NBN CEO Bill Morrow answers broadband questions

Merry Christmas! Cheaper NBN plans by end of the year

WE CAN expect faster broadband plans in time for Christmas, says the man in charge of rolling out the country's national broadband network.

It's been a busy week for NBN chief executive Bill Morrow. After going on a media blitz to coincide with the ABC's Four Corners program which reported on problems with the NBN, Mr Morrow spent Tuesday night getting grilled by politicians at Senate estimates.

The NBN boss faced questions on the so-called digital divide in Australia between those with superior fibre connections to the home and Australians being serviced by copper along the final length of the connection. He refuted the notion that the multi technology mix NBN created a digital divide, saying it was an insult to those still waiting for fast broadband to arrive.

He also fielded questions on the threat of 5G mobile broadband to the NBN and the troublesome pricing structure of the wholesale network which the ISPs complain is too expensive.

The NBN charges retailers like Telstra, TPG and Aussie Broadband an access fee as well as a network capacity charge for the amount of bandwidth they want to provision for their customers, called the Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC) fee. When ISPs skimp on this, it cause problems for the end user.

When asked about the current pricing review under way by NBN Co, Mr Morrow said he expects to have better value broadband plan offerings by the end of the year, Fairfax reported.

"We are hoping that we can put something (to the) public by the end of the year ... there will be an announcement before Christmas, I promise you that," Mr Morrow told a Labor senator.

"If we can do something to say how about we have a far more attractive price that gives you a 50mb speed product, and we have some inclusive CVC that comes with that, and an attractive growth rate thereafter, now we are talking," he said.

In order to break even, the NBN needs to collect about $52 per month from retail service providers per connection, Mr Morrow has previously said. Currently they are collecting about $43.

The NBN boss also defended the decision to pay out $109 million in bonuses to company staff despite complaints about the network rising considerably in the past year.

Mr Morrow was paid $3.6 million in the past financial year, but said he took a seven per cent cut to his bonus for the period.

"There is a customer experience measure that determines a certain level of the bonus system and how its paid out," he said. "The board chose not to pay out on that measure because that could have been better."

CEO Bill Morrow and Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield at a Senate Estimates hearing earlier in the year. Picture: Mick Tsikas
CEO Bill Morrow and Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield at a Senate Estimates hearing earlier in the year. Picture: Mick Tsikas

NEW TECHNOLOGY TO UPGRADE COPPER SPEEDS

NBN Co announced today it is ready to deploy a new type of technology known as G.fast that can increase the speeds of data transmission over copper wire.

The company said it will push the new tech into its network next year for certain end-users on Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB) and Fibre-to-the-Curb (FTTC) connections.

G.fast can take broadband speeds past the current 100Mbps levels delivered by VDSL technology to deliver speeds of up to 1Gbps over copper lines, NBN Co said.

"Adding G.fast to the toolkit for the FTTC and FTTB networks will allow us to deliver ultra-fast services faster and more cost effectively than if we had to deliver them on a full Fibre-to-the-Premises connection," said JB Rousselot, the company's Chief Strategy Officer.

"Our FTTP and HFC end-users already have the technology to support Gigabit services and adding G.fast over FTTC provides the upgrade path for our FTTN end users to ultimately receive Gigabit speeds too."

NBN Co has been experimenting with G.fast for the past two years and in October 2015 trialled the technology on a 20 year-old stretch of 100 metre copper wire cables, achieving speeds of 600Mbps.


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