Telstra's copper must be in NBN deal: Libs

Telstra's copper must be in NBN deal: Libs

Summary: The Coalition is keen for the government buy-back of Telstra's copper network as part of the National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co)'s deal with the telco worth $11 billion — just in case the party needs it for its own broadband policy.


The Coalition is keen for the government buy-back of Telstra's copper network as part of the National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co)'s deal with the telco worth $11 billion — just in case the party needs it for its own broadband policy.

At yesterday's Joint Standing Committee on the NBN, Coalition members including Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull quizzed both NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley and Telstra executives on the value of Telstra's existing copper network, questioning why NBN Co is not seeking to claim ownership of the existing copper network as part of the deal to lease the pits and ducts from Telstra and move customers over to the NBN.

Turnbull has previously indicated that, should the Coalition win government, the NBN would likely be rolled back from a fibre-to-the-home project to a fibre-to-the-node project. For NBN Co to continue to exist as a wholesale provider, it would require access to Telstra's copper network from the node to the premise.

Quigley told the committee yesterday that, as the government had not directed him to investigate the possibility of keeping the copper network as part of the negotiations we Telstra, he could not say whether it was possible.

In a blog post this morning, Turnbull said that should a future government wish to go down this path, taxpayers would have to pay more money to Telstra on top of the $11 billion deal.

"It is quite incredible, mind boggling really, that a government would pay a private company $9 billion to decommission a network asset but not reserve for itself, as part of the deal, the right to use as much of that network as it chose," he said.

"But that's the real world — and unless there is a change of direction on the part of the government, the Telstra/NBN deal will not simply deliver Telstra a $9 billion windfall but in addition set Telstra up to receive more billions when inevitably a future government, Liberal or Labor, seeks to redesign the network topography in a way that reduces the crippling capital cost of the fibre-to-the-home design without compromising the promise of universal very fast broadband."

Turnbull cited a technology white paper by Quigley's former employer Alcatel-Lucent that said high speeds could be delivered over a fibre-to-the-node approach, but it would cost up to 50 per cent less than a fibre-to-the-home network. Turnbull said that it is now up to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to ensure that the copper network is included in the Telstra deal.

"Is he going to give NBN Co a direction to act in a commercially rational way and reserve the right to use some or all of the copper network it is paying Telstra to junk? Or is it going to continue to set Telstra up for another big pay day when, inevitably, a more rational, cost effective approach to network design is undertaken?"

Telstra's director of government relations James Shaw told the NBN inquiry yesterday that he couldn't put an exact figure on the value of Telstra's copper network, except to say that it would be worth billions of dollars.

"It depends on how much the copper you want. There is an element of 'how long is a piece of string' in that question," he told Turnbull. "I'd like to seek some advice before anyone draws a conclusion."

Topics: NBN, Broadband, 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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  • Of course NBN Co would consider the best options, both interim and long term. I am advised the copper network is close to end of life and that may preclude any use of that physical carrier.
    Blank Look
  • Also the Fibre To The Node is completely not upgradeable as far as I understand. It may be cheaper initially but ultimately in 10 years time it would all need to be ripped up and fibre laid to the premesis due to the different topology of the types of network.
    • Incorrect Fibre to the Node can be upgraded to FTTH, and many Telco's overseas have gone for the more cost effective and quicker build FTTN route with that in mind.
      There are many 100's of thousands of BB customers in the world using FTTN today and have been for years.

      Australia is the only country in the world that is going to rip up ALL of its fixed line infrastructure both copper and hybrid cable (paying the corporate owners billions of taxpayer funds to do so) and replace it with a national taxpayer funded FTTH infrastructure.
      But then this Labor Government is not known for its record on responsible management of taxpayer funds, and that record will help lose them the next election.
      • "Australia is the only country in the world that is going to rip up ALL of its fixed line infrastructure both copper and hybrid cable"

        That's just terrible. WONT SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE COPPER?!?!?
        Hubert Cumberdale
  • There is no such word as 'premise' in this context. What Josh means is "copper network from the node to the premises".
  • So the opposition (previous government) who sold Telstra (the copper network) and used the money to say "look at us", look what great fiscal managers we are, now want the "wasteful" buy it back...just so that when the opposition win government, they can again say... look at us...?

