Coalition promises 50Mbps NBN for 'vast majority' of households

The Coalition has announced a “vast majority” of households would access speeds up to 50Mbps for $29.5 billion under its broadband policy – but not until 2019.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott and shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled their formal broadband policy in Sydney today.

The Coalition’s version of the NBN would achieve minimum speeds of 25Mbps and reach up to 100Mbps by 2016.

“By the end of our second term, should we get one, by 2019 the vast majority of households will get access to 50Mbps,” Abbott said.

Under the Coalition, 71 per cent of Australia would have fibre-to-the-node (FFTN); 22 per cent would have fibre-to-the-premise; 4 per cent would have fixed wireless; and 3 per cent would have satellite.

The Coalition expects its NBN would be completed in 2019 at a capital expenditure cost of $20.4 billion, requiring $29.5 billion in funding.

The Coalition will also carry out three inquiries if it wins the next election. A commercial review would be completed in 60 days looking at how quickly the NBN could meet objectives.

An audit would also be carried out on Labor’s NBN and an independent study, possibly carried out by the Productivity Commission or Infrastructure Australia, would assess Australia’s telco and broadband needs for the future, alongside a cost benefit analysis.

The Coalition would continue to roll out fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) in greenfield estates and high demand areas, such as business centres, educational centres and hospitals.

In other areas it will deploy fibre-to-the-node, which Turnbull said saves around three-quarters of the cost of FTTP due to reduced labour requirements.

“A substantial majority of people in the fibre-to-the-node footprint will receive 50Mbps or more – that’s very high speeds. The goal is for the minimum to be 25Mbps, but that will only be a minority,” Turnbull said.

In areas where copper is in poor condition, Turnbull said copper could include remediated or a business decision could be made to replace degraded copper with fibre.

When questioned about the lifespan of copper, Turnbull said “nobody knows”.

“It may be a very long time, but it depends on the technological developments … You can’t predict the future with great certainty, so what you do is you build in that flexibility,” he said.

“When Labor says they’ve got a technology that’s future proof, they are kidding themselves. Believe me, there is no technology that is future proof. If you haven’t learnt that you’ve been asleep for the last 20 years.”

A Coalition NBN would require a renegotiation of a key $11 billion contract with NBN Co and Telstra, which Turnbull said could be achieved “speedily”, with Telstra possibly better off under a Coalition NBN due to faster payments to the telco.

The $800 million Optus agreement with NBN Co would remain unchanged, with Turnbull stating Optus has indicated it wants to move away from an HFC network.

Revenue under a Coalition NBN would remain the same, Turnbull said, and entry level prices for consumers would be on par with ADSL2+ prices, as per Labor’s pricing claims.

Based on what the Coalition has called “conservative” and “reasonable” assumptions, it has pegged Labor’s NBN as eventually costing $94 billion.

Turnbull stated the Labor government has “no idea” how much the NBN will eventually cost as no cap has been placed on funding for the project.

“If you combine a more realistic approach for pricing and a less expensive network for service, you can see that broadband costs are considerably lower under the Coalition,” Turnbull said.

“This will deliver all of the services and applications Australians want and are prepared to pay for online, but it will do so sooner and cheaper.”

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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