Australia's FTTN network: Conroy fires starter's gun

Australia's FTTN network: Conroy fires starter's gun

Summary: The competition to build the national fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) broadband network has started today, with Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy officially calling for telcos wanting to build the network to come forward.

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The competition to build the national fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) broadband network has started today, with Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy officially calling for telcos wanting to build the network to come forward.

The Minister has now released the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the network's rollout and operation, setting out all the information that will be required from tenderers. Up to AU$4.7 billion in government funding will be made available for the successful telco. "This is a major step towards delivering on the government's election commitment to enable world-class, high-speed broadband for all Australians," Conroy said in a statement.

The government's RFP states the winning telco must deliver minimum download speeds of 12Mbps to 98 percent of the population; have the network rolled out and operating within the next five years using fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) or fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP); support high quality voice, data and video services; ensure the government's return on investment; facilitate competition via open access arrangements and provide uniform and affordable retail prices to consumers regardless of where they live.

The closing date for submitting a proposal is 25 July. The proposals will be assessed throughout August and September, with a proponents selected by a panel of experts — chosen by the Minister last month. Negotiations will start between the government and the possible suppliers after that.

A decision is to be made by the end of October.

"The new network will change the way Australians communicate and do business, and demonstrates the priority this government is giving to building Australia's future," Conroy said.

Tenderers are expected to maintain the network until at least 2020 and "preferably beyond", according to tender documents, and will be asked to detail how the system will be upgraded to cope with greater bandwidth demands from consumers over time.

Telcos will also be required to do a little crystal ball gazing and explain to the government what bandwidth-hungry services and applications are likely to be adopted by consumers and businesses in the future. While the tender documents make no reference to mandatory uplink speeds, the government specifies that the FTTN network should permit symmetric applications. Tenderers are also asked to predict how bandwidth demands across the network will change over the short, medium and long term, and the proportion of users who will require symmetrical broadband services.

The documents also hint that the government is already looking beyond FTTN and towards fibre-to-the-home — technology already being delivered to some new build sites in Australia and more widely in high-tech countries including South Korea and Japan.

Tenderers must explain to the government how they will deal with "issues related to network redesign that will arise should there be a decision to upgrade the network to operate at higher access speeds, (eg replacement of existing nodes with smaller units located closer to customers, optical fibre cables that may require extension or augmenting, or a move to FTTP)," the document states.

However, it looks likely that Labor's dreams of FTTP are already limited to specific areas, with tenderers asked to detail "the extent to which the Proponent could use FTTP in rolling-out to greenfields sites".

Topics: Broadband, Big Data, Government AU, Unified Comms, NBN

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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Talkback

13 comments
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  • New Beginnings

    The question should be "what is in the Country's Best interests". This is what should drive Government decisions. If the Rudd Government is serious about the benefits of Broadband to the economy and the future prosperity of the country then they need to reel in the ACCC. The ACCC idea to create a false competition by allowing lesser companies to use Telstra equipment for little cost only creates a situation that will defeat it's own purpose in future years
    anonymous
  • FAT Chance

    I for one will not be presenting a proposal.
    I would not like the feeling of winning it then having it pulled for under me just as the cheque was due to be written.
    Remember this was an election promise and it is expected to be broken! Its not written into L A W like previous election promises!
    anonymous
  • You've missed the boat!

    Yes unfortunately you've missed the boat! Because even you had a chance of actually winning with the previous desperate government at the helm, if their ridiculous pre-election OPEL stunt, is anything to go by. Now you've actually got to do something to win, so OPEL, G9 and you all miss out. Never mind.
    anonymous
  • Please elaborate?

    Care to elaborate on what needs to be done in the National Broadband Tender process that wasn't a requirement for Broadband Connect? Oh that's right there is no difference.. only now it's even more tax payer dollars at stake and many Australians are going to have to wait over 5 years instead of having affordable broadband next year. And it'll be the lucky ones who wait as many more will probably get nothing now.
    anonymous
  • Fair go at last.

