Telstra's copper could last 100 more years: Thodey

Telstra's copper could last 100 more years: Thodey

Summary: Telstra CEO David Thodey has said he believes Telstra's copper network could last 100 more years.

TOPICS: NBN, Telcos, Telstra

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."

Topics: NBN, Telcos, Telstra


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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  • omg!!!!!

    we have been repeated told that the copper was rotting away before our eyes!
    Blank Look
    • HAve we?

      No Copper contained withing plastic sheath is not rotting as such as it's not biomatter.

      Copper exposed to the elements does react and change.

      THis is not the issue

      1) Copper network is not correctly engineered for anything beyond voice frequencies. DSL is an attempt to get higher frequencies down that cable. DSL success is based on getting away with it in a percentage of cases where the conditions are right.

      2) The copper network is in many places a mess - that mess is undocumented - hence the asbestos issues not being known until each pit is checked.

      3) The copper from the Telstra network to the user's phone outlet is often not in good condition - often due to cheap and nasty installation by Telstra or by contractors working for the owner or the builder. This copper is not within Telstra's management system so Thodey is not in a position to comment at all on it. If this copper is not viable then the consumer pays for it not a FTTN NBNCo.

      All in all this statement is smoke and mirrors as it deliberately misses many of the issues involved in getting a high speed connection to the consumer.
      • +1

        Thank you Richardw66...

        I was going to say something along those lines too... but unfortunately you are attempting to convey rationally with those who don't care and who's reply will simply be...

        But we have been repeatedly told that the copper was rotting away before our eyes or look what David said...
        • That's right RS and dont forget the coalition clowns are always looking for reasons to justify a $30+ billion taxpayer waste for their poorly thought out FttN plan so this will be yet another they'll add to the list then it'll "bububu but Malcolm said";-)

          To me it's just further proof Telstra cannot be trusted, seems if it we're up to them they'd be happy with us staying on copper for the next hundred years. That's very concerning... of course if they did have it their way we'd still be on dial-up too so no surprises here at all;-)
          Hubert Cumberdale
        • A sheltered existence?

          Perhaps one day David should leave the comfort of his office chair & check out the condition & degree of corrosion & verdigris on the connections of few of those water filled asbestos pits he mentions. A bit different to what he sees in an air conditioned exchange.
          But then I could be being a little harsh as he's presently in the situation of being the only used car dealer in town flogging his wares to a gullible & desperate for transport teenager.
      • "All in all this statement is smoke and mirrors as it deliberately misses many of the issues involved in getting a high speed connection to the consumer."

        Nailed it;-)
        Hubert Cumberdale
      • DSL success?

        If you look at the graph of distance vs speed, you'll see what a joke that is.
      • Actually...

        I'm going to have to disagree, as I worked on the Telstra program to convert the paper plans into the Cable Plan Records GIS system in the 90's, the copper network is completely documented.

        New cables are polyethylene coated, old cables form the 70's used carbon paper insulation.

        You also need to consider there is 2 pieces to a copper cable, the "c side" that runs from the exchange to the pillar, which have a higher chance of being older but would be targeted for replacement with fiber, and "o side" which run from the pillar (the upside down bomb looking things) to the premises. These will often be newer than the larger trunks, or c sides.

        All cables have 2 pairs, or 4 wires, there's opportunity there.

        Also the cables were never soldered, so there is opportunity to solder joints also.

        Personally I see vDSL as a possibility using the same design, why do all fibers need to run to a full exchange when you could terminate in a cabinet or pillar and feed off fiber or copper depending on WHAT THE CONSUMER WANTS.

        That's the big issue here, the government telling people what they want or need, offer both.
        • Interesting Duncan!...

          Thanks for the first hand insight..

          I must take aim at you last comment though, which I find a little odd, because in both instances the government is/would be 'telling us'. However, there is much more consumer/retail choice with FttP.

          One is telling us all you need is FttN (initial 25Mbps then later 50Mbps)....oh... but... if you want FttP you can receive FoD.

          The current NBN is telling us you need FttP, but offer the slower FttN like plans anyway, as well as 100Mbps plans and by all accounts up to 1Gbps by the end of 2013, as well as having better upload speeds.

          The question I have asked others who say dumb things like, you want FttP pay for it, I'm happy with FttN is... why do you think it's fair for a government to supply FttN but not FttP? Or better still, supply you with FttN and not others with FttP...

