Internode founder and iiNet director Simon Hackett has said that Telstra could reject the Coalition's proposed renegotiation to access the copper network for the fibre-to-the-node (FttN) National Broadband Network (NBN) and force a fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) network.
Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull this morning outlined the policy that his party will take to the September federal election, with a future Coalition government scaling back from a 93 percent fibre-to-the-home network to a 71 percent fibre-to-the-node network. While this will require the Coalition to renegotiate Telstra's AU$11 billion deal with NBN Co to access the copper, Turnbull said he is confident that it could be done quickly.
But speaking on Tuesday at the Communications Day Summit in Sydney, Hackett suggested that Telstra would hold all the cards, and would seek much more money.
"In my view, you're going to pay a lot more money to Telstra," he said. "There will need to be something in it for them, otherwise why change the deal you have?
"The capacity to shift this network from being pure fibre to the premises to fibre to the node is entirely at the whim of Telstra."
If Telstra won't change the deal, it will mean that the fibre-to-the-home rollout continues, he said.
"That suits me, I like that stuff."
He also said that the decision to deploy an estimated 60,000 cabinets for the Coalition's NBN would be a lot harder than building a new network, and the Coalition would need to consider the cost of powering those 60,000 cabinets across the country, and the maintenance of the copper network in the long term.
"The copper network needs to not fall apart in the process. It does represent a challenge," he said.
Hackett said that the Coalition's desire to roll the network out faster and cheaper is admirable, but said fibre to the node is not the answer.
"Maybe there are other ways of saving money and doing it faster, and maybe that's just holding NBN Co's nose to a grindstone and pushing hard," he said.
Speaking before Hackett, the two authors behind the most recent report looking at how the Coalition's policy regarding the NBN might end up have also indicated that they believe the policy will change a year after the election, if the Coalition wins.
Allen Overy's Michael Reede and Venture Consulting's Justin Jameson last month released their analysis of policy options for the Coalition if the party wins the election. The pair said today that following Turnbull's announcement, although it appears simple on face value, it would get more complex as time goes on.
They suggested that although the party would not change policy in the first 12 months of government, it would likely be significantly changed after that as the complexity of rolling out a fibre-to-the-node network increases.