NBN Co Finally Blames Copper For All Its Woes

NBN Co Finally Blames Copper For All Its Woes
Image: iStock

When the NBN was first touted over a decade ago, we expected a high-speed network using the latest technology. But after a change in government we saw the original vision crushed and we landed with the multi-technology mix pushed by the Coalition government.

That’s left us with a mix of technology that has made NBN Co’s deployment task more difficult and led to consumers getting a wild mix of different performance outcomes. Now, the outgoing boss of NBN Co has spoken out, saying the use of copper is at the heart of many of the network’s problems.

With the surge in complaints about the NBN hitting the telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s (TIO) office, it’s not surprising Morrow, who is leaving NBN Co later this year, had some things to say. While the roll-out of the network moving along, it’s clear there are lots of people who aren’t happy.

Morrow agreed that the original model, where the vast majority of premises would be connected to a fibre-optic cable that would deliver the fastest speeds and best reliability, was best. He achnowledged in a paper published by NBN Co and reported by the ABC that the multi-technology mix didn’t bring the same peak performance to users but that it did make the project cheaper – even taking into account the higher fault rates caused by non-fibre technologies.

In an address to the National Press Club, Morrow discussed the findings of research conducted by economics researchers, AlphaBeta. That research was able to match up data from the recent census with NBN’s rollout data to give a very precise snapshot of what the NBN has delivered. He called this the “NBN effect”.

The research showed that where the NBN was available, new business establishment was running at five times the rate of areas where the NBN hadn’t reached. And the self-employed women in NBN regions grew at an average 2.3 per cent every year, compared to just 0.1 per cent in non-NBN areas. He also cited work done by CSIRO in helping people in remote communities where there was a historically high incidence of serious – but easily treated – eye disease. The NBN allowed thousands of eye tests, and early diagnosis, to be completed remotely.

There’s little doubt that the NBN, as it it exists today, is making a positive difference. But the challenge remains to ensure it meets the needs of the future.

Morrow published an interesting summary of the challenges he has seen in his oversight of the NBN’s development via LinkedIn. In particular, he notes the challenges of the multi-technology mix including the technical problems and how this leads to end-user confusion.

In a perfect world, we’d all have low-cost access to a fast, ubiquitous network. And we would have been close to that if the original plan for a fibre to (almost) every home or office network had remained the plan. But politics resulted in the multi-technology mix. And many of the complaints that NBN Co faces are a result of that policy decision – something that Morrow has noted.


  • The fundamental flaw was the NBN was valued on its cost alone, not its economic or social value. Increase business, increase employment, improved health… just to be devalued by a sub-par copper. Hope they pull the heads out of their butt and go full fibre.

  • The ‘original’ vision was BS and everyone knew it. The touted $6 billion project to connect everyone in Australia was a fevered dream of a mad man (Rudd). When the costings were properly checked it went up to about $50 billion. Then the Unions came in and decided that FTTP should be $2k per house (instead of the original $200 per house allocated) which blew it out to over $90 billion. Labor couldn’t run a chicken raffle and certainly screwed this project up. The Coalition came in to sort it out but knew multi-tech was the only way to go to keep costs low – considering that Kevin Rudd had just put the budget into $200 billion in debt to pay for all his foreign aid hand-outs; what else could a responsible govt do.

    • Yes Tony, I’m sure that’s exactly what happened. I’m sure uncle Rupe had nothing to do with suggesting that the project be crippled by putting it on ancient, rooted infrastructure to ensure he had the time to upgrade his media delivery platform before it became entirely outdated.

      Incidentally, I’ve got a unicorn for sale if anyone’s interested…

    • Connecting Australia to high speed reliable broadband is an ambitious plan that requires a lot of work, costs a lot of money, and take a long time. That’s a fact that can’t be avoided. FTTP is the best product and costs a FK load of money, while MTM is a SHT product that is much cheaper. Both governments tried to sell their product by sugar coating and lying.

      In the end the end users are in a lose-lose situation.

    • what else could a responsible govt do.
      Listen to industry advisers that said that plan would actually cost more in the long run?

  • In a perfect world, we’d all have low-cost access to a fast, ubiquitous network.

    We don’t need a perfect world. We don’t live in a perfect world, and New Zealand and South Korea have no problem delivering this. What we need is a government that isn’t so deeply ingrained with corruption that we not only allow this to happen but don’t even recognise it as corruption. We accept that this is just the way things are.

    Jobs for the boys, it’s that simple. People should be going to jail for this.

    • New Zealand and South Korea are NOT good examples. I agree that we should have had good NBN and that people should go to jail, but those two countries are so much smaller than Australia and not nearly as decentralized. The plan was there to do it right for Australia and politics got in the way, as another person posted, the idiot politicians focused on the cost and not the value it would provide. So short sighted and petty.

  • Fibre to the curb for everyone. If you want that last few meters to your door in Fibre, user pays.
    I know I’m being overly simplistic but that’s how these things work isn’t It? Ignore the details.

  • What I feel would have been a positive move for fibre to the node would have been atleast the option for the home user to pay for fibre to the node point,

    Even at the 2K per premises (Industry estimate), I would not be opposed to this, as currently my street has 50+ year old black oxidized copper,

    I’m presently on optus cable at 75+ Mbps during peak times, but moving to NBN will mean moving to that utterly garbage copper,

    Heck i would even be willing to pay the ISP some grand connection fee to re-run my copper with properly sealed twisted pairs, shopping bags and tape are not a proper way to seal a pit!

  • So to fix the mix technology mess its going to cost $600 billion dollars to correct all the issue and give home customers not business the value for money.

    That the figure on treasury books they do not want Labor and union to discover the liberal can even design a may budget it nothing more than a waste of toilet paper just like there maths on bring the budget back into surplus, a debt of 326 billion and only paying off 18.2 billion would take around 15 years to get the budget back into surplus as the rate liberals claim they are paying it off at and this is the same government that told us mix technology can deliver speed of up to 100mbps / 40 mbps on FTTN technology yet it cant even manage 43 mbps / 16 mbps on most nights,

    And then some one has the nerve to say Labor cant manage the budget books yet they all forget how we actually got into debt in the first place under Howard / Costello liberal clown policys that left each state in 250 billion dollar debt and housing/ Banking scandal link to America under George Bush who back him in illegal war none other than Little Johnny Howard,

    Oh lets not forget Hockey and Abbott show electricity would fall if we remove the carbon tax what a bunch of lying crooks liberals and their supporters are.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!