No guarantees on NBN download speeds: Switkowski

No guarantees on NBN download speeds: Switkowski

Summary: NBN Co will not be guaranteeing 25Mbps download speeds, according to NBN Co executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski, because NBN guarantees have 'lost their currency'.


Although Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull went to the 2013 federal election promising minimum download speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for all Australians by 2016, NBN Co executive chairman Dr Ziggy Switkowski said that the company will not be making any such guarantees.

In the press release accompanying NBN Co's strategic review released last week, NBN Co said it would be designing a "new-look NBN" to provide the guaranteed speeds to NBN Co's wholesale customers, while end-user speeds will depend on factors outside of NBN Co's control, including end-user equipment quality, software, broadband plans, and the ISPs.

The result means that although NBN Co would offer the retail service providers a minimum speed, it would not guarantee that the speeds achieved at the end user's premises might be substantially lower than that.

The review has already suggested that the Coalition's pre-election promise that all Australian premises would get 25Mbps download speeds by 2016 will not be achievable, with only 43 percent of premises expected to be able to get those speeds, and almost all of those serviced by the existing hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks.

But Switkowski told a Senate Select committee hearing on the NBN in Sydney on Tuesday that NBN Co would not even guarantee 25Mbps to that 43 percent of premises. He said that due to missed targets and other revisions during the life of the NBN, the word "guarantee" has lost meaning.

"One of the problems I have found in the review in the past, there has been too big a takeup in words like guarantee," he said.

"It's clear that after four years, guarantees have lost currency."

NBN Co now projects that it will pass between 350,000 and 400,000 brownfields premises with fibre by the end of June, 2014. This is substantially lower than the 450,000 that Turnbull told ZDNet in November NBN Co would pass.

Former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy accused Switkowski of "low-balling" the NBN targets, and slowing down the fibre rollout, but Switkowski said that Conroy was not aware of the inner workings of NBN Co and its construction partners.

"We have all of the data, and we understand what is happening out in the field," he said.

"The industry shuts down from December to the middle of January. We have 23 weeks in which to do that, maybe 22 when you exclude Easter."

Switkowski said the target accounts for passing around 4,000 premises per week.

The committee sought access to the un-redacted strategic review in private, which would include detail on cost per premises passed and other information that NBN Co deemed to be "commercial-in-confidence". In a letter provided to the committee by Switkowski from Turnbull, the minister rejected this request, stating that the information was Cabinet-in-confidence.

The committee is accepting submissions on the NBN review until early January, and has encouraged members of the public to make their views known by uploading a submission on the NBN committee's website.

Topics: NBN, Government, Government AU


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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  • Oh dear, not looking good for GimpCo at all. I didn't think they could lower the goal much more but somehow the Ziggy manages it. Might as well leave the ADSL2+ junk now as that will cost much less and we won’t be wasting taxpayers money maintaining an expensive copper turd.

    Also I'm quite enjoying listening to the grilling, both Conroy and Ludlam are doing a wonderful job so much so I think I can actually smell the sweat pouring off Ziggy.
    Hubert Cumberdale
    • Well that was cleverly done

      Yet again, you manage to discuss wasting taxpayer money without mentioning Labor, who are responsible our entire financial predicament. Fibre-based NBN is unlikely to happen give the current financial mess and its massive cost, a cost well above Labor's nonsense estimates. It is all very well for Conroy to play the smart-arse, know-it-all now. It's a pity that the word "honest" never formed part of his vocabulary or set of principles.
      • Please leave politics out of it

        Look, there has been enough mess created by politics interfering with this rollout. Both sides are guilty of it and it is still ongoing. Trolling people based on your political ideology doesn't fix the problem, it just shows you have a problem. Maybe you were beaten up at school and this is your revenge. No idea. This is a big job Australia has to do, it's very important for the future, it costs megabucks. If all you are interested in is politics, please, find some where else to get your jollies.
      • The previous FttP NBN no longer exists and is no longer relevant. A FttN/HFC patchwork is what Australia has decided to roll out any wasted taxpayer money associated with it will be GimpCo's and the coalitions fault. I'm not obligated to comment on other political parties policies who are no longer in power and broadband networks that are not being rolled out. Hope that helps.
        Hubert Cumberdale
        • NBNCO

          If fibre to the premise nolonger possible, then I suggest we have NONE.
      • We'll if you take it with a grain of salt.

