NBN Co: How We Chose Our Sites, And Why Turnbull’s Attacks Are Decidedly ‘Odd’

NBN Co: How We Chose Our Sites, And Why Turnbull’s Attacks Are Decidedly ‘Odd’

At a media briefing in Sydney today, NBN Co executives outlined in more detail how it picked the sites in the new 3 year plan, as well as why Malcolm Turnbull’s attacks on NBN Co’s plans are “odd”.

A lot of Gizmodo readers were keen to find out if they were on the three-year rollout plan announced last Thursday, but for every reader that was elated to discover they were, there were three that were cranky they weren’t. That makes mathematical sense; the three-year plan covers around a quarter of the premises in Australia.

At NBN Co’s headquarters in Sydney today, NBN Co chief operating officer Ralph Steffens laid out in a little more detail how NBN Co chose the sites it did.

“It’s a straightforward exercise, but then an incredibly complex one to pull off. Once you have announced your first sites you need to build from there. You cannot build a patchwork across the nation, because that would be the most inefficient way to build the network.”

NBN Co was working within set parameters that the plan needed to adhere to — more or less:

“We had parameters handed to us; one was having an equal split the states, also an even split between metro and rural areas; on top of that there have been announcements to complete Tasmania within five years, over and above that, in order to to roll out the access network we we had to make sure we are rolling out the access network where you also have a transit network. Building islands is not very good if you can’t connect it to everything. Then smaller (considerations); working with four universities across the nation; connecting their campuses was also part of the consideration as well.

“The most important element you need to look after is to build a plan which is executable from an efficiency and effectiveness perspective. The worst thing you can do by rolling out infrastructure projects is starting and stopping; you need continuation; that’s incredibly important. If we start somewhere in the region, we keep going until we’re finished. It’s just common sense; once you start you’re going to finish. That’s pretty much how we determined the rollout. You’ve got to start somewhere and you’ve got to finish somewhere. Somebody has to be the first and somebody has to be the last.”

While the parameters were there, they’re not an absolute be-all and end-all.

“Some of the parameters we put in are marginally off; like equal share between the states — the reason for that is simply to ensure that where we start, we keep going until we finish. So for the Northern Territory, for example, which is huge in size but smaller in population, we’re finishing faster than ten years — but that’s just common sense.

It’s a mathematical model you build up; there’s only so much you can do in the same time.”

The coalition’s attacks on the NBN seem to have shifted from taking on the cost of the NBN to whether or not it’s feasible; Malcolm Turnbull wrote a lengthy press release — which we published on Friday — decrying the ability of NBN Co to actually deliver its rollout to schedule based on its previous rollout statistics. According to Kieren Cooney, NBN Co chief communications officer, this comparison is … odd.

“The fundamental comparison is odd. One is a trial set of sites that were not to move at scale; with temporary arrangements. One is a full commercial rollout. To extrapolate the trail into the full-scale rollout misses what the trial was about.”

According to Steffens, the trial has given NBN Co the information it needs.

“We now have our construction supply chain worked out; certainly executable, very executable; the other thing is we have the Telstra contract; that allows us to roll out to scale; the deal is place, the contracts are in place and we are ready to roll.”

Over at Lifehacker, Gus has covered off on the fact that we’ve only seen around a quarter of the signed up retailers offering plans, and also of the NBN’s future, quoting Steffens as stating that

“The world doesn’t stop at 100MB just because that’s our current product offering. We are thinking about [1G and beyond], we are looking proactively at it.”