A coalition government would provide cheaper broadband services more quickly to Australians with its alternative national broadband network (NBN), opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull says.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says the coalition's proposed network will deliver slower speeds than the NBN, and consumers are likely to pay similar or higher prices for broadband services than they would under Labor's $37.4 plan, based on current offers.
Mr Turnbull launched on Monday a nationwide broadband survey asking Australians about their current broadband services and download and upload speeds.
It will identify the worst areas for broadband service across Australia and guide a coalition government in planning its version of an NBN.
The coalition wants to use a mix of technologies including fibre, wireless, satellite and copper to deliver broadband services.
"Our objective is to use the technology that delivers the outcome soonest, cheapest and most affordably, and that's the approach we're going to take," Mr Turnbull said at the launch in Sydney.
Senator Conroy defended the government's NBN project, saying it was needed to provide faster internet services and replace the current ageing copper network.
Analyst BIS Shrapnel said last month Labor's NBN could save up to $700 million a year in telecommunications infrastructure maintenance costs once fibre replaced the fixed copper network.
Mr Turnbull said the coalition would not be able to provide a fully costed alternative network before the next federal election as it didn't have access to the rollout's details.
But investment bank Citigroup said last November that the opposition's proposal would cost around $16.7 billion.
Mr Turnbull argues fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) connections, where fibre is rolled out to within reach of premises and copper is used over the final distance, rather than fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connections under Labor's NBN, would be cheaper.
He said global experience showed a FTTN rollout took about one-third of the time it took to build a FTTH network.
Senator Conroy said previous comments by Mr Turnbull had wrongly implied that FTTN would deliver faster broadband speeds to all consumers.
"Seventy-five per cent could not get the download speed of 80 megabits per second that he advertises," the minister said.
The United Nations' first global broadband report released overnight said countries should ensure targets did not become a "blunt tool" that failed to take account of the needs and geography of certain areas.
"Targets also need to remain relevant and realistic, rather than abstract and overly ambitious," the UN's report said.
It showed several European nations such as Denmark and Sweden had similar timelines for their NBN rollout plans as Australia.
Under Labor's NBN plan, fibre optic cable offering broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits a second will be rolled out to 93 per cent of homes, schools and businesses across Australia by 2021.
FTTN can deliver broadband speeds of 25 to 80 megabits a second (Mbps), while a FTTH service offers up to 100-1000 Mbps.
The coalition survey contains 15 questions about the reliability of a user's internet connection and a test to determine the speed of fixed line and mobile broadband services.
The survey will be open for several months at www.fasterbroadband.com.au.