NBN deal transfers network ownership: Telstra

Telstra CEO David Thodey has said that the AU$11 billion NBN deal is about moving the ownership of the fixed network to the government, regardless of whether it is fibre or copper.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Telstra CEO David Thodey has indicated that any renegotiation with the Coalition government over access to the copper network would see the government once again take full ownership of the copper network.

As Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull prepares to release a statement of expectations for NBN Co and appoint former Telstra CEO Ziggy Switkowski as executive chairman of the government-owned company at 2pm AEST today, Thodey spent this morning answering questions from retail shareholders in Sydney.

Once the new NBN Co board is appointed, Turnbull will need to enter negotiations with Telstra over access to its copper network if the Coalition's proposal to alter the NBN from a majority fibre-to-the-premises network to a fibre-to-the-node network is to succeed.

Thodey said that the NBN board is "the government's decision", and changing the technology in the NBN design is also a decision for government, but said that Telstra will still retain the value of the AU$11 billion deal it signed with the former government to lease ducts and pits and transfer customers onto the NBN.

"If they want to change things and do different technology, that's their decision. AU$11.2 billion is what we agreed to, and that's where we will stay," he said. "We're getting on with life, we have a different life to live."

He said that the renegotiation would centre around transferring the ownership of the fixed network from Telstra back to the government.

"We have agreed to move the ownership of the fixed network, whether it be fibre or copper, to the government, and that would be their responsibility," he said.

"They want us to do it, [and we're] happy to do it on a commercial basis."

In response to a question from a shareholder concerned that Telstra would be stuck with the maintenance costs for the copper network, Thodey did not comment on the quality of the copper network, but said that the maintenance would be part of the negotiations.

"We've got to work through with the government about how they want to use it, and so that's something that is a further discussion," he said.

"In any arrangement, we will cover off the ownership of the copper, the maintenance of the copper going forward."

Thodey has previously said that Telstra's copper network could last 100 more years.

It comes as this week, Telstra revealed that is is currently testing vectored VDSL similar to that which would be used in Turnbull's NBN plan in a pilot with vendor Alcatel-Lucent.

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