NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley will today announce that the fibre network being built under the ALP's National Broadband Network is capable of achieving speeds of up to 1 gigabit a second.
The network capacity that was 10 times faster than the headline 100 Mbps originally promised will not be met by most consumers in the near future due to limitations in backhaul networks.
But even the mention of such potential will reinforce for NBN Co and the ALP the premise that fibre networks are far more future-proof than the shared-spectrum technologies the Coalition is touting (wireless and hybrid-fibre coaxial) under its alternative plan.
Overseeing an "official" launch of the Tasmanian NBN today (despite the first connections coming online six weeks ago), Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy claimed that Mike Quigley informed him of the 1 Gbps tests overnight.
Conroy said the NBN was always built to eventually sustain such speeds, but NBN Co's network engineers had not been confident about coming forward until it had proven the speeds could be sustained by the equipment the company has chosen to install.
NBN Co "robustly tested" the network, he said, and proved "that the interfaces in the home can sustain 1 Gbps".
Prime Minister Julia Gillard took the opportunity to slam the Coalition's $6 billion broadband policy.
"NBN Co has announced we will achieve higher speeds than initially envisaged," she said. "Having seen this insight into the future, I am completely determined we will build the National Broadband Network.
"The choice could not be clearer - I will build the NBN, Mr Abbott will not," she said.
Gillard slammed Abbott for telling a forum in western Sydney last night that broadband was only used to "receive or send an email" or for "downloading movies and downloading songs".
"With those words, Tony Abbott has revealed to the Australian people how little he understands the power of this technology," she said.
Earlier this week, Abbott admitted to being "no Bill Gates" when it came to understanding broadband technology.
Stodgy bureaucrats strike back
Today's announcement was a shot in the arm for NBN Co staff derided by shadow finance spokesman Andrew Robb during the Coalition's broadband policy announcement earlier this week.
Robb's well-rehearsed lines included a description of the NBN as a "$43 billion white elephant" and "a monument to Labor's massive waste and mismanagement of taxpayer's money".
He said NBN Co failed to win the telecommunications industry's best talent and skills because workers "value being part of an entrepreneurial industry" rather than "a stodgy, bureaucratic, cumbersome Government monopoly".
The Coalition's would draw staff from NBN Co - primarily a planner and designer of networks - and place them in the National Broadband Commission, to negotiate with industry where the network should be built.
Robb also said that the "private sector had not failed" to provide competitive telecommunications and internet services to Australia.
He said that wireless broadband would become more important than fixed-line services because most Australians wished for nothing more than to "sit in their ute with their iPad".
Conroy mocked Robb today, saying that wireless broadband works best when "standing under the tower".
"With wireless - you know what will happen, the speeds crash," he said.
He promised that the NBN's fibre connections would live up to advertised speeds.
"When you buy 50 or 100 Mbps, that's what you get. You get that speed. That's the difference. It delivers you exactly that," Conroy said.
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