Wednesday, September 01, 2010

We believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden

A group of industry luminaries trading under the name of the "Alliance for Affordable Broadband" has released what Stuart Corner called a manifest proposing an NBN 3.0 to be largely left to the market.

I would probably call it a manifesto, rather than a manifest because it has lots of points that start "we believe".

My comments here are not designed to advocate for or against any of the existing broadband policies doing the rounds. They aren't offered as the views of my employer. They are however observations on the claims of this group, just as I'm prepared to make observations about other claims.

Their beliefs include that infrastructure based competition has worked - despite the fact that the bulk of broadband competition takes place over Telstra's copper network asset. ADSL is not, and has never been, infrastructure based competition.

Where there has been infrastructure based competition has been in HFC - a failed model as both builds stopped after 3 million households were passed by 2 networks and the rest were passed by none. Mobiles is the only space where there can be any claim to sustained infrastructure competition - though one of the signatories is the CEO of a company that failed to build such a network (before his time). Meanwhile the mobile industry is as stubbornly concentrated now as it was in 1992 despite the fact that there has been a policy bias towards new entry.

But the alliance is seriously mistaken if it believes a wireless network capable of delivering 100Mbps could be delivered now if only the additional 4G spectrum were available. It is further mistaken in believing that the 700 MHz or 2.5 GHz could be made available any time sooner than currently planned.

But the final delusion is that we don't want a national monopoly FTTH but they do seem to want a national monopoly on the 4G network as a mandated private sector wholesale only investment.

Can we just remember that the people who started all this were the private sector owners of the national monopoly network who said to the Howard Government in 2005 "we need a new customer access network but will not build it under current law". I'm also waiting for anyone to show me the "cost-benefit analysis" for any communications policy ever implemented in Australia (a CBA not being the same thing as a business case).


Anonymous said...

Yes I called it a manifest because that was how it was described. I felt it should have been manfesto and I suspect that manifest was their typo - SC

ian said...

It is depressing.

They do have one valid point:-
"a competitive National Fibre Backhaul Network (NFBN) platform is critical to the development of broadband in Australia"

I always claimed that this would be the most challenging part of NBN, but most of the focus has been on the access network.

A back of the envelope calculation shows that this would be a major part of NBN costs. Building an expensive mobile access network on top of this isn't going to help anyone (except possibly the "Alliance").

It also ignores the advantages of having a single end-to-end management system for a fibre network. Unless things have changed in the last 5 years integration management systems has never been very successful.