Telstra CEO David Thodey has said that the company's copper access network, which could be used under the Coalition's fibre-to-the-node (FttN) alternative National Broadband Network (NBN) policy, could last for 100 more years and would not decompose.
Under the policy, instead of having fibre to the premises (FttP), Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has proposed following in the footsteps of international telcos such as BT and AT&T and instead deploy hundreds of thousands of nodes across the country and utilise the existing copper line — currently owned by Telstra — from the node to the premises.
Questions have been raised in the past about the condition of the copper network, given the age of the network, and Telstra has been reluctant to provide a full account for the state of its network. However, speaking to journalists outside a Trans Tasman Business Circle lunch in Sydney today, Thodey said that he believes the condition of the network is good.
"The copper has been going well for 100 years, I think it'll keep going for another 100, but ... you've got to keep things maintained," he said. "[And] copper does not decompose."
Thodey has previously said that he believes Telstra's copper network would be able to achieve at least 25Mbps as promised under Turnbull's policy.
The CEO would not go into detail about the alternative policy put forward by the Coalition, but he said that the recent problem with asbestos handling in Telstra's ducts would be an issue regardless of the NBN policy.
"This is an issue that is irrelevant of technology. Obviously, under fibre to the premise, we will remediate more pits and ducts, but it wouldn't change it because we've always got to be improving and trying to make sure we're doing everything we can to create a safe environment," he said.
Following yesterday's announcement that Telstra would retrain its subcontractors in how to properly deal with asbestos in Telstra's pits and ducts being remediated for the NBN, Thodey said he doesn't expect that it will delay the construction of the network.
"I think we're OK," he said. "We started last week. It's mainly about improving areas. One of the things we're doing is we're getting people with a card to say they've been certified. They just give another level above what we've had to do above the regulation."
He said that the work will recommence when Telstra gets independent validation on the new retraining from Comcare, and when the telco has confidence in the work being undertaken again.
The three subcontractors working on Telstra's pits and ducts for the NBN have been working with the company for over a decade, and Thodey indicated that it was less of an issue with the contractors but rather an issue with the workload.
"They have done a lot of remediation, so this is not new. It's just we've had more volume with the NBN, and therefore we've just got to make sure we're really getting on top of the process."