During its entire 8-year existence, the cost of pushing fibre all the way to the home has proved a political headache for the NBN. The former Labor government planned for almost universal fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) but the Coalition, citing excessive costs, sacrificed performance and scaled the rollout back to fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) — leaving old copper lines in place for last few metres.
In its latest half-year financial presentation on Thursday, the NBN revealed the cost of connecting each home to FTTP, FTTN and other technologies in its catalogue.
It costs $4,405 for the NBN to hook up an existing house (“brownfield”) with fibre all the way to the premises. Fibre just to the node – a communal box in the neighbourhood – with existing copper connecting the rest of the way, costs the NBN $2,172 per premise.
While that is a significant difference, there is a compelling argument to lay fibre-to-the-premises for new housing developments (“greenfield”). The NBN revealed that cost is just $2,504 per premise.
In some areas, the NBN uses Telstra’s old pay-TV cable – called hybrid fibre coax — and this cost compares favourably, at $2,259.
In locations where physical NBN connections are difficult, fixed wireless technology is used to deliver broadband. This costs $3,551 per premise.
The NBN is introducing a new technology, fibre-to-the-kerb – or “curb”, as the company calls it – which runs fibre to the front of the property, allowing less copper to be used and provide faster performance than FTTN. There are no costs available on that method yet, as deployment has not yet started.
Accompanying those statistics were the latest financial figures for the NBN, which saw its revenue for the half-year ending December 31 more than double on the same period in 2015 – going from $164 million to $403 million as the network progressively covered more premises.
However, the organisation copped yet another heavy loss — $1.83 billion for the six months ending December 31, up 48% from the same period in 2015.
Joel Clarke, chief information officer of NBN rival Fiber Corp, criticised the agency’s losses, questioning whether the sacrifice of FTTP was worth it.
“Not only has NBN failed the Australian public and business by not delivering fiber to the home to brownfield, or new builds under 100 dwellings, they managed once again cost the Australian taxpayers,” said Clarke.
When told that NBN chief Bill Morrow called the latest financials “impressive”, Clarke said that “it’s impressive he still has a job”.
The NBN is now covering 3.8 million premises, which is about one-third of its target, with more than 1.6 million of those actively using the network through retailers. The organisation had previously stated a goal of reaching the halfway mark — 5.4 million premises – by the middle of this year.
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