NBN Co should own copper, HFC networks: Switkowski

The goal of renegotiations with Telstra should see NBN Co own the legacy copper and cable networks, NBN Co chairman Dr Ziggy Switkowski has said.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

NBN Co should own Telstra's copper and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks by the end of renegotiations with the telecommunications giant, according to NBN Co chairman Dr Ziggy Switkowski.

Image: Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet

NBN Co is currently a few weeks into renegotiations with Telstra over its AU$11 billion deal with the former government and NBN Co.

If NBN Co is to pursue its proposed multi-technology mix model that sees large parts of the fibre-to-the-premises rollout replaced with fibre-to-the-node, fibre-to-the-building, and HFC, the company will need to at least gain access to Telstra's legacy networks.

In an interview on ABC's The Business last night, Switkowski said negotiations should result in NBN Co taking ownership of the networks from Telstra.

"I think the outcome of these negotiations should lead to a situation where the copper network, the ownership, is transferred into the NBN; the ownership of the HFC network is transferred into NBN," he said.

"And then we get to invest in it, provide in-fill where needed, upgrade progressively over time so that as consumer needs for ever-higher bandwidth, which we know are going to grow spectacularly, can be met by our use of those networks."

He said that this would mean that NBN Co would take on the responsibility for maintenance of the copper network which a leaked analysis of the Coalition's policy by NBN Co prior to the election estimated that maintenance costs for fibre to the node with the copper network included would be between four to six times that of the fibre to the premises model.

Switkowski said the outcome of the renegotiations should see neither Telstra or the taxpayer out of pocket.

"At the end of it all Telstra shouldn't be out of pocket relative to what they had agreed to before, and the taxpayer shouldn't be exposed to higher costs, unless they're getting more services," he said.

Switkowski downplayed previous comments made by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to Fairfax Media that the deal would likely be wrapped up by June, stating it was too early to say when negotiations would be completed.

"I don't want to raise unreasonable expectations because the negotiations are about big issues, and we're only part way into them," he said.

"We have all of this year which all of the former model has been queued, and then next year we'll start working on the multi-technology alternatives."

Switkowski again took aim at TPG's decision to roll out fibre to the building for 500,000 premises across Australian metropolitan locations, saying NBN Co will have "a commercial response" and the company had no intention of being the provider of last resort in places where the economics of building alternative networks did not work.

"For this to work, NBN has got to be a monopoly provider and will wholesale to all of the retail service providers including TPG," he said.

"Alternatively we'll end up with an industry where we have pockets of other infrastructure provided that may or may not be able to be wholesale. Competition may be chilled."

He said NBN Co would be around for a long time, and would be the reliable fixed-line broadband infrastructure provider in Australia.

"We will be responsible for providing high quality, upgradable bandwidth, connectivity. I'm not sure we can be as confident about anybody else."

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