NBN: How Aust compares to Singapore and NZ

NBN: How Aust compares to Singapore and NZ

Summary: Singapore and New Zealand are rolling out fibre-to-the-premises networks, but both are quite different to Australia's NBN.


Executives from Singapore and New Zealand have arrived in Sydney to detail to the Australian industry how their own national broadband networks are comparing to Australia's.

For starters, both projects are substantially cheaper, albeit for land masses much smaller in size, with lower populations. In New Zealand's instance, the rollout is a public-private partnership that is only being rolled out to 75 percent of the New Zealand population at a much lower cost to the government, according to John Greenhough, CTO of New Zealand's version of NBN Co, Crown Fibre NZ.

"New Zealand didn't have $42 billion ... so the government set some constraints around this at NZ$1.3 billion (sic)," he said.

NBN Co's original forecast for the cost of the National Broadband Network (NBN) was AU$42 billion; however, this has since been revised to AU$37.4 billion of capital investment in the network. Of this, AU$30.4 billion will be government equity, which NBN Co will eventually pay back to the government with a 7.1 percent rate of return.

The public-private partnership model with five companies also offers the government some protection from cost blow-outs, because the companies that are contracted to build the network, such as Chorus, take on some of the risk.

"If they stop building, we stop paying, and bad things happen," he said.

Greenhough said that a lack of competition has so far seen little take-up of services on New Zealand's Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) network.

"Because we've got such market concentration with the two biggest players in the market not committing to [offer] fibre products or services, take-up is not what we would want," he said.

Uptake for Chorus has reached approximately 1,000 connected premises, with 72,000 premises passed. To reduce the cost, head of Network Engineering at Chorus Martin Sharrock said that in many instances, the company would roll out fibre to the pole in a street, and then pull through empty ducts to each premises. When a person in the premises orders a service, the fibre will be pulled through.

By comparison, in the 93 percent of the country that is getting fibre to the premises, NBN Co will now roll out fibre right to the wall of the premises.

Singapore's Next Gen NBN began in 2009, and now covers 95 percent of the population of the country. The government has only spent S$750 million on the project, according to Anil Nihalani, Nucleus Connect's vice president of commercial. But Singapore only has a population of just over 5 million, according to the 2012 Census, and a land mass that's less than half the size of Sydney, at 704 square kilometres.

The wholesale provider there, NetCo, must provide a network connection to every residential and business premises, as well as what is referred to as "Non-building address points," such as traffic lights, lamp posts, bus stops, and rooftops, where services are requested.

Nihalani said that Singapore's size gives the company a distinct advantage over Australia in rolling out high-speed broadband services.

"It sounds like a lot, but it is a small city, so it is not that difficult to cover," he said. "85 percent of our buildings are high-rise residential.

"That makes it easy, because we can get coverage very quickly, but also makes it very challenging, because the high-rise element of it has restrictions in terms of space and existing networks that are there."

This is something that Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore all have in common. Handling so-called multi-dwelling units (MDUs) has been a major issue for NBN Co and for the UFB rollout.

NBN Co's CFO Ralph Steffens said last month that the company is still working out the best way to roll out fibre to existing MDUs.

"There is no right answer to this; every MDU looks different. There is not one method of connecting MDUs," he said. "Connection methodologies evolve rapidly. What we do today will evolve over time. "

Nihalani said that some of Singapore's troubles have been overcome by the fact that more premises have two connections — both a copper network and a cable network — meaning that there are existing conduits to use. NetCo also subcontracts construction to existing providers who are well versed in how to roll out into MDUs.

"There was a lot of experience in terms of processes ... the only challenge was that this was a new piece of cable," he said.

Sharrock said that Chorus learned how best to deal with MDUs by planning ahead.

"We realised the challenge of MDUs a couple of years ahead, so we did a lot of research around how MDUs are wired and connected, and actually how do you get permission to enter them," he said.

The company has a property team that works with building owners to plan ahead to rollout with an MDU, and has also started putting MDUs into different categories to make design easier.

"We're trying to cookie cutter as much as we can," he said.

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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  • Ridiculous

    I live at the suburb outside of Adelaide. It takes more than 10 years for us to get the NBN roll out. This is ridiculous!
    • More than 10 years...

      sounds extreme... but if it's canned you will, err, never get it :/
    • Someone will be last the connected

      OK ivajee tell us who should be the last group connected, if not you?
  • Apples with Apples

    Australian land mass: 7,617,930 km2
    New Zealand land mass: 268,021 km2
    Singapore land mass: 710 km2

    Cities with over 50k populations:
    Australia: 31
    New Zealand: 12
    Singapore: The whole country is basically one city

    So of course, these two countries are a great comparison to Australia when attempting to determine the infrastructure needs of our population.

    • What about the heavly populated inner city areas? ;-)

      Singapore is able to service MDUs when NBNCo is still scratching their heads becuase they're prepared to use existing infrastructure; NBNCo restricted politically to fibre.

      The comparisions are instructive; of the three (we could add UK's) the NBNCo is frighteningly expensive. Total expenditure to breakeven in 2021 is $50+b.
      Richard Flude
      • True Richard

        The UK is wearing and will continue to wear the title of the worst internet in Europe, definitely an example to follow.
        NZ. What is the minimum starter price $38NZ wholesale isn't it ? (may have improved as few takers), considering average income in NZ is lower than Aust - equivalent to close to $50 Aust, what would retail be ?. But that is OK, after all it is private sector with government subsidy so fair and reasonable eh.
        Singapore does have good internet , however it is high density high value and as stated in the article their MDU's tend to have suitable ducting already that can be used.

