Coalition NBN better or worse?


Broadband minister Senator Stephen Conroy and his Coalition counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, have continued to play tit for tat over the National Broadband Network (NBN). It is obvious that a Coalition win in the next election could have wide ranging impacts on the network.

Coalition leader Tony Abbot in his budget reply again raised the spectre of a fibre to the node network (FTTN) as an alternative to the fibre to the home (FTTH) network being constructed by NBN Co. "Why dig up every street when fibre to the node could more swiftly and more affordably deliver 21st century broadband?" Abbott argued.

The Coalition’s 'Plan for Real Action on Broadband and Telecommunications' advocates a mix of new fixed wireless networks, improved satellite broadband services for remote areas of Australia, and "a new national fibre optic network to deliver competitive ‘backhaul’".

Under the heading 'Provide a way forward to a higher bandwidth, more fibre-intensive Australia', the policy states: "The Coalition will establish a commercial and technical platform for much greater fibre penetration over coming years, particularly by stimulating demand for broadband services and in turn stimulating investment by the private sector (building on government contributions such as new and more competitively priced backhaul)."

A shift from FTTH to a FTTN approach for a national network could potentially have negative consequences for Australian broadband, argues Mark Gregory, senior lecturer in electrical and computer engineering at Melbourne's RMIT University.

FTTN could reduce the number of premises connected to a national broadband network, Gregory said. He stated the number of premises connected to the NBN could drop to 80 per cent or even less, a drop from the 93 per cent of homes the current federal government is targeting. While this downward shift is a figure Gregory has calculated based on comments he has seen about the NBN over the past year, he said the Coalition should make it clear how many premises will be connected to the NBN under its plan.

“I believe that the splits that we have at the moment between satellite, fixed wireless and the optical networks has been determined after a great deal of analysis and we shouldn’t see any shifting down to figures like 80 per cent or lower and so forth in terms of people that are getting access to the fibre," Gregory said.

“When you look at the spread of people in the discussion, then a figure of 80 or even lower — 70 per cent — isn’t unrealistic. It hasn’t been stated by the Coalition [how many people will be connected to a national broadband network] and it’s one of those figures that I would like them to provide more detail on.”

If fewer premises are connected to a national network, Gregory said the Labor party won't be the only ones unhappy and voicing concern.

“I think that it won’t be just groups that see a direct benefit from the NBN that will be screaming, I think it will be right across the board,” he said.

Gregory believes that if the Coalition comes into power, it needs to moderate its policy — and will receive pressure from several organisations and individuals to do so. However, he said both political parties should “take stock and rethink their platforms”.

“I believe that the Coalition needs to listen to the voices of reason in this regard — that [what] we really need in this country [is] a technology platform that’s going to allow us to move forward,” he said.

An additional problem with using FTTN is it requires cutting into the copper network owned by Telstra, Gregory said.

“The compensation that Telstra would want for that was considered to be sufficiently high as to justify moving to a complete fibre-to-the-home solution. The Coalition seems convinced that they could do it cheaper, but the jury’s still out on that,” he said.

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I just don't understand this debate...while I dislike most of Labor's policies their NBN is clearly a good one so if the Coalitiion had any sense they would let it be competed to the premises. It will be an asset that can be sold by a future government and I think it is entirely appropriate to replace aging telstra copper infrastructure. For those that say it will be a waste to build it to the premises because it is overkill take a moment and ask yourself whether there is anything wrong with having the best network infrastucture in the world. It would be nice to say we are world leaders in communication infrostucture wouldn't it?



Not only would it be "nice to say" that we are the world leaders in communication infrastructure, but it would be very beneficial to our economy by enabling the growth of high-tech businesses all over the country instead of forcing them to operate only in parts of our cities as is currently the case.

By the way, others are doing this as well; countries like France, Sweden and New Zealand have set policies to connect most of their population to FTTH networks within a decade. Australia is one of the richest nations in the world and can (and should if it is to remain one!) afford to have first-class infrastructure.



Why is Tony Abbott still claiming that NBN will be digging up every street?

You don't have to be Bill Gates to know that NBN will access exactly the same ducts that now carry Telstra copper. Someone close to him should tell him that he is spouting rubbish so the NBN debate can move on to the real issues.

Abel Adamski


gnome, speaking of Bill Gates, did you read the article "What if Bill Gates was Australian?", same old same old



No, Abel, the article 'What if Bill Gates was Australian' doesn't ring a bell with me.

Do please tell what it was all about.

Abel Adamski


I will try posting a link to the article in Technology Spectator

Abel Adamski


However the subject is which is better or worse.

Remember our National communications network is one of the foundations of the economy.

One is a Ubiquitous Business capable readily upgradeable standardised National wholesale network planned and implemented as a single entity for the benefit of the Nation, the model will be self funding, pay for itself and provide a mandated rate of return to the taxpayer with plenty of cash flow to extend and improve. Via satellite component designed to provide up to 100Mb download it will cover the mainland and the Australian territories inc the Antartica.

The other is a model based on splitting Telstra also, using existing copper and HFC, neither really Business capable for now let alone 10-20 years time. But all based on throwing many Billions of taxpayer Dollars at the private sector who will require their ROI and shareholder dividends still ( TELSTRA and OPTUS want rid of their CAN). It will not be ubiquitous, standardised or easily upgradeable, it will depend on a constant drain of taxpayer funds with no return and a third rate result. The HFC is shared spectrum currently with poor upload which will be expensive to upgrade to a reasonable still shared upload. the cable is 15+ years old, with a service life for arial HFC of 20 -30 years approx useable but higher maintenance for longer, so temporary solution at best

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