Copper network not 'ageing': Telstra

Copper network not 'ageing': Telstra

Summary: Telstra's managing director of wholesale, Stuart Lee, has defended the company's copper network, stating that Telstra has replaced parts of the network when required.

TOPICS: NBN, Telcos, Telstra

Ahead of renegotiation with NBN Co over access to its copper network, Telstra's managing director of its wholesale division Stuart Lee has defended the quality of the copper network, stating that it is fixed up as required.

This morning Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull talked up the advances in copper-based broadband technologies, and said that fibre-to-the-node would be able to offer faster speeds today with the flexibility to use a range of different technologies, depending on what the advancement in technology in the future demanded.

One of the frequently used arguments against a proposal for fibre to the node instead of fibre to the premises has been claims that Telstra's fixed line network has deteriorated to the state that it would not be possible to get higher speed services through VDSL2 and vectoring over the network. Often quoted is Telstra's head of government and corporate affairs, Tony Warren, who said in 2003 that the copper technology is "five minutes to midnight".

But a decade later, advancements in copper-based technology including VDSL and vectoring, and a National Broadband Network that is now looking to use the copper, Telstra now sees the benefits in its copper network. Lee told the Communications Day NBN Rebooted conference in Sydney today that he is "cross" when the copper network is described as "ageing".

"The other thing that makes me cross when I hear it, and I see it a lot in the press is the talk of the ageing copper network. It's not. It's not an ageing copper network. It's like grandfather's axe; it's had five new handles and three new heads. When it breaks, we replace the broken bit. So it's much the same as it always has been and always will be," he said.

"It's just an older technology, it's not that the asset itself has deteriorated."

A rise in Telstra's mass service disruptions on the copper network was not a sign that the network itself had deteriorated, he said, but just a reflection of the disasterous weather events that have hit Australia in recent times.

"They correlate to weather events, and the weather events we've had in the last [few years] is about five to six times the previous ones, so surprise surprise there is a lot more damage."

Lee did not say that the events were linked to climate change, stating he is "not a climate scientist."

The executive was also critical of NBN Co's handling of getting premises connected to the network, with over 70,000 premises NBN Co has declared as being "passed" by the fibre network, yet they cannot technically order a service. NBN Co is working to address these now as a priority under the Coalition, but Lee said that as some areas of the network are now preparing to disconnect the copper line, this gives retailers less time to move those customers over to the NBN.

"That gives us less time to move customers over in the 18-month window. In the absence of any information about when those premises will become servicable, for any RSP, the conversation becomes relatively difficult when you can't provide them any certainty as to when you will be able to provide them a service," he said.

"That is the key problem we see in greenfields today, where NBN Co has the responsibility , [it is] quite disabling."

iiNet's chief technology officer, John Lindsay also said that the potential for disconnecting customers from the ADSL network while they still can't order an NBN service was "madness" and slammed NBN Co's connectivity virtual circuit charge, comparing it to the Labor government's carbon tax, seeking to artificially limit the amount of bandwidth each customers uses.

"It's a tax on packets," he said.

Topics: NBN, Telcos, Telstra


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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  • pathetic Telstra, honesty does go a long way you know....

    Here's a real world example, I can only get 150kb/s download on my ADLS2 connection due to what iiNet says is a very degraded exchange owned by Telstra. Telstra, when you speak porkys like this you just look stupid to people who know what is happening and/or are experiencing it themselves.
    • It's a question of standards

      They maintain the lines to just workable voice - mostly.

      They see no need to maintain the lines to provide ADSL service at headline speeds.

      They see no need to make the network workable in unusual events such as Rain.

      If even new copper networks are failing - why would we go copper?

      This is preciesly why Copper is a huge waste of time and money. We need a new tech that can do the job - such as fiber.

      Anything Telstra does have to rely on is fibre. No telco runs fibre for their own internal network links.

      Anything where the customer can be made to put up with the issues is left as copper. This is what we are going to be left with for 30 years now.

      A totally 'fixed' network that is unreliable and inconsistant.
  • When the government has to give you a shiny new network

    because you won't bother building your own, the current one is 'five minutes to midnight'

    When you might be able to sell (back) your 'five minutes to midnight' network for billions, you get 'cross' when people describe the network as 'aged'

    This is nothing more than Telstra laying the groundwork for an inflated sale price of the copper ahead of any negotiations.

    And as much as iiNet are trying to cast themselves as the good guys here, (and I agree with getting rid of the CVC), artificial tiered pricing is exactly what they inflict on their own customers, (data caps & peak/off-peak), to quote their own CTO 'It's a tax on packets' no apparent issues inflicting it on their customers, but it's the end of the world when the same thing is inflicted on them. Go figure.
  • Grandad doesnt like spending money

    The problem is grandad likes to get every last bit out of his axe so he doent replace the head until its been resharpened so many times its totally warn down to a nub. And he doesnt replace the handle until its about to break or already has.
  • "Ageing" is one of those cheap shots that the tech news uses.

    "Ageing" is one of those sophomoric phrases that tech news likes to throw around when it wants to paint something as old. And in the world of tech news, old is a synonym with useless, regardless of the reality of its usefulness.

    And that's tech news for you: Down with the old, up with the new, forget any sense of reality and practicality.

    Not that I know anything of this situation, but it really smells of shoddy reporting.

    "Lee did not say that the events were linked to climate change, stating he is 'not a climate scientist.'"

    A good response, considering that the news could easily turn that into a "Telstra blames disruptions on global warming" headline. It doesn't matter if the storms were caused by climate change - that's well outside the scope of his job. He has to deal with the results regardless. Asking the executive about climate change is fishing for a headline, plain and simple.
  • Its just pining for the fjords!

    Lee's speech sounds like something direct from a Monty Pythin skit. "Its not ageing, it just older!!" or
    Grandson - "Here is your old axe Grandpa"
    Grandpa - "That's not my axe"
    Grandson - "Yes it is. We put a new handle on it, and a new head"
    Grandpa - "So all the bits of my axe are gone?"
    Grandson - "Its still your same old axe Grandpa!"

    Clearly Telstra are trying to talk up the value of their ageing copper network to squeeze more taxpayer money out of Turnbull. Its a horrible sales pitch though.
  • Indeed!

    "Stuart Lee has defended the quality of the copper network, stating that it is fixed up as required."

    Yes, they fixed it up by replacing it with fibre, like they did in South Brisbane...
  • Phone line infrastructure is bad

    My internet is slow - why? Signal to Noise ratio is just 6.5dB (below Telstra official standards). No wonder I get only 1/3 of the ADSL speed I pay for.

    Lately I saw a guy working on the connections beside the street, just seeing a wiring mess in a dirty hole and no proper wiring loom. In addition I have 2km of aluminium wire to the node.

    Only fibre to the home can overcome this problem or rewiring the the copper network completely, which will not be much cheaper than fibre.
    Compared to central Europe Australian infrastructure is far from good and that applies to the electric power distribution as well.

    Chris Hostettler
    Chris Hostettler
  • obviously they don't venture..

    Obviously he hasn't been down to the South East lately, not only is the exchange in my area maxed out on adsl2 connections but it seems like everyday i see someone having trouble with the connection to their house.

    We have gotten nearly 100 years off this copper network (I think?) that's good, but its time for an upgrade. Its costing more than its worth.
  • I have Naked ADSL

    And my connections are getting slower over the months. WHo do I complain to to get this bit of the copper network fixed? Telstra won't as I'm not a Telstra customer!?
    Bring on Fibre to the home.
    I am Gorby