The $6.3 billion promised by the Coalition for a cheaper alternative to the National Broadband Network was more than enough to provide adequate coverage through Australia, according to Pacnet CEO, Bill Barney.
Barney made the comments to ARN while attending the Forbes Global CEO conference. His company is behind the rollout of a $400 million undersea fibre link between the US and Australia.
“A metropolitan ring in a city like Sydney or Melbourne would cost around $US200 million,” he said. “At $1m a piece you could probably put 30-100 wireless towers with a range of 3-4km each.
“You’re talking $300 million a city so you probably could cover pretty much everybody…the [$6.3b] figure sounds doable.
“Can you be a first-world country with wireless to the home? I think so.”
While Barney said fibre to the premises was a “great thing”, he claimed wireless solutions were more cost effective and used in places like Hong Kong and Singapore.
“I’m a believer that they should’ve gone with a wireless platform to rural areas,” he said. “It’s cost effective and a much more efficient way of deploying.
“Any time you’ve got fibre everywhere it’s a great thing, but the challenge is it also has to make economic sense. If it doesn’t, you have a weird and distorted market.”
Barney also said while many businesses and younger Australians would be inclined to use high-speed connections, most people would not need the connectivity offered by the NBN.
“Is your average 60-year old going to be using 12Mbps? Probably not,” he said. “Sure, your 22-year old kids are going to be maxing it out. But not your average user, unless they’re watching videos and things like that on a full time basis.
“Even guys like myself that use it for news and information and some video are not heads-down video users…I don’t think you have to have those sorts of speeds to every person in the country.”
But in spite of his criticisms, Barney said the NBN would be a boon to his business and drive prices down to help Australian resellers. He also accepted the need for Government to intervene when commercial returns on investments are not possible.
“We’re happy to see a vibrant, competitive environment where there is no one in a monopoly position and infrastructure is being invested in,” he said. “A company like ours is probably not going to build out to Ayers Rock so the Government is going to have to step in to deal with some of these issues.
“Something like that will have to be subsidised because you’re never going to make a return on that investment.”