Australia’s NBN – a cautionary saga of FTTH woes

Australia’s beleaguered NBN project demonstrates the daunting challenges faced by stakeholders that seek to upgrade public copper networks to fiber to the home (FTTH) on a whole of network basis.

The sheer scale of the project in terms of time, cost and funding requirements was used to rationalise the re-nationalisation of the nation’s entire wired infrastructure and the creation of a new horizontal monopoly.

To ensure monopoly uptake rates, an AUD$11 Billion deal was struck with the largest incumbent, Telstra, to transfer its fixed customers to the new government owned entity, grant access rights to its “pits, pipes and ducts” and to retire its Hybrid Fiber Coaxial cable (HFC) network. A raft of competitive restrictions were enshrined in legislation to protect the project from so called “cherry picking” by competitors.

Last week, subsequent to the election of a new Australian Government, the resignations of the NBN Company board members were requested leaving the company with just one director and a project that continues to revise its targets down.

“As of the end of June 2013, NBN Co. had a total of 33,600 services active on the fibre network, with 1,900 fixed-wireless services and 34,600 satellite services active. It had passed 163,500 brownfields premises and 44,000 greenfields premises with fibre.”

The total expenditure to date is $5.3B and three years since the rollout began.

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