nbn has revealed that it will be adding G.fast broadband tech to the NBN rollout next year, in a bid to push more data through the existing copper wire it is required to use under the Government’s preferred multi-technology mix (MTM) approach.
The network builder claims that G.fast technology can take broadband speeds past the current 100Mbps levels delivered by existing VDSL technology to deliver speeds of up to 1Gbps over copper lines by using higher frequencies of either 106MHz or 212MHz – compared to just 17MHz on VDSL.
The company behind Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) has been experimenting with the technology since at least 2015, when it trialled G.fast tech on a 20 year-old stretch of 100 metre copper cabling, achieving speeds of 600Mbps.
The move comes as nbn and the Federal Government both work to quell mounting discontent from certain quarters about the network’s rollout, both from a technology standpoint and the business model behind the company charged with completing the rollout by 2020.
Amid a somewhat damning report about the network on the ABC’s Four Corners program on 23 October, which highlighted major issues with the NBN's rollout and performance, Australia’s Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, suggested resellers were part of the problem.
“Well this is a new model for retailers and it's a new product environment for consumers,” Fifield told Sky News Australia’s David Speers on 23 October. “Retailers are obviously competing for market share. They're obviously competing on the basis of price. But what they should also be doing is competing on the basis of quality.
“We want to see retailers delivering what it is that they promise their consumers that they will. We also want retailers to explain the full benefits of the NBN. And from the consumer perspective; consumers haven't before had to consider speed as a variable. So, these are things that consumers are getting used to. They're also things that retailers are getting used to.
“But I've got to say, myself and the ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission] are reaching a point where patience will run out. Retailers have got to deliver what they promise. They've got to provision their customers according to their contracts and the products that they promise,” he said.
Fifield’s comments come as nbn’s own CEO, Bill Morrow, flags issues with the company’s existing business model, suggesting that if things don’t change dramatically, the company may never turn a profit – one of the main goals of the venture under the Government’s current financial forecasts.
“The government has two options: to regulate to protect this model, or to realise that the NBN won't have the finances it thought and might require some off-budget monies to go in to make it happen,” Morrow said in an interview with Fairfax Media on 23 October.
Morrow even raised prospect of a wireless broadband network levy to help prop up the finances of the national network.
However, this is a prospect Fifield has dismissed.
“We're not examining applying that to mobile or wireless network. Those networks are not substitutable for NBN. If you just look at the cost. It's about $6 on average per gigabyte of data when you are talking about mobile versus 55 cents when you are talking NBN,” he said.
At the same time, Fifield has not entirely dismissed the prospect of writing down much of the value of the NBN if it doesn, indeed, fail to turn a profit upon its completion.
“The value of the NBN is something that is determined by accounting standards. And when we get to that point of selling it, those sorts of assessments will be made,” Fifield told Nine’s TODAY show host, Karl Stefanovic, on 24 October.
“It would be a hard thing for that to occur, but as I say, we’re not really going to know until the NBN is sold and we see what the taxpayer gets,” he said.