Monday, 22 April 2013

NBN: Coalition might be able to have cake and eat it too.

The Coalition aims of "sooner, cheaper and more affordable" are laudable, suggesting they've attempted to think about the business & consumer needs and technical issues underlying.

But their proposal is both ill-described and doesn't give real choice to consumers:
The decision "what connection do I want?" gets made for you in the Coalition NBN, and "What can I pay?" gets made for you in the Labor NBN.
Neither side's "one size fits all" solution will only work for "some of the people, some of the time".

The fundamental objection I have to both plans is, It's new services for nothing.

If consumers aren't just freeloading on Government largesse, their willingness to trade "utility" for hard-cash needs to be tested. i.e. Faster broadband can't come for free, subscribers need to pay, either up-front or a repayment-over-time: HECS for broadband.

Many of the technical weaknesses in the Coalition plan can be solved by adopting a two step plan:
  • Intend to always roll-out full GPON Fibre, just not all at once:
    • Provide two standard prices for premises to connect to Fibre:
      • $750 as part of a mass-rollout or
      • $1500 as a one-off install.
    • The contracts for the 200,000 km of fibre will have been let.
    • The detailed routing plans for the fibre is done. It's a waste not to utilise all that planning effort. Assembling an equivalent team and verifying/correcting the data in 10-20 years will be more work than already done.
  • Deploy FTTN nodes now where they are cheapest by a large margin, so will pay for themselves in 15 years.
    • The nodes already need 80,000 km of Fibre, but of a much lesser capacity.
    • Instead of buying an additional 80,000 lower-spec Fibre, deploy the high-spec already contracted for.
      • Cost is $4 billion vs $1 billion. Savings are greater.
      • Subscribers need an NTD for either DSL or GPON Fibre.
        • If NTD's are designed to be upgradeable, either in-field or not, the change-over costs and disruption from DSL to GPON Fibre will be minimal.
NBN Co have now publicly stated their budgeted cost for Fibre Install per-premises is around $1,000 + a larger amount to Telstra.  Only if DSL lines can be installed significantly cheaper, in high-density areas with good network assets, should they get used. The benefit of these areas is cable runs will be shorter and attainable rates higher. Plus the deployment should be faster.

But that still leaves problems with Telstra disconnection payments, maintenance and ownership.
Plus all those ULL and LLS operators are going to be out of pocket.

If the intention is always to fully decommission the copper, maybe Telstra would accept a minimally altered agreement.

The major change would be to charge everyone connected to the NBN a fee, either up-front or spread over 24 months in their NBN bill. The incentive to use DSL must be a lower connection fee ($250?), the cost rebated off a later upgrade to Fibre.

It's not nearly a perfect plan, but it starts to address the problem areas and Black Holes in the Coalition NBN plan, and breaks the expectation of consumers that they can get a free ride for a considerable capacity upgrade.

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