Telstra leads collocation on NBN towers

Australia's incumbent telco is making the most use of NBN towers to extend its footprint.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The company responsible for rolling out the National Broadband Network (NBN) has revealed which of Australia's telcos are embracing the chance to collocate on its towers, with Telstra edging Optus and well ahead of perennially third-placed Vodafone.

In response to a Question on Notice from the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network, NBN said that of its 1,600 fixed-wireless towers, a mere 71 have, or are in the process of having, telco mobile equipment installed.

"Of the 71 sites, nine fixed-wireless base stations have active access seeker equipment co-located comprising seven sites being utilised by Telstra and two by Optus," NBN wrote. "A further 62 NBN fixed-wireless facilities are in the process of having collocated access seeker equipment installed (installation can take up to three months to complete).

"The relevant carriers are Telstra (21), Optus (25), and Vodafone (16)."

Overall, that gives Telstra 28 sites, against Optus with 27, and Vodafone with 16.

Vodafone, the telecommunications carrier with the least network coverage across rural and remote Australia, has been a major proponent of sharing infrastructure in order to extend its own mobile network at minimal cost.

This has seen the telco butt heads with Telstra and Optus on the wholesale mobile domestic roaming issue -- whereby Vodafone would be permitted to piggyback off Telstra's mobile infrastructure -- and competing against its rivals to take part in the federal government's mobile blackspot program.

In May, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) appeared to have quashed Vodafone's dream of domestic roaming, but the telco subsequently took the commission to court on the basis that the inquiry process was flawed.

NBN also said it has around 1,500 premises that are currently able to order an ADSL service, yet they fall outside NBN's fixed-line footprint, that need to be addressed.

"There is a rare circumstance where a home that is served by satellite, while the majority of the 400,000 can still elect to stay on the ADSL through the Telstra network if it's available there, these few will not be able to. That's where we are looking to see if that's reasonable and fair, and what the other options are," NBN CEO Bill Morrow told the committee in August.

Over the weekend, Australian Communications Minister Mitch Fifield claimed NBN is able to connect 90 percent of premises to the network at the first time of asking.

"NBN, when they're connecting people, gets it right first time on about 9 out of 10 occasions -- but I never want to diminish in any way the experience that someone has if it's not all that it should be," Fifield said.

Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland labelled Fifield's claims as an "absolute furphy".

"This would fail every single pub test in this state," Rowland said in Perth on Monday.

The Labor MP attacked former Communications Minister cum Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for failing to connect premises in Western Australia quickly enough.

"The reality is, for Perth, the most isolated capital city in the world, it relies on having the best connectivity in order to compete in a globalised economy, and it's no surprise that last year we had reports that Western Australia was in fact the state of the worst connectivity in all of Australia," she said.

"We have a situation where average download speeds were about 7.1Mbps; that's a fifth of average speeds reported in Canberra."

The Canberra speeds lauded by Rowland are a result of the city moving beyond ADSL speeds thanks to the former TransACT-owned fibre-to-the-node network being present.

In May, the ACT government said NBN's rollout of FttN technology was merely duplicating an existing network in Canberra, and is not helping those disadvantaged in the territory.

"There are concerns that the current NBN rollout schedule for Canberra does not adequately address the needs of the most technologically disadvantaged areas," the ACT government said.

"Parts of Canberra that receive internet speeds of less than 2Mbps are yet to appear on NBN's rollout schedule."

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