back to article Australia's alternative NBN plan: some taxpayer-friendly questions

Last Tuesday, Australia's coalition announced its alternative national broadband network (NBN) plan, offering fibre to the node as the dominant mode of delivery. The plan appears comprehensive, but like any such document, it doesn't answer every conceivable question. With an election fewer than six months away, El Reg's …


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  1. Thorne

    "What will be the criteria for replacement of degraded copper?"

    The second coming of Christ. Anything short of that, Stiff!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have a question

    What drugs are Turnbull and Abbott taking?

    1. LaeMing

      More importantly

      Who is supplying their drugs allowance?

    2. mikeinnc

      Re: I have a question

      Strychnine might be one suggestion. They are certainly brain dead.

  3. Mark 65

    All very nice...

    but slightly one-sided. As many have questioned the bang for buck of the Coalition's plan I would like to know the following

    What chance is there of either coming in on their respective budgets? I mean, I may get 100Mbps from Labour's plan but if the cost spirals out of control the bang for the buck is somewhat diminished.

  4. chekri

    mod point kamakaze

    Richard did act like a right twit during the session, The general consensus is that if you ask someone a question, you give them more than, say 5 seconds, to actually answer the question.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Chris 86

    How does the coalition propose to extract 25Mbps performance from hybrid fibre coax, when many users report it seldom achieves that speed and is unreliable?

    DOCSIS 3.0 - I'm on rock solid 30Mbps, and if I wanted to I could play another tenner a month for 100Mbps. More than enough for simultaneously running a large trading platform whilst running a skype conference call, streaming the cricket to my laptop via Foxtel GO and listening to the TMS feed from the UK and downloading (ahem) linux image torrents.

    what I'd like is for the cable to be available wholesale in order to introduce some price competition - $90/month is ridiculous. And for less techtopian nonsense and trick cyclism from the reg...

  6. hungee

    valuable questions.

    I would like asked,

    How much of the savings are actually costs passed on to the end user? So you save 15 billion and cost the public purse 30 billion, etc.

    At what point does it become cost effective to replace the copper with fibre?

    How are they going to control cost overruns?

    When will fttp be implemented assuming the coalition is still in power at the time?

    Who do they envision will buy a wholesale network that is hamstrung in that it is blocked from the end customer..?


    How do they expect retail competition in the bush, when you are locking in a monopoly wholesaler/retailer?


    How do they expect to get the HFC/copper of Telstra.. Do they have enough lawyers?

  7. hungee


    "How do they expect to get the HFC/copper off Telstra.. Do they have enough lawyers?"

  8. flibbertigibbet

    What happens to the current POTS system?

    1. One of the big changes the NBN is going to bring about is abandonment of the Plain Old Telephone System (POTS). The replacement is going to be SIP (VOIP) everywhere. This is a profound architectural change. When everything becomes SIP a phone number no longer has to terminate at the end of a wire. Suddenly your Smartphone with a SIP stack can also be your home phone - and while you are at work. And SIP doesn't just support voice, it supports video as well. Does the NBN plan continue with this?

    2. Another change is the NBN was going to deliver several ports to the house. This meant pay TV could be on one, your ISP could be on another, and your work's VPN could be on a third. The major effect of this is to break the cable companies monopoly on the delivery of pay TV. Does the new Libs NBN have an equivalent?

    3. Telstra has disabled multicast on their fibre rollout in South Brisbane, presumably to shield FoxTel (which they own part of) from competition from the Internet. Will the Libs NBN include provisions to ensure specialised IP routing like multicast and anycast are available to all ISP's?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A question

    Will Tony and Malcolm agree to fire their existing IT/Broadband guru and admit that Labor's NBN was the One Good Idea (TM) that party ever had?

    1. LaeMing

      Re: A question

      No, because it isn't really about technology, but about two indistinguishable major parties desperately trying to look differentiated. And what is good for the long-term be buggered with a splintery fence-post.

  10. Winkypop Silver badge

    It's a second-rate plan by a second-rate bunch of luddites.

    Sadly, they will soon form a second-rate Government.

    I'd simply like to know the real cost, in the near future, say 10 years.

  11. TimChuma

    Too late now

    They have created a massive bureaucratic organisation that they have no control over. It has been taken "off budget" according to even Abbott and is a law onto itself.

