Australia’s national broadband network will roll out fibre “deeper and closer to homes and businesses” under a $3.5bn upgrade package to be announced on Wednesday.

The federal communications minister, Paul Fletcher, will use an address to the National Press Club to defend the Coalition’s approach of “committing to more fibre when it makes economic sense to do so”.

The Coalition has long faced criticism from Labor and experts for abandoning the former government’s fibre to the premises model and embracing a mix of technologies to deliver the NBN – including reliance on the existing copper network.

Fletcher will announce NBN Co is set to borrow $3.5bn from private debt markets to fund a range of upgrades to the existing network architecture, including “taking fibre deeper into neighbourhoods serviced by fibre to the node (FTTN) technology” to deliver speeds of up to 1Gbps.

NBN Co also plans to resolve in-home cabling issues for premises on the FTTN network and to deliver capacity upgrades on the hybrid fibre coaxial network – which uses existing TV lines. It further includes work to improve the consistency of speeds on the fibre to the curb network.

According to speech notes distributed in advance, Fletcher will say the upgrades will mean that “by 2023, 75% of all fixed-line premises in Australia will be able to order ultra-fast broadband speeds, up to 1 gigabit per second”.

Fletcher is expected to say that “we are now in a position to build on the existing network architecture and drive fibre deeper and closer to homes and businesses”.

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“The upgrade will reuse the new fibre built as part of the fibre-to-the-node rollout, and extend it further into the suburbs,” he will say, according to speech extracts.

“This plan is possible because NBN Co has now proved its business model and is generating substantial and growing cashflows – in turn allowing it to borrow in the private debt markets.”

A government press release to be issued on Wednesday says that in areas currently served by FTTN there will be a “further investment to take fibre deeper into neighbourhoods, through building local fibre networks that run along street frontages”.

Fibre may then be extended into households based on demand, where a home’s requirements exceed existing line-speed capability.

With the government preparing to release its budget in two weeks – and with all eyes on any policies to prevent the country falling deeper into recession – the finance minister, Mathias Cormann, portrayed the upgrades as “a major infrastructure investment” that would stimulate demand.

Cormann estimated that the investment would support “some 25,000 new jobs over the next two years” and in the longer term “increase Australia’s GDP by $6.4bn per annum by 2024”.

Wednesday’s announcement comes a day after Fletcher flagged $700m in spending to improve business access to high-speed fibre broadband.

He will also promote $300m of funding for NBN Co to partner with governments and local councils to improve broadband services in regional Australia – bringing the total value of this week’s announcements to $4.5bn.

The opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, told reporters on Tuesday the Coalition’s announcement on business broadband showed the former Labor government had been correct to say of the NBN: “Do it right, do it once, do it with fibre.”

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Michelle Rowland, the opposition’s communications spokesperson, said the Coalition’s decision “to attack and dump fibre was never about cost, but always about the politics”.

“This has meant Australian taxpayers have paid more for a network that does less, and more money is now required to play catch up,” she said in a statement issued on Tuesday. “What on earth was the point of spending $51bn of taxpayers’ dollars on the Liberals’ second-rate copper network to begin with?”

In 2018, the outgoing chief executive of NBN Co, Bill Morrow, admitted that the reliance on copper had led to a higher fault rate and slower internet speeds but helped deliver the network faster and more cheaply.



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