Last Sunday was D-Day for public submissions to the Expert Group on the rollout of the National Broadband Network.

Several organisations have publicly announced the release of their submissions including the G9, Telstra and the FTTH Special Interest Group.

Telstra wants the Government to impose an application fee and bonds on potential bidders for the FTTN tender, and set out other quantifiable benchmark criteria for the required technical and financial capabilities of the proponents.

According to their submission, Telstra expects every bidder to include a non-refundable $5m deposit with their Expression of Interest, followed by a $20m refundable bond with their RFP submission, and finally a $100m bond on short listing.

Telstra’s Executive Director of Regulatory Affairs, Dr Tony Warren, said "it is time for bidders to put their money where mouth is on FTTN. Our suggestions are for an efficient, objective, competitive RFP process which will fulfil the Government’s goal of commencing the National Broadband network build before the end of the year."

They also demand that bidders should have previous engineering and telecommunications experience; have a revenue base of $8billion; have invested at least $3billion in capital over the past 5 years; and currently has a minimum of 500,000 broadband subscribers - well that rules out Optus and/or the G9.

Telstra's submission focuses entirely on that the bidders' capability should be and how the RFP process should be conducted. They make not one useful suggestion or recommendation that could aid the delivering of this network.

The full Telstra submission can be viewed here.

The submission by the G9 consortium of Optus, Macquarie Telecom, Primus, AAPT, Soul, iiNet, Internode and TransAct has asked Senator Conroy to adopt a two-stage process similar to that employed in Singapore's National Broadband rollout.

The G9 has suggested the Expert group consider flexibility in the technology used to deliver the Government's minimum speed requirements for the network. While in principal this is a good suggestion, the reality is DSL technology cannot deliver the required performance mandated by the Government.

The G9 also asked Senator Conroy to consider the terms of participation in the bid. In particularly whether bidders will be required to have structural separation between network ownership and network operations. Other suggestions included the use of the Government's $4.7 billion contribution; and the roll-out schedule for the network.

Of most concern by the G9 was the stranding of their investment in exchanged based DSLAMS. As voiced strongly at the FTTH round table in early march, iiNet are vehementy opposed to FTTN rollout. They even published a paper in 2006 ("The Myth of Fibre") which "debunked" FTTN as providing any additional bandwidth or feature than what iiNet currently offers.

FTTH Special Interest Group
Unlike the other two, the Fibre to the Home Special Interest Group did not have any agenda to push and had no vested interest in current investments. Instead they just wanted to ensure the $4.7billion is invested in a long term Network that provides the best outcome for the community and the country - not for a group of investors.

They make 24 key recommendations to the Government as to what needs to be done to ensure a successful deployment of a National Broadband Network that will rival anything else in the world. Some of those recommendations include:
  • A national network topology standard based on open access principals
  • A three layer model of seperate network owners, operators and retail service providers
  • Sustainable funding for community and backhaul networks
  • A centralised co-ordination office for development of technology and standards
  • Reduction in regulatory obsticals
  • Creation of a new network by overbuilding, thus creating true market competition.
  • Use of technology (preferably FTTH) that can deliver a minimum of 100Mbps to every home

The most suprising statement is the claim that a Fibre to the Home deployment reaching 98% of the community will cost only $9.8b. This is very different to the $30-$50b previously suggested by others to the Government. However the SIG back up their claims with supporting information that came from the TasColt and Bright projects which deployed FTTH into brownfield areas.

According to the SIG, time is of the essence. OECD nations in Asia, America and Europe already have strategic plans for the deployment of National Broadband Networks. Some countries and regions such as Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, United States and Europe have significant rollouts of FTTP already underway. Australia has also started, but based upon experience to date, realises that a number of fundamental changes need to occur if Australia is to succeed and remain globally competitive in the emerging Knowledge Economy.

Their full submission can be viewed here.

Time is quickly running out and we only have one chance to get this right.

Carpe Diem!


At 03 April, 2008 11:59 Anonymous said...

Great Post, lets hope the Government takes on board the recommendations made by the SIG.


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