The Department of Communications estimates the value of the NBN based on the depreciated current replacement cost less the present value of leave and superannuation. It should now turn to using net present value of discounted future cash flows; as it does now for Australia Post. In doing that, it should not assume that average revenue per users will rise at the rate needed to recover costs but assume levels that reflect the market (especially competition from wireless broadband). It is likely that the fair value revealed by this DCF estimation will then lead to a write down in equity.
Previous columns have been about the structure of NBN prices. This is about the current and future level of NBN prices. See Economuse 2017-10-10
The two major problems with the National Broadband Network business model are the pricing structure and the future level of prices.
In November 2016, the nbn conducted its third secret consultation on CVCs; a controversial aspect of its pricing structure. It is still fiddling with a hopeless construct. The pricing structure is too complex, does not lead to affordable retail prices and will not lead to the transformational outcomes expected from this broadband project.
Worse, the nbn clings to the hope that it can turn a profit on a very expensive project which was priced initially to smooth migration from legacy copper networks. This will mean increasing wholesale revenues per line (ARPU) over time; which has not been the case historically for broadband ARPU.
For more on the latest consultation, read economuse-2016-11-30
In my previous column, I said I would explain how the discount rate might be set for a company with neither debt nor equity. The NBN is not quite the same but the same solution was used for it both by the ACCC and the BCR. Combining that information with the BCR’s estimate of the economic loss that the NBN incurs in supplying fixed wireless and satellite services, I find that that there is some evidence that the NBN is breaching competitive neutrality – i.e. competing unfairly. This issue was first raised by the NBN’s competitors in greenfield fibre sites and the issue is likely to arise again.
The most logical solution, it seems to me, is to write-down assets (and the corresponding amounts in the ICRA) so that the overall internal rate of return becomes commercial.
For more, see Economuse 2016-06-06
This week, Bill Morrow announced another tweak to CVC pricing which seems to imply a $1.75 cut in the current $17.50/Mbps CVC price as early as July. But even with this and tiered discounts (for which an implementation date has yet to be announced), CVC costs per end user are going to be double what the sector is looking for.
In the PC world we have seen that bigger chips and improved performance have been closely followed by more sophisticated software that eats up the new capacity. But, we have a chicken and egg situation with the NBN. We know that users are not prepared to pay for speed. Users will not need more speed until the applications require them. And the applications will not arrive until users have the speeds to use them.
We can cut through this impasse and unleash innovation if nbn™ Co. turns on speed with just one or two AVCs (say, up to 100 Mbps and unlimited). It would catapult Australia to the top of global speed ratings. More importantly, Australia would become the global lab for developers looking for ubiquitous, true broadband.