Tuesday, 17 September 2019 18:05

5G ‘unlikely’ significant threat to NBN Co business, privatisation talk 'premature': minister Featured

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Paul Fletcher Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher Minister for Communications

The minister responsible for delivery of the national broadband network says the introduction of 5G services in Australia is unlikely to pose a significant threat to the NBN Co's business plan – and has swept aside "premature" talk about privatisation of the network.

Commenting on NBN Co’s release of its corporate white paper on Tuesday,  Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the plan assumed about 75% of households would take up the NBN, “so there’s already an assumption that some households will not take up the NBN for a range of reasons and that can potentially include 5G”.

In response to questions, he said it was “premature” to be talking about the privatisation of NBN Co. Asked how many more households he was expecting to sign up to the NBN under the new pricing, Fletcher said, "We believe there are about 500,000 budget conscious households within the existing NBN footprint who right now are not taking the NBN because they don’t think it represents value for money for what they want to do”.

“If we can have more retail service providers offering a $60 a month retail priced plan with no monthly data download limit, we think that here’s a prospect of getting some of those 500,000 households to come onto the NBN.

“I’ll leave it to NBN [Co] and the retail service providers to make the precise predictions but it stands to reason that if you’ve got more attractive pricing with that unlimited data, no monthly data download limit, if we can have more retailers in the market offering that plan, I think we’ve got a good chance of getting some of those people to come across to the NBN.”

Fletcher said that when the previous Labor government established the NBN and legislated the arrangements in relation to it, “they set out in the legislation a series of steps that need to occur before NBN Co can be privatised".

And, while acknowledging that 5G was a “very significant development” in mobile telecommunications, he said, however, that it was unlikely to present a significant threat to the NBN Co business plan.

“It’s important to understand the amount of data that households are consuming is going up very dramatically. In June this year on the NBN, the average user downloaded 255GB a month,” Fletcher said.

“Just nine years ago on fixed line networks that number was 11GB a month. We’ve gone from 11 to 255 a month.

“With that continued growth in data demand, a fixed line network like the NBN is always going to have an advantage in delivering efficient and economic prices at a proposition that is attractive to customers.

“That capacity to download huge amounts of data people are already consuming and they’ll likely increase."

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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