Home Business IT Business Telecommunications AAPT a valid NBN dissenter or just a can't do telco?
On the day of the $43 billion National Broadband Network announcement last week, NZ Telecom-owned service provider AAPT joined the chorus of plaudits. The next day AAPT's CEO was on national TV slamming the NBN  and FTTH as economically unviable. Are the AAPT views concerning the NBN valid or is it just another can't do telco?

AAPT describes itself as Australia's third largest telecommunications company and its CEO Paul Broad last week was keen to add its voice to the almost universal shouts of joy coming from all sectors of the Australian telecoms industry - except perhaps a few unsuccessful tenderers.

It almost seemed as if AAPT might have had a change of heart from its stance of open skepticism about the economics of FTTN and FTTH and was making an attempt to jump aboard the gravy train.

However, AAPT, which pulled out of the NBN bidding process last year, claiming that it couldn't come up with a model to make it pay, went right back to its negative contrarian stance the very next day.

According to Paul Broad, it's OK for our Government to invest in infrastructure for our underserviced  and black spot areas. However, fibre to the home (FTTH) or even fibre to the node (FTTN) are a waste of money and not needed.

Broad told the ABC Lateline program that Australians don't need FTTH and that existing copper is fine. He claimed that consumers will have to pay $200 a month for use of the NBN.

"I just don't think that people'll are going to pay double for something they don't need," said Broad on the ABC.

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It's very interesting indeed to hear the boss of a telco owned by NZ Telecom telling Australians what they need and that they already have enough bandwidth supplied by ADSL2+ through Telstra's ageing copper network.

Apparently Broad sees building a modern FTTH network as merely "duplicating" Telstra's copper network at an unacceptable cost. What he thinks is a better idea is to structurally separate Telstra, make the entire copper network open access, fill in the blackspots and work from there.

That's all very nice in theory but, leaving aside the issues with separating Telstra, Broad's view of what should happen has one fundamental flaw. Australia wants - needs - a world class broadband network and it won't get it with the existing copper in the ground.

It is the height of arrogance for AAPT and Broad to presume what Australia's needs in the information space will look like even five years from now let alone in 10 years.

For Broad to predict what FTTH will cost consumers (he claims $200 a month) or that there will be no demand because of the price is highly presumptious.

Back in 1955, Australia didn't need television but we finally got it in 1956 and boy did the need become apparent. Consumers were spending the equivalent of $10,000 in today's currency for primitive 17 inch black and white TV sets.

Yes, we could just sit on our existing copper to the home infrastructure, fill in the black spots and wring every ounce of bandwidth we can get out of it. And we could watch as Europe, parts of Asia and the rest of the world leave us behind in the information space.

Or we can bite the bullet and just go ahead and build a world class FTTH network and open the way for Australia to participate in entire new industries of information delivery. It's pretty obvious which option Australia has chosen.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

 

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