    The Conroy exposure of the Howard/Coonan devious Opel gift should awake Australians to the trick the Telstra opponents have been pulling for years. One billion dollars to a company half owned by the Singapore Government and the other half owned by a company with close ties to the National Party. Shame Mr Howard. One billion dollars as a free donation to political friends, how charming. At least the Australian taxpayer will now own 50% of an Australian company that will return dividends to them. Good work Senator.
    anonymous
  • easy

    You actually need a plan. One like OPEL never had. If you still can't see or at least recognise the OPEL misadventure was purely a political stunt, I pity you!
    anonymous
  • James Bell

    As I expected..
    Unless you're privy to something we're not then there's absolutely nothing to substantiate your claims. Cancelling Opel was the political stunt.
    anonymous
  • 2 stunts then

    Ok, so that's 2 political stunts and we are all even in regards OPEL. Now it's time to hand it over to somone who can actually get it done. Say hello to Telstra.
    anonymous
  • Fair? You wouldn't know the meaning...

    "One billion dollars as a free donation to political friends, how charming."

    Yeah, the Government of Singapore break their backs for Australia on a daily basis, don't they.

    "At least the Australian taxpayer will now own 50% of an Australian company that will return dividends to them."

    Return dividends to who? Apart from a stake held by the Future Fund - created by the man you repeatedly scorn for this and that - Telstra is privately owned and the taxpayer gets nothing.

    If you are not a Telstra shareholder you will not benefit one iota from a Telstra-dominated participation in any FTTN/H rollout. Pop out of this trance you are in Sydney. Check your bills for the last few years. All your mate Sol has done is escalate prices to a point that Mr Average with a wife and three kids to feed cannot afford and sack the people responsible for trouble-free delivery of the services you are paying through the nose for.
    anonymous
  • We all win.

    Lord Watchdog if as seems likely FTTN is owned 50/50 by Telstra and the Australian people our Government will be demanding a good return on their investment of 4.7 billion as will Telstra. Australians will be gaining a valuable asset. With the Opel deal they got nothing.
    anonymous
  • Bitter and tewisted

    Once again we have a tale of two cities, or in this case a tale of two sides.

    1. Lord Watchdog who is still scathing over a decision by Telstra to dump him and his services costing him financially and who now runs a service that benefits financially by taking away business from Telstra.

    2. Sydney Lawrence, a person who has his own motives for supporting Telstra. Other then being a shareholder these motives appear not to be financial but bused on a love of a company (rightly or wrongly is not for me to judge)

    At the end of the day it is simple. The government funds between $500M and $1B each year to rural communications, over 20 years this will be around $15B in todays dollars.

    What they are offering is to reduce the subsidy to probably around $50M for the 2% (400,000 people = 100,000 premises at most = 80,000 services = $625 per user per year) of Australians still without high speed services after FTTN is rolled out.

    Regardless of if this is half owned by the taxpayers or not and regardless of if it won by Telstra or not the simple fact is this will improve service across Australia, someone will make money and taxpayers will benefit by not funding around $10B over 20 years in addition to the taxes from those profits (assuming an Australian company wins) and taxes from businesses who make more money due to improved services / productivity.

    I one thing I am pretty sure of is that two bit operators who run IRC's or moral activists will still have differing opinions.
    anonymous
  • You are wrong but that is an understatement

    "Lord Watchdog who is still scathing over a decision by Telstra to dump him and his services costing him financially and who now runs a service that benefits financially by taking away business from Telstra."

    Who gave you that idea? I don't compete with Telstra by providing any service. Please enlighten me as to what services you believe I provide that would harm Telstra's business?

    You hit the spot with Sydney Lawrence though. it is called vested interest or maybe even a conflict of interest. You could almost call Mr Lawrences love of Telstra and his literary reflections of that love cash for comment.
    anonymous
  • What a load of ****

    I challenge anyone reading this to research Lord Watchdog and you will find a huge number of contradictions made by him, he spends so much time on these discussion boards posting inconsistent information he seems to lose track of what lies he has told.

    "Cash for comments" this is where a payment is made for specific comments, If Sydney is guilty due to the fact he his like many of us shareholders then the Lord is also guilty of this due to his financial interests in companies that compete against Telstra.
    anonymous