Wednesday, 26 September 2012

NBN: The Coalition Broadband Policy, what we know and don't know

Malcolm Turnbull has released very little detail on the Coalition Broadband Policy, but is very strong on aspirational statements/goals. This is an attempt to document what is known 26-Sep-2012.

The Coalition Tag-line lays out their priorities and policy promises:

  • Better Broadband -
    • Sooner
    • Cheaper
    • More Affordably

Elements stated or implied in: ABC radio interview and an article based on the interview7:30 Report Interview, Coalition B'band Survey, plus unanswered questions:

  • The Coalition is now committed to delivering a National Broadband Network, a major change seemingly co-incident with the Telstra SSU (Structural Separation Undertaking) and NBN Co SAU (Special Access Undertaking).
    • The intent, object and uses of the Broadband Survey is unclear.
  • The Coalition is silent on the return to be demanded of NBN Co. currently 7%.
    • Will this be maintained, lowered or increased?
    • NBN Co's profit target directly affects 
  • The Coalition is silent on the fixed-line to wireless/satellite ratio.
    • Will they maintain the current goal of "93% of Australian premises" to fast broadband?
  • Is the Coalition explicitly abandoning the USO (Universal Service Obligation) and its associated CSG (Customer Service Guarantee) for Telephones?
    • Mr Turnbull has stated that the Coalition doesn't believe in single-price services, but in making subsidies open and transparent, a variant of "User Pays".
      • The policy assumption is customers will be issued "coupons".
      • Will this only be for residential services, small-medium businesses or all services?
        • Farms are run as businesses, will they be given the same economic support as the FTTP-NBN single-price policy?
    • Will there be just one "price controlled" area (Urban) with all other areas "at market price"?
      • Who will set the subsidies different groups of subscribers receive?
        • The ACCC, a Government Department or someone else?
  • FTTP for "Greenfields" developments. (First Choice or Only Choice?)
  • Opportunistic use of existing resources, such as HFC.
  • Nothing said explicitly about Regional, Rural, Remote services.
  • Nothing stated about Business Broadband.
    • All statements/responses phrased as Consumer Broadband only.
  • Nothing stated about fast Broadband for:
    • Education
    • Health Providers
    • TeleHealth services for Patients/Consumers
    • Police, Rescue and other Government services
    • Councils and State Government services and networks.
    • Other Smart Networks applications, like Electricity.
  • FTTN as primary solution for Urban areas.
    • VDLS2
    • Guaranteed 25Mbps, Max 80Mbps.
    • 1,000m (wire) limit
    • What service options will there be for "people on top of a hill" raised by Mr Turnbull within the FTTN-NBN?
      • There is a strong emphasis on "economic viability", implying many premises within FTTN service areas will be deemed "outside the 1km economic limit".
      • Is there a target ratio? E.g. "95% of premises within the FTTN area will be connected"
    • Nothing stated about the copper Customer Access Network (CAN)
      • Who's technicians maintains the copper CAN?
        • Presume the NBN's, as per ULL maintenance.
        • 25-25 years of maintaining a large proportion of the copper CAN (est near $1B/year and rising) will be very expensive.
      • Who pays for the line upgrades, balancing, repair necessary to achieve the guaranteed access speed?
        • Telstra, who's asset it is, or NBN Co who needs the work performed?
      • Who pays for on-going repair and replacement of the Telstra copper CAN?
        • Telstra, who's asset it is, or NBN Co who needs the work performed?
      • NBN Co may own the fibre and Nodes, but not the whole asset, making Standard Accounting Reports complex, difficult to understand and unlikely to easily reflect a fair-value of the assets.
      • Lease or buy the copper from Telstra?
        • Presumably, ULL lease and current pricing schedule.
        • For how long?
          • Leasing the "ageing" copper CAN for 25-35 years will increase input costs and decrease NBN Co margins considerably. Great business for Telstra.
    • Nothing said about Telephony and Telstra Exchanges/POTS
      • Will FTTN-NBN include a version of the Customer ONT?
      • Or will it be a simple single-port Broadband device, such as customers now must supply for ADSL services?
      • Will an internal battery, with regular replacement by the consumer, be mandated
    • Who will pay for the FTTN design, planning, contract management and project management?
      • Presumably NBN Co as an additional 'sunk cost' over and above the existing FTTP plans.
        • This will impact (increase) both service wholesale prices and ROI achievable by NBN Co.
  • What is the ACCC's view of the proposed ownership and access arrangements?
  • Will the FTTN-NBN work off the current 121 ACCC approved "Points of Interconnect" or from a subset o the ~1200 Existing Exchanges?
    • Keeping the existing network design and PoI's, predicated on a pure-Fibre solution, is not technically feasible.
    • Renegotiating the subset of Exchanges with the ACCC will not be quick or easy.
    • Organising competitive backhaul links, not just Telstra, within the new network will be expensive and time consuming.
  • What happens to suburbs, especially new ones, connected via Telstra "RIM"s, nodes providing Telephone + ADSL?
    • Is Telstra entitled to an additional payout for these stranded assets?
    • Will the existing Telstra fibre to RIM's be used?
      • If so, under what terms?

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