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Friday, 21 July 2017 06:05

Fifield predicts 5G revolution for Australia, ignores NBN

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Communications Minister Mitch Fifield clearly believes in the slogan that a former Labor prime minister, Julia Gillard, used in her last election campaign: moving forward.

Fifield has moved on to the next phase of his life: yesterday he gave a 2368-word speech at a telecommunications conference in Sydney and did not mention the word NBN even once.

He waxed lyrical about 5G, the proposed next telecommunications standard. You can see the entire speech here.

Fifield said: "I believe that the imminent arrival of 5G mobile technology will be a truly revolutionary event in the telecommunications industry. In fact, the arrival of 5G may well be an inflection point not just for the telecoms sector, but for the entire Australian economy."

One would think that the national broadband network, the project that's often called the biggest such endeavour in the country's history — NBN chief executive Bill Morrow sometimes calls it one of the biggest and most difficult in the world — would have figured even momentarily.

Fifield did use the word "broadband" twice – but once it was in reference to mobile broadband and on the second occasion he used the variation "wireless broadband". That's all.

He mentioned the activities of his cabinet colleagues Arthur Sinodinos, Fiona Nash and Angus Taylor that would, in his opinion, contribute to what 5G would bring. And he spoke abut the ACMA, the AMTA and other organisations.

Fifield's avoidance of the NBN is particularly significant given that The Australian chose to run stories about the network on its front page this week. When reports that reflect badly on the government appear in this spot in the paper, one can count on a reaction from Canberra.

Until now, The Australian has been largely supportive of the government's multi-technology mix NBN and rarely said a word against it. But on Tuesday, the newspaper's lead story proclaimed that NBN costs were the reason for the slow speeds experienced by customers. That is a fairly old story, as many publications, including iTWire, have been shouting out that fact for at least a few years.

Fifield clearly does not see any mileage in mentioning the NBN. It appears to be becoming as much of a thorn in the flesh for him as it is for consumers who are seeing their speeds fall as they move over to the network.

But there is no way out – unless Fifield chooses to announce an upgrade. That would, of course, be premature given that the end of the rollout has been scheduled for 2020.

Fifield is in a classic Catch-22 situation. As with many other escape routes his government has chosen, what Labor has done in the past gave him a temporary way out. Moving forward.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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