Turnbull ticks Telstra-NBN HFC migration plan

NBN Co will be required to provide rollout information to all retailers in a bid to prevent Telstra from gaining a competitive advantage as the NBN begins taking over the company's HFC network.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Australian government has largely dismissed the concerns of Telstra's retail competitors that the incumbent telecommunications company will have a competitive advantage in helping NBN Co begin using its legacy hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network.

On Tuesday, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the government had finalised new instruments to allow Telstra to lodge a revised migration plan with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that will guide the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) using the HFC and copper access networks.

Under the new agreement finalised in December, NBN Co will take ownership of the HFC network for the NBN, and use parts of the copper network for fibre to the node and fibre to the basement.

It is estimated that the HFC networks being taken over from Telstra and Optus could service up to 3.27 million customers on the NBN, with customers beginning to be connected from March 2016.

In submissions to the proposed changes to the migration plan, Telstra's competitors raised concerns that Telstra, through the construction in the lead up to the migration, would be able to access confidential information from NBN Co that would tell the company where the NBN will be rolled out to next, allowing Telstra to sign up customers early.

Turnbull said on Tuesday that this would be addressed by a new licence condition being placed on NBN Co to share rollout information with all retailers in a non-discriminatory manner, but he said concerns about Telstra's role in the construction of the network could not be addressed in the migration plan.

He also rejected calls for the service to be opened up to retail competition in the interim before the migration to the NBN. He said there would be insufficient time to allow retailers to develop products for both the Telstra-HFC and the NBN-HFC networks.

One of the other major concerns was that as NBN Co began building 1.5 million lead-in connections for the networks that have yet to be built, Telstra may sign those customers up before the network has been transferred over to NBN Co. Turnbull said Telstra would only have limited access to lead-ins being built by NBN Co during the construction period, and would be at no greater advantage than if the company had built the lead-ins itself.

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