NBN Co invites ISPs to retail FTTB trial



news The National Broadband Network Company has invited retail ISPs to participate in a trial of the Fibre to the Basement network infrastructure model, as the Coalition’s plan to reshape Labor’s previously Fibre to the Premises-based NBN vision kicks into gear.

The trial was first confirmed in mid-October. At the time, a NBN Co spokesperson confirmed NBN Co had recently conducted a laboratory trial of Fibre to the Basement broadband, including use of the high-speed vectoring standard, to see how the model functioned. “We’re now taking that trial out of the lab and into the field,” the spokesperson added. The laboratory trial used equipment from French vendor Alcatel-Lucent, with whom NBN Co has an existing contract to supply networking equipment.

In a new statement issued today, NBN Co said a retail pilot program stemming from the laboratory trial was set to take place in the New Year. Data collected from the pilot will assist NBN Co to develop future services. The pilot program is expected to last three months with the precise location of the premises to be determined.

The company oday issued expressions of interest to internet service providers to participate in the pilot, which will roll out fibre-to-the-building in up to ten large office complexes and apartment blocks across the country, comprising up to 1000 individual homes and offices.

The pilot will see fibre optic cables delivered to a telecommunications connection box (or node) which is ordinarily located in the communications room of the building. This box, in turn, connects to the existing in-building wiring, enabling ISPs to deliver very fast broadband to each individual apartment and office.

NBN Co’s Chief Technology Officer Gary McLaren said fibre-to-the-building was an example of a number of advanced broadband technologies that are being rolled out successfully around the world. “Our goal is to ensure that all Australians can have access to very fast broadband as soon, as cost-effectively and as affordably as possible,” McLaren said. “The pilot is an essential step along the way to determining the right mix of technologies to do just that.”

The announcement of the trial comes as McLaren reportedly told the NBN Rebooted conference in Sydney yesterday that NBN Co’s laboratory trials of VDSL/vectoring technology had demonstrated the accuracy of claims by vendors of speed improvements possible over Telstra’s existing copper network.

“The good news is that we’ve done that testing. The constructs we’ve developed earlier on… all translates very well, very much into the VDSL,” McLaren said, according to ZDNet. Delimiter recommends readers click through for the full article.

Under Labor’s NBN policy, some 93 percent of Australian premises were to have received fibre directly to the premise, delivering maximum download speeds of up to 1Gbps and maximum upload speeds of 400Mbps. The remainder of the population was to have been served by a combination of satellite and wireless broadband, delivering speeds of up to 25Mbps.

Originally, the Coalition’s policy was to have seen fibre to the premises deployed to a significantly lesser proportion of the population — 22 percent — with 71 percent covered by fibre to the node technology, where fibre is extended to neighbourhood ‘nodes’ and the remainder of the distance to premises covered by Telstra’s existing copper network. The Coalition’s policy was also continue to use the HFC cable network operated by Telstra and will also target the remaining 7 percent of premises with satellite and wireless.

However, the possibility of a different style of rollout has been raised by Turnbull in the several months since the Liberal MP became Communications Minister. In late September, Turnbull appeared to have drastically modified the Coalition’s policy stance on the NBN just weeks after the Federal Election, declaring the Coalition was not wedded to its fibre to the node model and was “thoroughly open-minded” about the technology to be used in the network. NBN Co is currently conducting a strategic review into its operations and model that will inform Turnbull’s decisions regarding the project’s future.

Telstra is also separately conducting trials of the same Fibre to the Node technology on its own network.

As I wrote in October:

“I’ve seen some comments today to the effect that these trials are pre-empting the results of NBN Co’s Strategic Review into how the NBN should be delivered in future. However this isn’t how I view the trials. The fact is that NBN Co needs to know more about how FTTB and FTTN works, if it is to be able to make recommendations in its Strategic Review. And let’s not forget — the company only has 60 days to deliver that review.

In addition, I think it’s clear at this point that FTTB and FTTN will be some part of the NBN. NBN Co needs to know as much as possible about these technologies, as that knowledge will help inform the future of its project. It’s not enough to merely rely on results achieved by vendors or other telcos — NBN Co needs some hard data on this itself. I’ve also asked the company if it can release the results of its FTTB laboratory trial. Hopefully that will tell us a little about how FTTB could work in Australia, if that data does eventually come out.”

Image credit: Clix, royalty free


  1. So here’s a basic question about FttB, is your speed essentially dictated by what floor you live on?

    • And by how far from the comms riser you are. If you’re on the top floor of a large building, away from the elevators, with G.Fast you may get many hundreds of Mbps less than someone on the ground floor.

    • Short answer, yes. But in reality, it’s a “maybe”

      Maybe they will artificially lower the maximum speed to ensure all users receive the ‘capped’ maximum?
      Maybe they will use STP/UTP pairs to ‘raise’ the distribution point on Cat 5/6/7 (where available)?
      Maybe it won’t matter as your not going to see any consequential difference over 100m?

      • Well, that’s exactly what was going to happen under the ALPs FTTP anyway. Fibre is capable of delivering much more than what was being offered, and most people were going to have that artificially capped at 12 or 25Mbps. There’s no doubt that for the cost involved, adequate speeds to satisfy all but the heaviest business users can be achieved, and those users should be paying more in any case.

    • I doubt it is likely to matter – most apartments and offices in small to medium sized buildings are unlikely to be more than 100m from the basement. Larger buildings it might be feasable to have multiple nodes on various floors throughout the building. The building in which I live is 9 floors tall, but two of those are carpark, the current MDF is on the ground floor, with seperate IDF’s on each floor. There would be space to have a “node” on each floor, but if you were to put one on level 5 for example rather than the ground floor (or basement) each apartment would probably be within 50m cable length of the node, and 100mb could probably be achieved, which would be sufficient for residential use for the short to medium term future.

  2. How does this differ from Transact FTTB in Canberra?

    It looks like it’s the vectoring they’re adding, plus handling phones differently. And the trial is to see how well it fits into the current NBN model – meaning multiple vendors and multicast.

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