ISPs are united in their criticism of the Coalition’s version of a National Broadband Network (NBN).
Spending just $6 billion, the Coalition intends to rollout a 12Mbps minimum peak speed network for 97 per cent of the population with $2.75 billion on fibre backhaul and $2 billion worth of wireless technology. The last three per cent will be serviced by satellite.
This contrasts Labor’s $43 billion NBN which offers a maximum speed of 100Mbps with 93 per cent of households on a fibre network and the remainder using wireless or satellite technology.
iiNet chief regulatory officer, Steve Dalby, said there are some positive aspects to the Coalition’s proposal but it is myopic plan.
“In terms of viability, I guess it is a short-term solution and for people in black spots, there is viability, but it’s a very short-term approach,” he said. “It’s likely to be outstripped by demand in a short space of time so while it does have some upside with those locations that currently have no service, it doesn’t do much for them after that.
“… It appears from this policy [the Coalition] hasn’t given it the sort of thought or in-depth consideration that we would have expected.”
With a large portion of the Coalition’s broadband solution based on wireless, Australian’s will miss out on services demanding high-bandwidth such as IPTV and remote medical applications, Dalby said.
“You don’t get the same sort of reliability you get with fixed line and the applications that we have been talking about that will be developed for high-bandwidth platforms like a fibre network are just not going to run on a wireless network,” he said.
Wireless networks are also prone to congestion and cannot be easily shared with multiple users in a household or business, according to Dalby.
“For us, wireless is complementary to fixed line and we wouldn’t see it as a substitute,” he said. “Wireless mobile broadband is a personal thing that goes with you wherever you go whereas a fixed service is shared by a family or business.”
The industry definitely has some qualms over the Opposition’s NBN, but will the public take the bait?
“I think consumers will look at it and say ‘Well that’s great, but what are you going to do about improving health or education deliverables, quality of life for people that are isolated or in remote locations,” Dalby said. “The mobile solution is not going to do that. It is not going to provide the bandwidth or the reliability of avoiding congestion and all those other issues.”
The Coalition’s plan also fails to address the dominance of Telstra in the broadband market as it does not strive to develop a wholesale-only access network, Dalby said.
“We have been battling problems that come from the lack of [Telstra’s] separation for the last 15 years, the Liberal’s don’t offer anything,” he said. “In fact, the [Shadow Communications Minister] Tony Smith said yesterday, ‘We are not going to break up Telstra and we sold the company on the basis that it was a vertically integrated business and we are not going to change that’.
“So he is denying there is a problem there which is disappointing whereas the Labor solution does provide the structural separation.”
While Optus lauded the Coalition for touching on open access backhaul alternative to Telstra, it was concerned with the lack of direction for last mile access.
“Ownership of the copper network, the only fixed access connection for the vast majority of Australians, has allowed Telstra to undermine competition and dominate the fixed line sector to the detriment of consumers,” Optus director of government and corporate affairs, Maha Krishnapillai, said in a statement. “It is not clear from the Coalition’s policy how this bottleneck will be resolved, but we look forward to future constructive discussions with the Coalition on this matter.”
Internode carrier affairs manager, John Lindsay, claimed the Coalition’s plan is “back to the future” and said he preferred Labor’s NBN.
“At the end of the day, we want to see a near ubiquitous fibre-to-the-premise [FTTP] network,” Lindsay said. “The NBN is a good idea and we can see NBN-style networks being built in other parts of the world.
“For heaven’s sake, a conservative government in New Zealand is building one today, so why can’t the Coalition just say ‘Look, the Government’s plans are overly ambitious. However, fibre is indeed future-proof, more so than LTE wireless.' ”