NBN Co, Turnbull, issue contradictory broadband speed promises

Announcement of Telstra and Optus deals mentions 'goal' and 'policy to ensure' 25Mbps

David Thodey, Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Morrow sign NBN agreements

NBN Co has signed definitive agreements to acquire Telstra's copper network, plus the hybrid fibre-coax networks belonging to both Telstra and Optus, but just what the deals will deliver is uncertain after communications minister Malcolm Turnbull and NBN Co issued conflicting advice on the speeds the network will deliver.

The various canned statements emitted by all parties are pretty sketchy and focus on shareholder value or the government's “faster cheaper” line.

All parties clearly wanted it that way. At the risk of talking shop, it could be handy to know that notification of a press conference to announce the deals arrived in your correspondent's inbox at 12:46 PM, in the middle of a rather pleasant pre-Christmas barbecue. The press conference commenced just as the backyard cricket got under way.

We mention these details to illustrate that the timing of this announcement was rather unusual. The stock market was not to due to re-open for about 18 hours, so a Sunday afternoon announcement would buy Telstra and Optus no favours on the bourse. Mainstream media have staff on-call capable of scrambling to such an event. Technology media tend to work different hours.

The announcement did rather well on the evening news, which is probably a decent reason for the timing of the announcement.

The basics are pretty simple: Telstra still gets AU$11bn, over 30 years, but instead of turning off its copper and HFC hands it over the NBN Co. Telstra also gets a chance to offer network maintenance services to NBN Co. Optus gets an unspecified sum.

But the details look scary. The government has previously promised universal 25Mbps service by the end of 2016. Yesterday's collection of documents instead makes promises like this one from press release issued by communications minister Malcolm Turnbull's office:

“It is the Government’s policy to ensure all households and businesses have access to broadband services providing download data rates of at least 25 Megabits per second and proportionate upload data rates. Nine out of ten premises in the fixed line footprint will have access to broadband providing downloads of at least 50 Megabits per second and proportionate uploads.”

NBN Co's press release offers this quote:

“It is NBN Co’s goal to make all homes and businesses serviceable by 2020 with access to download data rates of at least 25 Megabits per second. The majority of premises in the fixed line footprint will have access to download data rates of at least 50 Megabits per second.”

The various announcements also use the term “proportionate upload data rates” but don't specify what that means.

The Reg has asked Turnbull's office and NBN Co to clarify the difference between a “goal” and a “policy to ensure”. If they respond, we'll report it. ®

Update

An NBN Co spokes-entity has offered us the following verbiage:

"The Government sets the policy and we do what needs to be done to deliver on it. We are committed to providing download data rates of at least 25 Megabits per second. The majority of premises in the fixed line footprint will have access to download data rates of at least 50 Megabits per second.

The policy dictates the boundaries/expectations. The operational intent of the business is worded as business goals. We are committed to delivering on the policy set out by the Government of the day."




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