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NBN could cut $AU600m+ from telco maintenance bills

BIS Shrapnel tags the cost of caring for copper

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Property researcher BIS Shrapnel has shone a torch into one of the dark corners of the NBN debate: the cost of maintaining Australia’s copper network.

The company’s nearly-$AU20,000 report into infrastructure maintenance in Australia, Maintenance in Australia, 2012-2027, tags the annual cost of telecommunications network maintenance in the country at $AU2 billion, half of which weighs down Telstra's nottom line.

“The NBN will be a game-changer for maintenance in the telecoms sector,” says the company's Senior Manager Adrian Hart. “While it will allow for much higher levels of voice and data traffic, the technological superiority of optic fibre over Australia’s ageing fixed line copper network is estimated to reduce industry maintenance costs by between $600 million to $700 million per annum once fully deployed."

Hart adds that those savings will "be put at risk if the NBN project were delayed or cancelled by future Federal governments.”

Since Telstra doesn’t provide any data specifically identifying its spend on maintaining the copper network, industry newsletter Communications Day states that the estimate was the result of a survey of contractors in the sector. Hart told the publication “we’ve tried piecing together how much maintenance is done across copper, across wireless networks, HFC cable – all sorts of stuff”.

Hart has tagged fibre’s resistance to water as a key factor, noting that maintenance demands have risen since “since the ending of the drought”. He also noted that the maintenance costs of copper are likely to continue rising over time. ®

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