No guarantees on the NBN: Turnbull

No guarantees on the NBN: Turnbull

Summary: Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said there are no guarantees that his version of the NBN will be successful.


Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that although his approach to the National Broadband Network has mitigated much of the risk associated with a project of its size, there is no guarantee the project will succeed.

After a number of reviews into the NBN, Turnbull has directed NBN Co to pursue a 'multi-technology mix' model for the NBN using fibre to the node, fibre to the basement, and HFC in addition to fibre to the premises, fixed wireless and satellite technology.

Two days away from the anniversary of the election of the Abbott government, NBN Co has only just begun trials of fibre to the basement, and fibre to the node. Speaking at an Enterprise Ireland event in Sydney this morning, Turnbull said that the new approach to the network was the right strategy, but there was still risk in the project.

"Whether you analyse it financially, or whether you do the economic cost-benefit analysis, we're confident we've got the strategy right," he said.

 "Having said that, you can have the strategy right, but there's still plenty of risk in execution. I would say we have mitigated risk, the risk in the project is much less than it would have been under the previous approach, but it is still there. It is still a very, very big project and you cannot eliminate risk."

He said politicians needed to be more confident to say that they couldn't guarantee their particular approach would succeed.

"Journalists are always saying 'Will you guarantee that such and such will happen?'. You have to have the courage to say 'no, I can't guarantee that'," he said.

"We live in a rapidly changing and dynamic world, and we're taking this approach, it's our best shot, we think it is the most likely to succeed, but there is no guarantee that any particular approach will work.

"If it doesn't work, we'll learn a lot from it, and then we'll do something else."

Turnbull said that he expected NBN Co, under the leadership of new CEO Bill Morrow, to be an innovative company, rather than one that just wanted to tell the minister what they wanted to hear.

"It needs to be a very innovative business. It has got to be constantly looking at smarter, faster, cheaper, better ways to get the job done," he said.

"I expect them to be very open to innovative ideas, and I will be very disappointed if people are saying they've been given the brush off."

He said the government was looking to move beyond talking about the technology delivering the faster broadband, and what applications could use faster broadband speeds, highlighting a change after the election that expanded telehealth trials commissioned by the previous government for the NBN, to other technologies.

"The previous government had some grants to promote e-health activities using broadband. But they had a condition that they could only be conducted on the NBN. The problem was, there wasn't enough of it built to be able to do it," he said.

"When we got in I said 'Well, you know, the contract has been left, e-health is very important, by and large it doesn't require a lot of bandwidth, let's just change the rules so people can do it whether it is on wireless, or ADSL, or HFC.' Who cares? The objective is to get people to use technology to keep Australians healthier.

"Surely that's the objective, rather than trying to promote a political project. We've got to spend less time talking about the platform, and more time talking about the applications."

Innovation announcement coming

Turnbull revealed that the government will be "very, very shortly" announcing changes to the taxation of employee share scheme arrangements as part of a larger announcement on innovation.

"The current law taxes on receipt of the employee rather than when they are realised. That is a major competitive disadvantage," Turnbull said.

The current taxation method was put in place in 2009 by the then-Labor government, and a review on the taxation commenced just prior to the 2013 election.

Topics: NBN, Government, Government AU, Australia


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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  • Mr Fraudband's Guarantees

    Fraudband had no problems with guarantees before the election, he guaranteed that he would build fibre to the node with speeds of 25Mbs to about 90% of the population.

    No comments like this before the election only the certainty of the above policy;

    "He said politicians needed to be more confident to say that they couldn't guarantee their particular approach would succeed.
    Journalists are always saying, "Will you guarantee that such and such will happen".
    You have to have the courage to say "no, I can't guarantee that".

    What a difference an election makes, he's now fully exposed as the fraud he has always been.
    Kevin Cobley
  • Risk?

    By mitigating risk he really means mitigating costs. By no guarantees he really means 'you get what you pay for'. Seriously, this guy is a liability. I can tell you right now why FTTN won't work. Because his prized cost benefit analysis completely omitted the use of 8K video. This means that FTTN connections won't be able to stream 8K over IP. Mr Turnbull should ring up JB-Hi Fi now and tell them their revenue from TV sales will decline over the next 10 years due to a limited amount of people being able to use the latest products. This was a study provided by Murdoch, for Murdoch.
    • Bang!

      Methinks Murdoch as shot himself in the foot and Turnbull in the heart.
      Dr. Ghostly
  • "there are no guarantees that his version of the NBN will be successful"

    This is an enormous about of taxpayers money invested to make a statement such as "there are no guarantees that his version of the NBN will be successful" - so what are we going to be certain of getting for the billions of dollars of the Australian taxpayers money?

    Also when will the government have some representatives of the general public on the NBN panel to make sure our money is not being wasted?

    If a valid business case was done for such a project with "no guarantees" then would the project go ahead? I think not!
    Darren Blackley
  • Obsolescence is guaranteed!

    If there is one thing that can be guaranteed, it is that the FTTN part of the rollout is going to be hopelessly obsolete in ten years' time if not sooner. Instead of doing it right the first time by rolling out FTTP, we are now looking at an enormous upgrade cost in five to ten years' time. When that happens, the gigantic folly of Turnbull's approach will be there for all to see, but it will be much too late to do anything about it.

