• Purchasing of Copper Wires
  • The Deceiving Cost of Fibre
  • NBN Co Defends the Copper Purchases

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Experts recently criticised NBN Co for continuing to use copper wires despite its plans to start using fibre connections for its subscribers. According to them, using obsolete copper wires is costing Australia a large amount of money. 

Purchasing of Copper Wires 

New reports reveal that NBN Co has purchased 55,911 kilometres worth of copper wires. They intend to use it for the national broadband network's footprint. As it happens, NBN Co just replaced 6,300 degraded copper lead-ins on fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) with brand new copper.  

Using copper wires in this phase is wasteful, according to RMIT associate professor of network engineering Mark Gregory. 

"The admission by NBN Co that it had purchased 55,911 km to boost obsolete copper-based connections including fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) and FTTC is shocking and should be met with outrage by taxpayers who will have to pay again, in the form of higher broadband plan costs, to have the obsolete copper based technologies replaced over the next decade," Gregory said.

Apart from that, he also said that the Coalition's NBN plan became a national disgrace. The list of failed promises of the government is growing steadily. The NBN rollout, which is not entirely completed, is plagued by financial and technical problems. 

The purchase of copper wires is disclosed in the Senate. The disclosure is a response to Questions on Notice and was 57 days overdue.

The Morrison government and NBN Co have faced criticism for being slow to answer Questions on Notice. 

The 55,911 kilometres worth of copper wires isn't the only thing that got the attention of critics. Last month, late inquiries to QoNs also revealed that NBN Co had paid out more than $77 million in bonuses during the midst of the pandemic. This amount is nearly twice as much as the previous year.

NBN Co Needs to Upgrade 

NBN Co proudly announced last year that their rollout was officially completed. However, the Morrison government immediately reveals that many of the network's copper-based connections need replacements already. That's why Communications Minister Paul Fletcher allocated $3 billion last September to upgrade the copper-based connections to fibre-to-the-premises by 2023.

That $3billion fund for upgrade is then added to the $57 billion rollout cost.

The Deceiving Cost of Fibre

The $57 billion cost is way over its budget. That's the reason why NBN Co has many critics, including Labor’s shadow minister for communications, Michelle Rowland. She recently accused Liberals of deceiving the public over the cost of fibre.

"We now know the Liberals knew back in 2013 that deploying fibre was dramatically cheaper than what they claimed in public," Ms. Rowland said. 

She then added, "Malcolm Turnbull and Paul Fletcher kept this a secret and spent eight years knowingly misleading Australians to justify their copper mess. With waste and dishonesty as far as the eye can see – is it any wonder the cost of their copper NBN has gone from $29 billion to $41 billion to $49 billion and now $57 billion?"

NBN Co Defends the Copper Purchases 

NBN Co is under fire for its decision to purchase copper wire despite the government's concession that fibre upgrades are needed across the network to provide better NBN plans. However, the company defends its purchase of copper wires. 

According to a spokesperson for NBN Co, copper wires are necessary for the upgrade. They can be used to create short connections to new and upgraded elements in the network. 

Here's what NBN Co spokesperson said in a statement, "a common misconception seems to be that this copper is replacing existing copper in the legacy network". 

"In fact, this material is necessary to create short connections to new and upgraded components in the network. For example, close to 40 per cent of this volume is for specialised copper cable used in the FTTC network construction for short extensions of lead-in cables to the FTTC Distribution Point Unit (DPU) location. The installation of these short extensions delivers better speed and reliability to local customers." 

Furthermore, the spokesperson said that copper is required to connect the local network into new FTTN nodes. Also, the material is also needed for the assurance, maintenance, and remediation of parts of NBN Co's existing FTTN and FTTC networks.

However, Dr. Gregory disputed NBN Co’s claims. He's not satisfied with the company's response to criticisms.