Turnbull would have given NBN contracts to Telstra

Turnbull would have given NBN contracts to Telstra

Summary: Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that incumbent fixed network operator Telstra could be in line for NBN contracts under a Coalition government.


A Coalition government could potentially see Telstra given a greater role in building the National Broadband Network (NBN), according to Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who said that he would have given the company some of the construction work from the very start.

At Telstra's annual results earlier this month, CEO David Thodey told journalists that the company is "working closely with NBN Co" in terms of the rollout, and had been brought in to do some work in Western Australia, as well as some design work more broadly, but said that Telstra's role is essentially ad hoc.

"We pick up the slack where necessary," he said.

He would not confirm whether the company has been meeting with Turnbull to discuss plans to construct the Coalition's fibre-to-the-node (FttN) network alternative should the party win the election on September 7, but said that Telstra "talks to any politicians who need to talk to us".

In a Fairfax-hosted Google Hangout today, Turnbull said that it is "bizarre" that Telstra, with all of its experience in building networks, has so far been excluded from work on the NBN "largely for political reasons". He said that in line with how network construction is being handled in countries such as New Zealand, the incumbent operator would have a role to play in the construction of the network under a future Coalition government.

"Would it be good for Telstra to be more involved in this project? Yes, I think it would be, but subject to a whole lot of other matters as well," he said.

"I think the fact that they were completely excluded from the construction was very odd. If I'd been in [former Communications Minister Stephen] Conroy's shoes, I would have given at least part of this project for Telstra to build. Not all of it, because you'd want other people in there to keep everyone honest, and to provide a bit of tension and competition."

Turnbull also reiterated that while the Coalition has guaranteed a minimum 25Mbps download speed on the Coalition's NBN by 2016, it would ultimately be the decision of retailers to set upload speeds on the plans. He indicated that the ratio of download to upload speeds on services on FttN is generally four to one.

Coalition government to aggressively promote cloud

Turnbull reiterated his statement to ZDNet in February that the Coalition would adopt a "cloud-first" approach in government. Unlike the current Labor government's approach to the cloud that has taken the more conservative approach of asking agencies to consider cloud adoption, the Coalition would push for government departments to use cloud services.

"We've got to aggressively promote a cloud-first strategy," he said.

Turnbull also said that he would look to move more government services online, and said that the Coalition would bring in a digital mailbox, similar to that already in the market by the government-owned Australia Post. This would be a hub for all government communications, and states and local governments would be encouraged to use it.

"We've got to aim so that as rapidly as possible, government's interaction with citizens, wherever it can be achieved, can be electronic interactions. We will provide a free electronic mailbox/pigeon hole. My goal is to make the channel for all government communications," he said.

The Coalition would also seek to promote a "culture of innovation" within the government to take on small projects aimed at improving the way the government interacts with the public through releasing more government data for apps to be built on, such as the New South Wales transport apps.

"The emphasis has to be on creativity and imagination. The focus has to be on making sure people are not punished when things don't work," he said.

"You've got to encourage an attitude where you can encourage smaller experiments."

Topics: NBN, Government, Government AU


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.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Ah, as predicted more govt

    The move to promote a "culture of innovation" within govt is a receipe for massive white elephants. They've demonstrated over a longtime their incompetency; like AA's links yesterday all costs, little benefit.

    Cloud computing another concern; many questions re data security and jurisdiction.

    Telstra involvement in FTTN network obvious.

    Time for a real small govts party to make the run. The continued expansion of govt a concern. These costs must be paid for.
    Richard Flude
    • Really?

      Look again, also at my responses.
      Abel Adamski
    • you sure...

      ... you ain't that old Telstra troll Sydney_la in the disguise of a less clever shill, Ricky?
    • Seems you forgot!

