Vodafone chief flags co-investment option to upgrade NBN FTTN users to full fibre – Telco/ISP

The merged Vodafone-TPG entity is hoping to have a hand in bringing full fibre connections to more Australians, potentially via a co-investment arrangement with NBN Co.

Speaking at the virtual CommsDay Summit earlier this week, current Vodafone Australia CEO Iñaki Berroeta said full fibre “is key to Australia’s telecommunications future”. 

However, he noted up to 40 percent of premises on the NBN are in the fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) footprint, and indicated a merged Vodafone-TPG was keen to play a role in upgrading those users. 

“Australia’s digital future depends on having many more fibre connections and freeing ourselves from copper delivery of broadband,” Berroeta said.

“The merged company wants to be part of the vision of a ubiquitous fibre future with a cost structure that no-one else has seen in the past. 

“We are ready to deploy fibre to Australian homes, including potential coinvestment with NBN Co, to replace copper with fibre to meet the needs of Australians in the 21st century.”

NBN Co has been trialling FTTN upgrade paths since mid last year, though it remains unclear if or when the company would be in a position to fund the work.

Citing a study commissioned by Vodafone Group’s Berlin-based think tank, Berroeta said that “increasing the number of fibre connections in a country by one percent per year is associated with an increase in GDP of between 0.02 percent and 0.04 percent per year.” 

“For Australia, this would mean a growth in GDP of $370 million and $740 million per year,” he said.

“And economic growth is going to be a scarce commodity in the new [post COVID-19] world.”

Berroeta also promised the merged Vodafone-TPG would present a “bigger and bolder on policy and regulatory issues” in the Australian telecommunications market generally.

That is more of a change for TPG, since Vodafone already has a strong voice on regulatory issues.

“We have been a very active player in public debate, and we intend to play a much bigger role as a larger company,” Berroeta said.

However, he noted that “now is not the time to go into our policy agenda, because the priority must be responding to the crisis before us.”

“Right now, we want to be part of the solutions, and offer constructive suggestions about how to best manage the challenges our industry is currently facing,” he said.

“I also say to our competitors, although we may have our differences, we are currently facing many of the same challenges and I know a number of our teams are working together to solve these for all customers.

“It is critical that this collaboration continues to work as a networked industry as each of our actions can have a broad impact for many customers.”