Australia’s Opposition Promises A$30 Billion Broadband Network

Australia’s Liberal-National coalition plans to build a national broadband network for A$30 billion ($31 billion) and connect all households to high-speed internet by 2016 if it wins government in elections Sept. 14.

The plan would ensure minimum download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second by the end of a first term in 2016 and would double that by 2019, opposition leader Tony Abbott told an event in Sydney today. The coalition says its plan would cost less than a third of the A$94 billion it estimates will be spent under the government’s policy. The government forecasts its plan will need funding of A$44 billion, the coalition said.

NBN Co., the state-owned operator of the network, said in August it can change the project should Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor government lose power. The coalition, on track to win elections, said Telstra Corp., the country’s largest phone company, will receive compensation for use of its copper networks more quickly under its plan.

The government’s program “is a failing project,” opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said. “It is also one that is going to cost a huge amount of money.”

Labor intends to roll out the mainly fiber-optic network to 93 percent of Australia’s population during the next decade, with the rest served by wireless and satellite.

While the government’s plan is for broadband fiber to be connected to every home, the coalition wants to install a fiber- to-the-node model, in which broadband fiber is installed as much as a kilometer from houses that are then connected to the network by copper wire.

Cheaper Plan

Households would pay A$66 a month in 2021 under the coalition’s plan compared to A$90 a month under the government’s program, according to a presentation released by the opposition.

Under the coalition’s plan, the government would look to renegotiate some of its commitments with Telstra (TLS) so the network can be more quickly deployed, the presentation said.

Telstra expects to receive about A$11 billion in payments and benefits in return for allowing NBN Co. to use its copper wires network, with the bulk of the money expected to flow after 2022.

“We understand and respect the need for Telstra shareholders to be kept whole in the sense that Telstra won’t do any deal if they’re going to be worse off,” Turnbull said. “It’s somewhere between a neutral and a mild positive and certainly Telstra shareholders have got nothing to fear from our approach.”

A Liberal-National government would also privatize NBN Co., Turnbull said in August, while ruling out a sale to a retail telecommunications provider, such as Telstra.

A 512-megabyte movie would take around four minutes to download at 20 megabits per second and two minutes at 50 megabits per second, according to Thinkbroadband.com.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Scott in Canberra at jscott14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Johnson at ejohnson28@bloomberg.net

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