'Guarantees have lost currency': NBN Co

Ziggy Switkowski says 50 Mbps more than enough for most

NBN Co is not in a position to guarantee minimum broadband speeds that Australians will experience on the National Broadband Network, NBN Co Chairman Ziggy Switkowksi has told a parliamentary hearing today.

The Coalition had a stated goal of 25 Mbps speeds for all Australians in 2016. However, in its strategic review released last week, NBN Co said there was "no viable path" to achieve that target. Instead, NBN Co said it could provide speeds of up to 50 Mbps for 90 per cent of Australians by 2020.

Read: Bill Morrow new head of NBN Co.

At a Sydney hearing of the Select Committee on the National Broadband Network, Senator Stephen Conroy asked Switkowski if NBN Co would guarantee the minimum broadband speeds promised by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“I do not buy questions that demand us to guarantee anything,” Switkowski said. “It’s clear that after four years of NBN, guarantees have lost currency.”

Conroy replied, “I understand the limitations of the technology you’ve chosen, and you’d be foolhardy to try and promise you can deliver on those speeds.”

Switkowski said he wants NBN Co to set only the most realistic targets for the broadband build.

“What we will not do is come up with numbers that are excessively optimistic, which I assert has characterised previous forecasts.”

In the strategic review, NBN Co proposed a $41 billion broadband plan using multiple broadband technologies. The plan envisions a split of 26 per cent fibre to the premise (FTTP), 44 per cent fibre to the node (FTTN) and 30 per cent an upgraded HFC cable broadband system.

This morning, Switkowski indicated that he hoped to do better than strategic review has forecast, including rolling out the NBN for less than $41 billion.

“The strategic review is just that. It attempts to scope out the numbers, the dollars, etcetera for various scenarios, lays a preferred path, but now it will be transformed into a corporate plan and a budget.”

After that work, NBN Co should “go back and stress test all of the assumptions and challenge ourselves to do better,” he said.

However, Switkowski said that the promised 50 Mbps speeds are more than enough for the vast majority of Australians.

He said that HD video requires 5 Mbps and 4K HD video needs 20 Mbps. A household would have to be watching several TVs at the same time using a combination of the above before they experienced problems, he said.

“This is a requirement of far less than 1 per cent of Australians,” Switkowski said. “For the mainstream, 40 Mbps is considerable of advance of their appetite.”

The NBN Co strategic review has received mixed reviews since its release last week.

Communications Shadow Minister Jason Clare last week, saying it “won’t even meet the low expectations [that the Coalition] set for it.”

But not everyone has been so harsh, with industry and some analysts praising the report as sobering.

The strategic review showed the new NBN Co leaders “resetting expectations to achievable levels,” independent telecom analyst, Chris Coughlan, told Computerworld Australia.

“I think one of the failings in the previous NBN Co leadership and Government was confusing a target with a forecast,” Coughlan told Computerworld Australia. “A forecast is what will be conservatively achieved, [while] a target is an ambitious objective…”

Hackett defends cable NBN

The use of HFC in the new NBN Co proposal was defended over the weekend in a personal blog post by NBN Co board member and former iiNet executive Simon Hackett.

Completing the HFC rollout and upgrading it will cost and happen faster “than discarding this infrastructure and doing a total overbuild with FTTP,” he said.

While Hackett said he continues to believe FTTP is the “best ultimate answer wherever possible,” he pointed out that NBN Co will do more than slap a badge on the existing HFC network. Rather, NBN Co will upgrade the HFC networks to provide increased speeds than what is available today, he said.

“In fact, the review proposes to take the existing Telstra and Optus HFC cable networks, and to transform them into a modern broadband network via major investment in these areas,” Hackett wrote.

“For standalone premises in the rollout areas concerned this includes repairing all existing lead-ins that need it, building all the missing lead-ins that were never done in the original HFC rollout, and expanding the HFC rollout into all the ‘black spots’ inside those overall rollouts that were left behind when the original rollouts ceased.”

“The deployment also includes a laundry list of network upgrades and capacity expansions to deliver high performance, low contention-ratio 100 megabit downstream rates.”

The upgrades to HFC will also increase upstream rates to 30-40Mbps, a big increase from the typical 1 to 2Mbps upload speeds available today, he said.

And the next generation of the cable broadband protocol DOCSIS, 3.1, could eventually deliver FTTP-like speeds of 1 Gbps, he said.

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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How depressing....when is the next election again?



