back to article Telstra costed fibre to the premises before it was Telstra

Australia had a shot at building a national fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network in the 1990s, but decided not to press the go button. The opportunity arose during the nation's awful hash of telecommunications policy leading up to the privatisation of Telstra in 1997. Nearly a decade before that, the Hawke government …

  1. Nick Stallman

    Great but...

    Great but FTTP != HFC. Hybrid fibre-coaxial uses copper as the upstream in a shared medium.

    It sits between FTTN and FTTP.

    1. NotArghGeeCee

      Re: Great but...

      Well done you knowing that FTTP != HFC, but did you actually read the article? It clearly states that by 1991 Telstra (nee Telecom) had roughly priced a full FTTP roll-out with an expected start of 1997.

  2. NotArghGeeCee

    Interesting Cabinet Paper

    That cabinet paper is actually very good and reasonably accurately predicts the current pay tv climate - the only tech clanger it dropped was its assumption that HFC would be a one-way technology, which is why it suggested it would be out of date by the end of the 20th century. It shows that the growth path for online access was well understood by the early 90's.

    So that begs the question why the fuck did Keating insist on a competitive roll-out of cable? Blind Freddy could see that both companies would roll out their product in the same areas (ie those identified as having families with reasonable disposable income).

  3. aberglas

    Separating content from carrier would have been correct

    Having two sets of cables down every street was madness. Particularly as one dangled from poles.

    Telstra builds the cable, others provide the content. Lots of competition where it makes sense, none where it does not make sense. Sensible.

    But then someone got to the government, who just followed the USA model.

    1. Sir Cumferance

      Re: Separating content from carrier would have been correct

      In many cases, both Telstra HFC and Optus HFC cables dangle from poles.

  4. Knoydart

    Oh Australia

    So close yet so far. You could have paid the costs of getting that fibre into the ground 20 years ago and then just upgraded the end points as the technology progressed. Just remember to enjoy the FTTN roll out and all that relaid copper for the next 20+ years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh Australia

      Experience of early fibre rollouts is that the tech choice was wrong and they're having to be replaced. All those poor folk with TPON who can only use the fibre for voice.

    2. Fluffy Bunny

      Re: Oh Australia

      Actually, this is a misunderstanding. Telstra was rolling out large amounts of copper to it's backbone service.

  5. david 12 Silver badge

    ADSL happened

    We were looking at the same time frame. ISDN was expensive. Frame Relay was expensive. Dial-up was slow. Fibre to the Office was the obvious choice, but for us had 2-3 year pay off period compared to ISDN, because the installation cost was so high.

    Then - BANG - ADSL happened. ISDN became obsolete. Prices plunged, and Fibre, instead of becoming something that will happen in 1997, because something that did not happen in 1997.

    1. Fluffy Bunny

      Re: ADSL happened

      An interesting point. I rolled out several building sized networks in the early 90's. It was hideously expensive and only something you'd do in those days for secure networks. So ADSL allowed the telcos to roll out high speed networks (up to 21 MBPS is no slouch) without all that expensive recabling.

      Technology improvements (principally economies of scale, but also genuine improvements such as connectors that don't cost $8 per fibre) In other words ADSL was a great filler until it became cost-effective to do a general fibre roll-out.

      My only objection to the NBN remains the fact that the taxpayer is funding this, instead of the customers.

  6. Internet Australia CEO

    Kerry Packer's successful lobbying on behalf of his Nine Network stalled the introduction of Pay TV for more than a decade. It also shaped the Hawke Government's telecommunications policy and prejudiced the debate about a fibre network. It was an era when the Luddites were in charge in Canberra.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And what do you say now, with FTTN being the play of the day?

      1. GrumpyOldBloke

        Murdoch and his infatuated fan. Same show different actors.

  7. RobHib

    Yet another reminder of that tragic fuck-up by Oz governments–the sale of Telstra!

    "Considering that Australia has since walked away from a plan to build a national FTTP network, it's easy to wish that the Hawke government had taken up the idea."

    I and others have have been crowing about this for decades, in fact since the Telecom 2000 report in the late 1970s. Over 30 years ago, it was obvious even to Blind Freddy what was needed to properly deregulate telecommunications in Australia, yet no sensible scheme was never implemented by any Australian federal government.

    Instead, successive Australian federal governments fucked up telecommunications deregulation big-time. It's hard to describe the conniving, the incompetence, the dishonesty and treachery that was involved with the deregulation and sell-off of Telstra. Ultimately, when all the facts eventually emerge and the ultimate costs known, the deregulation of Telstra will go down in history as essentially an act of treason against the Australian people. There's no other reasonable way of putting it.

    Describing the Australian telecommunications deregulation and the Telstra sell-off as monkeys doing brain surgery would be a gross understatement, as that's just incompetence. It was a great deal more than that. The opportunistic and greedy Federal Government(s) in both Liberal and Labor incarnations set out with deliberate determination to screw every cent out the sale of Telstra whilst opportunists both within and outside Telstra aided and abetted the process. It cost the Australian public billions of dollars and also set back the introduction of Australia having a decent fibre backbone across country by decades. What happened is an utter disgrace, and we've been the laughing stock of the world ever since.

    The principal fuck-up was the way Telstra was sold off COMPLETE WITH the cable and network infrastructure intact, this meant that the Australian people would pay dearly for their telecommunications in two ways:

    1. Telstra maintaining its monopoly over the cable infrastructure meant that new competitors were at the mercy of Telstra when it came to their access to the cable network, Telstra overcharging was both unmerciful and unstoppable. (For infrastructural reasons latter pricing regulators were left with a legacy which could not be undone, even with their best efforts and intents their network price determinations were a joke compared to what they should have been.)

