“The issue that we are going to have with the multi-technology mix is going to be in several years’ time,” Ivereigh told the Committee during a public hearing on 25 July.
“Once we've got these issues sorted out with the bandwidth from the retail service providers, such as the issue of economics, then we will start hitting this barrier. People's requirements will go up.”
Moreover, Ivereigh suggested that one of the biggest issues with the MTM approach for RSPs like Launtel, which has a big focus on the business end of the market, is that it makes no distinction between a business area and a residential one.
“I think there is a lot of argument to say that residential premises do not need the high speeds, but there is no question that businesses do,” Ivereigh said.
“You can't have a one-size-fits-all and expect that the people who really need that bandwidth are going to be able to get it. If I were to do it differently I would have made consideration for business districts and industrial areas and rethink the technology we use,” he said.
The timing of the issues raised by Harris and Ivereigh are particularly poignant given recent comments by RMIT University’s School of Engineering associate professor, Mark Gregory.
In an op-ed for InnovationAus, Gregory suggested that the decision transition Australians from ADSL internet to an MTM rollout is likely to cost between $30-$50 billion more than what was needed to transition from ADSL directly to a FttP network.
Further, if Australia does eventually decide to move to a full-fibre network, it won’t happen now until 2030 at the earliest, thanks to the MTM decision. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s initial NBN plan envisioned a predominantly FttP rollout to reach completion by 2020.
While Ivereigh conceded that the feasibility of “turning the ship into a different direction” at this late stage would be questionable, pointing out that it took several years to switch to the MTM approach in the first place, Harris placed some credence in the idea of delaying the Government’s requirement for a return on investment from the NBN in order to get the best rollout for all Australians.
“On the investment by government there is still this thought that, as a shareholder, we've got to get our money back,” Harris told the Committee. “That, therefore, forces the management team or CEO to make decisions that are very commercially minded.
“Whereas, if we were to remove that, even if only for five or six years, I think the management decisions would change dramatically if they had a mandate to, say, build the best platform for the nation—something like that,” he said.