The Federal Opposition’s reported plan to resurrect the OPEL wireless network is consumer-focused and will only delay the deployment of a fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) network, according to former member of the expert panel that evaluated bids under the abandoned fibre to the node tender process for the national broadband network (NBN).
The comments follow reports that the Coalition would scrap the NBN, $100 million planned for the universal service obligation company and re-build the failed OPEL network.
University of Adelaide Professor Emeritus of Communications, Reg Coutts, reiterated his stance that the NBN is geared to business and government.
“The point of the NBN isn’t to help build more iPads. The [Opposition’s] thinking is focused on that,” Coutts said.
“OPEL has currency but you never achieve the bitrate of fibre and spectrum availability is a problem. There is no question of its role in areas where it is not cost effective to deploy fibre, but it is not a substitute for it.”
Coutts said a hybrid copper-fibre to the node network would be “disastrous” because it cannot be upgraded to be entirely fibre, and noted the digital cabinets, where fibre terminates to the copper network, costs half of the network capital expenditure.
“It would save money,” Coutts said. “But fibre to the premise is an inevitability — once you put in the digital cabinets for fibre to the node and competitors are kicked from the exchanges, it is difficult to transition to fibre to the home and that is the real linchpin of the problem.
“It sounds like you take fibre from the cabinets to a house but that is a misnomer. It fails to realise that you have reduced competition in exchanges.”