      The reason the Labor Goverment went with their own idea is because neither Telsra or Optus came up with and good modern broadband plans. What disappoints me about this NBN debate is too many people are fighting along party lines instead of tech lines.
      Australia is falling further and further behind the rest of the world in both infrastructure and tech with clowns like you helping by cheering of old tech! Oh and before you make false accusations regarding parties, I'm a swinging voter that has voted both the Labor and the coalition including the coalition for the last 3 elections. Not this time because your mate Abbot is trying to be a Howard but his just a shadow living in the past and trying to relive past glory's he never had!
  • Lack of vision as ususal

    Typical of Turnbulls lack of vision. He claims to want a "cloud future" and yet is planning to build the infrastructure LEAST capable to easily deal with it. To properly utilise the cloud, upload speeds become very important, and Turnbulls second rate infrastructure is not going to cut it for very long. Its time he came clean and told voters the real cost of his plan - inlcuding getting up to the necessary FTTH build. Its clearly going to cost far more than the current NBN.
  • Telstra have had too many chances already, and they blew it.

    Right have Telstra involved in building a new network, as they have done such a wonderful job of maintaining and upgrading the current network that it needs $31+billion of government borrowing to fix.

    Let not forget the fiasco that was the rebuilding of the fire damaged Warrnambool exchange, where it was only going to take a few days, for 2-3 weeks. Funny the engineers doing the work knew the real timeline.
  • cloud on a beer budget

    I wish people would stop giving turnbull the time of day, pushing an under performing network...

    Telstra is nothing but a joke, they could of started to deploy back in 1973 is they wanted too, it's been the the gov's agenda since 1975-77 so it is rather pointless delaying fibre any longer because it will just cost more to rip out the copper, as it is a given that either current bdsl/vdsl support will be a short distance and a multiple line setup..
    Jason Howe
    • 1973?

      From 75-81 I was studying electrical engineering and working for STC, which then part of ITT.

      I remember going to a seminar on optical fibre around 1980. It was new and massively expensive. So, please explain how Telstra, then Telecom, could have begun a rollout in 1973.

      Oh, and something that we now recognise as the current, world-wide Internet did not even exist until the early to mid-1990s.
      • Actually

        Back in those dim dark ages Telstra had several optic fibre trials, some to residences in Toorak very early in the piece. By the mid 80's there were several trunk fibres even to Mt Dandenong providing landline Video/Audio transmitter links for the broadcasters and trunks to the exchanges on the way, plus fibre links from the TV stations and by late 80's the major city links were becoming fibre.
        From memory late 70's early 80's the fibre links were run from the remand centre and certain courts for Video/audio links.
        So more prevalent than people realise. Telecom was an early exponent
        Abel Adamski
      • The main issue

        at that time was the electronics on the end, compared to today primitive and as you say horrendously expensive. i.e Video muxes/demuxes approx $100K each, 140Mb uncompressed which included 2x 20K stereo audio and a 3K order wire. - compression and technology brought all that down
        Telephony was initially 2Mb stream with 32 channels plus signalling channel
        Yes STC/ITT were not among the early vendors, from memory early Video was from a company called CROW
        Abel Adamski
  • The hangout you gotta be kiddin!

    Watched tired old Malcolm with his tired old arguments, his machine gun mouth uttered the words"UNO,UNOW,YANNO" a total of 94 times in a 1 hour interview or 3 times a minute for the length of time he talked, sometimes the Yanno's were repeated in a stuttering fashion like "Yanno Yanno". Don't know whether this could be described as English or is it "Yanno English" or whether he's coming down with dementia or mad cow disease.

    It was supposed to be questions from hangers out, but it was clear when Malcolm was answering a question from a lady in his answer Malcolm said "In your book you also referred to this" clearly the question was a setup as Malcolm knew this "hanger out". The question was of course totally irrelevant (this lady also "Yannowed" a lot) and Malcolm consumed a large amount of time fudging a long winded reply.

    He also broached the conspiracy theory that the tech media was out to get him and they were largely an "uninformed lot" because they oppose his broadband policy, and pursued the argument that he alone was lonely voice in the wilderness, the only rational suppository of broadband engineering above all of the socialist tech heads in the media that are against him. Also again stated the largely "liberal view of the internet" that it was merely infrastructure for downloading movies and other entertainment.

