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Figures Reveal Full-Fibre NBN Could Be $10bn Cheaper

A full-fibre National Broadband Network (NBN) could have cost the government $10 billion less than originally thought, according to secret figures revealed by The Sydney Morning Herald.

Redacted documents seen by Fairfax newspapers suggest the cost of rolling out the gold-plated full-fibre network in Australian may have been more than $10 billion cheaper than previously claimed by the Coalition government.

This would mean savings between $850-$1150 were estimated to be achievable for each home under this revised financial plan.

If the savings were applied to homes at the time, peak funding would have been reduced from $73 billion to $60 billion, the SMH claims.

The Coalition says building a full-fibre network like this would have been too expensive, while the Labor government maintains this type of NBN would not have been as pricey as originally estimated and claim Australia has been left with a ‘second-rate’ network.

A 2013 review into the NBN censored the savings estimates, which NBN Co and the government have fought hard to keep under wraps for close to eight years.

Telecommunications consultant Paul Budde told the paper there were “already clear indications” of upcoming cost-reducing improvements in the late-2000s when a full fibre NBN network was being discussed.

He noted the $10 billion savings figure was “certainly not over the top and on the conservative side”.

An NBN Co spokesperson provided Channel News with the following statement:

The 2013 Strategic Review of the nbn set out an option for a ‘radically designed FTTP’ rollout. The hypothetical savings of that approach were clearly outlined in the 2013 Strategic Review and were never hidden.

NBN Co has followed the government’s Statement of Expectations 2016, which focused on ensuring that all Australians have access to broadband as soon as possible and at least cost to taxpayers.

NBN Co achieved its objective to deliver access up to high-speed broadband as quickly as possible with a view to continuing to invest in the network to enhance the capabilities of the network.

Completing the initial build of the network on time was a very important part of meeting the challenges of COVID-19. If the Company had not rolled out the network with the speed and purpose it had, using all available technologies, millions of premises throughout Australia may have languished on ADSL speeds of 8Mbps, on average, or endured lockdown with no internet service at all.

Now, as planned, we are continuing to invest in the network as demand for higher speed services emerges, as announced in September 2020 at the release of our Corporate Plan 2021. We are investing $4.5 billion to deliver NBN Co’s highest peak wholesale speed tiers of 500 Mbps to close to 1 Gbps1 available on demand to an estimated 75 per cent of homes and businesses on the fixed-line network by 2023.

Furthermore, it is an asinine argument to extrapolate that a further $5 billion to $6 billion in savings may have been achievable due to lower debt overall and with interest rates below 4 per cent. In 2013, the present low interest rate environment was not foreseeable.


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