A rough outlook on Australia's wireless coverage under the National Broadband Network (Credit: NBN Co)
The telecommunications industry has been joined by Google and Intel in applauding a study that concludes the National Broadband Network (NBN) can be implemented for less than $43 billion with a mix of fibre, wireless and satellite technologies.
Google Australia head of government affairs, Iarla Flynn, said the study makes a “strong case” for the NBN.
“Super-fast Internet access will open up a world of opportunities for Australians and be the greatest enabler of innovation and entrepreneurship that businesses could wish for," Flynn said.
The $25 million NBN Implementation Study, commissioned in April 2009 and containing 84 recommendations, was broadly welcomed by technology businesses, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and analysts for its socio-economic benefits, innovation levels and anticipated regulatory reform.
iiNet CTO, Greg Bader, said the NBN will introduce fairer competition in the industry, and called on government to address imbalances in ADSL access prices between regional and metropolitan areas.
“We are paying layer 2 [Telstra] access prices for 1.5Mbps services that are well north of what it will cost us under the NBN,” Bader said.
“If we can’t survive under an equitable regime in the NBN, then we don’t deserve to be in business.”
Bader said consumers will pay for the top 100Mbps NBN broadband service to access new consumer new services such as IPTV that work best over fibre networks.
Intel managing director, Philip Cronin, said the study findings mean government and industry should stop debating the need for the NBN.
“It’s now time to move beyond debate… the NBN has the potential to deliver significant long term benefits to consumers and small businesses alike,” Cronin said.
Vodafone Hutchison Australia CEO, Nigel Dews, said the open-access network will “transform the competitive landscape” and make broadband prices more equitable.
“We are encouraged by the move to overcome competitive bottlenecks that impact the wireless industry, and the recommendation that the NBN connect mobile base stations,” Dews said. “We agree that wireless broadband will be complementary to the NBN fibre network and that wireless should also form part of the NBN solution in less dense regions.”
Optus spokesman, Maha Krishnapillai, said entities with “vested interests” should step aside.
“It’s pretty bloody good,” Krishnapillai said of the study. “It is a major win for competition and validation that the network is commercially viable and that [a] $50 access price is achievable.”
“We must get on and build the network and those with vested interests should get out of the way,” he added.
When originally contacted a Telstra spokesman told Computerworld Australia the telco's response would not be worth publishing, but said in a written statement that it is "interested in [the report's] findings and will consider them in detail”.
The study also called for a high level of transparency from the NBN Co, an issue which has previously been raised by PIPE Network founder, Beven Slattery. It also increased the scope of the NBN to reach 93 per cent of premise, a further 1.6 million houses than initially planned by the Federal Government when you include the expected 1.3 million greenfields estates forecast to be built.
Analysts broadly welcomed the findings of the study, but expressed some doubt around the state of a business case for the national infrastructure project. Ovum’s David Kennedy said the study’s cost estimate of $26 billion for coverage of 93 per cent of the population was realistic and in the range the analyst house had expected – between $25 and $30 billion.