Choice spoke to politicians and experts to get their take on the competing visions for our national broadband network. There's general consensus that we need a fast, reliable broadband network that will outlive the copper network and take us into the future.
Technical experts agree that a complete fibre network is technically superior and is the best way to create a network that will foster innovation and new e-services well into the future.
Department of broadband, communications and the digital economy
"Labor’s NBN is a world-class communications system, which will serve Australia’s broadband needs now and into the future. Australians will have a clear choice at the next election – fibre under Labor, copper under the Coalition."
Malcolm Turnbull MP, Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband
“Our plan will ensure people are able to access better broadband sooner and much more affordably. It is prudent to invest money today where it will be most productive – and, if upgrades are needed in 10 or 20 years’ time, to utilise the advances in technology to ensure investment is most efficient.”
Senator Scott Ludlam, Greens spokesperson for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
“Labor’s proposal is vastly superior to the Opposition’s part privatised patchwork, which will require the installation of up to 80,000 powered cabinets and entrench a two-tier telecommunications network.”
Tony Windsor, Member for New England
“I think it’s the most defining piece of infrastructure we’ll see this century. It is an economic booster and cost arguments are ludicrous when you consider potential savings from e-services and innovation.”
Paul Budde, independent telecommunications analyst
“It’s a vision thing and if your vision is to provide infrastructure for e-health, tele-education and the economic and social benefits of this, you'd have to agree that fibre to the home (FTTP) is the ultimate technology.”
Mark Gregory, engineering academic at RMIT and columnist
“A FTTP network would facilitate innovation, ensure that Australia can compete in the worldwide digital economy and ensure that regional and remote Australia are not left behind.”
Q&A with Mark Gregory, engineering academic at RMIT and columnist
Do we all really need fibre?
Yes. We need increased download speeds, less traffic shaping and far better backhaul capacity in Australia to provide improved quality of service for the applications that we use now and into the future.
How do you measure the cost?
The cost can be projected forward to 2020, 2025 or 2030, because fibre will last well into the future.
How useful is a fibre to the node (FTTN ) network?
The copper infrastructure is at the end of its life, and any FTTN network would require maintenance costs and vectoring technology. The FTTP network has a 100-year lifespan, whereas the copper network was a 50-year system that is already beyond end of life.
Should the FTTP NBN use existing networks to save on cost?
This should only be an interim measure while FTTP is being built. It could utilise fibre networks that go to dwellings, fibre that connects to internal VDSL or ethernet, such as in some of the large apartment and office buildings in major cities.
How long will the copper wires last?
Experts say the copper network is already 10 years past its projected life. It could last decades but the maintenance costs will increase over time. Already, the cost is more than $1 billion per annum.