NBN boss Bill Morrow flags faster broadband plans by Christmas

NBN chief Bill Morrow signalled the broadband network will announce a new pricing deal by Christmas that will offer Australians faster speeds at more competitive prices.

As the government-owned network has come under increased scrutiny over both the roll out of the network and advertised speeds not being delivered, Mr Morrow fronted Senate estimates on Tuesday evening to face questions from Labor, government and cross bench senators.

The chief executive faced a barrage of questions over the threat posed by the looming roll out of 5G fast mobile broadband, a so-called digital divide that critics argue is developing between people who have fibre to the home and the slower fibre to the curb option, and about the current pricing review under way.

NBN CEO Bill Morrow. Photo: Pat Scala

NBN CEO Bill Morrow. Photo: Pat Scala

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Monday the project may have been a "mistake" - at least as envisaged by the former Labor government - and admitted there were questions over whether the giant infrastructure project would ever make back the money invested by taxpayers.

Labor Senator Anthony Chisholm pressed Mr Morrow on the threat posed by 5G following the the chief executive's suggestion earlier this week that the federal government may need to protect the NBN from this competition, an idea that has been dismissed.

Senator Deb O'Neill probed Mr Morrow about what revised pricing plans were being considered by the company.

"We are hoping that we can put something [to the] public by the end of the year...there will be an announcement before Christmas, I promise you that," Mr Morrow replied to the Labor senator.

The new pricing plan could not be introduced overnight, he said, and would likely be introduced "on the top" of existing plans.

"If we can do something to say how about we have a far more attractive price that gives you a 50mb speed product, and we have some inclusive CVC [Connectivity Virtual Circuit - a mandated network capacity charge] that comes with that, and an attractive growth rate thereafter, now we are talking," he said.

The most common internet service people currently purchase from NBN, via their retail provider, is the 25mb download/5mb upload speed package.

The comments from Mr Morrow are the clearest signal yet that the company is looking to encourage people to take up the faster 50mb download/20mb upload product.

Presumably, this move is also designed to head off growing criticism from users that they are not getting the speeds they have paid for and that the network is not as fast as they had hoped.

Complaints about the NBN have sharply risen, according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

However to work, it will require retail service providers who buy wholesale from the NBN and on-sell to end users to buy more bandwidth as well.

NBN has, thus far, blamed retailers for the slower than expected speeds because they have not purchased sufficient bandwidth.

The company had evaluated "almost everything", Mr Morrow said, including whether to drop its cheapest 12mb product but had decided it should remain, as an entry level service.

Mr Morrow also hit back at suggestions there was a digital divide in places such as the country NSW town of Dubbo, where some residents had the super-fast fibre to the home rolled out by Labor, and some had fibre to the curb.

" This is an absolute insult to the many thousands of Australians who have no access to decent broadband at all and who are waiting for the NBN. A city where almost everyone can order faster speeds than they require is not a city divided," he said.

"The real digital divide is between people who can do all they want online, and those who can not."

This story NBN boss Bill Morrow flags faster broadband plans by Christmas first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.