NBN not favouring Western Sydney: Conroy

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has rejected suggestions that the rollout of the NBN is favouring marginal electorates of Western Sydney ahead of the 2013 election.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has blamed the competition regulator for deciding the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout locations, denying that Western Sydney has been targeted to help Labor win the 2013 federal election.

A story by the Australian Financial Review highlighted that, of the 87,600 New South Wales premises set to be NBN-ready before the end of this financial year, 52 percent of those premises are in Western Sydney suburbs.

But speaking on ABC radio this morning, Conroy rejected that politics had played a part in determining where the NBN was rolling out.

"The suggestions that one electorate is favoured over another is absurd," he said.

The minister said that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's decision to require NBN Co to have 121 points of interconnect (POI) largely determined where the network begins to roll out.

"When you overlay the rollout with the ACCC mandated points of interconnect, you see the rollout by and large follows that," he said.

"It's not been determined by the government, it has not been determined by the NBN Co. The ACCC determined where we started. They picked the physical sites of the points of interconnect."

The day before, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull also appeared on the ABC, stating that his fibre-to-the-node policy, with the satellite and wireless factors included, would cost AU$15 billion. He said the cabinets where the fibre would connect to the existing copper would be as small as bar fridges, and could offer speeds of up to 100 megabits-per-second (Mbps).

"There is a new technology, a noise reducing technology called vectoring which is now being deployed, which will literally double the speeds. So if you had a line which was delivering 50Mbps now, with vectoring — which is just a software solution, you know, it's not expensive to deploy — you can then double that to 100Mbps," he said.

"It's essentially the same technology you have if anyone has used those noise, special headsets you have on aeroplanes."

But Conroy rejected this suggestion, saying that the cabinets would have to be situated within 400 metres of each residence in order to achieve the speeds Turnbull was suggesting.

"Unless you live within 400 metres from a cabinet, you can't get the speeds he's claiming."

Belgacom in Belgium has a fibre-to-the-node network already, but has begun rolling out the VDSL2 vectoring to its 19,000 cabinets with Alcatel-Lucent. This is the same technology that Turnbull has suggested could be used in Australia.

Belgacom is promising its one million customers in those locations a dedicated speed of 50Mbps, up from the 30Mbps available on VDSL2 today. The company has suggested that those living within 400 metres of a cabinet could see speeds of up to 100Mbps, but those who live 1200 metres from the cabinet will see their download speed around 40Mbps.

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