    When the subject of NZ's FTTN came up he simply skated around with argument that NZ was very smart because they are real poor, but never explained why this very poor country's conservative government would want to waste so much money building fibre to the home, and said "this train has left the station" whatever that means in this context. Then repeated the old "Irish travel guide" gag, which had nothing to do with whatever he was talking about.

    Malcolm has no understanding of the internet at all, he's a man of many misconceptions can't see why anybody would want a fool like him as prime minister in lieu of the other fools running for the job.
    Kevin Cobley
  • What a ridiculous statement to make

    "GPs still struggle to see the benefit of spending time curating shared records"

    The benefits are obvious, you can avoid over prescription and bad/dangerous combinations of medicines. It'll also make life a lot easier for doctors if someone is travelling/away, or specialists need to check on your history.

    I'm not sure Dutton should have the health role if he can't see that...
    • GP's mostly don't

      Their just afraid it will be too easy for their patients to find cheaper or better ones if they dont have to lose an arm and a leg for their medical records.\

      Or maybe I am just cynical.
  • Baby Steps



    I can see statues of Windsor and Conroy in Armidale's town square.
    Abel Adamski
    • Diabetes monitoring can be done over all forms of Internet

      low bandwidth requirement.

      Free land, datacentres proposed to use NBn as their backbone, new industrial parks all have fibre. Council is very bullish; sadly little evidence of the new Silicon Valley sprouting up north (one guy might be moving).

      Lets look at real business experience from the article:
      "David Waugh, the owner of Nucleo, a small design studio employing 12 staff in Armidale that now uses the NBN, said that in its early stages, the NBN had been "a frigging nightmare"."


      Yes iiNet is right, fibre doesn't suffer from water in the same way copper does. Fibre is in many ways technically superior; it's also expense and time consuming.
      Richard Flude
      • Typical

        Continue David's quote please, sounding more and more like a Murdoch puppet or a true Lib, only present an out of context partial quote that can be twisted to suit your purpose.

        Also the full iiNet quote

        5 applicants for the datacentre
        Abel Adamski
        • 5 expressions of interest for free land

          Forget the NBN backbone is not designed for data centres. But nobody has actually committed; the Council dream. Surely they could give one business story.

          All new industrial parks are fibre; they seem to think there's are special.

          Rest of David's quote (in your link):
          ""Of course it's been a frigging nightmare, but do I think that the infrastructure that's being built is the right infrastructure? Absolutely. Could it have been done better? Absolutely. Is the Coalition's proposal really saving us a lot of money? I don't believe so.""

          Manager of a design firm gives the thumbs up because he believes ten of billions less isnt a lot if money. Happy with the "nightmare", project obviously could have been done better.

          Repeated all over NBNCos network.

          His productivity improvement? Faster upload saving a few hours (could be done in parallel) maybe a few times a week; paid for by billions of dollars of infrastructure. Exactly the same connection for this business rolled out to the diabetic above with negigable data requirements.

          What does iiNet add to the discussion beyond what I commented?

          Thanks for the links; and from the devil (where are the claims of bias?;-). However your links mocks the spend; so little benefit for such massive expenditure, entirely inappropriate to the needs, all doable with the coalition plan you seek to discredit, Council with nothing to show but 4 years into the project the first site small (beautiful) town is almost complete and 5 people responded to an expression of interest for free land!
          Richard Flude
          • Your only argument is that it costs $$

            I actually wrote quite a long response being one of those LIVING IN ARMIDALE and having first hand experience of the benefits of the NBN. Then I thought... what's the point Richard doesn't understand the economy, technology or government so what's the point.
      • Early stages of massive projects having problems.

        News flash. Stop the press. Let everyone know that the early stages of a project found problems. This must be a world first.
    • I would love

      to read those articles. Apparently though The Australian wants to charge me to read any article that might support Labour. Apparently their liberal advertising articles are free.

      Funny that