Union wants Telstra copper truth

Union wants Telstra copper truth

Summary: The Australian Communications Workers Union has called on Telstra to reveal the exact state of its copper access network.

TOPICS: NBN, Telstra

Following comments from Telstra CEO David Thodey that the company's copper network could last for another 100 years, the Communications Workers Union (CWU) has called on Telstra for full disclosure on the state of its legacy copper network.

CWU communications division president Len Cooper said that Thodey's comments directly contradicted comments made by Telstra executive Tony Warren in 2003, describing the network as being "five minutes to midnight", with ADSL being viewed as interim technology until an alternative technology came along.

"I find these comments from Telstra's CEO quite extraordinary," Cooper said.

Cooper said he questioned what had changed in Telstra's copper network in the last decade for Thodey to believe it would be good for another century.

His comments come as last week, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said Thodey was talking up the copper network ahead of the negotiations that he may face with a future Coalition government after the September election.

Under the Coalition's alternative broadband policy, the National Broadband Network (NBN) would be scaled back to a fibre-to-the-node (FttN) network in many areas, utilising the existing copper line between the node and each premises.

The union has used Thodey's comments to call back to Telstra's use of plastic bags to protect copper lines from water, and show other examples of the alleged dire state of Telstra's infrastructure.

Warren's comments are frequently quoted by NBN advocates as proof that Telstra's copper network would not be up to the standard required for faster broadband. However, the full context of the quote reveals that at that time, Telstra was not completely sold on the idea of a Telstra-funded national fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) network, either.

"I think it is fair to say that everyone is thinking, 'What's the next network?' and a lot of parties are trying to put down bets. Telstra is obviously asking: 'Which bet do we put down? Is it wireless? Is it satellite? Is it fibre to the home? Is it whatever?'," he said at the time.

"For us, it is rather like:'What is the technology that can be economically spread out as far as possible?' That is a big question for us. The second question is: 'How do we make sure we can recoup our investment and not have it effectively confiscated by access seekers?'"

Topics: NBN, 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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  • Copper network still going, and going

    Warren's comments were wrong, it's used today more than ever. Wasteful to prematurely retire such infrastructure (including HFC; even worst pay to not use it).

    FTTN can extend its life still further as it has successfully in a number of countries; faster to deploy and cheaper, avoiding many of the last mile challenges.

    June's rollout update (as all those before it) will highlight the failure of NBNCo and the billions of taxpayers money wasted; never to see the imaginary 7.1%.
    Richard Flude
    • Really

      "Warren's comments were wrong"? Actual evidence please?
      • Ah, the network is still going 10 years after the evidence

        Even if you take his evidence out of context the copper network is used more today than ever. Haven't we been over this territory?

        Good for another 100 years says the CEO, foreign experience similar. I can't think of a single country that HAD to retire its copper network.

        Competitive IP infrastructure, if only we'd let the private sector take up the risk where commercially viable (a dream come true:-).
        Richard Flude
        • No...

          Evidence please... not your feel good opinion.

          Evidence like this... and this must be right (pun intended) because it's from your precious Australian...


          Here is you wonder network in all it's glory...!

          *rolls eyes*
          • Plastic bags are one thing but let's not forget the rising maintenance costs RS;-)

            It's real easy to say your obsolete copper network will last another 100 years when you've got billions of taxpayers dollars to throw at the problem, yep, just keep patching up the patchwork, forget the more sensible and efficient option;-)
            Hubert Cumberdale
          • Just to be sure

            1) The sensible option is the NBNCo's failing corp plan right?

            2) Your claiming fixes to the copper network ($1b/yr) is more expensive than totally replacing it with optical fibre plus $11b of taxpayers dollars used to retire the copper network?
            Richard Flude
          • More logical fallacies from Fluddy. I guess we shouldn't be surprised it was bound to happen again sooner or later;-)
            Hubert Cumberdale
          • It is not my opinion the copper network is still being used

            I'm not sure what evidence you require; perhaps reach for the millions of landline phones or use an ADSL or EoC connection (which your probably are now).

            I appreciate the hypocrisy of linking to The Australian (like HC's Argentina post a few weeks back); I welcome their article's valible contribution. Its strange given your allegations of bias you'd link to them;-)

            Those with actual real-world experience will tell you plastic bags are actually very effective interim protection against water damage (not just copper pairs, really anything ELV).

            The Union laments the fewer technicians; with renewed life with FTTN such temporary repairs will no longer be warranted. Why unnecessarily repair a network to be replaced by NBNCo or even spend on competitive infrastructure? (we've come full circle; simply a recognition of how the real world economy operates, not ideology).
            Richard Flude
          • If only...

