Home Telecoms & NBN Switch to FttN claimed to reduce value of NBN

Switch to FttN claimed to reduce value of NBN

An experienced telecommunications executive says a broadband network that is 60% fibre to the node will be worth much less than one which has a majority of fibre to the home connections when a bid to sell it off is undertaken.

Tim Herring made the comments as a private citizen in iTWire, in response to an article that pointed out the pro-government role being taken by the publication CommsDay.

Herring is the treasurer of Telsoc, publisher of the Australian Journal of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy. He has been associated with Telstra, Inmarsat and SmartTrans.

He added that the Coalition had added complexity, risk, cost and time to the rolling out of the national broadband network by changing tack in mid-course.

Writing that he meant to advance an economic argument, Herring said the fact that fibre was getting cheaper all the time was making the situation worse.

When it was conceived in 2009, the NBN was meant to cover 93% of Australia with connections that provided fibre to the premises. The remaining 7%, being inaccessible through fibre, was meant to be covered by wireless and satellite.

But in 2013, when the Coalition returned to office with the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as its communications minister, this was upended, with a plan to provide fibre to the node taking precedence.

FttP was allocated only for places where it was already being installed and in greenfields sites; FttN was the main method, with fixed wireless and satellite added to the mix.

Additionally, the NBN is also being supplied through cable in areas where the cable is said to be in good condition; a plan to use Optus HFC was dropped due to the condition of the wiring. More recently, fibre to the distribution point (FttDP) has been added, with about 700,000 premises to be served by this technology.

Herring pointed out that the plan to sell off the NBN in the medium term was difficult when it had 60% FttN connections; this plan, he said, had been conceived when it was planned as 93% FttP.

And, this 60% FttN structure also required tens of billions in upgrades within the next decade, making it worth even less.

It was "difficult to put dollars to it, as the current plans have assiduously avoided costing upgrades (needed for HFC, FttN and FttDP)", Herring wrote.

"Laurie (Patton, formerly head of Internet Australia), Robin (Eckermann, academic at Canberra University) and Grahame (Lynch, editor of CommsDay) are all people I count as friends, so it is difficult to be too critical, but as I recall only Robin has actually built a network, and that was TransAct in Canberra (1995-99).

"I am a little dismayed to hear him praising a network almost identical to TransAct, BUT 18 years later! Surely we can move forward a little from that!

"I'm sorry, but I'm with Laurie on this one. If we can't do FttP straight away, at least take the fibre deep into the network to minimise later upgrade costs," Herring wrote.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.