Wednesday, 22 December 2010 10:51

NBN: The dirty little secret of regional Australia


While NBN proponents tout wildly optimistic benefits that ubiquitous FttH will bring to regional Australia, the rhetoric falls way short of what will actually be delivered to bush dwellers. This is the claim of the head of at least one telecoms carrier, who says the lead time for rolling out the NBN to a large proportion of country Australia will be unacceptably long and will not happen at all in many cases.

According to the CEO of new mobile carrier Indigo telecom, David Ruddiman, expectations about what the National Broadband Network (NBN) will deliver to regional Australia far outweigh the reality.

In fact, says Mr Ruddiman, more than 1.5 million Australians will not get fibre to their homes at all and will continue to rely on wireless services.

Mr Ruddiman met recently with some of the world's largest telcos and industry heavyweights as part of a feasibility study into the NBN's benefits for rural and regional Australia.

He said while the NBN concept had merit, the Federal Government's strategy for rolling out the Network wouldn't give regional Australians what they want. 

'The 36-page summary released last month fails to specify an actual timeline for lighting up regional and remote Australia,' Mr Ruddian said.

'It also lacks sufficient detail on the combination of wireless technologies (terrestrial wireless and satellite) that will be used.

'Without this information, existing companies and service providers, who are investing heavily in developing innovative solutions to deliver high speed internet to the bush, aren't able to properly assess the true impact the NBN may have on their business plans for the future.'

Mr Ruddiman said while the Government was promising to build a network capable of delivering up to 100MB per second, there was relatively little information available on how it could be provided to large parts of Australia.

'The reality is up to 7% of the population (more than 1.5 million) won't see any fibre and will remain dependent upon satellite and wireless technologies to access the internet. 

'The Government's vision for creating a universal service providing every Australian taxpayer with the same access is commendable but more detail is required on how it's proposing to achieve that vision.'

Mr Ruddiman said by aiming for the biggest and the best, rolling out the NBN had become a longer and more costly process than necessary.

'The Government would be wise to consult regional Australians about exactly what's needed to improve their quality of life,' he said.

'Many Australians living in remote areas can't afford to wait between three and eight years to receive a reasonable internet service and would welcome a shorter term solution.

'We would argue the Government needs a short, medium and long term plan for delivering this technology.

'A number of telcos could assist with providing a short to medium term solution to ensure the bush has access to the technology our cities take for granted.'

Mr Ruddiman said regional Australians were also disadvantaged by the Federal Government's Australian Broadband Guarantee subsidy scheme.

'While the subsidy is fundamentally a good Government initiative, and has resulted in many regional Australian's being connected to the internet, the scheme is designed so that telecommunication re-sellers, delivering services to the bush, receive the full subsidy up front,' he said.

'This removes any incentive for providers to offer consistently high levels of quality of service. Making payment of the subsidy contingent on providing a high quality service over the course of a contract would ultimately ensure a better product is provided.'



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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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