          So far I have no answers.
          • Surprisedl

            On the "obsolete" network.

            The mental capacity of an ant. Good work BS, an win for the educated (no, clearly not you).

            Where's your Denate evidence now;-) ROFL
            Richard Flude
          • Obsolete yes...


            You were saying?
        • "That's the big issue here, the government telling people what they want or need, offer both."

          The big issue here is if you have fibre why do you need copper. It's not a question of connection types at all but speed. Fibre can provide the slower speeds that people "want or need" but copper cannot provide the faster speeds people "want or need". The problem with your way of thinking is it is based on an assumption that speeds faster than what FttN can provide won't be needed in the near future or at all. History and educated predictions show us they will. So what "the government" is actually doing here is the right thing by saving us time and money not "telling people what they want or need".
          Hubert Cumberdale
        • Interesting

          Duncan, may I ask in what capacity was your employment.
          Several points are so wrong.
          Very good reason why the move away from soldered joints, first wire wrap was tried, but impractical (besides the tight coil wrap and skin effect at higher frequencies would have been an issue). Then the displacement connection currently used.
          Soldered joints need to be exactly correct at the correct temp on clean copper or dry joints abound, plus dissimilar metals, moisture etc etcm More trouble than it is worth.

          The O side cables are usually greater than 20 pair, often up to 100 pair and terminate and split into smaller cables in Pits and joints en route on the O side, so many joints (Plastic Bags ring a bell ), then finally a 10 Pair servicing 4 or 5 premises. Since the 90's MDU's have multiplied , faulty pairs etc means what redundancy was present is used up, sure 2 pair to the premises from the pit, but not necessarily 2 vacant good pairs to connect to .
          In my street there actually arent enough good pairs, luckily a couple of units don't have a landline phone connected and some are on Optus HFC and cursing the crap broadband when the Kids are home and during the evenings, but no pairs so no choice.

          What the consomer wants ?
          Who the heck would insist on a particular medium such as copper, fibre, HFC. All the customer cares about is the SERVICE they want and that it be reliable at a fair price and that they get the service they pay for 24/7
          Abel Adamski
          • "Who the heck would insist on a particular medium such as copper, fibre, HFC. All the customer cares about is the SERVICE they want and that it be reliable at a fair price and that they get the service they pay for 24/7"

            Exactly. We often hear Tumball an his apologists harp on about being "technology agnostic" but I have a feeling most of them don't understand what it really means, since only one medium is actually capable of achieving it's goals reliably but they still insist FttN and it's unknowns should play a part...
            Hubert Cumberdale
  • Well...

    ... in that case ... Telstra should charge MT $94B for their copper network...

    Obviously this isn't David -
    • Original Value

      I understand the original value of the copper was in the order of $30Bill , so pushing for 30Bill for the copper PLUS exorbitant maintenance and repair contracts.
      Ideological fanatics are sheep to be shorn
      Abel Adamski
  • it requires someone of vision

    to unravel this broadband mess.
    It is clear that copper can be used for the "node to a premise" in a percentage of places, that fibre is the only option in other places and that wireless ( including satellite) is required for those remote or difficult places. The notion of fibre to every premise is unaffordable in a "big bang" roll out. The plan was simply too grand and poorly planned. The best approach is to use what we have, install what is needed over a longer timeframe, avoiding the silly need to engage multiple sub-contractors which is too difficult to manage.
    Blank Look
    • Really

      When in fact the cost of testing every pair for VDSL capability, opening and ugrading every junction, replacing faulty copper cables when only a few in a fan, still having to remediate the pits/pipes housing junctions. There aren't enough qualified trained copper techs.
      Cost of redesigning, cancelling existing equipment contracts, factories have been built to specifically make the fibre for fttp. Tender for FTTC cabinets and equipment, redesign, renegotiate. With much higher operational cost and greatly teduced income earning capacity so financially an absolute disaster.
      Not much difference in cost or time and for an inferior short term end result , Why ?

      Keep the dogs in the mangers happy and handicap innovation and the entrance of new enterprise to earn income for Australia when the benefit to Australia of mining and agriculture is being eroded and diminishing.

      Idiot week
      Abel Adamski
      • Huh?

        When did the LBN plan become Fibre to the Curb??
        • My Typo

          FTTC should have been FTTN
          Abel Adamski