the early 1900's. it took many decades for the technology to reach everyone.

      Same thing occurred when mobile technology started (and continues) to roll out.

      High yield locations bolstered by strong commercial demand led/leads the roll out.

      Having been in the telecoms business since the early 80's I have seen deregulation create demand and drive market changes.

      I have no doubt that there will be many companies that will fall over themselves to get your business once the commercial opportunity presents itself.

      They will be chomping to sign you up for subsidised fibre install in exchange for your loyalty.
  • Indeed...

    So... what will the conservatives in 50 years or so time, have to fall back on, to avoid building/spending ;)
  • stroyde

    So Huawei wants to set up a cyber testing facility for yall, who should find it odd that the testing facilty Huawei set up in the UK never reported finding (assuming they did find) those same holes that the German white hats found and reported at Defcon 20 in July 2012. But nooooo. Oblivious down under!