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2013 Australia - The National Broadband Network

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Last updated: 3 Jul 2013 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 213

Analyst: Paul Budde

Publication Overview

The new Rudd Government has put a four person strong ministerial NBN team together to sell the project to the voters and to challenge the Opposition on their ‘cheaper’ NBN version. The good thing however is that whoever wins the next election the NBN is safe and will continue. If the Coalition wins there will be changes but so far it is not known what exactly they are going to change and what changes are still possible. This report provides the very latest update on all the developments surrounding the NBN. As BuddeComm has been involved in the NBN from its inception we are in a unique position to provide you with the insights of this large scale project, the largest of its kind in the world.

It provides a range of analyses on all the aspects of the project. It also offers a wealth of information on infrastructure rollouts; contracts; wholesale and retail arrangements; legislative and regulatory issues; an overview of key players and stakeholders; the e-government, e-health and e-education sectors.

The report analyses the issues surrounding the growth of such services and includes global overviews. Comprehensive information is provided on the roll-out and on the exciting digital economy developments taking place at a regional level.

Subjects covered include: 

  • The NBN as its stands in mid 2013
  • The latest data on the FttH roll-out and the plans going forward
  • Government policies and regulations
  • Full analysis of the Opposition’s position
  • Wholesale, competition, pricing and products
  • NBN Co, infrastructure plans and updates on the latest contracts
  • The developments surrounding the fixed wireless and satellite roll outs
  • Industry in transition – both from the perspective of Telstra and the rest of the industry
  • The opportunities for councils and communities to capitalise on the social and economic benefits
  • Market forecasts 2015, 2020
  • The all important digital economy that will be built on top of the NBN.

Researcher:- Paul Budde
Current publication date:- July 2013 (6th Edition)

Executive Summary

NBN secured – but uncertainty about possible changes

By mid-2013 NBN Co indicated that its rollout plan was now slightly above target. This bodes well for a rapid rollout of the network, to reach close to four million connections by 2015. With all the major foundations now in place it should be reasonably plain sailing from here.

The ACCC has laid down its wholesale conditions for the transitional period and it is in this area that further tension has developed, especially at the point when the copper services are actually being cut off and all the customers are being transferred to the FttH network. Also, more detailed information is becoming available from the Coalition and, while there remain strong areas of disagreement, the reality is that, despite the possibility of a change of government in late 2013, the NBN is here to stay. While the departure of the NBN’s key architect - the former Minister Conroy will be disruptive – he has nurtured the project to a level that there is now any back anymore.

A serious omission on the part of the Coalition is that by mid-2013 there was no policy or information from them on the importance of the digital economy, the need for digital productivity, and on policies in relation to e-business, e-health and e-education – and if and where their NBN policy fits in all of this.

The Opposition certainly has some valid points of criticism, which we share. There is still a misalignment between the social and economic benefits of the NBN and NBN Co’s business plan. The Opposition also wants to prioritise the underserved areas and is looking at other technologies to create some earlier wins. The question, however, is how much can be changed at this late stage – and also if this really will lower costs and speed up the rollout.

Australia is highly reliant on its income from natural resources and like other resource-rich countries it needs to diversify its economy. Interestingly, it is these resource-rich countries that are leading the rollout of FttH around the world. The main reason for those governments becoming involved in digital infrastructure is to increase their country’s competitiveness and productivity in areas other than resources.

The first retail prices are very promising. Entry level charges are most competitive and will assist in a reasonably easy transition from the old networks to the NBN.

The Australian telecommunications market will change dramatically over the next ten years. Accelerated by government policies in relation to broadband infrastructure and the National Digital Economy Strategy these changes will drive the transformation of the industry.

This will be further accelerated by developments such as cloud computing, M2M and big data. The over-the-top (OTT) players are also becoming more and more prominent in the telecoms industry and this will start blurring some of the borders between infrastructure, IT and applications.

The NBN will become the predominant infrastructure, and as a utilities-based network it will also provide its services to other sectors, such as healthcare, education and business. With these sectors involved we will see the industry developing specific new business models around infrastructure, ICT and retail. IPTV and other media and entertainment applications will also begin to play a more important role.

The question remains – how successful will the telcos be in retail space?

They will have to decide where they want to play. Infrastructure will largely move to NBN Co, its contractors (eg, Telstra) and a few backhaul providers. Companies also have the opportunity to become the ICT providers to those other sectors. The larger sectors, in particular, will create a sizeable demand for value-added infrastructure services. The first of such contracts signed in the healthcare industry offers glimpses of such a future.

All of this will assist the industry to broaden itself and double its size to around $80 billion by 2020.

Unfortunately the NBN rollout has become a political football. Under enormous political pressure NBN Co has to balance its plan between what is technically required to deliver a first-class infrastructure on the one hand, and on the other to deliver as much as possible before the September 2013 election, to make it harder for a possible Coalition government to wind down the rollout after the election.

The Coalition has indicated that it will honour existing contracts that have been signed under the current government. If that promise is honoured we will see completion of approximately half of the FttH rollout – which is currently under contract – by 2016.

While there have been initial setbacks, and not all problems have been ironed out, the overall rollout is proceeding as planned, with NBN Co having stated that by mid-2013 it was reaching its daily target of around 6,000 premises being passed. From here onwards free connection to premises will take place on an on-demand basis; current indications are that more than 90% of premises are requesting a connection.

The next step after that is for RSPs to sign up customers for their broadband services. Service uptake among the first release sites are already with 12-18 months climbing to 50%-60%.

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In 2009 Paul contacted me and we engaged in the brainstorming sessions that led to the development of the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

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