            No I linked to the Australian so you couldn't deny, but alas... even the Australian aren't immuned to the RF confirmation bias filter.

            Love you ridiculous comment too - "Competitive IP infrastructure, if only we'd let the private sector take up the risk where commercially viable"

            Yes we tried that remember, Telstra and the others didn't step up that's why we are here now (you even admitted it)... it was one of your escape clause market failures.

            Also anyone who believes companies selling rebadged Telstra or putting a DSLAM or two into Telstra exchanges and accessing Telstra's network as being infrastructure competition, is dreaming...
          • well, the concept of the NBN Co network is to

            create retail competition. Not sure why you are wanting to discuss infrastructure competition.
            Installing DSL equipment into Telstra exchanges has created competition at the retail level.
            Lesson 101 in "competition in broadband services in Australia for Dummy's" complete.
            Knowledge Expert
          • Err...

            "Not sure why you are wanting to discuss infrastructure competition."

            DER... because I was responding to Richard's dumb comment, but thanks for an even dumber one...

            So, we were talking about network competition... but thanks for admitting network competition is/was a joke and all that matters is retail competition, glad you are finally waking up...
          • a mature response would be

            to admit you made a mistake and the debate can move on.....
            Knowledge Expert
          • Yes...

            Well do so...
          • Oh dear...

            I'm giving you waaaaay too much credit...

            After all, you were the one who said, I stand by my record clown and will never personally insult anyone you tool.

            Yes thanks for coming hypocrite... back to the dunces corner, where you belong.
          • but dear pink bats boy

            noone cares about your comments, scribbles, attempts at humour . You are universally recognised as Bozzo the clown.
            Knowledge Expert
          • Good night Richard...

            Perhaps you need a fourth alias to keep up...

            Thanks for unwittingly volunteering to be my LM again.
          • Are you a troll or do you actually believe this crap....

            Yes the copper network is still being used and its being used more than ever. Were you expecting it to become less as the population grew? Its like saying that more people are older cars then ever, just because the work and people are using them doesn't mean that they are any good. There has to come a time when you throw it on the scrap heap and get a new car.
            FTTP is like going out and getting a brand new Ferrari, FTTN is like strapping a turbo to a Datsun 120Y. In theory it will make it faster but in practice there really is no point.

            Do you have any experience working in the telecommunication industry?
            Having worked at an ISP and dealing with telstra tech that are out doing the patch work I have seen first hand how bad the copper network is. Plastic bags and plastic drink containers are commonly used to stop cables getting wet or bare wire touching each other. It was common to check cable stats and find that there were 5+ different gages of cable and a heap of joins and bridge taps. This was mostly in the last couple hundred meters, the part they want to use for FTTN. They are going to use the worst part of an already failing system, Its not going to end well for the end user, us!
          • not sure who you are

            taking a shot at, however based upon your comments, no ADSL service can be working effectively. Everyone knows parts of the copper network has been poorly maintained, other parts must be OK as all those ISP's in the market cannot be making any money, or would bother to install DSL equipment in Telstra exchanges.
            To make any judgement on the quality of service, we need to see statistics that show failure rates against installed base.
            And please stop all this nonsense about cars, roads, whatever, that doesn't add any value to the debate.
            Knowledge Expert
          • NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

            Axle what are you doing?

            Have you not read any of my posts?

            You have made a serious mistake by using logic and common sense and sealed your fate by using comparing it with something else.

            Now you be bleated down by Richard and his sheep and be confused to death by "logic" so steeped in ideology that it runs around in circles and openly contradicts itself but insists it's correct.

            In all fairness and for whatever reason. I think the main factors behind Richards staunch opposition is the fact that his company didnt get a contract (if in fact he does have one), he is against anything government and he believes that ip infrastructure competition works. For some reason
          • You know Darren...

            Richard became quite incensed when I suggested his company (who he said rolls out fibre) didn't get an NBN contract... Now I'm just surmising here, but perhaps they didn't actually even try for an NBN contract (bit small time...and that isn't meant derogatorily).

            But the fact is, while ever NBNCo are rolling out fibre, his mob won't get a look in, hence the 24/7 bagging and derision.

            So, if that's the case, funny thing is... he says the market will provide, but telcos and fibre companies such as his company, didn't provide fibre (market failure), which is why NBNCo were needed.

            How ironically hypocritical... having not followed through on his own ideology by supplying fibre, he now whinges that NBNCo are rolling out fibre and doing them out of the job, they didn't do anyway...