If fibre costs are lower, we'll do more fibre: Turnbull

If fibre costs are lower, we'll do more fibre: Turnbull

Summary: Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has flagged that a Coalition's NBN could do more fibre to the premises if costs are lower than he has predicted.


Following NBN Co's own reporting that the cost of rolling out fibre to every premises is between AU$2,200 and AU$2,500, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that the Coalition could increase the number of premises getting fibre to the home, should the party win the September federal election.

(Image: Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

Under the Coalition's AU$29.4 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) alternative policy, 22 percent of premises would receive fibre-to-the-home services, compared to 93 percent under Labor's policy. The other 71 percent would receive fibre to the node, with the Coalition seeking to utilise Telstra's existing copper line between the node and the premises.

The Coalition had claimed that the cost per premises for NBN Co to pass by fibre would amount to approximately AU$3,400, but NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley today provided evidence to the joint parliamentary committee overseeing the NBN that showed that NBN Co's current per-premises cost is much lower, at between AU$2,200 and AU$2,500.

Speaking outside the committee hearing in Sydney on Friday, Turnbull said that if the cost turned out to be accurate, then a Coalition government would roll out more fibre.

"If the cost of fibre to the premises is considerably lower than what we've assumed, it might be that we could cost effectively do a larger percentage of the build as fibre to the premise," he said.

"We know fibre to the premise is the best technological solution, and if you can build it cost effectively, then you should do so. If we're able to build more of it cost effectively, then we would do so."

But Turnbull said he is sceptical about NBN Co's accuracy on the cost.

"NBN Co hasn't had a great track record of meeting any of its estimates to date," he said.

Turnbull said he is pleased that NBN Co has confirmed that it is assessing running fibre to the basement in existing apartment blocks.

"I think the most important thing to come out of this morning's evidence from NBN Co is the knowledge they are looking very actively at alternative technologies of the kind we're proposing — fibre to the node, VDSL especially in multi-dwelling units — which would have the effect of reducing the cost and the time of the roll-out," Turnbull said.

But he said that NBN Co is being prevented from acting on going down that path by the federal government.

"You've got a team of professionals there who are capable of doing it, who are obviously wanting to do it ... but they've been told by their political masters that no alternative to Labor's NBN is to be entertained," he said.

"[Labor] Senator [Doug] Cameron jumped on the young chief technology officer from the NBN Co and basically chastised him in a manner of an old Soviet commissar for deviating from the party line, as though he was about to be hauled before the central committee for having impure thoughts."

On the cost of gaining access to the copper network and remediating the copper, Turnbull said his policy makes some assumptions about the cost, which was built into the overall cost.

"But, can I just say, of course Telstra knows what the state of their copper network is, and that's why you've got to involve them in a fibre-to-the-node build," he said.

He claimed that the fault rate would be very low on the copper lines.

"The fault rate is very low, and under our approach, the only copper layout that is left is the last 400, 500, or 600 metres. So most of the copper is replaced. It's only that last copper tail that is replaced."

The cost of maintaining the copper would be "a very small amount of money", he said.

"The bulk of the copper maintenance is spent in regional areas where you've got the longest loops and climatic extremes, and that's going to continue [under Labor] through [universal service obligations].

"We're assuming it will cost a little bit more to maintain ... but it is interesting that you'll see that people with a lot of practical experience doing it have not found that to be an issue."

Syntheo no-show

Syntheo had been called before the joint parliamentary committee hearing today to provide evidence as to why it has fallen so far behind in construction of the National Broadband Network project, but the company failed to bring along any executives.

Instead, the only executive to appear before the committee was Dale Connor, chief operating officer for Lend Lease. Lend Lease is a joint-venture partner with Service Stream in Syntheo.

Connor told the committee that he was there to express support for Syntheo, but when asked specific questions about the rollout of the NBN, he responded that he could not speak on behalf of Syntheo.

"I'm only about to respond on behalf of Lend Lease," he said.

As a result, Connor's appearance before the committee lasted just over 4 minutes.

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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  • Lol...

    Oh FFS, stop the posturing, admit the others actually had a good idea and just do it properly Mal
  • Just More Spin Doctoring

    Every time the facts become inescapabale that their policy is wrong, Turnbull changes his statements. Slowly but surely he is getting closer and closer to the policy that the coalition has been comparing to the devil spawn for the last 4 years. Give it another 4, and I reckon FTTH will be completely Turnbulls idea.
  • Piss them off

    Time to Piss off Syntheo! and replace them with someone who can do the job! Who do they think they are sending a twitt that cant answer any questions?. Cancel their contracts,don't pay them and put someone there that wants the work!
  • how about asking them the hard questions?

    1. Where the hell do the libs get off "assuming" the cost of anything? We already know the amount of fibre needed, the cost of said fibre (which will only go down in price per metre), the cost of the exchange equipment, (which will only become better and cheaper, the last places to receive the fibre will have the best end point equipment for the same price or cheaper)
    The only variable cost is the labour (contractors). Which if managed properly, should get cheaper and cheaper as more people become qualified to do the work and compete for the contracts.

    2. Has anyone bothered to ask the liberals about the cost of 20 million fibre to copper convertors?
  • Lies Lies and more lies....

    "The fault rate is very low"



    Doesn't mention ADSL.....
    • what is your point?

