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$11bn Surprise Bag: NBN Still In Dark Over Telstra Copper

$11bn Surprise Bag: NBN Still In Dark Over Telstra Copper

NBN Co’s new corporate plan, released yesterday, reveals that the company has little information on the quality of Telstra’s copper and HFC networks, which will be crucial to its ability to deliver fibre-to-the-node and HFC broadband services, expected to account for, respectively, about 29 and 27 percent of the total. 

The corporate plan says: “A significant step change in performance will be needed if NBN is to fulfil its objectives in the timeframe and within the peak funding envelope . By the end of FY18 the organisation will need to . integrate and maintain legacy copper and HFC network assets from Telstra and Optus, of which the organisation has limited experience and limited information (eg, quality of Telstra’s copper network).”

Elsewhere the plan says: “The quality of this [copper] network is not fully known, as there has been limited opportunity to evaluate the physical infrastructure at significant scale. However, it is known that there is significant work required to remove broadband blockers from the copper network.” 

The organisation is under fire after revealing that has raised its peak funding forecast to $56 billion and, it says, “Revenue may . be adversely impacted if copper quality leads to service degradation.”

Shadow minister for communications, Jason Clare, was quick to condemn NBN Co’s latest cost estimates, saying: “The cost of the second-rate NBN started out at $29.5 billion in April 2013; it blew out to $41 billion in December 2013; increased again to $42 billion in August 2014 -and today it was announced that it will now cost up to $56 billion.”

However Comms Minister Malcolm Turnbull claims that the Coalition inherited a failed project when it took office in 2013. He told a briefing on the corporate plan: “Construction had stalled, if not stopped in many parts of the country. This has been a formidable turnaround story. 

“Bill Morrow and his team have done a remarkable job in getting this project on track.”

NBN Co’s latest results claim it has not only met but exceeded its FY15 targets. However, the ALP disagrees.

Jason Clare claimed that NBN Co had already missed a commitment to initiate large-scale FttN rollout in mid 2014. “Full access to copper [has been] delayed until June 26 2015 [and] the large-scale rollout of FTTN has still not started,” Clare said in a press release. 

NBN Co’s new corporate plan, released yesterday, says it will have 875,000 premises served by HFC networks by the end of FY17. Clare pointed out that NBN Co’s strategic review released in December 2013 had a target of 2.6 million premises accessible by HFC at the end of FY16.