Fibre to the node NBN offers 'optionality': Turnbull

Fibre to the node NBN offers 'optionality': Turnbull

Summary: Ahead of the release of NBN Co's strategic review, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that fibre to the node offers flexibility and optionality on future upgrades for broadband.


Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that using fibre to the node technology in the National Broadband Network (NBN) will offer flexibility and optionality for future upgrades of broadband.

Ahead of NBN Co handing its strategic review to the government in early December, Turnbull today addressed a two-day Communications Day conference looking at how the NBN will now change under the Coalition entitled NBN Rebooted. Turnbull told the conference this morning that from the time the NBN was first conceived, there had been rapid advances in fibre-to-the-node technology and data volumes were not growing at the rate they were in 2008.

"Today we see that the most recent [Cisco] VNI, which was released in June 2013, forecasts a growth rate for total consumer use of data over the five years from 2012 to 2017 of just 23 per cent. Rather than data volumes doubling every two years, now they are doubling every four years," he said.

"And even more importantly, large growths in the volume of data being carried across the internet and indeed being consumed by households are driven overwhelmingly by video consumption and it is self evident that data consumption can continue to grow without a correlated growth in line speeds."

He said that the projected broadband consumption "falls short of the very high predicted line speed requirements", and that encouraged a rethink on whether the full fibre to the premises NBN rollout is required.

"Plainly, if costly and irreversible investment decisions can be deferred until demand either materialises or can reasonably be foreseen, savings arising from the time value of money are not the only economic value generated, " he said. "There is also very real value in keeping the option open of doing something different than what might seem at a certain point in time to be the obvious answer — of responding to changing technology and changing market conditions."

Since the inception of the NBN, Turnbull said there was an "explosion" in new techniques for getting faster broadband speeds out of the copper networks through fibre to the cabinet, VDSL2, and vectoring, and the implementation of small cell wireless networks shows the need to be flexible in how broadband is delivered, he said.

"So next time you read or hear someone claim that FTTN is a 'waste' because the network will just have to be upgraded to FTTP some time later pause for a moment and consider optionality," he said. "Consider its value, and consider the vast changes we’ve seen in so many areas since 2009."

While not wanting to preempt the findings of the strategic review, Turnbull said that NBN Co will be using data obtained by the Department of Communications to determine where the NBN will be rolled out to first after the changes have been made.

"As a priority my department, with the assistance of NBN Co and private carriers, will provide the government and Parliament with a ranking of broadband quality and availability in all areas of Australia. This ranking will be published for comment and review and guide future prioritisation of the rollout."

Some documents are more secret than others

The Australian reported on Saturday that the then-Labor government was warned in 2010 by investment bank Lazard that the NBN would ultimately end up costing taxpayers AU$31 billion, Labor's former finance minister Penny Wong denied this saying that there was other advice given to the government that proved that the NBN would make a 7.1 percent return on investment.

Turnbull today called on new Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to release the Cabinet document, which Turnbull said Shorten has the power to do.

"Mr Shorten should agree that all advice given to the previous government relating to the establishment of the NBN be released. That way, the Australian people will be able to judge for themselves whether this extraordinary project, undertaken without any cost benefit analysis, was grounded in economics or politics," he said.

While Turnbull has called for Labor to be more transparent, he appeared to be in support of a Department of Communications decision to block the release of the Blue Book of departmental advice he received upon becoming the minister for communications. 

"I'm not the decision maker. That is taken by an official in the department," Turnbull said, but repeated the words of his department that the documents give the department the ability to provide full and frank advice to the incoming minister.

Topic: NBN


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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  • Oh dear, poor Turnbull feeling a bit insecure about his poorly thought out plan in denial about the inevitability of FttP now desperately trying to convince us that FttN is not a waste. Yes, let us consider the word of the day "optionality" to distract everyone from the impeding disaster. Seems to me there are more options with fibre and copper has more limitations. But please continue the FttN rollout if you must Turnbull... oh wait how many nodes have been installed now? 1138 days to go!
    Hubert Cumberdale
  • Once again...

    How can you deliver good-quality FTTN NBN over a century-old copper network, now suffering from severe degradation and the guys at the Big T don't even have long-term plans to replace them altogether (or even upgrade most of them at the least)?
    Mark Michael Salin
  • A compromise

    As a compromise, I suggest we overload the FTTN definition as "fiber to the number" and go with it. My unit is one of several, I would be OK if there is one fiber pair to our whole lot, nicely split into GigE copper pairs - one to each unit. No issues. Homes may be another issue, but generally it would be wise to more clearly define the "copper" term as well, before it is assumed it's POTS or VDSL or some other laughable technology.
    As long as "copper" means "Ethernet service over Shielded Twister Pair CAT6+" I am all for this.
  • Kill the NBN now

    This big spending Labor project was a disaster before it even began (like everything else Labor touched). It's already over-budget, behind schedule and take up rates are embarrassingly low. No wonder Labor refused to do a cost benefit analysis. It will be obsolete by the time it's finished. The Coalition should kill this off now before it bankrupts the country. There are better cost-effective options like VDSL2+ and emerging wireless technologies.
    • Supporting evidence please

      On evidence it is not over budget, yes it has been delayed to a large degree by Telstra sabotage and Take up rate has been excellent with some exceptions and improving over time.


      Oz Bubble, Mon, 2013-12-02 12:12

      There is another story here which is not being reported and that is how difficult it is to get on the NBN.

      Darwin has had the NBN in the city for months now and it is impossible to get connected to it because Telstra obfuscates the process. The staff claim ignorance and say they can't find a port/connection/ their own butt cheeks. Yes, it has been frustrating but when you consider that it is not in Telstra's best financial interests to have the public on the NBN, it is no real surprise.

      Asking a vested interest to put its customers on something they don't own is always going to be fraught with danger - for the customer.

      This is the real reason for the slow uptake of NBN by the public. You can't get connected, even if you want too and its available.
      Abel Adamski
  • LOL

    Out of the 5 or 6 points you make exactly NONE are true.

    I haven't seen your name before on these posts so I assume it is your first post.

    Unfortunately the arguments you make are the same ones we get on here all the time in almost the exact same words. You just regurgitate the Turnbull FUD and lies.

    Look, do you mind actually doing your homework before commenting again? Let the grown ups speak. Do some actual fact finding before you play in this pit.
  • Why is government invovled at all ....

    We are all still missing the point - why is the government involved in rolling out infrastructure to areas that are perfectly viable for the private sector ????. It is not a cost benefit analysis that needs to be done - this modelling is relatively easy and does not show huge GDP increases or any difference between FttH or VDSL - as long as it is broadband. The study that should be done is to measure the impact of direct government involvement in a competitive sector.

    Look at the problem as overseas government have done - determine areas where it is uneconomical and then determine impact of direct government involvement.
    • I understand

      Rossy you either have a hatred of those living in less profitable and rural areas and wish to see them denied opportunity as long as you and your ilk benefit, as the government has a responsibility to provide adequate infrastructure to all Australians (what we pay the B's for)

      Or you are obsessed with the taxpayer effectively subsidising your beloved private sector building their little mini monopoloies, which being monopolies will never really be upgraded due to cost of doing so.

      You do seem to spend a lot of time and effort flaunting your personal psychological problems
      Abel Adamski