LTE can't replace fixed broadband in AU

Tony Brown/Informa Telecoms and Media
15 Jun 2012

Broadly speaking life is pretty sweet for Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s shadow minister for communications and broadband.

He has a reported A$200 million in the bank, lives in Sydney’s exclusive harbour-side suburb of Point Piper, has a country retreat in the scenic Hunter Valley, three boats, a successful grown family and even a couple of nice dogs.

However, on other days such as June 13th he must wonder why he bothers with life at all.

For non-Australian readers, here’s a quick fill-in; since Turnbull was appointed opposition minister for communications and broadband in September 2010 he has painstakingly managed to turn around the (Conservative) opposition broadband policy from being hide-behind-the-sofa cringe worthy to being one met with approval by many telecom professionals – although not by some National Broadband Network (NBN) hungry locals.

In short, he has moved the Coalition away from proclaiming that 4G would represent an effective way to deliver residential broadband services – as his predecessor Tony Smith did in the 2010 federal election – towards a position where the Coalition plans to use existing infrastructure to deploy a mixture of FTTN and upgraded HFC in ‘brown field’ areas and FTTH in Greenfield sites.

Then disaster strikes….

It’s taken time, patience and a whole bunch of public persuasion to get the Coalition taken seriously again on its broadband policy but then out of a clear blue sky on June 13th, like the beach bully who walks through your meticulously constructed sand castle, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey went on radio in Tasmania and managed to seriously damage months of Turnbull’s hard graft.

In an interview on Australian Broadcasting Corporation local radio Hockey spruiked the benefits of deploying LTE as a residential broadband service, arguing that many homes would not need the 100Mbps connection provided by the A$43 billion state-owned National Broadband Network.

“Part of the [NBN-Telstra] deal identified that Telstra was not allowed to sell its new 4G technology as a competitor to the NBN because 4G has the capacity to be far superior to the NBN,” said Hockey.

“So what does the Government do? It says well you are not allowed to market it as a competitor, I don’t know about you, but I use an iPad – the iPad I carry around in the car. I don’t have a cable dragging behind the car. I use wireless technology and I think that is the way functionality is going.”

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