20Mbps is not enough for 4K. The only way 20Mbps would be able to stream 4K is if it was very highly compressed and then what is the point?

As an example. Sony advises 1 hour of video on their service uses up to 20GB.

On a 20Mbps connection you will be able to download 9000MB in one hour assuming no one else is using the connection.
20Mbps \ 8 = 2.5MBs
2.5MB * 60 = 150MB per minute
150 * 60 = 9000MB per hour

I wish the Liberals would stop wasting tax payer money. I would prefer to wait until Labor gets back in so we can do it right the first time.



Diachronic!! Spoken like the typical, politically uneducated Australian. Did you even vote? If so you probably voted for some pathetic minor party with no idea where your voting preferences ended up. You are among many Australian's who have already started whinging and clearly have no idea on how long it is going to take to fix the six years of mess that the previous government has left us in. Four years ago the Coalition fought to stop this wasteful, poorly planned project from getting through. $20bn wasted later and this is what the taxpayer has to show for it. You're depressed about this? Wait till you see the actual overall debt that we're in. I guess someone like you will be stupid enough at the next election to vote out the new government because they are trying to get us back to surplus by harsh spending cuts and you will not be getting anymore handouts that you think you deserve. But then looking at your user name, you're focused on the big issues, that I'm sure unbeknownst to you, you partake in every day.

Allan Williams


Kyle, Why should the taxpayers spend billions of dollars on a technology so that you (and other time wasters) can stream high res videos. Most of the real people of Australia feel fortunate that they can actually watch a youtube video with less than a couple of interruptions. A Large number of Ozzies wander off for a coffee while their mail is downloading. If Malcolm can give us 25Mbps in a couple of years, thats the technology that will enable Ozzies to be part of the technical revolution. I'm sick to death of whingers complaining about a less than perfect implementation that would never have been finished and would only have offered another option for communications rich city dwellers.
Labor had plenty of opportunity to build the NBN properly but instead it hid behind bluster and secrecy and no rigorous plan other than a pipe dream.
As Ziggy said "It’s clear that after four years of NBN, guarantees have lost currency", ie Labor lied at every opportunity to cover its mismanagement.




Sorry but you are wrong. This is an pretty well thought out project. It's got/had a lot of very clever people designing and implementing it.
There are delays due to Telstra's failure to do the asbestos remediation it said it would (in a timely fashion), as well as many contractors failing to do the job they said they would.

The copper network does need replacing if you want to have a modern communications network system, and FTTP is the best solution for Australia.

Don't believe the $20b figure - almost every figure that's coming out of Turnbull's mouth, or the strategic review is wrong. The project was within budget and has provided a lot of very needed infrastructure (beyond just connecting fibre to houses)



Allan, why should the taxpayers spend billions of dollars on a electricity network so that we (and other candlelight haters) can have a light bulb in every room? I bet that's a question that you would ask about a hundred years ago. Now look at what we use our electricity for today! 20 years ago, we didn't have Myspace, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, we didn't even have an iPod or iPhone. Just imagine what we'd be using our broadband connection for in 20 years from now: you can't, and neither can I. But I'm definitely certain that we'd be needing more than 1Gbps speeds for it! Just roughly an extra $800 Million per year and 4 extra years and we'll have a cutting edge broadband network that could last for 100 years! PS. I voted for Labor!

Michael Foster


Please go with Scenario 4. Existing HTC + FTTH/FTTB.
FTTN is a complete waste of money, relatively slow, complicated, unreliable and requires negotiating usage of Telstra's old, poorly documented and maintained copper.



"However, Switkowski said that the promised 50 Mbps speeds are more than enough for the vast majority of Australians"

Pretty sure I've seen it stated that Switowski said the same thing about 1.5Mbit connection when he was at Telstra. It was certainly his era that saw Telstra refusing to allow ADSL connections to run any faster.
Why are we getting assurances from someone with a demonstrated record of grossly underestimating future demand? Its not about watching more video's, more downloads etc, thats all the current network is fit for, a network with UPLOAD opens a whole new world. I've 8GB of files I need to send to two people, 40 hours upload onto a server, or use the post office... Eureka, we don't need a broadband network, we have a postal service already!



The Zigmeister doesn't underestimate future demand at all.

He just seems to adjust his public comments to suit the interests of whichever organisation he's working for...

Abel Adamski



Posted 18/12/2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

Summary of yesterdays findings in the Senate Committee, from what I can tell…

Here’s the Hansard. It’s a long read…


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