        So apples and oranges
        Abel Adamski
        • Ofcom reports average 9mbps

          90% of UK households to have access to 25mbps by 2015 with tiny govt subsidy.

          Orcon home 30/12 30GB (inc phone) fibre service cost NZD75 / mth.
          Richard Flude
          • Please Explain, Richard.

            Ok Richard Fud,
            Please tell me how my corroded copper 'existing infrastructure' that presently can't ever deliver ADSL2 will provide a UK equivalent broadband service?

            Or do you suggest I switch to Turnbull's solution & switch to a wireless dongle like my neighbours presently are compelled to as their existing infrastructure is limited to dial- up only.
            Perhaps your Libs might offer me a 'tiny subsidy' to cover the slight monthly service price increase from my present $39.95 for 100GB to around $5,000+ for that same 100GB quota?
          • "90% of UK households to have access to 25mbps by 2015"

            Nothing impressive. Nothing to be proud of.
            Hubert Cumberdale
          • Relativity

            " Orcon home 30/12 30GB (inc phone) fibre service cost NZD75 / mth."
            And what is NZ average income ?
            Compare with Skymesh 50/20 20 + 20 @ $54.95 increase quota 50 + 50 for $74.95

            Better product, better quota, better price and Aust has higher average income so even more affordable.
            But then different model so to be expected

            or for 100/40 50 + 50 @ $79.95 or 1Tb + 1Tb for $114.95

            Especially considering income levels Orcom is not looking too flash in comparison
            Abel Adamski
        • 3 examples - 3 friuts

          So apples and oranges and Kiwi fruit.
  • Magic word being

    Break-even... YOU SAY!

    Unlike say hospitals/health @ $57B "every year"... gone! So in the same period as the NBN will (YOUR WORDS) break-even, health will have cost around $500B.

    So are you (or I) whinging about Health...? No.

    I'm not because I understand that government's are here to provide for it's citizens in many areas including health and communications. You aren't because health isn't a political football like the NBN.

    Anyway... great a superior network which will (YOUR WORDS) break-even in less than ten years... so what's the problem?

      Ideological Fanaticism
      Abel Adamski
    • Presumably this latest strawman is response to my post

      Breakeven is from the NBNCo business plan. I suspect from your post you don't know what it means; revenue = expenditure. They forecast a debt at this time of $40+b (part they believe the provate sector will fund; although they add a disclaimer).

      Your post assumes:

      1) public expenditure on health isn't controversial, and
      2) public utility is the same for any govt expenditure.

      Both are laughable positions.

      I'm posting about the NBN in response to a ZDNet article about the NBN.

      Here we are presented with a number of higher speed internet alternatives; one costs an order of magnitude more than the others, is over a year behind schedule (despite only going for 3 yrs), unable to solve issues solved by other before them, requiring a commitment of public funds rejected by others and without any form of CBA to justify the expenditure.

      I can see why the strawman is popular; public utility for batts spending is also questioned by many.
      Richard Flude
      • Come in spinner

        Break-even :)

        But, but, but...

        So it's 'controversially' $500B down the gurgler health v.s. break-even (YOUR WORD FROM ABOVE, NO ONE ELSE'S) by 2021 NBN... ($40B debt you say? What less than one years health bill...LOL).

        I suspect from your post you are unable to stomach the FACTS and look past your immovable ideology to accept it...!
        • Ooh BTW -

          You forgot to mention Richard, that NBNCo had (as @ 24 Nov 2010) anticipate the NBN to have repaid the governments entire investment (even if no shares in the NBN were sold)... by 2034.
      • Reading and Comprehension.

        I expected better of you in those skillsets Richard.

        But then ideological fanaticism does tend to blind one
        Abel Adamski
      • Stop lying, Richie

        "one costs an order of magnitude more than the others"
        There is no evidence of this. The weight of industry opinion leads toward the opposite conclusion when you factor in the fact that everything will be fibre eventually anyway.

        "is over a year behind schedule"
        No, it is 6 months behind schedule, when comparing with a schedule that was made based on several assumptions and guesses and not much else. The plan is now in place, the contracts are at least partially signed, and despite a 9 month delay they are only 6 months behind schedule. Do you think that 6 months is more than a year?

        "unable to solve issues solved by other before them"
        Really? I assume you mean the MDU issues - I didn't realise somebody else had already rolled out broadband to the entirety of Australia with a guaranteed minimum speed of 12/1 for all and a top speed of 1 gbps for 93%. Who did that? I would have thought I'd have heard of that, I guess I've been living under a rock.

        "CBA to justify the expenditure"
        CBAs do not justify anything. They are vague predictions based on ifs and buts.
        In other news, how do you do a CBA on that which has no C?
        • Not surprising

          Public expenditure for the project mentioned in the article. There are others, none I know of come within an order of magnitude if the NBNCo.

          According to analysis of the latest NBNCo annual report:
          "NBN Co confirms in the report that the rollout of the network is a year behind schedule, with just 24,000 homes and businesses connected at the end of September - about 10 per cent of the original target."

          MDU, greenfields, billing, etc. All challenges to NBNCo; none unique, all down before.

          We've a forecast for C, what's missing is the B. The imporatance of even vague predictions is putting them on the table for analysis; without them clowns can say any level of expenditure or delay is justifiable; ironically dismissing others as ideological;-)
          Richard Flude