Australia's FTTH dream fights for survival

Tony Brown/Informa Telecoms and Media
01 Mar 2013

NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley opened up a huge can of worms when he said at the American Chamber of Commerce lunch in Sydney last week that he was open to Australia's National Broadband Network being re-designed using different last-mile technologies rather than the current full FTTH model.

Shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull was quick to shoot down the suggestion from Quigley, telling his long time adversary that his call was too late that any such review should have been conducted before the NBN was launched – it was too late to talk about other technologies now.

Putting politics and their personal enmity aside you would have thought Turnbull would be relived to finally get a discussion going about using FTTN or even upgrading existing Hybrid Fibre Co-axial (HFC) networks for the NBN.

After all, whenever Turnbull tries to do so the reaction he gets from many – especially in the ICT community – is similar to what a father of young children might get if he offered them a fortnight’s family holiday at a caravan park – after his wife has already promised them a two week dream holiday in Disneyland.

Now it’s payback time

The truth is that while Australia’s current FTTH-led model would – if finished – put it in the broadband ‘Premier League’ with Korea, Japan and Hong Kong that it is actually going very much against the global trend of operators using existing network assets to avoid the huge costs of FTTH in brown field sites.

On a global basis FTTH remains a niche technology with only 14% of global subs currently receiving FTTH services. If you exclude the ‘boom’ FTTH markets of Asia Pacific only 3% of global subs are taking FTTH services right now, with most subs actually getting Fiber-to-the-Building (FTTB) rather than full FTTH anyway.

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