Any delay to the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout as a result of political tinkering would harm competition, according to the Competitive Carriers Coalition (CCC).
Shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott last week announced a plan for a revamped NBN under which most households would have access to connections up to 50Mbps and a minimum speed of 25Mbps, with the alternative NBN costing $29.5 billion to roll out.
The CCC represents Telstra’s competitors – AAPT, Adam Internet, iinet, Macquarie Telecom, NextGen and Vodafone Hutchison Australia.
“Any delays to the [NBN] rollout affect our ability to move to [a] competitive wholesale market,” CCC chairman, Matt Healy, told the Joint Committee on the NBN in Sydney today.
Internode, a subsidiary of CCC member iiNet, said necessary renegotiations with Telstra and regulatory rigmarole could mean substantial delays to rolling out the Coalition's NBN plan if it wins the election.
“Any delay means we’re stuck with the current arrangement, which [is] fundamentally not competitive because of Telstra’s ownership of both the copper network and being the main retailer on it, and us all having to buy services from them and compete with them,” Healy said.
“So long as we have that arrangement in place, and [there are] delays in moving to a new wholesale-only, structurally separated network [and] there’s problems to competition.”
The CCC officials said competitors appreciate some aspects of the Coalition plan but still have questions.
“One of the things that will persist” regardless of NBN technology “is that the points at which everybody interconnects ... won’t change,” said CCC regulatory director, David Foreman. “That is a very important principal for retail competitors. There will be nobody who gets closer to the customer. Everybody will be meeting the customer at the same place, as it were.
“There are some other questions that need to be teased out though around what changes to the end technology might mean in terms of the kinds of services that are offered,” he said. The “most obvious of those is how will you offer something to some places where you can’t be assured you’re going to get 100Mbps.”
CCC member Macquarie Telecom said earlier this week that it's heartened that Australian businesses will get some level of “ultra broadband” no matter which party wins the September election.
Vodafone also praised areas of agreement between the Coalition and Labor parties in a separate hearing.
“We welcome the cross-party consensus that Australia should upgrade its broadband network and that the government should play a role in building that network,” said Matthew Lobb, Vodafone general manager industry strategy and public policy.
“[It's] pleasing there is agreement that there should be a national, wholesale-only provider of broadband and access services,” he said. “This will deliver much needed structural reform in the Australian telecommunications market.”
Lobb said it’s critical that the NBN provide fibre-based backhaul for wireless networks in regional areas at a lower cost than what’s currently available from Telstra.
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