Home / Technology / Leaked NBN budget blowout documents threaten to embarrass Malcolm Turnbull

Leaked NBN budget blowout documents threaten to embarrass Malcolm Turnbull


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Welcome to the smart home of 2020

From science fiction to science fact, the average Australian home is about to get a high-tech makeover, courtesy of the NBN.

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The Optus cable TV and broadband network bought by the National Broadband Network for $800 million is in such poor condition the NBN is considering replacing it entirely.

Replacing the network would see costs blow out by up to $375 million and 600,000 premises forced to wait until 2019 before connecting to the NBN, according to documents obtained by Fairfax Media.

It looks like Malcolm Turnbull’s second rate NBN is about to have another cost blowout and will take even longer to build 

The NBN’s Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) rollout will use existing pay TV cables to deliver high-speed broadband to Australians. 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised the Optus deal during his time as communications minister

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised the Optus deal during his time as communications minister Photo: Peter Rae

The leaked briefing presentation, dated November 3, 2015 and marked “confidential”, canvasses moving to a “Plan B” for the HFC network, rather than upgrading the Optus network as had originally been planned. 

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The “Plan A” HFC rollout would see existing Optus infrastructure used for 470,000 premises.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has spruiked the importance of Telstra and Optus’ existing HFC networks to the Coalition’s multi-technology mix NBN rollout.

The NBN has experienced a number of budget blow outs.

The NBN has experienced a number of budget blow outs. Photo: Rob Homer

In December, Mr Turnbull hailed the “landmark agreement” to buy the Telstra and Optus cable lines, saying: “The agreement allows NBN Co to take progressive ownership of the Optus HFC cable network and use this infrastructure in the NBN rollout, at no additional cost to taxpayers.”

But the internal NBN documents state the Optus network is “not fully fit for purpose” and some equipment is “arriving at the end of life” and will need to be replaced. Other parts of the network are oversubscribed and don’t have sufficient capacity to support NBN services.

According to the documents, building over the Optus HFC network with Telstra HFC or a mix of other technologies would deliver better results than upgrading the current network.

But it would require a peak funding increase of between $150 million and $375 million and see NBN miss its rollout targets by approximately 300,000 premises in 2017 and 330,00 in 2018. 

It means these premises would not receive the NBN until 2019 at the earliest.

Labor had proposed decommissioning Optus’ FTC network and replacing it with fibre-to-the-premise.

Labor communications spokesman Jason Clare said: “This is more evidence of the absolute mess that Malcolm Turnbull has created with his second-rate NBN.

“He designed his second-rate NBN using a network that he didn’t know the quality of and now his chickens are coming home to roost.

“It looks like Malcolm Turnbull’s second-rate NBN is about to have another cost blowout and will take even longer to build.”

NBN has been approached for comment. 

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