If Australia adopted New Zealand’s National Broadband Network (NBN) model, the average download speed delivered to Australian households would be a meagre 13Mbps, according to Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy.
Shadow Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has been singing the praises of New Zealand’s national broadband plans and did so again in his address to the National Press Club today.
Despite the difference in geography and population, he has been comparing New Zealand’s NBN to the one in Australia, claiming Australia has been “completely and utterly outdone by our Kiwi cousins on broadband”.
New Zealand is using a mixture of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH), fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) and existing copper communications infrastructure while Australia is deploying a mainly FTTH network with wireless and satellite services thrown in.
Of course, New Zealand’s NBN, also known as Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB), is a fraction of the cost of Australia’s NBN but it is important to note the population difference is four million and 22 million respectively.
According to Senator Conroy, Turnbull has been claiming theoretical speeds on New Zealand’s copper networks are around 75Mbps for downloads and 50Mbps for uploads but to compare them to the local NBN is misleading.
“Malcolm needs to explain that is done through a bonded copper pair; two coppers going into homes,” Senator Conroy said at an AIIA media briefing in Sydney. “You cannot deliver those speeds on a single copper in the homes since the vast majority of Australian copper is a single copper line to the home.
“So if you take out that little sleight of hand by Malcolm, you then get what speeds are actually being delivered in New Zealand.” Conroy claimed New Zealand households which will be using the existing copper network will have an average download speed of around 10-13Mbps, which is confirmed by information released by Crown Fibre Holdings, the company responsible for accelerating the the UFB rollout.
Fibre is capable of up to 100Mbps download speeds.
“So Malcolm wants to lock us into a 13Mbps world, whereas... productivity comes from far beyond 13Mbps download speeds,” Conroy said. “We’re not even going to bother talking about the upload speeds when it comes to this sort of network.”
In case anybody was curious, the upload speeds on the UFB copper network is around 850kbps.
Turnbull has put forward the Coalition’s own NBN plans which involves using a mixture of fixed-line and wireless technologies to deliver a superfast broadband network ‘faster and cheaper’ than Labor’s version.
Upgrading existing HFC networks plays a part in his plans and he promised he would not rip up existing fibre infrastructure already laid down by NBN Co and Telstra’s structural separation will still be on the agenda.
Turnbull estimates the total cost of the project would be $10 billion.
Conroy scoffed at the Shadow Communications Minister’s NBN plan and said that trying to convince Telstra and Optus to make their HFC networks open access would be near impossible.
“Let’s be clear, the HFC networks have failed to deliver retail competition because they are closed networks,” he said. Conroy highlighted the technological limitations of HFC as well.
“HFC, as it is configured today, can have up to 100Mbps download speeds but only 2Mbps upload,” he said. “It is a shared service and people using it know you can’t upload much and the sort of ubiquity, the sort of applications we are talking about need that degree of upload and download speeds.”
The Communications Minister was also doubtful of the Coalition’s $10 billion NBN, claiming it had not factored in compensation to Telstra and Optus for their HFC networks as well as cost for Telstra’s structural separation.
“He’s got to explain what money he will be paying to Telstra on top of the cost of the build,” Conroy said.
On Turnbull comparing OPEL to the NBN...
In Turnbull’s address to the National Press Club, he claimed the wireless technologies to be deployed for the NBN are the same as those planned for OPEL broadband network, which was canned by the Labor Government in 2008.
The current NBN plan is to rollout fixed wireless and satellite solutions to seven per cent of Australian premises in rural and regional locations.
“Had that scheme not been cancelled... it would today be providing fast broadband to Australians in those [remote] areas,” Turnbull said. But the Coalition is flogging a dead horse, according to Senator Conroy.
“That’s a joke,” he said. “[OPEL] was a dodgy D-grade technology that was not compatible or upgradeable.
“That’s just factually wrong; he should go and do some research.”
The fact OPEL had no spectrum meant it could not propagate more than 1.2km from a tower and this is not comparable to the LTE network which will be rollout out for the NBN, according to Senator Conroy.
“It was a dog and it was one that got put down,” he said.