NBN a metaphor for Federal Government's budget challenge: Ziggy Switkowski

Switkowski reaffirms confidence in copper to deliver on "2020-ish" deadline of 100 Mpbs to most Australians

NBN Co chairman Ziggy Switkowski has described the NBN as a metaphor for what the Government confronts in Tuesday’s Federal Budget in a wide-ranging speech to business leaders.

The speech, delivered at an Australian Industry Group event, addressed the “overwhelming” challenge of connecting 100,000 premises every month for the next eight years to meet a “2020-ish” deadline.

This challenge is made greater by the fact that 70 per cent of the 12 million premises will need to be connected on networks the NBN does not yet own, such as Telstra’s copper network and Optus’ HFC pay-tv cables.

NBN Co last year conducted a strategic review which recommended a move away from a mainly fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) rollout to a multi-technology mix that would include fibre-to-the-node and fibre-to-the-basement or distribution point (FTTB/DP).

Switkowski said the reason he used the NBN as a metaphor for the government in the current environment, was because of what he found when he arrived shortly after the incoming government’s clear out of NBN Co.

“NBN Co had got themselves into a situation where the forecasts were wrong, the targets were implausible, the policy settings were ideological and the business plan begun with a thought bubble,” he said.

“Now they are harsh comments and are not intended to be political, but that is the way you have to describe NBN as we found it.

“NBN Co has a similar set of challenges and there had to be a number of changes to get us aligned with a more realistic set of expectations."

Switkowski reaffirmed his support for the use of Telstra’s copper network and described TPG’s bid to offer Fibre-to-the-Basement in competition with the NBN as “unwise”. “Those of you who think that copper is old fashioned and that there’s no future (in copper), should know that the ability to deliver high-speed connectivity well in excess of 100 Mbps is considered to be likely beginning from next year onwards,” he said.

Read more: NBN Co appoints former Vodafone media exec to head corporate affairs

“What we are trying to do now - a multi-technology mix, instead of 100 per cent Fibre-to-the-Premise - would have been right way forward."

Switkowski said the new multi-technology configuration would be built as 43 per cent copper, 23 per cent HFC cable, 22 per cent fibre and another million premises served by fixed wireless and two satellites.

“In the future we expect to have about 70 per cent of our premises connected by networks we currently don’t own,” he said.

“It’s never uncomplicated. TPG have a right with existing infrastructure to offer an alternative service to NBN and TPG have flagged that they are going to do that, and have started marketing that service.

“We have indicated we think that’s unhelpful, and that over time it’s unwise, but we will let that play out.”

A total of 3,643 lots were passed by the network this week, according to NBN Co. 2,331 were in Brownfield and 471 were in Greenfield areas.

Fixed wireless coverage increased by 841 premises during the week, to an additional 3,308 premises. It also had services activated on the network, including 3,050 on fixed line services and 258 using satellite and fixed wireless technologies.

Switkowski said Australia’s average internet speed had gone from 256 kilobits per second in 2004 to an average 6 to 8 Mbps in 2014.

“By 2020 we are expecting most premises will be able to get 100 Mpbs if they want to, and we think that progression will stay just ahead of actual demand,” he said.

“What we are doing at NBN is planning for a range of platforms that we are confident are upgradable at a rate that will meet the needs of almost all Australians over the period of our stewardship.”

Swikowski said NBN Co had worked hard to rebuild trust with retail service providers.

“They had become mad at us for completely understandable reasons,” he said.

“We had a fragmented build with many areas of sub-critical coverage, so we would go to an RSP and say 'we have done this street' and they would say 'come back when you have finished the suburb.'

“They just got unhappy with us and also there were missed forecasts. We have had to repair all that and I think we have done a reasonable job and now we are consulting we RSPs almost on a daily basis."

He said it was still a formative period for the venture, and NBN Co was not in a position to cope with the accelerating demand.

“At the required run rate to get this job done by 2020-ish we have to bring on about 100,000 premises a month for 90 months.. so eight years,” he said.

“At the moment we are passing 6,000 a week, so 24,000 a month. We need to increase that by a factor of four.

"It’s more complicated than that but there will be big steps taken forward once we complete the negotiations with Telstra and we can open up the HFC network.

“But at this stage we can only cope with a certain amount of demand and even that is exposed to some brittleness."

He said he wanted NBN to be indispensable but conspicuous.

"And together, with wireless broadband, it will be the low bearing girder of a productive society and a successful economy.”

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Tags Steven ConroyTony AbbottLiberal PartyUFC broadbandTPGnbn cointernetKevin RuddLabor governmentMalcolm Turnbullziggy switkowski

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Paul K


Given the disasterous backstep the NBN has become, do we really want to compare the fereral budget to it?



I don't believe him. Why is the rest of the world rushing to all fibre to the premises and Ziggy knows better? Just google it and discover who is really using fibre. Don't forget these are also dumping copper. Ziggy will leave us as the only copper country in the world. It will cost a fortune to make changes to something only we have. We will be committed to obsolesance.

Martin M


Ziggy has got it right. Morse code to the node IS the way to go.



