Turnbull promises more NBN nodes to get 25Mbps

In areas where premises cannot get 25Mbps download speeds, a Coalition government would install smaller nodes closer to premises to fill the gap.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Additional nodes would be rolled out to premises in fibre-to-the-node (FttN) areas that can't get 25Mbps speeds under the Coalition's National Broadband Network (NBN), Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said.

In the Coalition's alternative NBN policy released last month, the party indicated that approximately 50,000 to 60,000 nodes would be required across Australia. These would connect the fibre to the existing copper line for the 71 percent of premises getting fibre to the node under the policy.

Turnbull has promised that every premises will have access to at least 25Mbps by 2016, but the quality of the copper network and its ability to deliver those speeds has caused some to question whether those speeds would be attainable.

Speaking on the OurSay Communications Debate hosted by ZDNet this morning, Turnbull said that NBN Co would be instructed to make sure that those speeds can be delivered, and flagged extra nodes to achieve that.

"What you have to do is a calculation, a line speed test, and it may be that in some areas, what you would need to do is take a smaller node out further into the field. This might be a device that is small enough to fit into a Telstra pit, for example," he said. "What some telcos refer to as fibre-extension models."

Turnbull indicated that there would be smaller nodes connected to larger nodes for premises that are more than 1.5 kilometres from the larger node.

In response, Conroy said that it would be an arduous task to test every connection, and that Turnbull was making a blind assumption that only 9 percent of premises would need to have copper lines replaced.

"Malcolm makes a blind assumption only 9 percent of Australia's copper lines will need to be replaced. There's no science or rationale behind that," he said.

"Malcolm is just behaving like an incumbent telco. They just want to sweat the copper as much as they can. It has got up to a AU$1 billion price tag just to maintain. What an incredibly short-sighted piece of public policy."

He said that Turnbull is putting in billions of dollars into an FttN proposal that would ultimately end up being fibre to the premises (FttP) in the future.

When pushed on what upload speeds the FttN network would guarantee, Turnbull said it would be a decision for NBN Co.

"The ratio of download to upload is a commercial decision future NBN Co would make, but there is no technical barrier to having very high upload speeds," he said.

"I agree there is more uploading going up because of the cloud."

But he said that in residential areas, the upload to download ratio is becoming more asymmetrical, as more and more people consume video over the internet. This was a claim that Conroy rejected.

"It's like a wooden stake to a vampire because his network cannot deliver the sort of upload capacity that a fibre-to-the-premise network can," he said. "Stop thinking about just downloading movies, Malcolm; this is about uploading. This is about the capacity for people to distribute their own work."

Questioned on whether a future Coalition government would, if in power after September, be able to renegotiate with Telstra to get a hold of the copper line between the node and the premises for no additional charge, Turnbull said he is "very confident" of reaching an agreement quickly, without an additional charge.

Conroy said Telstra would be tough in negotiations.

"Telstra will be as straightforward with Mr Turnbull if he was to be communications minister as they were with us. They'll take a very tough negotiating position on behalf of their shareholders, as they should," he said.

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