16 Jan Australia’s NBN. A tale of woe.
On December 7th, 2018 Mike Quigley, who was the first chief executive officer of NBN Co, presented a rather scathing, yet technically honest appraisal of the state of Australia’s National Broadband Network. This was before the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network.
Amongst all the end of year shenanigans, political and otherwise, this detailed Senate presentation and report slipped under the radar of most media agencies. Quigley said what most well-versed technology people had known since the technology mix was announced by the LNP.
With rapturous applause, the NBN was sold to Australians as a nation-building project, akin to rolling out the first telephone network, roads and railways… but how did our government manage such a monumental stuff up?
The ALP started a mammoth project, then costing around $43b which promised fibre to homes (FTTH) in most parts of Australia. In 2013 there was a change of government. The LNP wanted to change the delivery of the NBN from fibre (FTTH) to a mix of technology. This is known widely as the Multi-Technology Mix or MTM and in the eyes of most, was a costly call responsible for the speed limitations and rollout delays experienced today.
Mike Quigley says the decision to adopt a multi-technology mix “will cost the Australian taxpayers many billions of dollars”.
NBN Technical performance
In Mike’s opening video statement, he points out the obvious limitations of the MTM.
Performance of the FT(T)N service is limited in terms of speed and reliability. End users who are prepared to pay more for a high capability service don’t have that option with FTTN. The same is true but to a lesser extent for HFC, FTTB and FTTC.Mike Quigley @4.14
Competition for the NBN
The 5th generation mobile phone network rollout is underway. One of the benefits of 5G is the increased speed of mobile broadband. 5G networks will be capable of download speeds theoretically as fast as 20Gbps. The 5G specification states that individual users should see a minimum download speed of 100Mbps. That’s the fastest NBN speed as a minimum.
If the deep fiber FTTP network which was at the heart of the original NBN had been allowed to continue, NBN Co would now be much better placed to participate in the 5G (mobile network) deployment.Mike Quigley @7.26
For a network which is supposed to be a future-proof national backbone which all Retail Service Providers (RSP) could use, it is now a network which these same companies will now compete with, with their own respective networks being much faster and mobile.
The move to the MTM has turned 5G from a potential opportunityMike Quigley @7.49
for NBN Co, into a competitive threat.
In plain speak, mixing technology costs more, and those costs are passed on to end users. There are more things to go wrong, more skills required to install, maintain and repair equipment, increases complexity of the network which also makes for many more weaker links.
Every operating Telco in the world is constantly striving to reduce operating costs by simplifying its product set and associated processes. However, managing multiple technologies – FTTP, FTTN, FTTC, FTTB and HFC rather than just FTTP, increases the complexity and cost of the IT systems, the maintenance cost, the spares holding cost, the training cost and the overhead cost.Mike Quigley @5.25
Malcolm should have known better
When Malcolm Turnbull dumped Labor’s fibre optic NBN and replaced it with a mix of old and new technologies, he pledged a faster and cheaper broadband network.
Fun Fact: Malcolm Turnbull was the chairman of OzEmail.
OzEmail was a major Internet service provider (ISP) in
OzEmail became the first Australian tech stock ever to list on the NASDAQ.
Malcolm Turnbull had purchased a stake in Ozemail in 1994 for $500,000 and sold his stake for $57 million thereabouts in 1999 before the dotcom bubble burst, to WorldCom. Wiki
So having had first-hand internet business experience as a private individual, how did his political acumen change so much? I think we all know the answer to this.
The MTM is a network that costs more and regrettably does less.Mike Quigley @11.09
If you have a few minutes, it’s well worth watching Mike Quigley’s Senate presentation. It’s important to take Mike’s comments in context.