The former chief technology officer of NBN Co says the delayed project has put Australia “a long way behind the rest of the world”.
The former chief technology officer of NBN Co says the delayed project has put Australia “a long way behind the rest of the world”.

Calls to ditch Turnbull's failed NBN

The National Broadband Network is as much as two years behind its completion deadline and the technology needs "billions and billions of dollars" to "catch up".

The project is also facing a budget blowout of $900 million and, according to experts, could cost millions of dollars more in repair work that has yet to be revealed.

The stark predictions came as NBN Co admitted almost 1.2 million households due to receive one of the faster connections to the $51 billion network were instead stuck in NBN limbo, with more than half of the former pay-TV network deemed in such bad condition it was "unserviceable".

Broadband and networking experts yesterday urged NBN Co and the Federal Government to ditch the technology - as New Zealand has done - and replace it with faster equipment to rescue the project and its deadline.

MORE: The Adelaide suburbs in limbo with NBN

The NBN Co construction team rollout fibre in Penrith.
The NBN Co construction team rollout fibre in Penrith.

Former NBN Co chief technology officer Gary McLaren, who now runs a Hong Kong broadband provider, was among those voices, predicting the NBN's beleaguered HFC connections would cost more money to fix and would deliver below par internet speeds.

"They will certainly have to pay more (to fix HFC connections). A legitimate question to ask is, 'is it better to pay more or to go and put a more robust fibre network in?'" he said.

"The more fibre they put into the network, the better the outcome will be over the long-term."

NBN Co recently revealed 1.19 million households and businesses were in broadband limbo after their HFC connections to the network were deemed unserviceable - more than any other connection type.

Analysis of NBN figures by Mr McLaren also showed the major infrastructure project had fallen significantly short of previous targets for broadband connections and activations, largely due to HFC delays, and would not be able to correct the trend by 2019.

At the same time, the number of households deemed unable to receive an NBN service had skyrocketed to more than 1.3 million, and costs had ballooned.

Mr McLaren said the infrastructure project had already failed in its original goal to provide Australians with a "future-proof network" and would not be internationally competitive when it was completed.

Tabiitha Ganda, who works at Lane Cove cafe The Junction, struggles to get her laptop up to speed. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Tabiitha Ganda, who works at Lane Cove cafe The Junction, struggles to get her laptop up to speed. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

"The message coming from NBN Co and the Government is that the job is being done and it's being finished but the reality is that there's still a lot of work to do and Australia is still a long way behind the rest of the world," Mr McLaren said.

"Billions and billions of dollars would be needed to catch up."

RMIT network engineering association professor Mark Gregory said ongoing delays connecting HFC premises would see the NBN fail to meet its 2020 deadline by at least two years, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's decision to regulate Telstra's copper network until 2024 showed it could take longer for everyone to be connected.

"There's just no indication from the numbers that NBN are going to complete the network in 2020," he said.

Mr Gregory said NBN Co were already trying to blur the definition of a complete network, announcing its goal to have premises "ready to connect" by 2020, even though they would not be fully connected until 2022.

"In the legislation it defines it as being built and fully operational," he said.

But NBN Co chief executive Stephen Rue insisted the network would meet the deadline, with 11.7 million premises ready to connect to the NBN, and 8.1 million households and businesses actively using it.

"There will inevitably be challenges in the remainder of the build, some known, some new," he said. "But our ability to deploy the network at speed and scale is evident."

Kirri Dittmann at home with her family in Caloundra. They have a need for internet speed. Picture: Megan Slade
Kirri Dittmann at home with her family in Caloundra. They have a need for internet speed. Picture: Megan Slade


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