Monday, 22 April 2013

NBN: Fibre Cost and Disconnection fee, no surprises

There is no way the Coalition should've been "surprised" at the figures released by NBN Co last Friday to the regular six-monthly Parliamentary Committee. That data is embedded, though not explicit, in the 2012 NBN Co Corporate Plan. Available easily to anyone willing to do a quick calculation or two.

The Coalition knew, or should've known, these figures a long time ago. If they didn't, they are incompetent and/or negligent and not suitable to run assume control of Telco Policy. If they did know, then they are deliberately misleading and disingenuous, again not suitable to be put in charge of Telco Policy.
Why did they choose to NOT use the correct per-premise Fibre costs? 
From the NBN Co 2012 Corporate Plan, I derived the per-premise Fibre fees and glad my results were within 10% of actual:
  • $2,195 per premise
    • With a "common cost" of $1700M for 121 PoI's, transit networks, FAN's...
    • This same network, and cost, will be used by a FTTN.
  • $1,200 per premise Telstra disconnection fee (from 2010 Plan, used by Telstra in 2011)
    • $10 billion total vs $11.3 billion "FTTP Access Fees" released by NBN Co
    • The effective rate per passed premise, with only 70% premises connected, 
      • is $845.
The upshot of this, the per-premise construction costs of Fibre from the 2012 Corporate Plan are:
  • $2195 - $845
  • = $1,350
The variable costs, labour, machinery and consumables, are, I'm told, typically 50% on Network Engineering like this, or:
  • $1,350 ÷ 2
  • = $675
  • or $48/m for an average 14m/premise. Well above the $20-30/m for Fibre Backhaul construction.
This variable cost has to increase 300%, to $2,080, to reach the "reasonable" figure of $3,600 proposed by Turnbull et al. Because NBN Co hires sub-contractors to actually install the fibre, presumably on tight, outcome based, contracts, I can't see how such a huge variation is possible.

If Turnbull et al knew that construction was multi-phased and that the early notional "cost-per-premise" passed was wildly unrepresentative of the real costs, why did they make such a big deal of them?

Was it ignorance or mere political opportunism and grandstanding? Either way, it's a very unimpressive behaviour. There are real questions about schedule and construction milestones that have gone unasked. For me, that's the real failure of Turnbull as Shadow Minister.

Getting Fibre construction costs so wrong is something, I feel, Turnbull needs to explain:
Why with all their expert knowledge and "fact checking with experts" did they get their numbers so wrong? 

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