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CommsDay reports on the TelSoc NBN Futures Forum held yesterday in Melbourne. The focus was on ‘Learning from International Experience’.

Former Telstra executive and telecommunications consultant Dr Jim Holmes says looking at New Zealand’s UFB project from Australia was like “watching the carnival over the hill”.

Holmes says: “NZ is declaring victory. They have produced some very good results with much less overall government pain and suffering than we’ve had”.

He added that the country provided a model example of bipartisan policy development.

This is not the only reason UFB succeeded and outperforms NBN, but it is an important one. As former Chorus CEO Kate McKenzie told me in an interview two years ago; this country is good at “New Zealand Inc.”. That’s where everyone puts aside rivalries and works together for the national good.

New Zealand’s UFB project started under a centre-right National Party government. A centre-left Labour-lead coalition government finished the job.

It was a National election promise in 2008, but Labour went in to the election with a similar plan.

Although there were political rows, the UFB was never under a political threat.

This compares with Australia where the NBN was, and to a lesser degree, still is, a political football.

Australia’s usual narrative goes on to compare its low rank in international indices.

There is no question it under performs against other countries. Although this is often overstated.

And we should remember New Zealand’s UFB had a head start. When New Zealand began its fibre to the premises roll-out, a fibre to the node network was already in place. Australia, in effect started from zero.

What should be of more concern to Australia is the sheer amount of money it wasted with NBN. New Zealand’s project came in under budget. The government money used for the fibre build was in the form of soft loans, so the net cost was negligible.

Compare that with the NBN. The total cost depends on who you talk to. The official cost A$51 billion. That’s a lot of money for a network which underperforms the carnival over over the hill.

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