National Broadband Network review

Following the federal election, there is debate about where the National Broadband network is heading.

The Liberal-National Coalition promised to roll out the NBN more quickly and at a lower cost than what the Labor party promised.

History of the NBN

In 2009, the Rudd-led Government planned to replace the outdated copper infrastructure with a new fibre network. However, the tender process failed so the government decided to start its own company to build the network itself.

The NBN was set up and it aimed to put a stop to the monopoly Telstra had on the market. Telstra previously owned all the copper infrastructure and the other retailers rented the lines off Telstra.

Australia had the most expensive fixed line prices in the OECD, so the creation of the NBN aimed to reduce the cost of broadband for both urban and rural consumers.

What has the new Government promised?

The coalition Government has promised to roll out the NBN using a "mix of technologies to provide high speed internet at a reasonable cost."

Steve Dalby, chief regulator officer at internet service provider iiNet told that the original mixture included fibre, fixed wireless and satellite options. However, he went on to say that the new model is more likely to include additional modes like fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) and possibly also fibre-for-the-home companies (FTTH).

This means Australians should get better access to high-speed internet but there may be some economic barriers preventing certain companies from getting involved.

However, changes aren’t expected to be made until after a review is completed. The review is rumoured to be led by JB Rousselot, a former Telstra executive, and it will clarify what technology will be included in the rollout.

All Australian telcos have been asked to provide information about their service and a map of their fixed broadband networks.

The review will be presented to the Federal Government on December 2.

Will the new system cater for phone coverage?

With smartphone use on the rise, it would only make sense that the new rollout includes provisions for smartphone internet use out in the bush, says Vodafone chief executive Bill Morrow.

He told the Australian that the NBN should use more “micro cells” in highly populated areas such as shopping malls where data traffic is higher to improve the mobile data service.

In the first half of 2013 Australians bought the same number of tablets as were purchased in the entire year of 2012, according to Mr Morrow, proving that smartphones and tablets are experiencing huge growth.

Mr Morrow told the Australian he believes it does not make any sense to provide a top notch broadband system if it is not compatible with the way most Australians use the internet.

Research by the McKell Institute indicates that 47 per cent of Australians access the internet on their mobile phones, while an additional 23 per cent went online on a tablet or other broadband device.

The report by the McKell Institute says the future depends on an improved broadband network to ensure Australia's digital infrastructure meets the current consumer demand and is able to cope with further expansion in future.

Mobile data usage is continually increasing. Figures show it is doubling every year and Nokia Siemens Network believes mobile traffic will grow a thousand-fold over the next ten years.

Consumers are demanding the ability to connect wirelessly and for this connection to be an uninterrupted service similar to what they get for electricity and plumbing.

However, people do not just want to connect at home or at the office, but expect they can go online wherever and whenever they choose.

Why is it important to invest in Telecommunications?

Australia is isolated geographically, so it is believed that the improved telecommunications system will help bridge the gap between the nation and the rest of the world.

It will also help to create a more interconnected society, akin to that of a smaller and more densely populated country, according to Infrastructure Australia.

Not only that, an efficient telecommunications system will be good for productivity and innovation.

The 2012 econometric study 'what is the impact of mobile telephony on economic growth' by Deloitte. Cisco and the GSM Association found that if a country doubled its mobile data use, its GDP would increase by 0.5 percentage points on average.

There are other benefits for consumers too, as well as faster broadband for leisure purposes.

Higher speed internet could improve productivity, and give consumers better access to new markets as well as making phone and internet cheaper for businesses.

Telecommunications infrastructure is a major industry affecting economic growth and building new networks will provide a potential competitive advantage for the nation's business sector.