Turnbull's HFC plans 'doomed to fail': Industry

An alliance of Telstra's competitors has said that Shadow Communication Minister Malcolm Turnbull's plan to use existing HFC cable instead of NBN fibre won't work.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Competitive Carriers Coalition (CCC) has said that Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull's plans to use the hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks as part of his broadband alternative to the National Broadband Network (NBN) will be doomed to fail.

Speaking on ABC's Lateline program last night, Turnbull said that he would seek to renegotiate with Telstra over its HFC network, to use it as part of his broadband plan that would likely see a scale-back of the NBN rollout from a fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) approach to a fibre-to-the-node (FttN) network.

Areas with HFC networks, which cover roughly 30 percent of Australia, would not get the Coalition's version of the NBN first, Turnbull said.

"An ideal scenario would be that you would — well, what you would certainly do is you would not prioritise areas where HFC is. You wouldn't be overbuilding the HFC areas in the near term, because they're getting very good service already," he said.

But Turnbull's plan may be short lived. The CCC, comprising Macquarie Telecom, iiNet, NextGen, AAPT, Vodafone Hutchison Australia, and Adam Internet, said in a release that the policy would be "doomed to fail" if HFC areas were neglected.

"These comments ignore the reality that such a proposal would mean that for 30 percent of the population, there would be no effective competitive broadband market," CCC chairman Matt Healy said in a statement.

The CCC said that HFC cannot be made available for wholesale access by a competitor such as Telstra, and would not offer the same capacity to wholesale customers that Telstra itself would have access to.

In a statement this afternoon, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy questioned whether some 2.7 million households would be left out under Turnbull's plan.

"If the answer is yes, it would result in about 30 per cent of Australians having no effective competition in the broadband market, locking in higher prices," he said.

Turnbull, in his own statement this afternoon, said that his NBN would be extended to cover HFC areas in time. He said that the CCC's main concern is removing Telstra's advantage, and did not consider the cost of the network.

"Their only objective is to eliminate Telstra as a wireline infrastructure operator so that they can compete on what they believe will be a level playing field," he said.

"The competitive carriers might also reflect that while in an NBN world Telstra will have to compete on a 'level playing field', it will do so fortified by the many billions of taxpayers' dollars it has received as the price for it agreeing to Labor's NBN."

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