Opposition's NBN alternative revealed: (Slightly) cheaper but slower

Opposition's NBN
Spoiler: FttN does not look like this

After years of threatening to first dismantle the NBN, and then complaining that it's too expensive a solution for Australians, the opposition finally got around to announcing an actual broadband policy in the lead up to September's federal election.

The general message that the Coalition is proclaiming is that their NBN will use Fibre to the Node (FTTN) technology to deliver decent speeds to the population in a shorter time frame for less money. The last stretch of connection will continue to use the current copper networks.

Announcing the plan , Opposition Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Tony Abbott claimed that they would deliver speeds of 25Mbps speeds by the end of 2016, with the network completed by 2019.

The cost of rolling out the Liberal NBN will come to $29 billion, compared to the current NBN's projected costs of $37.4billion, although that figure is exclusively for the build of the network, and doesn't factor in ongoing costs.


It didn't take long for tech pundits to criticise the opposition's plans, with Twitter hashtag #fraudband overrunning Twitter streams for large parts of the day following the announcement.

There were a large number of unanswered questions following the announcement, led by the lack of an announced upload speed for the network. There's also the question of whether household will still have to pay line rental to use the copper network.

Expert pundits, like Internode boss Simon Hackett, have also criticised the plan for its economics. While it may have a cheaper outlay, the maintenance costs of the copper line, the running costs of the nodes and the cost of upgrading to a full FTTP network eventually all mean that the overall cost of a FTTN network will be significantly higher over time.

The Telstra factor

But the biggest hurdle the Opposition faces in regards to rolling out its FttN network should it win the September election is the fact that it will need to renegotiate NBN Co's current deal with Telstra.

Under the current arrangement, the Government is paying Telstra a sum of $11 billion dollars to decommission its copper network and give NBN Co access to its ducts for a faster rollout of the optic fibre cable that makes the whole network work.

Telstra and its shareholders, having agreed to the deal, may not be too keen to renegotiate with a Liberal government. And even if it does go to the negotiation table, the national telco holds all the cards, thanks to the current deal.

Regardless of the future though, the announcement is clear evidence that the Opposition realises just how important a part broadband will play in this year's election.

Having spent the past decade editing some of Australia's leading technology publications, Nick's passion for the latest gadgetry is matched only by his love of watching Australia beat England in the rugby.