Bittersweet NBN: AIIA concerned about delays

Bittersweet NBN: AIIA concerned about delays

AIIA CEO says Government is on the right track, but expresses concern at the prolonged process

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) has criticised the Government’s time frame for the $43 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) announced last month.

AIIA CEO, Ian Birks, said while the Federal Minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, had taken the right overall approach with the NBN, as espoused in a recent speech at the National Press Club, he was concerned at the prolonged process.

“My concern is that this will take 12-18 months to rollout and I think the whole industry is looking for the NBN to start up sooner rather than later,” Birks said.

Tasmania has got the head start, but we want to see the network happening in major capital cities by the end of next year, which is hopefully doable.”

Birks also highlighted the time it will take to set-up the NBN Company and dealings with independent services providers (ISPs) interested in participating as potential impediments to the network’s deployment.

Telco analyst, Paul Budde, however, said expectations for a rollout by the end of 2010 are “unrealistic” and it may take up to two years for a fibre optic rollout to reach the mainland.

“Things are happening, but a large scale rollout for the rest of the country will start maybe early 2011,” he said. “Wireless networks for regional areas may take another 12-18 months.”

Budde dismissed criticism of the Government’s slow progress and urged Australian industries to be more involved.

“Essentially we need to be planning as soon as possible and I think the Government has done that,” he said. “But it is not just the Government that is involved. It is a combination of industries and organisations that have to commit to use that network."

Budde also expressed concerns industries associated with the NBN would trail behind the deployment of the network.

“My greatest worry is organisations such as healthcare, education and energy, the anchor pennants of the NBN, are not going to catch up,” he said. “These bureaucratic silos are going to be very slow to move and we might have the network but we don’t have anywhere to apply it to.”

Birks shared Budde’s sentiments over the fate of such value-added services.

“I don’t think there is enough funding to drive the value-added benefits over the NBN,” he said. “What the benefits are and how to stimulate these value-added services should be the next thing the Government prioritises.”

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