NBN Co CEO, Mike Quigley's speech: ACS Charles Todd Memorial Oration

It is an honour to be here today giving this Charles Todd Memorial Oration in the company of many of Australia’s telecommunications leaders.

When, many months ago, I accepted the invitation to speak here today little did I know that it would be just a few days before a Federal election, the outcome of which will have a profound impact on our industry.

But here I am, the CEO of the company charged with building the NBN, which as we all know has become rather a hot political issue. So, I was left with the question, what to do?

My conclusion was to take a deep breath and just tell it as I see it– without fear or favour. This is what I did just last week when we made the announcement that we would be providing a 1 Gb/s product.

We had been working on this for quite some time and I saw no reason not to follow our usual practice, which was to make the industry aware of our conclusions.

We are continuing to do this. So we released our Product Overview documents for our Fibre, Wireless and Satellite products yesterday.

Tomorrow we will be releasing a more detailed 80 page technical Product Description document for our Fibre product.

I was also conscious of my responsibility to try to ensure the public debate surrounding the NBN is as fact-based as is possible given the current circumstances. I came out of retirement for this project because I believe this is the right way to deliver a national broadband network for Australia.

So, I plan to use this speech to outline:

  • 1. why it’s better to invest $27 billion rather than spend $6 billion
  • 2. creating a monopoly helps competition
  • 3. why a ubiquitous broadband network isn’t just equitable, it’s essential for the delivery of social, economic and productivity benefits
  • 4. why wireless can’t, on its own, serve all our long term broadband needs but a combination of wireless and fibre can.

In fact there is an even more fundamental point I would like to address - the veritable elephant in the room, in fact, the “white elephant” in the room.

Some have claimed that the FTTP network would end up not being used because of the growing capability of mobile networks. But why then are some very large and very experienced commercial Telcos investing in fibre architectures, both FTTN and FTTP.

I am talking about some of the biggest Telcos in the world such as AT&T, Verizon and DT. They all have large mobile networks yet they have heavily invested in fibre access.

Even more interestingly, I heard just earlier this week, from a Chinese equipment vendor that China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator, is now looking at deploying FTTP.

Are all these Telcos wrong about the future of FTTP?

These are some interesting questions, but first I would like to return to decisions made 140 years ago to build the Overland Telegraph, which was supervised by Charles Todd.

The Overland Telegraph cost £480,000, equivalent to just under a $1 billion in today’s terms. The total cost was met entirely by the tax-payers of South Australia and was equivalent to 60% of the state’s annual budget.

Tags nbn coaustralian computer society (ACS)Mike Quigley




OK Abbott, Pyne, Hockey etc. and all of the other members of the flat earth society who know nothing about this and think the NBN is not worth the money, please counter the reasoning portrayed here. I'll bet you can't.

Michael Turnley


Bravo Mr Quigley. This is the sole reason why I am voting Labour not Liberal...The Liberals have not displayed any strategic vision for the future development and growth of Australia, merely, a small-minded obsession with negativity pandering to fear & loathing and and obsession with bean counting.
I don't want a government that is always trying to palm off their role as the pilot of our nation to the private sector and avoids any major investments in 21st century infrastructure development for fear it will put their "books" in the red. The purpose of government is to govern for the public good not deliver a profit to shareholders. I expect to see my money spent on worthwhile nation building projects not left in the bank gathering interest for the sake of showing a posiitve bank balance, no successful government or business has ever grown withour be willing to lend money and take risks...

And I certainly don't want to be led into the future by a bunch of wannabee corporate beancounters obsessesed with balancing the books at the expense of our long term global competitiveness and internal infrastructure needs,and one that displays a blithe disregard to the needs and will of taxpayers (aka shareholders) whose investments (taxes) they are the meant to use wisely.

I don't expect the taxes I pay to be squirreled away in an 'interest bearing' account. I pay taxes so I can see them invested in major nation building capital projects and worthwhile public infrastructure investments - like the NBN - that will support our businesses, government and public sector in exactly the ways needed today to ensure we remain a global leader and have access to all the opportunities a national broadband network offers.



Hear hear Michael, most succinctly said!

My simple and concise motto in relation to the current Coalition and the NBN naysayers who talk dollars is ...

"Australia (the nation) is NOT listed on the ASX"!

Not Convinced


"Copper: with copper-based DSL we have now reached about the limit of what can be done...... It is now time to allow it to gracefully retire......."

Pretty glib remark. Did you forget about the Melbourne PhD student (now in the US, I believe) who developed technology that will deliver Internet speeds up to 250Mbps over existing copper phone lines, negating the need to install costly fiber optic cables. (ie., 200 times existing).

Reportedly, the technology could be installed directly into existing modems as a software upgrade or be shipped in new modems and would also require installation at the telephone exchange end.

Dr John Papandriopoulos won the Melbourne University Chancellor’s Prize for Excellence in PhD, for the technology which is being patented in Australia and the U.S.

The technology has huge potential, particularly in countries where the cost/benefit equation of rolling out expensive fiber optic networks to replace existing copper phone lines is prohibitive. Dr Papandriopoulos hopes it will be available within 3-4 years. (Quoted from Gizmag)

Hmm, and I don't even get $2 to know this, never mind $2million. But then, to be fair, we wouldn't want to spill the gravy at NBN.



Whilst you are correct "Not Convinced", there's a fundamental problem.


Copper wire suffers, as it always has, from noise. Packets get lost. If you're sitting at the node you can get the peak speed under perfect conditions. If you're (like I am) 5km away from the node your ADSL2 is marginally faster then ADSL1.

Whilst copper can, in theory, get great speeds, in reality the noise and signal loss kills a lot of it off.

Fibre Optic has virtually no signal loss (short of some idiot with a back hoe digging up the cables. Makes a massive difference.

D Newman


@AZ well put,
and least we forget on top of that the copper in the ground is life ex and rotting, and has been patched and abused for years for the sake of a cheap fix...Looking at Telstra and its corrosive joining gel.
To put it mildly the horse be dead, stop flogging its sorry ass.

The copper was declared life ex in 1998, a fact often obscured by the smoke and mirrors BS of pollies and business.

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