Labor slams NBN over Optus HFC network revelations

Jason Clare takes aim at government over revelations NBN may overbuild the Optus network

Labor’s broadband spokesperson, Jason Clare, has slammed NBN over revelations the company may overbuild some areas covered by Optus’ HFC network.

Clare cited the move as evidence of the “absolute mess that Malcolm Turnbull has created with his second rate NBN”.

A leaked NBN draft presentation states that the Optus HFC network is not “fully fit for purpose” in all areas and that some 470,000 premises covered by the network may have to be overbuilt by either FTTx technologies or Telstra’s HFC network.

Some Optus equipment is approaching its end of life, Optus HFC nodes are oversubscribed and existing Optus cable modem termination systems don’t have enough capacity for NBN services, the document notes.

Under deals struck with Optus and Telstra, NBN is progressively taking ownership of the telcos’ HFC networks to use them for its revamped “multi-technology mix” (MTM) network.

Overbuilding the HFC network would come at significant cost, ranging from $150 million for extending Telstra’s HFC network through to $600 million if the option of deploying fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) was chosen.

“Today’s revelation that NBN is considering replacing the Optus HFC network that is supposed to make up a key part of its second rate NBN mean that this cost will blow out again,” Clare said in a statement.

The strategic review of the NBN conducted after the Coalition came to power estimated that an MTM network could be rolled out by 2020 at a substantial discount compared to Labor’s vision of an all-FTTP fixed line network.

The review estimated peak funding for the network at $41 billion. However NBN’s updated corporate plan released earlier this year pegged peak funding for an MTM rollout at $46-$56 billion.

Update: NBN has released a statement on the document:

On nbn's planning:

Our corporate plan has accounted for the ebbs and flows expected in a project of this scale.

Scenario planning is part of good governance and has been accounted for in the corporate plan released in August.

nbn has met or exceeded all targets over the past 18 months and we remain confident in our long range plan and the various strategies we have in place to manage the risk.

On nbn's progress:

Nearly 1.5 million homes and businesses can now order an nbn service and nearly 700,000 are connected.

On the document in question:

In order to manage risk nbn regularly prepares for multiple scenarios in the network deployment - the document concerned is part of that ongoing approach to risk mitigation.

On the current HFC trial on the OPTUS network:

nbn is conducting an HFC Pilot on the Optus HFC network in Redcliffe, QLD.

The nbn HFC trial in Redcliffe has been built out to 4,500 premises.

We have activated end-users from several of our RSPs.

End-users have been receiving speeds of up to 100Mbps/40Mbps.

nbn has not found any unexpected technical issues with the Optus network in the Redcliffe area.

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