Why New Zealand outplayed Australia on the NBN 

New Zealand will reach its broadband roll out goal on time and on budget – with superior technology. What went wrong in Australia?

At the Australian Financial Review Jennifer Hewett goes back over the question asking Why New Zealand outplayed Australia on the NBNAlong the way she talks to MyRepublic‘s Vaughn Baker who has played a role in New Zealand’s fibre project and now has a regional role for the Singaporean service provider.

Hewett makes a number of points. There is an eye-opening quote from Baker about his observation of the Australian project:

He was amazed, he recalls, at the time and the effort taken by subcontractors without the discipline of the private sector questioning each dollar, meaning the cost base was skewed from the beginning.

I noticed this when I lived in Australia. On the other side of the Tasman companies often do better when they get their snouts in the government trough. New Zealand’s private sector approach to the fibre build helped guard against this, but many private projects in Australian go off the rails as well.

NBN built from outside-in

Another important point is that the NBN build started in rural Australia. New Zealand’s government was clever putting the rural broadband project into a separate basket. A smaller proportion of Australians live outside the main centres, but the distances and the challenges connecting them are mind-boggling.

,Hewett missed an important point. New Zealand’s fibre build was never subject to Australia’s poisonous and destructive partisan politics. For a while an Australian’s opinion on the NBN project was coloured as much by political allegiance as facts, science or technology.

This hasn’t stopped. Today, there is ridiculous squabbling in Australia over fibre speeds, among other things. And a declaration that no-one wants or needs more than 25mbps broadband. Try telling that to New Zealanders zipping along to gigabit services.

15 thoughts on “Why New Zealand outplayed Australia on the NBN 

  1. I get a lovely 4 megabits here in Melbourne on ADSL, about 10kms from the CBD. I’m supposed to get ‘NBN’ here sometime next year through FTTC – so still using VDSL from the roadside cabinet. Even then 100/40 will be the fastest speed on offer, however apparently they are having issues actually making the technology work. Even in brand new/Greenfield hosting estates they are still rolling copper only – because the current government decided that Fibre is overkill.

    • Here on Auckland’s North Shore I’m still a year away from getting fibre. My VDSL2+ connection runs at around 55Mpbs, there’s a cabinet a shade over 500m from my front door. If that’s not good enough, fixed wireless broadband here can get up to 40mbps, but often doesn’t because of congestion. Even so, users typically get better than 10Mbps. Even when I was on plain old ADSL we had about 18mbps. My daughter in Dunedin has a 1gbps connection. In practice that’s about 920mbps. The price for this is around NZ$120 a month, take off our 15% GST, convert to A$ and that’s less than 100 bucks.

  2. Yep – I left NZ in 2011 and my ADSL connection was well into the 20’s thanks to cabinetisation, which never really happened in Australia – until now as part of the NBN MTM (Multi technology mix). It’s crazy. A few fixed wireless providers have started to take off here as fixed line falls further and further behind people’s needs. Sadly I live in a valley and none of the providers have coverage here.

  3. You know, if we hadn’t sold off the network and kept it as a state monopoly, we would probably have had FttH at least five years ago and more likely ten years ago. On top of that the sale has cost us at least $20 billion in lost revenue.

    The only thing that privatisation has done is cost us a hell of a lot more while providing less.

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