        It's not Labor's nonsense estimates it's the coalitions estimates.
        Labor Coalition
        $73B $41B+
        2024 2021 ( needs to start upgrading at
        2025 not cost included to try and get as much out of the copper and HFC
        And then again at
        2030 to FTTP still no cost included.
        So 6+ years to get what labor was building.
        1Gbps 2/3 of Australia will get less than 10% performance.

        So to sum it up turnbull's cost more than half complete 3 years earlier will need upgrading 5 years after it's complete and 2/3 of Australians will get 10% less performance.

        As I mean by performance the coalition has just cancelled all research projects related to the NBN as they know it can do what labor's can.
        • 2/3?

          What's the 2/3 get less than 10% about?

          The report clearly states (whether it's right or wrong is another question...) is that by 2019, the previous FttP plan would have covered 57% of premises in the fixed line footprint. That's 56% of the population (in non-rural areas) with 100Mbps and 44% with current connections.

          The MTM will apparently have 91% of premises with at least 50Mbps (that's a 100% increase over the currently best connection) while 65% of all premises in the fixed line footprint will have 100Mbps. Both figures are big improvements over the FttP time frame.

          The idea is to try and get *more* people, on *faster* connections, *sooner*. Prioritise FttP installs for the important places, and utilise existing infrastructure for the majority of family homes. The idea is sound, but whether or not it's actually doable (is VDSL really going to get the speeds they hope for over 400 odd metres?) is yet to be proven -OR- disproven.
          Andrew Hargrave
      • smart arse

        If we cannot have the smart arse scheme, I would rather none.
  • pointless

    Politics and costs aside.the end game is fibre. The copper has to be replaced at some point. for a lot of people in Austrailia, Telstra usually wont replace the copper because of the costs involved. Leave it the private sector and they will only build in the profitable metro areas.therefore this type of national network will ever happen if it is funded by the government. If your going to build it. Build it once with fibre.
    • Reality check

      Do it once, do it fibre. Turnbull has shown they can deliver nothing
  • The labor lie uncovered finally!

    So what people seem to miss is the following labor only stated the ftth was capable of 100mbps never guaranteed. The result of the libs giving a guarantee of 25mbps to each household is the true capability of the nbn has been uncovered!

    The NBN including what has already been installed cannot guarantee 25mbps as a minimum! The original plan only provided for infrastructure that was capable of but never guaranteed any speeds at all!

    Also no private reaidential premises NEEDS more than 10-15mbps. HD video streams at under 1.5mbps so unless you are watching 10HD streams at the same time 10-15mbps is all you NEED.

    Also a 100mbps link is pointless if the servers you are accessing can only supply you with 1-2mbps!

    People need to stop thinking they are going to get less from what the libs have said when all that has happened is they have seen the NBN for the farse it is and tried to offer a solution that is more realistic in a shorter period of time.

    I already have a 100+ mbps link and even when watching foxtel on demand whilst downloading torrents and my kids gaming on two machines rarely do I go over 10-15mbps.
    • 64kbps dial was also sufficient at that time

      @Coph- NEED is a dynamic thing in the context of time. 64kpbps dialup speed was good enough for quite a while when it was first introduced. Do you think South Korea, Singapore, Japan or European countries had been spending money for no NEED? Their residential premises had been given high speed internet without the NEED. Leave your political alignment and do some research on what future may look like in terms of data transfer requirements before you spell the word "NEED" again. You are talking about HD when 3D content has already surfaced in the market place for a while and we are into UHD era now. 10-15Mbps speed need (according to you) today would looklike dial up tomorrow
      Kuddus Mia