University of Melbourne’s Emeritus Professor in Electric and Electronic Engineering Rod Tucker, warns that the Coalition’s National Broadband Network is a bad deal for Australia. Professor Tucker will present at a public lecture tonight.

Professor Tucker said the Coalition’s NBN will be so slow that it may be obsolete before it is in place and cost about the same as the Labor fibre to the premises network it replaced.

The Coalition Government came to power in 2013 with a promise to change Labor’s fibre to the premises (FTTP) National Broadband Network (NBN) to one using less-expensive fibre to the node (FTTN) technologies, supporting their network with the three-word slogan: “fast, affordable, sooner.”

“The NBN won’t arrive on our doorsteps any sooner.  By my estimation Australia didn’t get a good deal,” he said.

Professor Tucker’s lecture, “Bringing Australia’s Broadband Network into the 21st Century”, will compare the cost, performance and roll-out rate of the Coalition’s NBN using its so-called multi-technology mix (MTM), including fibre to the node (FTTN), hybrid fibre coax (HFC), and fibre to the premises (FTTP).

Professor Tucker points out that the Coalition’s NBN has severe speed limitations.

“My research on Internet speed in Australia and other countries shows that FTTN technology - a key part of the Coalition’s MTM - won’t meet the needs of Australian broadband users,” he said.  

“Australia’s broadband capabilities are falling behind our international peers, “ Professor Tucker said.

According to Internet companies Ookla and Akami, Australia’s broadband speed lags well behind other advanced and even emerging economies.  In 2009, Ookla ranked Australia’s average broadband download speed as 39th in the world.  Since then, our international ranking has steadily declined and slipped to 59th place earlier this year.

“Fibre to the node technology will guarantee that Australia is an Internet backwater. Our world ranking could fall as low as 100th by 2020,” he said.

“It is not just a matter of speed just for speed’s sake. International studies have shown a strong correlation between GDP growth and Internet speed,” he said.

Before the 2013 election, the Coalition claimed that their proposed multi-technology mix network would cost less than one-third of of Labor’s FTTP-based NBN.  But in new estimates released in the 2016 Corporate Plan, the cost of the multi-technology mix network favoured by the Coalition blew out and rose to two-thirds of the cost of a FTTP-based network.  

“The Coalition’s funding estimates, both for FTTP and the MTM, have fluctuated significantly. The estimated funding required for the Coalition’s NBN - using MTM - has almost doubled from $28.5 bn before the 2013 election, to between $46 bn and $56 bn in August 2015.”

Professor Tucker said that repairing and maintaining Telstra’s ageing copper network has major financial implications, as does retraining and maintaining a workforce with the wider range of skills needed to install and maintain the multi-technology mix network.  These costs are unique to the MTM.  

“If in 2013 the Coalition had simply allowed NBN Co to get on with the job of rolling out its FTTP NBN rather than changing to MTM, causing long delays, and increasing costs, the Government may well have ended up spending the same or even less and Australians would have a much faster fibre to the premises-based  NBN.”

Rod Tucker is a Laureate Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne.  He was a member of a Panel of Experts that provided advice to the Labor government on implementation of the NBN.