news NBN Co is taking “tortuous route” towards building its network with “band aid solutions” being applied via its multi-technology mix (MTM) approach, according to telecoms commentator Paul Budde.
Writing on his blog, Budde examines NBN Co’s approach to adopting, or considering adopting, new broadband technologies as they develop, rather than following what many consider a more ‘future-proof’ plan of deploying fibre to the premises (FTTP/FTTH).
In September 2016, he said, NBN Co expressed interest in a new technology known as XG.Fast – a level up from the G.Fast technology the firm had started to trial in 2015.
If adopted, XG.Fast will need fibre extended further, to the distribution point rather than the node as is currently being rolled out.
However, the development and deployment of these technologies is still in an “early phase”, Budde pointed out, saying, “in all reality nothing major is going to happen until after the completion of the current NBN 1.0 roll out which will not be before 2020”.
He asked: if these technologies are indeed reliably to be deployed to over 6 million homes, will they still result in affordable high-speed broadband services across Australia?
Further, will these “band aid solutions” be “better and cheaper” than the originally planned “do it once, do it good” fibre-to-the-premises approach?
While NBN Co revealed that it was conducting trials of G.Fast in late 2015, the firm acknowledged at the time it could still be two years before it is in a position to launch the tech commercially.
“By that time most of the developed world will have moved even further towards FTTH and in one way or another G.Fast will have to fit into that final picture,” Budde said.
There are technical issues brought by G.Fast technology too, he added. While these can be resolved, they only add to the complexity of NBN Co’s “already multi-technology mix”.
NBN Co is conducting further trials in 2016, this time in combination with XG.Fast.
While the firm expects to be ready for commercial launches in 2017, it could take “many years” to extend it across residential markets. It’s “basically another rollout, with all the associated costs attached,” Budde said.
G.Fast and XG.Fast will also require commercially priced hardware to make such a rollout cost-effective, said the telecoms consultant, predicting that it is “most likely” that the new tech will be a business broadband offering rather than a residential one.
Additionally, to deploy XG.Fast technology, NBN Co would need to drive fibre deeper into the network – beyond the node and to the edge of the premises/driveway using fibre to the distribution point (FTTdp).
The quality of the XG.Fast service will “depend heavily” on the quality of the copper cables, Budde said, meaning there will be no “ubiquitous speed guarantee”.
“In general what this means is that the telecoms operators will only deploy these technologies very selectively, in areas where it doesn’t yet make sense to roll out FTTH for either commercial or technical reasons,” he said.
While any new developments beyond FTTN are “very welcome”, he continued, as with all new technologies reliability and affordability will be key.
However, even if it is proved to work, XG.Fast “won’t eliminate” the need to replace the copper wires in the FTTN network in 10 to 15 years’ time.
Budde asked: “Why not do it right the first time with a proper FTTH network?”
“It looks as though we are doing it the long way round, going from DSL to FTTN then G.Fast, FTTdp followed by XG.Fast, and then most likely to FTTH,” he said.
Summing up, Budde said it would be “reasonable” for people to ask why the NBN rollout was carried out via this “tortuous route”.
Image credit: Paul Budde