Telsyte says NBN up-take hindered by slow copper disconnection

Telsyte predicts copper disconnection won't occur until 2014, hindering up-take rates of the NBN

Up-take to the National Broadband Network (NBN) is potentially being limited by the lack of work on withdrawing copper services, according to a study by Telsyte.

The withdrawal of the copper network, which is slated to occur over 18 months, needs to begin now, Telsyte said.

However, Chris Coughlan, consulting director at Telsyte, said he doesn’t believe it will occur before the next federal election, which could happen as early as August next year. Instead, he expects it to begin at the start of 2014.

“There are pre-conditions within the Telstra [and] NBN Co agreement that hinder the start [of this]. Two of these [reasons] are possibly the need to deploy a full NBN Co service area and having a fully acceptable PSTN [public switched telephone network] replacement product,” he told Computerworld Australia.

This slow disconnection from copper will ultimately hinder NBN up-take rates, Coughlan said.

“The disconnection of copper is [a] significant barrier. NBN Co will only achieve a medium term take-up of around 20-30 per cent of premises passed if customers are given a choice, [but] 70 per cent plus if copper is withdrawn,” Coughlan said. “Multi-dwelling units still remain a technical and project management issue for the deployment of NBN.”

In a parliamentary report released yesterday, Malcolm Turnbull, shadow minister for communications and broadband, said the take-up rate of the NBN in Tasmania is only 18 per cent.

Telsyte now estimates fibre access will overtake DSL-based services in 2019, given an unchanged government in the next election. This was previously forecast to occur in 2016.

Given a Coalition win at the next federal election, Coughlan said the copper network and hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) agreements with Telstra and NBN Co would need to be renegotiated if the Coalition wants to utilise fibre-to-the-node as part of the fibre deployment.

“The current agreement has the copper disconnected with an undertaking not to reconnect at any time in the future,” he said. “This allows Telstra to have a full-access network available entering into any negotiation, hence maximising its position and options through this process."

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

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