What The NBN Strategic Review Means For Consumers

What The NBN Strategic Review Means For Consumers

The strategic review of the National Broadband Network (NBN) has been completed, promising to deliver 100Mbps download speeds to two-thirds of Australians by 2019. The review says that is three years earlier than and much cheaper than would have been possible under the preceding Labor developed-plan — but it’s also three years later than the Coalition claimed it would deliver the NBN prior to the election. Regardless of politics, the key takeout is this: when any individual premises will be NBN-enabled is still entirely unclear.

The strategic review was kicked off back in September, to assess the current state of NBN construction before working out an alternative approach. Its conclusion is grim: if that plan had been followed as set out, the NBN would have taken three years longer to construct and cost $73 billion.

The announcement of the review also claims that an alternative approach, using a mixture of existing networks and new systems, will be able to deliver speeds up to 100Mbps to two-thirds of Australians by 2019, and 50Mbps to 90 per cent by the same date. That is three years later than the Coalition’s pre-election promises, but does involve higher speeds than those plans.

The proposal is being described as a “multi-technology mix”. That means it includes existing NBN FTTP rollouts, other existing fibre networks, the current HFC pay TV network, the NBN satellites, the use of higher-speed connections on fibre where possible, and other “future advances in telecommunications technology”.

In other words: we’re being promised that services will be available for a fixed cost and by a fixed date, even though many of the details were missing. The announcement optimistically assumes that while the original plans developed over a longer period were filled with enough flaws to send them off the rails, the 60-day strategic review doesn’t suffer from similar problems.

So what happens next? Achieving the strategic review requires the NBN corporate plan to be adjusted, and contracts with Telstra and other suppliers to be re-negotiated. That could take a while. (The original NBN contracts with Telstra held the project up by almost a year.)

The immediate outcome is that no-one — including customers in areas where fibre is currently being constructed — can really tell when services will be available where they live, or how much choice they have. If you live in an area with pay TV cabling, it’s a reasonable guess that might be the main choice in your area. If you live in an area with dodgy copper, you’ll need to cross your fingers that it gets replaced. If you live in a remote area, your best hope is still that the NBN Co Satellites will be up and running by 2015. And if you live in an area on the current NBN construction map, you’ll be hoping the delays ensure your street actually gets covered.


  • I’m still seeing “up to” 100Mbps and 50Mbps just like my current ADSL2 is “up to” 20Mbps but in reality is 4Mbps.

    At least the original plan could guarantee high speeds, secure in the knowledge that all premises will be either directly connected via fibre or connected via satelite.

    Why spend billions upon billions of dollars on the project and then leave a bunch of people connected via dilapitated copper cabling. If they’re going to have people out there constructing the network then why not get the whole thing done properly the first time around?

    We keep hearing about 1Gbps connections rolling out across the U.S but we can’t even get our government to commit to at least 1/10th of that.

    If it’s anything less than that aren’t we just wasting time and money? We’re missing out on huge changes to the way media is being consumed — like Netflix and other streaming services — because of our lack of infrastucture and media monopolies being disinclined to let those services in or even replicate them. What happens when most of America has 1Gbps connections and 4K TV’s become commonplace and everyone starts streaming in ultra high def while we’re still trying to get our 50 – 100Mbps network rolled out?

    We need to start trying to achieve high distinctions in our inftastructure rollout and not passes, lest we are well and truly left behind by emerging technologies.

    • You can rest assured that the US model will be based on private enterprise providing it, NOT the government!

    • While I agree with you on most of these points I feel it is necessary to point out that, for your fourth point, the U.S has both a large tax base then Australia and that the 1Gbps connections that are being rolled out are, for the most part, being done by private enterprises not by the government, so they are most likely going to concentrate on big cities and completely ignore, until late in this decade, the smaller country towns.

    • The other things they forgot to mention is that this plan is estimated to cost $4bn more than labour’s original estimate of their own plan; (but yeah, we can trust the party with a treasurer who can’t count get the estimates right) and that 2/3rds of Australia’s population live in cities, so it’s a big “f*ck you , go enjoy wireless freedom” to anyone who lives outside the major population centers.

      Vodafone has almost as much coverage as is being promised 100Mb speeds in this plan.

      Oh yeah, and it’s not going to be delivered for another six years.

  • Ugh. I struggle to get even 3 megabits in the inner west. iView even struggles sometimes. Was hoping this would be some good news, but to no avail.

  • “And if you live in an area on the current NBN construction map, you’ll be hoping the delays ensure your street actually gets covered.”

    This is what I’m hanging on… When will they release details of who is definitely getting fibre based on already signed contracts?
    It surely can’t be that hard to flip through the signed contracts and draw up a map identifying those areas covered by contracts?

  • I’m getting 5 to 7 MBps and I live less that 15 kms from Melbourne CBD.

    Looking forward to when we have everything on the cloud or we want to stream tv shows. It will like the good old modem days – going get a drink or make a coffee while its buffering.

    Welcome to the future.

        • doubtful – I live in an area that has zero access to ADSL…. the only option here is cable and wireless….. running 35 mbps with an unlimited connection is pretty damn cool….. not a bad price all up either

          • that’s the problem with HFC (Cable connections). HFC is a shared connection so that means when more people connect on then speed will drop down (on average)…So at this moment you’ve got a stable speed…in order to keep that, HFC needs to be upgraded (by adding more nodes so less houses are sharing the same connection) or else the speed will go down

          • Hey I’m not denying your logic but EK is as built up as am area can get and it’s filled with big ole wog homes with a dozen adult kids per house, there’s only one option here connection wise and it’s 24/7 constant 35 Mbps

            I put it down to being within 500 mtrs of the Ring Road, maybe during the upgrade on the road they also laid more fibre or whatever and here I am

            Gotta admit I’m now on the pro NBN side – high speed is like a different world entertainment wise

  • screw the NBN, we should get Google Fiber, its cheaper, better and quicker than the NBN because at this rate any form of NBN will be obsolete (as cost and tech inflates

  • My biggest concern is that they have set their plan and deadlines in concrete completely based on absolutely zero knowledge of the state of the copper network. Even Telstra has no idea on the copper yet the entire plan hinges of its viability. They have not even begun negotiations with Telstra with regard to buying the copper network (and then having to do a complete upgrade) Alternatively they have not begun negotiations with Telstra with regard to renting/leasing it (in the hope that they will actually do the upgrade at their own cost and hopefully a lot faster than they have removed asbestos from pits).
    Looks like I will be on my current 6-7Mbps for some time to come.

  • I’m quite happy with the speeds I can get on my bigpond cable (38Mbps) but it would be good if i could choose my provider and stay on cable. Having said that though, will any of these options offer good upload speeds? I really think the govt is making a mistake by not future proofing the network

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