Bill Morrow, CEO of the company behind the rollout of Australia’s National Broadband Network has defended his suggestion that there is little, or no, demand for gigabit-per-second broadband speeds in Australia
“We have roughly a million-and-a-half homes that can have the technology to give a gigabit-per-second service capability today,” Morrow reportedly said during nbn’s half-yearly financial results presentation on 9 February. “We have a product that we can offer the retailers should they want to sell it.
“The reality is that a couple of the retailers have signed up for a trial... looking at what a gigabit per second service might look like. But they have chosen not to offer that to the consumers.
“And you'd need to talk to them as to why, but I will presume it's because there isn't that big of a demand out there for them to actually develop a product to sell to those end users,” he said.
The comments were swiftly picked up by the local media and criticised by the likes of challenger brand, MyRepublic, the Singaporean internet service provider that launched in Australia late last year.
In fact, Morrow’s comments saw MyRepublic breathlessly throwing around expletives in a bid to make the claim that Australians do, indeed, want gigabit speeds. To prove it, the company is calling for support to launch a so-called “gigatown” aimed at creating a “one-gigabit town in Australia”.
“In New Zealand, MyRepublic launched the 1Gbps plan two months ago and already 40 per cent of new orders are buying that product,” MyRepublic Australia managing director, Nicholas Demos, said at the time.
“We want Australians to have a true voice so we are calling out to the nation to sign our petition and register for our upcoming promotion that will bring Gigatown to one Australian community.
“If the government won’t do it then we will, just as we have done in New Zealand, Singapore and Indonesia,” he said.
Now, however, Morrow is standing by his comments, and is weighing back into the debate. Backed by nbn’s own figures, Morrow suggests that the vast majority of Australians continue to opt for the two lowest-speed nbn products available.
“I was asked last week by the media about the need for Gigabit (Gbps) speeds in Australia. These are lines that are 40 times faster than plans based on our most popular 25Mbps wholesale service," Morrow said in a statement, published on 15 February.
“The fact is nbn already offers a wholesale 1Gbps product to retail service providers – which RSPs can make available to more than 1.5 million homes, and has been on sale for around four years.
“Currently, there are no retail 1Gbps speed plans on offer from the retailers. This is, in our opinion, because there is still minimal consumer demand for these ultra-fast speeds – especially at the prices retailers would have to charge for them,” he said.
According to Morrow, current nbn data shows that 83 per cent of people on services powered by the nbn network today are ordering retail services based on the two lowest wholesale speed tiers, 25/5Mbps and 12/1Mbps.
“We have to be realistic about what the market is actually telling us about demand for ultra-fast services,” he said.