NBN Co would do more fibre if it was cheaper: Morrow

Company continues to dispute report claiming breakthrough in FTTP deployment

NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow

NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow

The Senate committee overseeing the National Broadband Network has drilled NBN Co about a disputed report that claimed great cost reductions to rolling out fibre to the premise (FTTP).

NBN Co has questioned the validity of the report in question, details of which were revealed in the <I>Sydney Morning Herald</I>.

The disputed report included results of an pilot study in Melton, Victoria, showing that the old all-fibre NBN could be rolled out sooner and more cheaply than had been thought before. Such a finding would throw into question the need to move to the multi-technology approach advocated by the Coalition government.

At a hearing today of the Senate Select Committee on the NBN, NBN Co executives said they were unable to validate the report, which was printed on NBN Co letterhead.

“We don’t even know who the author is,” said NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow.

“This whole thing is premature and has a bad smell to it in different areas. And until we can flush this thing out, we’re left in this quandary of, you know, is it misguided, is it accurate, is it somebody who’s left the company who is disgruntled that wants to be able to push for a fibre-to-the-prem because they like the MTM model, is there political motivations behind all of this?”

Senator Stephen Conroy took another view. “I look at it and go, here’s a study that shows that the cost of installing fibre to the premises is reducing,” the senator said.

A peer review looking at the results contained in the Melton documents is ongoing and will be completed in early to mid-October, said NBN Co chief operating officer Greg Adcock.

Early results of the peer review have shown the Melton project was not on track to take only 104 days to build out as the report claimed, he said. Adcock added there’s no reason NBN Co would dismiss the results of the report if it was true that FTTP had become more cost effective.

In his opening remarks, Morrow stressed there is “no conspiracy” happening.

“In order to meet the objectives given to us by the board of directors, we must find efficiencies across the company and across all technologies,” he said. “But nothing we have seen will alter the direction of the company when it comes to the MTM model.”

“We would be happy to build a new network, rather than remodel an old one, but the fact that remains that even with the planned deficiencies, FTTP costs more and takes longer to build than what is expected of us.

“If we were to find a breakthrough that changes this, there would be nothing stopping us from putting more fibre in the ground and that is exactly what we would do.”

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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Tags FTTNsenatefibre to the premisetelecomfttpParliamentmulti-technology mixbroadbandNBNBill MorrowStephen Conroy

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