Tuesday, April 02, 2013

NBN - oh for a few more cable splicers!

Recently, I have referred from time to time the emerging problems in the roll-out of Australia's new National Broadband Network by the NBNCo. I haven't written a lot on it because its outside my present area of technical expertise. Now the Australian Financial Review has obtained NBNCo internal documents showing jut how bad the problem had become. This story, NBN at war with contractors, paints part of the scene.

A key part of the problem relates to shortages of, and lack of skills of, the fibre splicers who connect the cables. Interestingly, if my memory serves me correctly, it was actually the Union Movement who first pointed to this emerging problem last year, noting that low pay rates were hindering recruitment. I discounted this at the time because of my perception that other games were involved, but they were clearly right.

Initial teething problems are quite normal in a project of this size. However, I have the strong impression that they were compounded by the political need to roll-out over a wide geographic area, thus increasing ramp-up difficulties. I also have the impression that problems were compounded by policy and regulatory reigidities.  In the meantime, it appears that Opposition communications shadow minister Malcolm Turnbull will be revealing his alternative plan tomorrow.

And the commercial winner in all this? Telstra says thank you very much!     

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