Telstra, NBN Co planning “thousand node trial”


news The National Broadband Network Company is working with Telstra on a trial of the Fibre to the Node rollout style which could see a thousand nodes connected to fibre, in a move which would deliver real-life results of the rollout style’s performance across a series of diverse use cases.

The Coalition’s current policy for NBN Co’s network rollout will see up to a third of Australians served by the current HFC cable networks operated by Telstra and Optus, and a quarter receive the full Fibre to the Premises rollout promised to the entire country by the previous Labor Government. Most of the rest (40 percent) will be served by a Fibre to the Node/Fibre to the Basement style rollout which will see Fibre extended only partway to Australians’ premises and the remaining distance covered by existing copper cable. Rural and regional areas will receive satellite and wireless coverage.

Speaking on the ABC’s 7:30 last night, in an extended interview which only touched briefly on the Coalition’s Broadband Network (CBN), Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked about NBN Co’s existing Fibre to the Node trials.

The FTTN trials are designed to test the viability of the technology when deployed in Australia. The FTTN trial is being undertaken in two locations: Umina near Woy Woy on the NSW Central Coast and Epping in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. NBN Co has constructed two small scale Copper Serving Area Modules, erecting kerbside node cabinets which will connect fibre to spare copper pairs in the local Telstra pillar.

Once active, NBN Co was to have invited RSPs to participate in a Fibre to the Node end user trial. This limited term trial will test the delivery of high speed broadband via FTTN to up to 100 premises at each location. Although retail ISPs have not yet been signed up to participate in the trial, so far aw download speeds of 105Mbps have been verified over a distance of 100m from a local test node. However, earlier this week ZDNet reported that neither trial had yet formally commenced.

“But your own trial sites are being delayed as well. That’s causing the delay of the trial sites – as I understand it, isn’t going ahead,” 7:30 host Sarah Ferguson told Turnbull last night.

“No, no, that’s not true,” Turnbull responded. There are trial sites, there’s 11 nodes set up on Umina on the Central Coast and we are coming – we are – you know, finalising the discussions with Telstra to do a big thousand-node trial and which will then roll into the full fibre-to-the-node rollout. So there’s a – things are moving along very well.”

There is some truth to Ferguson’s statement that the trials have been delayed, with no live retail customers having yet been isgned up.

NBN Co chief operating officer Greg Adcock told a Senate Estimates committee last week that the 11 nodes in Umina had been built, and the agreement to facilitate the access to the spare Telstra copper in the area was signed the week before. “So all the right instruments are in place now for Telstra to come and hook the node up to those copper pairs and ask NBN Co to engage with RSPs so that we can start to provide trial services to end users in that area,” he said. “The Umina trial is progressing well.”

However, the Epping trial is not going as well. “The Epping trial in Victoria has slowed down a bit while we work with the utility there to find a power solution, and we are working through that,” Adcock said. “On the broader FTTN trial, we continue to negotiate with Telstra. Principles have been agreed and good progress is being made, and we believe that we will be able to commence that trial in the coming weeks.”

It will be good to see the thousand node trial get off the ground. The Umina and Epping trials, as interesting as they are, are really only tests of Alcatel-Lucent’s equipment in little more than ideal laboratory conditions. The problems which many people anticipate will eventuate from the use of FTTN technology in Australia (such as issues with Telstra’s copper condition, width and length) will likely only be seen when this broader trial is undertaken.

Image credit: NBN Co


    • Not as good as seeing the costing for these trials….I’d be really interested in seeing how they compare with the fibre trials costing…

      • what fibre trials? from what I saw there were none.
        After Gillard won the electon with the promise of NBNCo and FTTP, the project went ahead without trial, which is why the only found problems as they went…

  1. Let me guess. These trials (like the majority of FTTH) will be in areas that already have access to competing infrastructure etc…

    Hopefully, their trial is sporadic in nature to collect as many varying real world results as possible.

  2. I’m tipping the “1000 node trial” will involve upgrading tophat RIMs to vectored VDSL2.

    • @CW

      Bingo. You’re right on the money. That is the logical starting point and I believe Turnbull will be aware of it.

      • That would be a joke really unless the RIM is at capacity and not ADSL2+ these people are getting ~20mbps.
        Not only that due to the new copper they would provide an inflated average speed which could be used to justify FttN in other areas with worse copper.

        • I’d say that’s what they’ll be doing and I think that’s the common sense way to go.

          FTTN/dp as an interim step in areas of better copper, FTTP straight away for older areas of poorer copper.

          This means people who do have decent copper and are getting their 20Mbps get some kind of upgrade while waiting up to 10 years for the FTTP build is completed.

          FTTN/dp is a viable interim step, but it’s obviously and clearly not the end goal to get 1 gigabit a second speeds to 93% by 2030.

          • So basically people on some of the best connections in the country get an upgrade while people on the worst wait 10 years Brilliant

          • What are you smoking, David? I want some! The LNP have completely backed away from the 25mbps minimum and any promised upgrades to FTTP where FTTN is ‘inadequate’ (because without some form of legislated minimum standard there’s no such thing as inadequate). So they will be doing FTTN in areas with new 0.6mm copper and they will be doing FTTN in areas with 50 year old 0.4mm copper. And they will do FTTP to the wealthiest areas, some business parks and possibly CBDs. Everything else is fantasy at this point.

