The Opposition’s NBN policy addresses some of the cheaper and faster issues but it falls short of providing a true vision for the national digital infrastructure for Australia, according to independent telco analyst, Paul Budde.
The Coalition announced plans to deliver a faster, better, cheaper National Broadband Network (NBN) to all Australians if it wins government.
Critical details on how they will achieve a cheaper outcome even at lower prices remains a big question, and unforeseen cost increases and technical problems that arise from using an ageing copper network, Budde said.
“Working with an old network means that you will come across many ‘surprises’ in that network, that need to be fixed and that will either increase the costs or make it impossible for people to get true fast broadband. There are plenty of examples across Europe and North America of this problem,” Budde said. “But this doesn’t need to be a major problem as long as there is a policy in place that recognises and addresses these issues, this however is still missing from the Opposition, nor is there any recognition of the potential technical problems that might occur.”
If the old Telstra-owned copper network is kept in place, Budde said this would raise more complex regulatory issues for the rest of the telco industry.
“One of the most significant problems that are arising in Europe in relation to FttN are how to make this an open network to ensure wholesale competition over that infrastructure,” Budde said.
Budde also raised questions on what the Opposition plans to do to get everyone in the country on a network that provides equal opportunity for everyone in a digital society, but said it was good to see the Opposition indicating fibre-to-the-home (FttH) will be needed.
“Broadband is now seen worldwide as essential national infrastructure and critical for the digital economy, e-health, tele-education and so on. The Opposition still fails to address and recognise these issues and to formulate their policies accordingly,” Budde said. “Eventually for socio-economic reasons, all of the network will need to be upgraded in order to run a sophisticated country such as Australia. There is nothing in the Opposition’s plan that addresses this issue, beyond their initial quick and cheap fix, still at a considerable costs of $29.5 billion.”
The Opposition may be able to build an inferior broadband solution cheaper and installing it faster, but Budde said he would like to see the Opposition lay out more detailed plans on how the infrastructure will continue to evolve with the demand for faster speeds.
“So far we are only seeing step one, where is the Opposition’s vision on the rest of the plan? At least some high level indications on how they see the infrastructure evolve would be useful in order to make it possible to properly judge their step one plan,” he said. “Looking back over the last 5-10 years it is not too difficult to envisage and to predict that eventually faster speeds are needed. If you don’t want to spend the money for a full upgrade now, what is their plan for the future?”
Budde said if the Opposition didn’t see the NBN as a socio-economic policy, then they should abandon the NBN altogether and leave it to the private sector.
“You would only – as a government, intervene if you believe that this is needed for a national purpose. The Opposition has so far still failed to make it clear why they believe they should spend $29.4 billion,” he said.