      The website you provided references Telstra measured performance against the Customer Services Guarantee, that is legislated under ACMA Standard 2011. That standard specifically excludes internet services. The fault rate on the CAN is low ( reported at about 98% availability) so Mr Turnbull is correct in his assertion of low fault rates in the CAN for telephony services.
      The matter that concerns most users of ADSL services (remember the CAN was never designed to carry ADSL services). ADSL performance varies for all the reason we know about. What needs to be considered is the performance of the CAN from a node (in the street) to a premise. Expecting those distances to be less than 1000 meters it seems reasonable to expect pretty good speeds across the CAN is many circumstances.
      Blank Look
      • Yeah, but voice...

        ...only uses 4 kHz, VDSL needs 30-40 mHz...of course PSTN has a low fault rate.
  • Hmmm

    ""You've got a team of professionals there "

    Flip Flop
    Abel Adamski
  • multi dwelling units?

    Yes, so the vast majority of people in australia in their multi-dwelling units... oh wait.

    Look, I lived in Norway for a period, about 5 years ago. I lived in a house where the nearest neighbour was a kilometre away, I had a freaking field of barley on one side of my house, and a lake on the opposite side. They ran fibre past my house, I had the option of paying around $1000 to have an installer come out and run the conduit into my house to my chosen central hub location, or to run the conduit myself. I chose to do it myself, as it is really not that freaking hard. The hardest thing was drilling a hole through the granite of my basement. I ran about 50m metres of 16mm conduit in a winding path through the basement to the centre of the ground floor. The only rule was that the bends in the conduit could not be tighter than a coin about the size of a 20 cent peice. I ran the conduit, then a woman came to the property, blew the fibre through the conduit and connected the central hub. Took about an hour.
    My house here in australia would be a much less complicated install, and yet the coalition thinks it should charge homeowners $5000 if they dare to want fibre to their pre-existing homes? Please.

    How about instead of telling me that I don't need the fast connection and subtly implying I will only use it to pirate anyway, the libs stop back-pedalling and just fast forward to their eventual resting place which will be the labor plan.
  • Liberals don't want the NBN to be a Labor enduring legacy!

    The real political dilemma facing the Liberals is the problem of the NBN becoming an enduring Labor legacy (Like the Snowy scheme started by Chifley finished by Menzies, however Menzies did always support this project it was largely bipartisan).

    The extensive criticism by the Liberals has brought this project into sharp focus, so it will always be seen as a Labor program and their legacy.

    In NSW we have the State Government disassembling The Darling Harbour buildings for no reason other than to remove them from view so people will forget (the Liberals also harshly criticised this development) and to avoid the enduring legacy syndrome, where the project is held up as an example.

    The opposition to NBN is pure politics and has little to do with cost. It would be a lot better if the Liberals just relaunched the NBN fibre to the home as a bipartisan project, promising better management, they have dug themselves into the "eternal criticism" hole where a backflip makes them look foolish (it already has as they have adopted the same financial model as Labor).

    It could be a lot worse if their program runs into problems or if countries overseas change policies to FTTH, and at a later date have to reconfigure the rollout to FTTH after having reconfigured from FTTH to FTTN.

    Either way they are on a hiding to nothing, better policy to keep NBN running and saying there is no way out as Labor has committed too many contracts, and as problems occur continue to blame Labor. Promise fixes and keep the spin up till the following election.
    Kevin Cobley
  • Kevin I do believe you're right on the money

    Yup that sounds about exactly right.
  • Is he backing off to VDSL in apartments, FTTP elsewhere?

    He comments specifically about VDSL2 being appropriate in apartments as being the most appropriate VDSL2 usage. Sounds almost like he's paving the way to allowing the NBN to continue.
    • Same same but different.

      Technically, VDSL in apartments is still FTTP. It's essentially the same as a large business using a PABX.

      Personally, I'd expect the industry (through collaboration and feedback) to try a few variants and then settle on an hybrid system utilising ethernet from the basement for the most part. The advantage here is that a pair of fibres is more than enough to deliver a 1-10gb ethernet service to a managed switch in place of the multiple fibre NTDs.

      The question of PSTN would most likely be answered with an optional battery backed Analogue Telephone Adapter either in each premises, or in the basement.

      I would expect VDSL to be shunned for the most part because it cannot offer 1gbit services or a consistent experience every time. Cat6e will simply replace the Cat3 and the building owners will be expected to provide it.
    • Apartments

      Turnbull is paving the way to have you thinking they will continue to roll out the NBN.

      The Libs get in they will stop the NBN rollout and that is all they will do for broadband.

      FTTN is just so they don’t make the same mistake they made in 2010 re comms/broadband, #Fraudband was just to slide them over the line in 2013.

  • Strata buildings are a different issue for NBN.

    Building owners are responsible for the supply of telecommunications equipment in a building, I don't see any need for rewiring of buildings. It's up to the owners of buildings to install broadband fibre, as they were required for Foxtel. It's up to the Strata association to vote the funding for the fibre, won't be that hard in buildings with lifts as the vertical conduit already exists but plastic ducting along hallway roofs may be required, it's also possible that Foxtel ducting could be used the older coax removed and the fibre installed.

    All that should be done for strata buildings under the commonwealth telecommunications powers is the installation of VDSL equipment at the jumper junction box in th ebuilding.
    Kevin Cobley
  • Poor old Malcolm

    Let's not be too hard on Turnbull. After all, he's been given his riding instructions by Abbott and when Abbott's office gets it horrendously wrong then they tell the shadow minister to just "wear it". Turnbull knows that the LNP policy is second-best but what's he going to do? Shaft his leader? Now there's an idea!