news The National Broadband Network Company has signed up four of Australia’s major Internet service providers for its trial of Fibre to the Basement (FTTB) technology in its rollout, with ordinary consumers to be given a chance to test the technology and provide feedback on their experiences.
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 to continue to use the HFC cable network operated by Telstra and would also target the remaining 7 percent of premises with satellite and wireless.
However, NBN Co’s Strategic Review published in December last year changed the paradigm, with the company recommending (and the Coalition supporting) a vision in which up to a third of Australian premises will be served by the HFC cable networks of Telstra and Optus, and Fibre to the Node and Fibre to the Basement used in other areas not already covered by Labor’s FTTP approach.
At the company’s first financial results briefing session in Sydney late February, NBN Co revealed it would shortly kick off real-world trials of the planned FTTN and FTTB technology.
This morning NBN Co issued a new statement on the issue, noting that four ISPs — iiNet, M2 Telecommunications, Optus and Telstra — had signed up to participate in the company’s FTTB pilot in the Melbourne suburbs of Carlton, Parkville and Brunswick.
It is estimated that the pilot will run for three months, during which time NBN Co and its telco partners will evaluate all aspects of the construction, installation, operation, service performance and the overall customer experience. NBN Co has installed VDSL2 vectoring equipment, which enables the delivery of high-speed broadband services over each buildings existing telephone cabling, in eight high rises – including a mix of apartments, retail and office buildings.
Preliminary tests of the technology by NBN Co in December 2013 produced download speeds of more than 100 Mbps and upload speeds of more than 40 Mbps.
NBN Co’s Chief Technology Officer, Gary McLaren, said: “According to the Strategic Review, up to 12,000 buildings containing around one million individual premises could be served by FTTB. This pilot scheme, and the Fibre-to-the-Node trials we’re currently scoping, will help us determine the fastest and most cost-effective way to deliver access to high speed broadband sooner.”
“Retail telcos, local councils, the building owners and tenants are all enthusiastic participants in the process. We are now raring to test the consumer experience along with our wholesale customers.”
The company’s Strategic Review, issued in December last year, recommended that the National Broadband Network could be rolled out faster and at a lower cost by combining proven technologies with existing capable networks.”
A similar Fibre to the Node build pilot is also being undertaken in two locations: Umina near Woy Woy on the NSW Central Coast and Epping in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. NBN Co will construct two small scale Copper Serving Area Modules, erecting kerbside node cabinets which will connect [NBN fibre] to spare copper pairs in the Telstra pillar. NBN Co has stated that neither site had been earmarked to receive FTTP within the next 12 months under the previous rollout plan.
Both FTTN and FTTB technologies are being used internationally, especially throughout Europe. In July 2013, British incumbent telco BT revealed that its fibre to the node network has passed more than 16 million premises since the network rollout was commenced in 2009, with more than 1.7 million customers having signed up for active connections to the infrastructure.
However, opinions also vary globally as to whether such technologies — based on existing copper networks for the last leg to customers’ premises — will be sustainable in the long-term.
Yesterday, for example, the New Zealand Government’s Crown Fibre Holdings company, which is conducting a predominantly national Fibre to the Premises rollout similar to Labor’s vision, announced that it had agreed on a small package of measures with wholesale telco Chorus that will allow Chorus to deliver UFB services in multi-dwelling units, using only existing Cat 5 Ethernet cable — but not copper. The use of Cat 5 Ethernet inside buildings is not expected to affect the speed of Fibre to the Premises rollouts — while internal copper wiring would be likely to have a substantial impact on the potential speeds.
I’d love to hear from consumers or small businesses about their experiences during this trial. Delimiter’s contact form is here if you want to get in touch.