Ludlam hits out at Coalition's NBN policy

iiNet's Steve Dalby is also critical of the Coalition's policy, saying it has simply focused on the cost of the network build

Greens ICT spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam has condemned the Coalition’s alternative vision for the National Broadband Network.

Shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott today launched the policy, under which most households would have access to connections up to 50Mbps and a minimum speed of 25Mbps, with the revamped network costing $29.5 billion to roll out.

The Coalition NBN would shift from primarily using fibre-to-the-premises, as is the case now, to an approach largely relying fibre-to-the-node – running fibre to street cabinets then using copper for the connection to most households.

“The concept that you would build something and know it will be obsolete on the day that it’s built – I don’t think has ever been attempted on a scale quite as big as this before,” Ludlam said of the Coalition vision for the NBN.

Ludlam also questioned Coalition claims that the current NBN would eventually cost $94 billion. “I think that figure is basically made up. I don’t think that’s worth the paper it’s printed on,” he said.

“A lot of NBN services are well behind, but they’re not necessarily over budget … It’s very difficult to see how the opposition thinks it’s going to come in at more than double. I think it’s basically just a stunt.”

Although the Coalition’s NBN would make extensive use of copper infrastructure, which can be more prone than fibre to damage from weather events such as flooding and more expensive to maintain than optical fibre, Turnbull said the lifespan of copper cannot be predicted.

But with the Coalition's broadband plan relying on copper for the last mile, Ludlam said: “He’s going to need to predict it because the Coalition’s plan depends intrinsically on stranding people on copper, so they’re going to need a much tighter answer than that because that is their plan,” Ludlam said.

“The Coalition now need to take a quite detailed and specific interest in the lifespan of copper.”

As part of the new policy, Turnbull and Abbott have promised a new Coalition government would conduct a cost benefit analysis. However, Ludlam said he doubted the usefulness of the exercise.

“In my experience, [you] can make a [cost benefit analysis] tell you whatever you want it to tell you. You could write the cost benefit analysis that was glowing on NBN Co or one that condemned it. That would entirely depend on the way that you monetised the assumptions about the benefits,” the senator said.

“The study will be valuable but only if the incoming government is actually prepared to listen to them. What will happen if the [cost benefit analysis] says ‘No, NBN Co [and] the original model was better’? and the Productivity Commission or [Infrastructure Australia] said ‘No, don’t do this, this would be a disaster’. Is Malcolm Turnbull seriously going to [do an] about face and abandon the government’s policy? I think that’s a little unlikely.”

Steve Dalby, chief regulatory officer at iiNet, has also hit out at the Coalition’s policy. He says in its policy the Coalition hasn’t addressed the benefits the NBN could offer Australia’s digital economy and has taken the wrong approach by simply focusing on the cost to build the network.

He believes the technology the Coalition wants to use to build the NBN will need replacing in a “few” years’ time.

“We know that the copper is already struggling. There’s many people that can’t get broadband, even though they’ve got copper,” he told Computerworld Australia.

“The ubiquitous nature of fibre-to-the-home is far superior to the patchy ‘might work, might not work’ broadband services available over the copper today.”

An NBN with a mix of FTTN and FTTH could also provide more complexity for RSPs, Dalby said.

“We’d rather have a single uniform approach, but that might not be possible [with] the costs associated with delivering services on different infrastructures. If we have different costs we may have to have different retail prices,” he said.

“As a service provider we have to build our systems to interface and interact with all of those different technologies, whether it’s copper or fibre or satellite or wireless … That doesn’t help you take advantages of economies of scale where you get with standardisation.”

Steve Waddington, CEO at ISP Exetel, said the proposal to deliver 25Mbps at the end of the Coalition’s first term is “stupid” because ADSL2 is already capable of providing speeds up to 24Mbps.

“So the promise is a 1Mbps increase for only $20 billion dollars. But without spending 1 cent, the current broadband service providers would have, if the NBN had not killed off all investment, reached that mark in the not too distant future anyway,” he said.

However, Waddington said a role for copper should not be discounted. “Ask yourself, is your desktop or office server connected by fibre? No. It is connected by copper wire. To say that high-speed data mandates fibre, at least for short distances, simply ignores physics, as well as the evidence in front of your eyes.”