      I currently get ADSL2+ at a normal regular speed of 15Mbps, sometime 20Mbps, and i tel you it is not enough for me, and certainly not enough for the 3 other internet users in my place. an extra 5-10Mbps wont make any significant difference. Aside from that most other countries are moving away from FTTN to FTTP if they haven't already. The UK is upgrading, a lot of USA citizens are trying where they can but that's another discussion, European countries, Norway, Romania have had FTTP for a while. A FTTN upgrade, if you want to call it that, will catch us up to the last generation of technology. To address Turnbull's point about the quick changing of technology of these times, You can upgrade a FTTP network by changing a box at both ends without having to install new cables. To think that you can't guarantee success of a broadband upgrade is saying that you aren't making a big enough difference to what currently exists. Basically they are telling us that they are setting this up to fail in an attempt to kill the internet because it is bad for existing media (I'm looking at you, Murdoch). Internet/Cable companies in America are sitting on mountains of cash and when there is ever an upgrade people flock to the area. Kansas City has changed to a technology Hub since the installation of Google Fibre (FTTP) and is thriving more than ever. This whole thing is a mess and I'm really appalled in the way this is being dealt with. I am trying to get a Job out of the country, with this playing a big factor, luckily i'm an Electrical Engineer and it won't be that hard to find a Job.
  • It's happening

    He's starting to get the voters ready for what might be a failure. So that when the time comes, the blow might be softened. Welcome to the downhill slide and we have ring-side seats. Look for the word 'remediation' to rear its butt-ugly head, just like the word 'metadata'....
  • MT is in fantasy land

    With the FTTP / wireless / satellite rollout all of the big question marks had been identified and had a cost attached to them.

    With FTTN:

    ? - Additional cost of new Telstra deal (mind you this will be hidden in ongoing payments by MT and the gang so their capital outlay isn't worse than FTTP)

    ? - Nobody knows the true state of the copper yet and can't give realistic estimates on install cost and performance

    ? - Optimistic time frames have severe consequences on cashflow for the new business which even according to the strategic review would see FTTP being substantially more profitable but that's why they f'd around with dates so that revenue of the rollouts was analysed to 2020 while referencing a finish time of 2025 for FTTP.

    ? - HFC - why is this even being considered? Nonetheless, purchasing, integrating and maintaining it has costs that don't currently have numbers next to them.

    ? - Opportunity cost. With mining coming off the boil and a China slowdown looming on the horizon surely we would be investing in infrastructure that would encourage a diversified, modern economy. Everywhere in the world that has high speed internet shows increases in activity of startups.

    So, how have they reduced risk????? To me there is far more risk in the new strategy. But as politicians do, you just repeat ad nauseam the same old bs. Not that Labor was immune to that either but at least their version of NBN had a point.
  • Apps hoopla

    Pity he has got caught up in the apps hoopla. Unfortunately Nbn has wrong architecture. Innovation potential very limited
  • don't tell the minister what they wanted to hear....

    but be prepared to lose your job when you do
  • Caught out

    The truth will always come out sooner or later. All Turnbull's shonky, bias reviews and juggling of facts and figures will come back and bite him on his arse. His third rate fraudband will be seen as the great big white elephant that it is. Turnbull should be sacked.
  • IPA influence

    I'm still dumflumoxed that Australians have not made the direct link from Abbott and Turnbull to the IPA - who'se agenda of 100 items almost all begin with the word, 'ABOLISH'.
    You can the IPA list and learn more about the IPA on its website.
    Good starting place is here:
    Dr. Ghostly
    • He's the doctor!!!

      Now now Dr. Tony Abbott is good for one thing. As David Marr suggests in his essay, Tony Abbott will always choose the political pathway as opposed to ideology or the moral one, he is a truly hollow man.
      Tony Abbott will get down on his knees when he's behind closed doors with IPA members, I mean who wouldn't want to be close to Murdoch's thought bubble, but unlike many other pragmatic leaders, Abbott is prepared to f#$k them over publicly without even thinking twice... This is evident in his decision to scrap the repeal of 18C. Imagine the energy that went into this policy all for nothing, just because Abbott found national security was a game changer (he had to keep the western suburbs happy though). Now you hardly hear a peep about this issue from those pesky IPA strategists, including Tim Wilson, because they don't want to create bad publicity for their hero. This leads to a very interesting doorway when it comes to a conservative (charitable organisation) like the IPA. All you have to do is create enough noise when it comes to Liberal(IPA) policy for Abbott to realise he's on a looser, and the IPA is now debunked. Abbott is essentially killing the IPA from the outside... Funny :-) I would say that by the time the next election comes around, the 100 item agenda will be down to 5 and most of those will be different versions of how dogs and cats shouldn't be living together...
  • Cart before horse

    "After a number of reviews into the NBN, Turnbull has directed NBN Co to pursue a 'multi-technology mix' model for the NBN"

    Not true, he actually told them to switch to FttN before they did the reviews and CBA...