    The final price for the NBN will be closer to $100Billion and it will be at least 10 years later than they are saying.

    The same thing has happened with a lot of government programs that mean well, but as soon as someone finds a loophole they just start pumping it for as much money as possible.

    1. Urh

      Re: Too late now

      The 90 billion estimate that the Coalition are throwing around is based on a completely arbitrary worst-case scenario using assumptions that have little to no basis in reality. But of course you'd know that if you'd bothered to read the background information to the Liberal Party's policy document. And even under the Liberal's preposterous scenario they assume Labor's network to be completed 4 years behind schedule.

      As for the "off-budget" argument - the NBN actually belongs off budget. The NBN generates revenue, and is therefore counted as an INVESTMENT, not an expenditure. Any accountant worth their salt will tell you that investments do not count as expenditures. Even Malcolm Turnbull has conceded that Labor's NBN does indeed belong off budget, as per standard accounting procedures.

      1. BlackKnight(markb)

        Re: Too late now

        The Report even has in big bold characters "What If" on all 4 of the major assumption points. im sure there math fits in the scenarios present but the 90bil only comes to fruitation if all 4 occur.

        the report is a very expensive troll from any partys perspective.

  12. D. M

    most important question

    Are they high, or just incredibly stupid?

    Sadly those will be in power soon, and the only good thing (NBN) current gov has every done, will be throw out too.

  13. Urh

    The big question for me...

    ...and it could equally be pitched at David Thodey:

    Why does Malcolm Turnbull think that zero is an appropriate price to pay for access to Telstra's copper for a FTTN?

  14. tangofool


    Have they discussed uploads, how do they expect cloud services to take off with almost no upload speed available with their FTTN. Backup video services, large file transfers are all but impossible under their plan. Discuss

  15. david 12 Silver badge

    The only good thing?

    Say it again: The NBN is a replacement for broadband TV.

    Yes, entertainment is how governments please the plebeians.

    No, it was always a waste of investment which should have been spent on something useful.

    1. BlackKnight(markb)

      Re: The only good thing?

      like the 130 billion spent on welfare in 2011/2012 or the 60 billion on health 30 billion on education and 20 billion on defence?

      the 5 billion or so they spend on the nbn in the same time period must of really hurt the budget compared to everything else.

  16. Paul J Turner

    Any provisioning guarantees with FTTN?

    How many homes will the typical Node feed to and what capacity fibre and routing will be used to support them?

    Maybe 100-200 homes and 5% of the aggregate paltry 25Mbps outgoing feeds at a guess judging from the crap performance in the Blue Mountains where the the back-end fibres must all come up the highway, no dendritic network and multi-path load balancing up here!

  17. Roger Jenkins


    FTTN will require powered cabinets dotted all over the place, I have seen estimates as high as 60,000 required, I don't know how close to reality that is. However, it will require a large amount of powered cabinets, which, I understand will have battery backup.

    I also understand that lead acid is the type of battery to be used. Given the adverse environment inside those cabinets I wouldn't think the batteries would last a long time.

    Lets say it's two years each battery and each cabinet has two. Lets suggest 50,000 cabinets, 100,000 batteries each needing replacement every two years, Two things, it sounds increadibly expensive and also environmental vandalism. The question is, has the cost of replacing all of these batteries regularly (including disposal) been included into the overall cost of the FTTN?

    I appreciate that like the ongoing requirement for copper line maintenence this item is OPEX and not CAPEX, but if a comparison is being drawn between FTTP and FTTN then the question is valid.

    1. Pu02

      Re: Batteries.

      @Roger J: "100,000 batteries each needing replacement every two years, Two things, it sounds increadibly expensive and also environmental vandalism"

      Just like Telstra has been doing for years. They didn't change anything. Nor did they maintain the copper network very well, which is mostly why it is so expensive to maintain- and gets more expensive every year.

      Why spend 3bn let alone 30bn if you're not going to address that?

      ...and why spend 30bn when for 40bn you can move to digital voice (VoIP) anyway? That's a very major scope reduction, but not when everyone is focused on data speeds. No one will like the idea of some areas still using copper for phone services maintained by numerous disinterested parties, all of whom are all charging through the nose for patchy service.

