NBN a waste without Fibre to the Home

Symmetrical 100Mbps will cost $10 billion.

Australia could have a Fibre-to-the-Home (FttH) network for the same price as the inferior hybrid node network, according to industry experts.

National Broadband Network (NBN) tender documents require a network to service 98 percent of Australians with a minimum of 12Mbps downstream, but do not discriminate against technologies.

Stephen Davies, a 22-year industry veteran and now senior consultant at Titan ICT, has costed a national FttH network at $10 billion, cheaper than some FttN proposals.

FttN is an outdated technology

Stephen Davies, Titan ICT

His proposal serves 85 percent of households with fibre, connecting half of all premises in Australia's top 30 cities with a population of more than 50,000, and bypassing the remaining 50 percent. Davies said the connections would satisfy immediate demand for fibre and allow those unconnected to link up later.

“There are huge backhaul costs in trying to bring fibre out to all the small regional towns with 50 to 100 people,” he said, adding remote Australia could be served with multiple broadband technologies or receive grants for community fibre deployments.

FttN is an outdated technology and when it finishes we will be miles behind [Japan, China and the United States] which will have FttH connections at 100Mbps.”

Davies said a FttH network should be constructed by a rival Telstra NBN bidder, which he believes could be the Acacia group or the Tasmanian government, and deployed as an overbuild of the copper network.

He said the model, which is used in many countries including the United Kingdom and the United States, creates competition between networks and encourages improvements in access costs and technology.

Up to 95 percent of Australian premises could be connected to a FttH network for about $15 to $20 billion, according to Monash University faculty of business and economics senior lecturer Dr Nicholas Beaumont.

His network is far cheaper than Telstra's $30 to $50 billion to supply FttH to 98 percent of premises, Beaumont said, because it has less coverage and because the techniques to lay fibre and connect it to copper have improved.

“There is no question that it is cheaper to maintain a fibre network over copper,” he said.

Telstra and a handful of overseas investors will be the only bidders capable of building an NBN based on FttN or FttH, Beaumont said. He discounted Terria, previously the G9 consortium, and said it exists only to champion national interests and to keep Telstra in check.

Pundits believe FttN is unfit for the Web 2.0 environment because its poor upstream capacity. Davies said a NBN built on the technology will undermine the upload requirements of business and consumers because the ADSL last mile cannot support the bandwidth capacity of fibre networks.

He said most NBN bidders have proposed a Fibre to the Node (FttN) network since the government watered-down the 12Mbps symmetrical upstream speeds it initially required.

“When I met [Communications Minister Stephen Conroy] he requested the NBN have minimum upstream speeds of 12Mbps, but the argument for [symmetrical download and upload] speeds had disappeared in the tender,” Davies said.

“Telstra has pumped up the cost of a FttH to $30 to $50 billion to scare investors and the minister.”

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