It seems almost certain that in about 15 days we will have a new coalition government. Broadly speaking their NBN policy is a switch from FTTH to FTTN. Much has been written about why FTTN is inferior to FTTH and why, given the state of the copper and the likely lifetime of an FTTN solution, any savings are probably illusory so I won’t repeat it all again.
What I do want to do with this post is try and predict what the LNP will actually do with the NBN. I am not brave enough to make a single prediction, so I will give some options and my opinion on how likely they are.
Option 1 – They conduct a review of the NBN and decide that FTTH is the right way to go after all – 5%
Option 2 – They spend 6-8 months negotiating with Telstra for access to the copper at a reasonable price before giving up and deciding to stick with the current FTTH plans – 10%
Option 3 – They spend 6-8 months negotiating with Telstra for access to the copper at a reasonable price before giving up and selling NBNCo to Telstra in exchange for some agreement on ‘structural separation’ between wholesale and retail – 50%
Option 4 – They spend 6-8 months negotiating with Telstra for access to the copper at a reasonable price before giving up and giving NBNCo to Telstra and paying them $20B in subsidies to complete the rollout in exchange for some agreement on ‘structural separation’ between wholesale and retail – 20%
Option 5 – They spend 6-8 months negotiating with Telstra for access to the copper, end up paying them $10B and rollout an FTTN network that is obsolete before it is completed, takes longer to deploy than the original FTTN NBN and costs more – 30%
Although options 1 & 2 involve a complete about-face on their FTTN policy, it is conceivable as they will very likely be in a strong position, electorally, and able to blame it on Labor (“they committed us to FTTN and it is unfair to have some people with lower speed access”) or Telstra.
Under options 3 and 4 (especially 4) I think there is a reasonable chance that Telstra will continue to roll out FTTH – they have already done this in new estates and in South Brisbane, and it gives them a chance to be rid of the majority of their copper network. This will reduce the cost of maintenance and give them an excuse to retrench a lot of maintenance employees & replace them with subcontractors (those that haven’t already been replaced with subcontractors that is). A homogeneous FTTH network would also be cheaper to manage than a mixture of FTTH, FTTN and HFC.
It will be interesting to come back in August 2014 and see how my predictions have panned out.
*Update* – Scott’s comment reminded me that I meant to point out that under both the Labor and Lib’s plan rural areas get fixed-wireless or satellite. This means that there may not be much horse-trading required with the Nationals. It also means that I guess the one issue that I might care about in this election doesn’t affect me either. hmm…