Broadband News

Australian broadband board members tender resignations

Australia has been something of a poster child for FTTH roll-out with its ambitious NBN FTTH roll-out, but a lot of the time we have watched those praising that roll-out complain that the UK Government is ignoring the most rural properties, which given the original NBN target was 93% of properties with access to a FTTH system by 2021 would mean some 1.5 million would be relying on satellite or fixed wireless based access.

Now it seems the wheels may have fallen off the roll-out wagon well and truly as the majority of the NBN Co board have tendered their resignation and the website carries the alert 'This website is currently under review, pending the introduction of new Government policy. Some content may not be current, but will be updated as soon as possible'.

The incoming Governments policy is to deliver FTTC based access to around the same proportion of people, but for less money and faster. Of course a FTTC based solution means also that speeds will vary according to the distance a property is from the fibre cabinet, but there is still potential for further upgrades in the future.

It is interesting to read some coverage of the NBN debate and see how the UK is viewed, "The short effective life of FTTN is becoming apparent, and countries which previously installed FTTN systems (like Germany, New Zealand and the UK) are now gradually replacing their networks with Fibre to the Premises (FTTP)." The reality in the UK is that we are still rolling out FTTC, but at the same time there is FTTH roll-out, which as we reported on earlier this year was keeping pace with the NBN roll-out, even though we consider the FTTH coverage in the UK to be very poor.

The switch in policy in Australia is curious, as rather than the massive price difference in the UK where national FTTH is estimated at around £25 billion versus £5 billion for FTTC, the widely spread nature of towns in Australia mean that rather than being several times cheaper the FTTN/C system was still likely to cost around $30 billion, only a few billion cheaper than the original plan.

Looking at the roll-out maps they are possibly worse than what we get from the counties in the UK, and paint an interesting picture, e.g. Port Lincoln, South Australia (pop 14,200) has one area of woodland marked as fibre available (we hope that the Google Map picture is out of date and homes are present now) but the rest of the town is or was some three years away from any further construction. Even in Adelaide (pop 1.2 million) the areas where fibre is available are tiny islands, with many in greenfield locations and that story continues in other areas we look at with the satellite overlay enabled.


The main lesson from Australia is that context and geography are very important. Despite its size the population is highly urbanised and concentrated. The arguments about NBN are as much about public funding, a state monopoly and the role of Telstra as about technology. The comparisons in the article you cite are pretty tendentious, while no-one has really demonstrated the economic benefits of an expensive one size fits all program relative to alternative, less ambitious, approaches.

  • gah789
  • over 7 years ago

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