By mid-2013 NBN Co indicated that its rollout plan was now slightly above target. This bodes well for a rapid rollout of the network, to reach close to four million connections by 2015. With all the major foundations now in place it should be reasonably plain sailing from here.
The ACCC has laid down its wholesale conditions for the transitional period and it is in this area that further tension has developed, especially at the point when the copper services are actually being cut off and all the customers are being transferred to the FttH network. Also, more detailed information is becoming available from the Coalition and, while there remain strong areas of disagreement, the reality is that, despite the possibility of a change of government in late 2013, the NBN is here to stay. While the departure of the NBN's key architect - the former Minister Conroy will be disruptive he has nurtured the project to a level that there is now any back anymore.
A serious omission on the part of the Coalition is that by mid-2013 there was no policy or information from them on the importance of the digital economy, the need for digital productivity, and on policies in relation to e-business, e-health and e-education and if and where their NBN policy fits in all of this.
The Opposition certainly has some valid points of criticism, which we share. There is still a misalignment between the social and economic benefits of the NBN and NBN Co's business plan. The Opposition also wants to prioritise the underserved areas and is looking at other technologies to create some earlier wins. The question, however, is how much can be changed at this late stage and also if this really will lower costs and speed up the rollout.
Australia is highly reliant on its income from natural resources and like other resource-rich countries it needs to diversify its economy. Interestingly, it is these resource-rich countries that are leading the rollout of FttH around the world. The main reason for those governments becoming involved in digital infrastructure is to increase their country's competitiveness and productivity in areas other than resources.
The first retail prices are very promising. Entry level charges are most competitive and will assist in a reasonably easy transition from the old networks to the NBN.
Companies covered in this report include:
NBN Co; Telekom Deutschland; Belgacom; Telekom Austria; Fastweb; Swisscom; Strata Community Australia (SCA); Australian Bureau of Statistics; Telstra; Optus; AusBBS; iiNet; Internode; TPG