    Gee, with all the positivity and help the opposition has given this government, why not [sic]...LOL...!

    So where are all the fiscally anal, far right, dries now?

    The same anti-NBN FUDsters who keep telling us Governments shouldn't be involved, because private enterprise will do it! Bring on the election and the Coalition save us, by letting private enterprise thrive...!

    Here is but one of the sticking points re: FTTN!!!! But I can think of two greedy men (and their more precious than life itself TLS shares) who would love this idea...!

    from the WTF files ... I love Turnbull's last sentence, in conclusion to the cost he basically says, ****ed if I know? LOL! There's a CBA for ya...!
    • yeah we all know who to blame for this mess yet the Liberal party dont want to take responsibility for any of it. Also it's funny (actually it's quite sad) to see Turnbull continue with the same "very high speeds are able to be delivered over copper" rhetoric, he never defines high speeds, refuses to addresses upload speeds and then calls others incompetent lol (Conroy is but those in glass houses...)
      Hubert Cumberdale
  • He we go again another FIZZ on his political soap box it's 26 months to next election give us a break.
    • Nice GBE, one of your more intelligent replies... you're now up to 2/100.
      • You don't have to be very intelligent to post here if your anything to go by FIZZ.
        • 1/100...

          For that intelligent Fizz comment... how old are you, 12?
          • rizz rhymes with fizz and fizz reminds me of wizz fizz :-) I loved that stuff when I was a kid so my estimate would be 8.
            Hubert Cumberdale
          • Heck, I gave you a +1 just for reminding me about fizz wizz :o)
    What a joke...
    Yeah wheres the CBA on that one,?
    Copper is only worth Scrap metal..
    Paul Grenfell
    • Strangely enough when the government rips the old copper out of the ground there would be of millions dollars worth of recyclable/resell-able copper.

      Copper theft is a huge problem and telstra infrastructure is extremely vulnerable also.,man-charged-with-stealing-110k-of-telstra-copper.aspx

      What criminal could possibly have a need to steal fibre?
      • Nice idea. Get the money for the copper, and remove the temptation for the Coalition of the incompetent to use it in the future.
    • "Copper is only worth Scrap metal.."

      You forgetting what it's worth politically, which to the Libs, it's priceless in that context.
  • In light of all of this... What about the accommodation within the pits and conduits? Have Telstra, in this arrangement, agreed to vacate the conduits to allow for the optical fibre? (either party plan??)

    I'm no expert, but I'm sure it's no trivial issue and there would be a lot of manual labour involved around this great land of ours. ;-)
  • Telstra will receive payment as Telstra customers are transferred to the NBN. There will be no bulk payment of billions. Also the gigantic task of the NBN roll-out (five thousand premises a day for seven years) is being realised and the fun has only started. Sure the NBN would be good, and it was easy for Kevin Rudd to dream it up for his election campaign but reality and truth will out and the Australian voter will respond accordingly.
  • Ah Malcolm,

    You can't have your cake and eat it too. Inheriting the NBN means a big headache, and the wish to push it in a new direction of FTTN with NBN at the helm will be too much of a task, even for the poor Liberals.

    The past again will come back to haunt you, from the Howards days. And whether you like it or not, love 'em or hate 'em, the only ones with the assets, cash flow and ability to do your dream and the right thing, is that Juggernaut - Telstra.

    I suspect you will run it for a few years once you get in, learn the hard lesson, and do the deal with the devil (well, in this case more the saviour). The endless drain of onwing the access network, is not the envy of many, including the others (Optus etc). They all slag off at the owners of it, but never want to own it themselves.

    They aren't even that stupid...