Not too late to change NBN’s direction, NBN Co’s first CEO says

Mike Quigley launched a staunch defence of NBN’s record during his time there

The Coalition’s decision to largely ditch a fibre to the premises (FTTP) rollout has led to the National Broadband Network heading in the wrong direction according to NBN’s original CEO Mike Quigley.

Quigley used an address last night to a Melbourne Networked Society Institute event to defend NBN’s record during his tenure as the company’s inaugural chief executive.

“Compared to the original FTTP based NBN, we are currently on a path to end up with a much poorer performing broadband network,” Quigley said.

“It will have increased long term costs and will be completed at about the same time as the original project would have been completed. Around the world, the direction in which new builds of fixed broadband networks are headed has become clear. The world is increasingly moving towards FTTP.

“As a consequence advances are being made in FTTP technology that make it cheaper and easier to deploy. These developments which have taken place in the last few years have only reinforced the rationale for basing Australia’s NBN on FTTP.”

The former CEO said that it is “not too late to change the current direction of the NBN” but such a change would need to be made in a “controlled and managed way”.

Quigley said that politically motivated attacks on the rollout had misrepresented the progress NBN had made during his time there.

The pre-election estimates of the cost and timing advantages offered by the Coalition’s ‘multi-technology mix’ (MTM) approach to the NBN rollout were “far too optimistic,” he said. The estimate of peak funding of $29.5 billion for the MTM rollout and every premise being able to obtain a 25 megabit per second NBN connection by the end of 2016 were “a fiction” – as were inflated claims about the total cost of an all-fibre rollout.

“No matter what the outcome of the upcoming election the original vision of a broadband network built largely on a future-proof FTTP solution is now going to happen over a longer period and at a greater cost to taxpayers,” Quigley said.

“The Coalition are likely to continue with the FTTN and HFC deployments and the peak funding is likely to be in the range of $49 to $56Bn. It will take a ‘heroic’ effort, as NBN Co’s Chairman has said, to have the network complete by the end of 2020. I would guess it will be sometime in 2022 given the current issues with HFC.”

“It is becoming increasingly obvious, especially to end customers, that an NBN based on FTTP is a much better network than an MTM based NBN – from every angle – speed and capacity delivery, maintenance costs, reliability, longevity and upgrade costs,” he said.

“An FTTP network would be a much more valuable public asset and could generate greater cash flows for the Government due to the lower maintenance, higher revenues and almost no upgrade costs. And it would be vastly superior in driving growth through the wider economy.”

Quigley’s full prepared remarks are available online (PDF).

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