Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has labelled the idea that the next generation of consumer services could only be delivered over fibre-optic cable "nonsense" and "absolute tripe" in a fiery interview in which he highlighted the strengths of rival wireless technologies.
In Senate Estimates this week, National Broadband Network Company chief executive Mike Quigley expressed his frustration with what he described as the "futile" ongoing debate about whether wireless technologies would make the mainly fibre-based National Broadband Network obsolete, arguing that both fixed and wireless technologies would be needed in the nation's future and that they were complementary.
However, asked about the issue last night on ABC's Lateline, Turnbull said the idea that only fibre could supply Australia's next generation needs was "nonsense, absolute tripe".
Turnbull said he was "baffled" as to why Communications Minister Stephen Conroy had a "fixation with fibre-to-the-home", arguing that the government's broadband policy should be "completely technology agnostic".
"You do it over a variety of platforms," he said. "This one-size-fits-all approach that the government is taking is reckless."
The former Liberal leader's comments have come as debate over fixed versus wireless broadband is being stoked by Telstra's revelation that it will shortly be upgrading its flagship Next G mobile network to the Long Term Evolution standard, which has the potential to dramatically boost the speeds available to end users.
Turnbull said there was no doubt wireless "will be a significant competitor to the NBN ... significantly more competitive with the NBN than the NBN's management thinks".
The Liberal stalwart even used Apple to make his case, claiming that it was pulling in three times as much revenue from its wireless-based products as it was from its wired ones. Turnbull himself has been a frequent user of Apple's iPad device for some time and recently ditched his BlackBerry in favour of an iPhone.
However, Turnbull did acknowledge that wireless and wired technologies can be complementary. "Yes, they do overlap," he said. "A lot of people use both."
"But a lot of people use wireless only."