Back in September 2013, our Director of R&D Vladimir Lasky wrote to his local Member of Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull, who had just been appointed Communications Minister following the Australian Federal Election.

In this letter, Vladimir outlines the business case that makes a Fibre-to-the-Premises NBN superior to a Fibre-to-the-Node NBN:

Dear Malcolm,

This is Vlad, Wentworth resident and former member of Vaucluse Young Liberals.

First of all, congratulations on your successful re-election to Wentworth!

I am also a Computer Systems Engineer and run – a tech business which develops technology to allow University students and researchers to conduct science and engineering experiments by remote control over the Internet – a key application enabled by the National Broadband Network.

I and other people in the industry maintain that Fibre-to-the-Premises is the only suitable design for the NBN that is both economically viable and provides sufficient capabilities.

Here are my reasons:

1. Telstra, being the owner of the old copper cable, and a public company that must maximise the interests of its shareholders, will demand as much money as it can get from the government to purchase their old copper cable.

They hold the cards and will price it as high as they can to provide the minimum discount that will still make it look more affordable to the government than FTTP.

2. In many places, the copper cable has been in the ground for many decades. The weather-proofing has gone and the copper has started to corrode. Today, people often report that their ADSL Internet slows down or drops out whenever it rains. A lot of money will need to be spent to repair the old copper cable.

3. As you know, the cables are unshielded, so there is a lot of cross-talk – part of your signal is picked up by your neighbours’ cables and you will pick up theirs. As more people get connected, your line will get noisier and your speed will be lowered. Vectoring will help reduce cross-talk, but it is complex and has its own constraints.

4. Our copper cable that we have in the ground was never intended for transmitting data – only baseband voice signals. The conductors have a small diameter so the high frequency signals used to transmit data drop off in strength very rapidly – smaller that what has been used in the UK and Germany, which you have cited as examples of successful FTTN.

This means that in order to get speeds anywhere near what is being promised, many nodes will have to be installed within a few hundred metres of every connected office or home. These nodes are large, expensive, consume electricity and will require ongoing maintenance.

I consider you to be a financially astute person, and the Liberal Party capable of seeing the big picture by considering ongoing and opportunity costs, and not simply basing things on short-term cash-flow concerns.

There is no purpose in needlessly wasting Australian taxpayers’ money to prolong the life of a run-down, obsolete network and fill Telstra’s coffers, when our country has the means to do it properly.

It would eventually have to be replaced with FTTP anyway and it would be even harder to find the money then. We can get it right the first time.

Vladimir Lasky
Director of R&D

Note: this was originally posted on our facebook page located here:

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