Bang. What a week for ICT in Australia.
With the Federal Government’s flip flop on the NBN we have just witnessed the promise of the biggest infrastructure spend in the nation’s history – and it is in ICT. Who would of thought of that?
Not too long ago, when the first economic stimulus package was announced, pretty much every industry body complained ICT had been overlooked – and they were right, there wasn’t much in it.
But now, bang, and the industry is the centre of attention, vying with the Snow Mountains hydroelectric scheme to be top of the history list in national infrastructure projects.
The problem is there are just far too many questions that need to be answered before anyone can make a firm decision on whether the Government’s plan to build a $43 billion FTTH NBN through a private/public company will work.
To start with, why limit ourselves to just 100Mbps when it is already standard in leading countries?
Will the new company be doing its own R&D and partnering with outfits such as CSIRO to create and evolve existing technologies that it can market elsewhere? Or will it just pay for other companies’ IP?
Where will they get the staff and who will head it up? Will it be a local or will they bring in another Sol Trujillo?
Where will the company’s headquarters be located?
How are they actually going to build it? Will they import plans and procedures done elsewhere?
What will Telstra do now? And what about the others like Optus which just lost two major infrastructure contracts (Singapore and Australia)?
And this is just the tip of the question list iceberg. All without the question of cost, which has been focused on by so many in the media this week, but which really can’t be concluded with any certainty until the other elements have been sorted out and the markets stop fluctuating wildly.
For me the idea of building an NBN that is world class and breaks down the monopoly hold Telstra has on Australia’s communications infrastructure is a very welcome idea. But that’s the problem, it’s just an idea at this stage.
Not having done the implementation study – which Conroy says is to be done soon – prior to announcing the new NBN plan was a mistake. The public and industry at large - in other words the investors - deserve to know these details. Announcing the country’s largest ever infrastructure spend without having completed one in advance is poor form.
That said, for those who have experienced the benefits of a top class broadband network like that in Japan and Korea, and others who just like the idea of Australians finally having access to a world class network, the Government’s NBN idea is to be commended and the sooner the questions are answered the better.