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Quigley defends FTTP to parliamentary committee, again

Oz network delays recoverable says CEO

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NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley and federal opposition communications spokesperson Malcolm Turnbull have spent another half-hour or so sparring over whether or not FTTN should be deployed as an interim step towards the National Broadband Network’s fibre-to-the-premises policy target.

After repeated questions from Turnbull, during a parliamentary committee hearing on October 13, asking why FTTN wasn’t preferable, Quigley invited Turnbull to go into detail on the considerations. “I would be delighted to spend half a day with you, and take you through that analysis [of the local constraints on VDSL technology]. It’s worth the investment in time to put your mind at rest.”

Key Australian constraints Quigley cited are the design and topology of Australia’s copper network, and the amount of kit that would have to be removed in an FTTN-to-FTTP upgrade.

The joint parliamentary committee on the National Broadband Network is also considering inviting Telecom New Zealand executives to a future hearing to discuss FTTN issues.

Quigley also sought to damp down fears of time overruns in the NBN project, saying that while the rollout is currently behind its original schedule, this is due primarily to two key policy decisions: putting NBN Co in charge of “greenfields” fibre developments; and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s decision that there should be 121 points of interconnect (POIs) instead of the 14 originally planned by NBN Co.

Given the long cycle of the project, Quigley appeared sanguine that a six-month delay at this end is recoverable: “We have not changed our end date for the program,” he told the committee.

Quigley also took issue with assertions that NBN Co plans to increase its prices by five per cent each year, saying that the provision for higher price increases in the corporate plan exists only to give the organization the ability to respond to price shocks.

The aim, he said, “is to reduce wholesale prices over time”, and that “anyone who says we want to increase prices by five percent [each year] is misleading the committee and misleading the public.”

He wryly slapped the Economist Intelligence Unit’s silly about the NBN, saying that “it was great news on the surface of it … I thought I had to do 13 million homes, but they seem to think I only have to pass 7.5 million.” ®

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