      BECAUSE you are a Barrister and are only interested in stopping a project that has already got all the agreements, approvals and is rolling out so you and your merry team of lawyers can re-write all the agreements and re-plan the project (so it won't start until 2050) and 80% of the cost will be used up in legals.

    2. Richard Freeman

      Re: Batteries.

      Telco systems run on 48V so that will be usually (in compact form factor such as in a cabinet) 4 by 12V batteries and if they run a redundant power system make that 2 sets of 4 batteries (they may choose not to bother with redundant power for the relatively small exposure failure of a cabinet will cause) expected lifespan of the battery pack will be about 7 years.

      However to be fair (not that the Liebral party know the meaning of the word) if the cabinets are powered from the same power as the houses in the area it serves, then chances are the houses will be without power also and all the smarty pants VOIP phones etc will also be out anyway so it could be argued that there is no point in backing up the cabinets anyway.

      The FFTP plan will have a similar issue in that the VOIP phones and ONT will cease to function in the event of a power outage - however then the householder can either provide their own UPS or decide that as they already have a mobile phone that might suffice in emergencies.

  18. HBT

    Oh God

    I'm going to have to vote Labour after all

    1. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: Oh God

      I'm stating to fear the same thing. My only hope is that the current scheme is sufficiently advanced and the enough contracts signed that this whole alternative scheme is, like the "stop the boats" rhetoric,a pose to differentiate them from the incumbent muppets.

      Sometimes I despair at the quality of government we get.

      1. BlackKnight(markb)

        Re: Oh God

        unfortunately the only areas that have contracts signed and cant be stopped due to cost are the ones on the roll out map. I believe NBNco is madly trying to sign as many contracts as they can before september and this is also forcing them to be nice to some contractors that aren't delivering without a kick in the pants.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh God

        If this lot get in again, you can bet polling will have the NBN as the main reason, so the rollout will have slow until 9-12 months before the next election, god if it actually got delivered they'd be out!

        "Sometimes I despair at the quality of government we get"

        Take a more active role in Politics or the situation wont change. Vote the other lot in, and have Tony taken out via some tragically sized budgie smugglers.

        Given the choice between corruption and Incompetence, choose corruption.. It's not as depressing.

  19. Daryl Radivojevic
    Thumb Up

    Tony Abbott's NBN

    Tony Abbott's NBN plan is short sighted and already obsolete, but at least he'll stop the boats, so we should choose it.

    1. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: Tony Abbott's NBN

      I'll fetch a mop, your sarcasm is dripping...

  20. andro


    Good questions, but one ive not seen asked yet:

    What is the cost of re-routing as required and re-terminating every copper pair at the the node installations? And do people want many new dark green cabinets dotted around the suburbs.

    Battery backup will be required, but the high end telco grade batteries last a lot longer than 2 years, and the lead can be recycled and acid disposed of cleanly (easy to do on a large scale).

    FTTN Is not a good long term solution. Better than nothing, but very short sighted and wasteful. If they want to cost it they should include how much money already invested in FTTP will be wasted, how much an FTTN network will cost to complete, and how much it will cost to upgrade it to FTTP in the medium range future when we need it. If the total is more than 10% extra, its probably worth doing it right the first time and going straight to FTTP.

    There are pleanty of areas that dont have copper at all, or have bad copper now, which telstra where telstra have not been deploying upgrades due to knowing the NBN is coming. Seems silly to go and install copper infrastructure in this day age. Just flog a dead horse that much longer will they?

    Co-ax doesnt cut it. Even if high sync speeds can be obtained, put a whole street or more on the segment at those speeds and load it up and speed will fall. Same goes for long range wifi. Along with copper, both techs are not suitable for city population density in to the future.

  21. mathew42

    Lets consider the outcomes

    The bits don't care how they travel, so lets consider some questions about about outcomes under each plan:

    1. Why is the Coalition promising 25Mbps rising to 50Mbps in 2019 when Labor's NBN has 12Mbps minimum and NBNCo Corporate Plan predicts 50% of fibre connections will be at this speed?

    2. Is ~$3000 for a fibre install reasonable when Labor's NBNCo are charging $150/month ($1800) year for 1Gbps wholesale AVC?

    3. Will the Coalition plan see more people connected at 1Gbps than the Labor plan (less than 5% in 2028)?

    4. Is there anywhere else in the world where FTTN and FTTP plans are competing and FTTN is faster for more users than FTTP?

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