The Australian National Broadband Network (NBN) is a bold plan, but at this point in time it is behind the UK, though with year on year investment it is very possible it will surpass the UK as it moves towards a 93% fibre coverage target by 2021.
In raw numbers the UK has some 199,000 properties where FTTH (fibre to the home) is available, where as Australia as of December 2012 had just 72,400. One big difference is the area of take-up, in the UK this is running at around 8.5% but in Australia the fibre option is proving more popular with a 14.3% take-up.
|Key NBN Metrics|
|June 2011||June 2012||Dec 2012||Projected June 2013|
Australia has around 12.2 million premises for which 93% fibre coverage seems a tall order, but the project is likely to ramp up deployment considerably. The NBN project shows what is possible if you take the bull by the horns and commit to long term investment. The size of the investment is such that in the 12 months up to June 2012 the project had a loss of AUS $520m and an income of just $2 million from subscriptions.
The project is not without controversy with political pressures to downgrade from a FTTH deployment to using a lot more FTTC due to being quicker to deploy and cheaper. The project is already heavily reliant on satellite and fixed wireless services to cover the final 7% of premises and while satellite services are seen as a cheap option, the cost of a new satellite is still significant with 2012 seeing a $620m contract signed for a new satellite to be delivered in 2015. The current satellite services are a 6 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream, hence the need for further upgrades.
No matter who had won the UK General Election in 2010, the UK was destined to follow a similar path for both the major parties, we have significant doubts that a Universal Service Commitment to provide 2 Mbps to all by 2012 would have been delivered without heavy reliance on satellite services. There is a small chance that rather than a head long rush to a grand but largely symbolic target will be avoided in the post 2015 landscape when the best plan would see a steady period of investment in full fibre infrastructure, but very little sign of these from the politicians yet. HS2 with its phase 2 announcement to 2033 is the sort of long term vision that the UK needs for broadband infrastructure, though over a shorter five to seven year period the slowest 10% of the UK will see its broadband speeds brought up to the Gigabit level that is already available in parts of the UK.