Image Source: Australian Government. Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
The federal opposition has unveiled its cheaper plan for construction of a slower National Broadband Network (NBN) which would be completed two years sooner than what is anticipated under the timetable for the current project.
Unveiling the plan in Sydney, opposition leader Tony Abbott and communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said the coalition would guarantee users a minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second (mps) by the end of its first term – five time faster than what most Australians get now but still well down on the 100 mps being promised by labour.
If the coalition won a second term, the minimum speed would increase to 50 mps for the vast majority of households.
A key feature of the coalition’s plan is to roll out fibre optic cable to the ‘node’ (street corner) rather than all the way to homes or businesses as per the current Labour plan – a measure Abbott says will save around two thirds of the cost.
Connections to the premises would, however, be available in areas where high speeds are needed.
The coalition says its version of the network would be finished in 2019, two years earlier than the current deadline of 2021, with rollout priority being given to areas of poorest service today.
It says its version of the plan would cost around $20.4 billion excluding funding costs or $29.5 billion if funding costs are added in. This compares with what the government says will be a $37.4 billion or $44.1 billion cost depending on whether or not financing costs are included.
The coalition would also sell the network once it was ready. It says while its preference would have been for the network to be built by the private sector, it would inherit network builder NBN Co if it won government and would have to work with it.
“We believe in a national broadband network” Abbott told reporters.
“We will deliver a better NBN.”
Current infrastructure Anthony Albanese slammed the announcement, saying unlike the government’s fibre-to-the-premises technology, the coalition’s network would not be easily upgradable.
Independent MP Tony Windsor agreed, saying a ‘full-strength’ NBN would be more flexible and would better enable technologies and services that might evolve in the future to be delivered.
The plan follows opposition claims the government’s NBN plan could blowout to $90 billion – a claim the government venomously denies.