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Statement on the Tasmanian Rollout

4th February 2014  |  Comments  |  Blog

A number of claims made today by Senator Conroy on ABC Tasmania are inaccurate and do not reflect the current state of the NBN rollout in Tasmania.

At no stage has NBN Co sought to prevent Visionstream from appearing before today’s Senate Committee hearings.

Work on the NBN rollout in Tasmania is back on track.

Just before Christmas, NBN Co and the prime contractor in Tasmania, Visionstream, agreed to get the rollout going again after many months of stoppages and slow delivery that were the norm under Labor. 

There are currently 32,820 brownfields premises passed by fibre in Tasmania.  The NBN Co has advised that there have been contract instructions issued covering another 17,000 premises to be passed by fibre.

There is also late planning and remediation underway in areas covering 19,000 brownfields premises, in which the NBN Co will enter build contracts in coming months.

Visionstream has established two regional offices in Tasmania and has a workforce of external subcontractors and an internal workforce of approximately 200 personnel.

Visionstream continues to engage with Aurora for Design and Construction works for the utilisation of aerial assets to reduce the requirement to build new underground assets where appropriate. This represents approximately 80 kilometres of aerial infrastructure constructed to date under the contract with Visionstream.

Visionstream and NBN Co continue to work together with Aurora to identify opportunities for additional aerial assets to be utilised for a cost effective build in Tasmania.

Update: 13 Feb 2014 Answers Provided to ABC Tasmania

(1) Maps published on NBN Co’s website show the NBN rollout hasn’t started in many parts of metropolitan and regional Tasmania. For instance, in Hobart, Sandy Bay south of the University of Tasmania has no rollout occurring, but the rollout has started north of the campus. In Kingborough, the NBN rollout has started at Kingston Beach, but not Taroona. What would you advise people hoping for a fibre to the premises connection living in Taroona and in Sandy Bay, south of the university? Should they now expect to receive the NBN via the existing copper network?

Using fibre to the node technology the vast majority of the copper link between the home and exchange is replaced with fibre. A house 3 kilometres from the exchange and 400 metres from the pillar in the street would have 2600 metres of fibre with only the tail remaining copper for example.  Then using vectored VDSL technology – deployed by AT&T, BT and Deutsche Telekom – speeds of 100mbps and more can be achieved – you cannot achieve comparable speeds on existing copper networks.

As Ziggy mentioned, the NBN rollout is being optimised following the Strategic Review and a new medium term rollout schedule will be released later this year.

(2) Will any new fibre to the premises rollout areas be added to the NBN Co online maps between now and the end of the year?

Yes.  There are currently build contracts in 7 fibre serving area modules (FSAMs) (covering 17,000 houses) and the NBN has advised that in coming months build contracts will be issued in a further 9 FSAMs (covering 19,000 houses).  Given that 33,000 houses have been passed by fibre in the five years to date, this is a significant increase.

(3) Of the 225,000 homes that Visionstream has been contracted to connect to the NBN, what proportion will now be connected via copper?

Refer to q.1

(4) Did the Federal Government mislead voters when it promised to “honour existing contracts” in Tasmania? Wouldn’t it have been more accurate to state that you would “renegotiate existing contracts”? Why wasn’t it spelled out during the campaign that the contracts didn’t specify whether the NBN connection would be via fibre or via the existing copper network?

The NBN Co was prepared to honour the contract, the problem was that Visionstream said they could not make money at the rates which they had agreed to and demanded more money to continue construction. In fact as you know construction of the NBN in Tasmania slowed to a halt in the months leading up to the election. The NBN Co, under this Coalition Government, has got it moving again.

(5) Will broadband speeds be slower if the connection is via the copper network rather than via fibre?

Fibre offers the capacity for much higher speeds but it depends what plan the customer buys.  The most popular plan on the NBN is currently the 12/1mbps plan.  If a business wants speeds higher than is available over VDSL, such as 1gbps, there are available products such as fibre on demand, to allow that access. Speeds of 100/40 mbps are being achieved on hybrid fibre copper connections of the kind proposed in the Strategic Review.
               
An important point which is overlooked is that increased line speed is only of utility or value to a consumer to the extent it enables them to do something they couldn’t otherwise do. So while fibre can provide a speed of 1 gbps, it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify the applications or services of value to residential consumers that would require it.

A second point worth remembering is that the NBN is a last mile customer access network – it connects a customer to the local point of interconnection (PoI) after which connectivity to the rest of the Internet is carried by the customer’s retail service provider. So even if there is a very high speed available between the customer’s premises and the PoI that does not necessarily mean connections between servers in other towns, states or countries will be at that speed because of contention and congestion elsewhere in the Internet.

(6) Do you agree that under your modified rollout plans, some people will be connected via fibre, while their neighbours will have a slower connection via the upgraded copper network? Is that fair?

There are currently 1.6 million houses in Australia that either have no access to broadband, or access to very slow broadband.  This is unacceptable – our plan places a premium on ensuring these upgrades are conducted as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In terms of ‘fairness’, it should also be noted the biggest contributor to the digital divide is affordability.  Under Labor’s plan, consumers would have faced price rises of up to 80 per cent.

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