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Tags ExetelNational Broadband Network (NBN)Steve WaddingtonSteve DalbyiiNetScott Ludlam

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John G


That's a really ignorant and or stupid statement by Waddington at the end. Sure, we use copper in corporate offices for the "last mile", but there's massive differences
a) It has 4 pairs, all of which are dedicated to one user
b) It's limited to 100m (90m really). How many people live with 100m of an Exchange
c) Office cabling has generally been replaced at least 4 times in the last 15 years... nobody uses high speeds over teh cat3 we installed in the 90's, let alone anything that was deployed in the 60's and 70's
d) Fibre is becoming dominant in the datacenter and inter-switch, and basically for anything over 100m even over the far superior CAT-x cable that enterprises pay top dollar for.
e) The cross-talk issues are vastly different for runs of cat-6 next to each other in a duct to those created by xDSL in a 50/100/250 pair bundle.



The coalitions plan is to spend $20bil on a fixed network that is already matched by today's 4G mobile networks and claiming that completion only 2-3 years sooner than the NBN FTTP is significantly fasterRidiculous!!! Negotiations for access to or purchase of Telstra's copper network will be needed. If the $11bil to Telstra is unchanged, Telstra could be free to compete against the coalitions nbn.
The NBN FTTP is not just about providing fast access to porn (as some politicians seem to think), while it will provide fast internet access for all personal and business needs, it also provides 93% of households with an ubiquitous telecommunications connection for current needs and future possibilities well into this and next century. A standard NBN connection provides the option now of having 4x 1Gbps connections; HFC, ADSL, VDSL, 3G, 4G, ... nothing else will come close to that speed anytime in the next decade.
How can the coalition throwing money at an outdated partial-solution not be a massive white elephant, if the coalition wanted to be financially responsible and provide a cheaper alternative they would scrap their solution as nothing is as good as what they are offering.



Question - Under the Coalitions plan, wont we still also have to pay line rental? Under the current Gov's plan I believe NBN delivers the lot, one price with no line rental



When Labour suggested FTTN in 2007, this is what the Nationals had to say:


Internet speeds for families and businesses in rural and regional Australia would be no faster than they are today if Labor’s broadband proposal was adopted, Senator Fiona Nash said. This is in stark contrast to the Federal Coalition Government’s Australia Connected broadband plan which Senator Nash said is focused solely on delivering improved broadband speeds to the seven million people living outside the metropolitan areas. “In spruiking their flawed Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) plan, Labor are doing one of two things; they are either deluding themselves, and at the same time the Australian public, if they think a FTTN will deliver high-speed broadband to rural and regional areas, or they are being deliberately deceitful and are trying to trick the public into supporting a plan they know is flawed. A plan they know is unfeasible, un-costed and whimsical at best,” Senator Nash said. “I don’t know which is worse, ignorance or deceit. Perhaps it’s a bit of both, but whatever the case the people of rural and regional Australia know a furphy when they see one. “It’s widely understood in the telecommunications industry that FTTN will not deliver improved broadband speeds to rural and regional areas. Experts predict that not only would Labor’s plan cost three to four times their estimate, it’s likely to only reach 75 per cent of the population – a far cry from their claims of 98 per cent reach.”

Yes. The Nationals called this plan "Fraudband" well before you did.
If they think a FTTN will deliver high-speed broadband to rural and regional areas, or they are being deliberately deceitful and are trying to trick the public into supporting a plan they know is flawed

Not my words, The Nationals said that.

It's widely understood in the telecommunications industry that FTTN will not deliver improved broadband speeds to rural and regional areas.


Also, why has Malcolm Turnbull invested into FTTH overseas but not in Australia?

Gary Khol


I had forgotted he had invested heavily in a FTTH venture in France, I believe he also is involved in the company beyond just share ownership.
While France is obviously not as large as Australia, beyond its cities it is populated by small rural settlements spread out, those who have been to France will tell you of the vast difference between French cities, and many small villages still being farmed and looking like a 17th century scence.
And even if I had totaly forgotten about his shares and board memberships that are in a stark contrast to his Australian personna, I will still be Gobsmacked by the sheer codswallop I heard in Turnbulls and Abbott presentation.

Just taking the issue of the state of the last mile copper blows their figures into LALA land, and the fact it totaly misses the points of the NBN which was to get Telstra out of the way because of its practisies and give everyone, well 93% the option to have a level field of choice, not the present 15 teirs of wishes we have now.

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