Ziggy, like turnbull is a puppet of the abbott/Murdoch government why should anyone believe this government propaganda?

Adrian Rietdyk


He's got it right. First get it done, upgrade to fibre later where and when needed.



Do it once and do it right. Forget FTTN and go back to FTTP. This half done measure will end up costing double in the long run and be obsolete before it's finished. The cabinets cost a small fortune, the cost of maintaining already degraded copper will become prohibitive and the important part, the upload speeds, just won't cut it. The 'infrastructure' prime minister just does not have a clue.The 'Luddite' prime minister is a better fit.
Mr Turnbull, we're still waiting for the cost benefit analysis of your fraudband.

Kevin Cobley


Duke Nukem is always promoting obsolete and dangerous technologies like Nuclear power, he's a mere tool of the Murdochracy.
He was a huge failure at Telstra, share prices had plummeted under his office, thought he was Alan Bond and bought into now defunct Tech companies spruiked by stockbrokers, "Sausage Software", "Solution 6" and "Pacific Century Cyberworks".
Australia's new Telecommunications system needs to be build with the best technology not "built slower, more expensive, obsolete and slower FTTN"



I don't know where he got the quoted speeds from but we are getting 20kb/min, down to 10 kb/min off the Telstra wireless system. Used to do better than that on the very old wired modem system. We are living in the dark ages.

Dave Bradley


Switkowski said “Those of you who think that copper is old fashioned and that there’s no future (in copper), should know that the ability to deliver high-speed connectivity well in excess of 100 Mbps is considered to be likely beginning from next year onwards,” Spoken like a true salesman selling obsolete stock before it smell too bad. I suppose if the government could put Climate Skeptics in charge of Climate policy to extend the profits of the coal and gas companies Mr Switkowski is acting the of a fibre skeptic while he liquidates the NBN Fibre To The Premises, to milk more profit from the rotting copper network, and set us up for the inevitable fibre replacement, but at massive profits to the players who will emerge. He is not stupid and knows exactly what he is doing, and community interests or indeed the technological future of the country do not come in to it. Watch how they come up with reasons to stop Tasmania’s proven successful very economic co-use of existing overhead power line to run fibre to the premises. This model could work anywhere there are overhead powerlines and co-operative networks. I suppose like wind turbines it will be dismissed as ugly or there will be an outbreak of fibre syndrome.



Using existing Telstra Copper for the final 'mile' will not only kill the reliability and speed but also cost an absolute fortune in lease costs to Telstra ~$90 Billion dollars over the next 25 years. Where is the saving - it cost more over the long run without even having to finally change to Fibre when these fools realise you just cannot get the same speed over copper.
My copper phone line is constantly 'Noisy' like static because of poor copper connections. ADSL2 best is 4mbps download and 0.7mbps upload at 3Km from the exchange..



Perhaps you could give the individual householder the opportunity to fund the fibre connection to the home, not in one hit, however over a long period of time, say 5 years, with a contract price of $100 per month for the fibre to the premise costs. If people are serious about the transfer of technology give them the opportunity to fund it over a period of time, make it means tested with a ratio of the costs funded by the tax payer, as say a school kids bonus, so instead of getting $800 per year for nothing you use it to fund your kids education. Shuffle the money around and give people the option, I think that you will be surprised how many people do and don't take it up when told there is a significant person cost them to do it.



This is the expected spiel from Swits, ample comments and refutation above.

My criticism is with the grammar and language of this article - it needs a thorough overhaul.
Apart from typos and the fact that it reads like a machine translation of an audio recording, it is full of American poor grammar, viz the omission of prepositions.
I expect better from ARN for Australian domestic articles (for the imported international ones - I put up with poor English usage).



Hopefully the cabinet will be close enough to you to eliminate the bad connections. NBN have also said that the cabinets will only be going in if the copper is good enough to do so. The problem that NBN has is speed of roll out (& the slower that is the more it costs). I am aware of a current roll out area in NSW where they were supposed to be finished in Nov 2013, but still have a couple of months to go using all fibre. They have run into all sorts of problems including ducts with insufficient room (already full), broken ducts (you cannot see that from above ground) & underground electricity pits with Telstra covers (a dangerous short term fix that was never rectified). So if you want the basic NBN to get finished around 2020 then they cannot keep going the way they are. If you want to finish around 2050, then thats a different story. Re broken ducts, copper can stretch to a degree & also has a smaller bending radius than fibre (ie you can do things to copper cable & still have it work that you cannot do to fibre).
When comparing countries & their fibre roll out you must take into account their physical size & population densities. Many European countries would fit into Tasmania. Most detatched & semi-detached housing in Europe is double story, most detached & semi-detached housing in Australia is single story etc, so in a 1km of suburban street, Europe will have 2 - 4 x as many premises as we do. Having our people so spread out means large numbers of crews are also costing accommadation, travel & living away from home expenses once you get out of the capital cities. Telstra had 100 years to do this with copper & we are now trying to do it in fibre in 10 years while leaving the copper intact while we do it, with 100 years worth of electricity, water etc also in the mix with not everything being precisely where they were supposed to be on the map.

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