    Naturally, Telstra's new competitors had to pass on Telstra's outrageous network access charges to their customers, the net effect was that there was no real competition. Effectively, competitors' users were loaded with an 'infrastructure' charge or loading that went straight to Telstra's coffers. Even if you were say an Opus customer Telstra copped heaps. So much for deregulation!

    Moreover, the existing network infrastructure had already been paid for by millions of Australians over many decades–over a hundred years or so, now they were paying for it again–note Telstra wasn't just charging for maintenance it was undertaking mammoth price-gouging. (And it should be noted that since deregulation, Telstra has let the copper network run down and simply decay, it's only maintenance was and is crash-maintenance, it's done stuff-all maintenance ever since and fired/outsourced its once very professional line crews.)

    2. To overcome the problem, Telstra's competitors such as Optus had to build alternative parallel networks. Again, this unnecessary duplication has cost the Australian people billions of extra dollars– costs that should have never been incurred. Everywhere one probes bells ring loudly, one can only conclude that Australian telecommunications competition is an outrageous bloody joke.

    The reasons for why there's been no outrage, rioting in the streets over the deregulation of Australian telecommunications/Telstra sell-off scandal I can only attribute to the fact that Australians seem to have had too much disposable income over the past 30 or so years for them to bother complaining in any serious way. (I wonder what will happen when the mining boom is ultimately over and the remainder of our manufacturing is nuked and or sent off to China?)

    As I've said in previous related posts, what we need is for some budding PhD student to put the whole shemozzle into the mix and ultimately work out what these unmitigated government fuck-ups have cost every Australian over the past 30+ years or so. Any potential candidates out there reading this then I'd suggest not only would you benefit from a PhD but also the kudos would be enormous.)

    * We need to know how the original Telstra sell-offs complete with the intact cable infrastructure have contributed in real dollar terms to the cost of the current NBN fuck-up. That's to say the total cost of the current NBN compared to the sensible alternative which was that governments should have sold of Telstra sans the cable infrastructure and implemented a revenue-neutral National Cable Authority. (A revenue-neutral National Cable Authority where both government and competitors have shareholdings on a 51/49% basis would ensure 'net neutrality' pricing for all service providers including Telstra, it would also be efficient if properly legislated, as network service providers would have input into that efficiency.)

    * We need to know exactly who the culprits were who initiated the original plans for the Telstra sell-offs (who did what, who authorized what etc. and did they ever benefit from the the Telstra sales in any way).

    * Expanding on that: we need to know exactly who influenced respective governments. Who were the government insiders, Trojan horses and traitors who so fucked the Australian public?.

    * We need to know exactly who benefited from the sale of Telstra–where did the money go and by how much. A cost benefit analysis of how governments spent the Telstra sale income versus what the Australian public have had to outlay in additional telecommunications charges since the sell-off as well as the ADDITIONAL monies unnecessarily spent and wasted on the NBN, which would not have been necessary to anywhere near the same extent had the government retained the cable infrastructure. (This is detailed stuff, a PhD would be well earned, methinks).

    * We need to know exactly how lobbying influenced respective Australian governments and who the major players were.

    * Ultimately, we need to determine (a) what the per capita losses were, i.e.: every Australian telecommunications user should be told in absolute dollar terms what the ultimate cost as been to him/her; and (b) we need a reasonable estimate of how much Australians are being overcharged currently as a consequence of these 30-year old fuck-ups.

    Ultimately, this fuck-up has cost the Australian public billions and billions of dollars yet it's essentially slipped under the RADAR because of government obfuscation and propaganda. As both sides of politics–Tweedledum and Tweedledee–have their clammy little paws in the till, there's been no will politically to expose the dirty linen. 'Mum's the word' might be the realpolitik, but it shouldn't say that way.

    BTW, I and others benefited significantly from the sale of Telstra but we should not have done so. Around the time of the sell-offs, I went to an auction of Telstra electronic equipment after Telstra's Tempe Research Laboratory (in Sydney) had been closed after having been deemed 'redundant' by Telstra's 'new' corporate management. I bought test and lab gear in excellent condition, some almost brand new, whose new price would have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for literally only a few hundred dollars, what I paid was only pocket money!

    Equipment such as Tektronix spectrum analyzers, oscilloscopes, precision Fluke Kelvin–Varley divider and many other bits of instrumentation of similar calibre, most of it in full calibration, I picked up for almost free. From my stance as a techie, it was a wonderful and remarkable experience, nothing like that has ever happened to me before, it was like winning the lottery.

    In principle, this was nothing other than 'legal theft' from the Australian people, what happened at Tempe was an utter disgrace. Even if we leave the equipment out of the equation, then the closure of the laboratory and loss of skilled engineering jobs was a loss to the Nation. Telstra could have sold the lab off as a working concern but it did not. You won't see accounts such as this in government propaganda about the Telstra sale. When it comes to an ultimate audit of costs of the Telstra sale then details such as this should be factored in. Remember, the sale of Telstra also had huge social implications, many skilled personnel were displaced and or ultimately made redundant. For the record, I wasn't one of them, I've never worked for Telstra.

  8. Colin Tree


    I worked for a Telstra funded, U.W.A. based company to '90 doing fiber network development.

    They were doing more than thinking about it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was working for Telecom's DDN in '91 and remember hearing about the FTTH install for Centennial Park. I was very excited by the thought of what could become of that, given that my MODEM speed at that time was only 12k (yes 12k, not 1.2k, my MODEM was a Rockwell chipset that was pre-14.4k ratification) and performance and reliability was highly dependent on whether it had rained recently or not.

    Fast forward 25 years and so many of us are still reliant on the same awful old copper pairs.

    I've told people about the FTTH rolled out in Centennial Park in the early 90's and they've not believed me. Now I have a story to link to!

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020