          • honestly, the ‘premises passed’ is a dubious metric, as it doesnt factor inthe last section of fibre haul, which is a major problem as residential – what telstra terms “DA – distribution area” conduit is the most problematic and poorest quality, as it isnt the ‘main route’, in many cases its small ducts and often at full capacity, with possiblity of damage, so pulling this much fibre cable through it would always be a major cconcern which needs to be properly investigated.

            In addition this is where you will encounter problems like asbestos, blocked pipes, pipes that need replacing and so on…so the premises pass is considered the low hanging fruit.

        • @AJ

          Sounds pretty much perfect, if your name is Malcolm Turnbull. More misleading justifications for FTTN.

  3. I’d like to see how old the copper pairs are, and what condition they’re in.
    You can count on them not being randomly chosen pairs, rather they’ll have been chosen according to their characteristics.
    A REAL trial would need to be based on random cable pairs

    • Oh yeah, you can bet your bottom dollar that the 100 pairs picked for the nodes will be short loop lengths. As Renai pointed out, this trial will be as close to lab conditions as possible, to of course deliver the desired result. Classic Yes, Minister…Never start a process/enquiry/project unless you are fully aware of the outcome (or can blame some divergent outcome as a result of external influences), something the Labor Party obviously forgot.

  4. Why are they even bothering to trial it? We all know that no matter what result they get, Turnbull will spin it as a victory and tell NBN Co to start rolling it out everywhere that doesn’t already have FTTH or HFC. They could produce average download speeds of 20mbits and uploads of 0.25mbits and he’d still call it a success.

    I mean, the man made his mind up more than 3 years ago about what he would do to ruin Australia’s broadband future. Why go through with this trial charade when no matter what the outcome is he’s going to proceed with it?

    • I agree somewhat, the trial maybe to just get VDSL2 performance metrics, since the remainder of the copper to the house is left as is, the job is not complicated at all, and there is ample of experience of previous ISAM deployments to draw knowledge from.

      Its a much easier way to build NBN, but it is less future proof than fibre, ideally if we could do it with fibre it would be nice, but the NBNCo FTTP project is signficantly larger and riskier.

  5. Its over 9000 node trial?

    How much money does Telstra get paid to rollout fibre to nodes? This would push up the share price and increase telstra’s profits?

    Considering these “Nodes” are similar to CMUX/ISAM model… Just closer to peoples homes

      • @Michael Wyres

        Fair point. However, the technology has already been trialled in Canberra as part of TransACT.’s rollout. Why do we need another trial? That’s the real question. The reason is because Turnbull wants the appeareance, at least on first glance, of legitimacy.

        This way he can stack the results to make FTTN speeds look close enough to FTTP speeds. You can already see evidence of this with their piss poor trial of one user.

        • this is to grab headlines and to show he is doing something, dont worry, no one really understands anyway what this trial is or even what VDSL is, however as you said, it would give some nice data to fudge

      • C’mon Michael. There’s no “trial” about it. No matter the outcome the end result has been politically decided. Actually, no, there is an element of trial here, how FEW nodes can they get away with to service an area without the population railing against the political party that pressed this on them…

  6. Power was always going to be an issue, especially when each state has its own power provider.

    I find it a bit sad though that the only trial sites are on the east coast, how about doing one here on the west coast in a regional/rural area.

    Western Power has a pretty crappy power network, and during summer they can’t always guarantee an uninterrupted power supply thanks to everyone turning a/c’s, etc… on.

    Not to mention the copper in the ground is going to be different for every area that you go to.

    • Ray consider yourselves luck, with a bit of luck there will be an election and those not on FTTN will end up with FTTP.

      These FTTN trials should be conducted in safe LNP seats

  7. Trail the whole of Australia with FTTN and when it doesn’t deliver just saying it was a trial. o_O

  8. As far as I know they plan to put batteries in the street node cabinet to rule out any power supply loss. Just for the record I think it is a stupid idea but I really would like to see the current fibre cabinet next to the node style cabinets with the door open so I can see how they plan to patch the Fibre to the copper.
    I have seen the Fibre street cabinets open quite a few times in my street and they look very neat and tidy inside in stark contrast to a Telstra copper connection box that look like a mess of cables.
    Conroy did ask the question “so if you do go to all this effort to put the nodes in and you plan on upgrading eventially to a Fibre to the Home model anyway. How much of the equipment in the node can be reused and how much will you need to chuck out ?” I think the answer to that question given the fact the workers will have to go back out with their tools and pull all that wasted equipment out and replace it will be exceptionally expensive. Not to mention how many extra boxes will need to be installed to deliver the required bandwidth due to signal loss (attenuation) associated with VDSL technology.

    And this cost should be factored into the overall cost comparison between the two systems as well as the maintanance costs associated with maintaining the existing copper that currently is considered by the NBN Ceo to be commercial in confidence in it’s dealings with Telstra.

    The response and I agree with the Senator that this cost should be now put forward regardless of the issues associated with the commercial sensitivities due to the fact this is Government money your spending on this project. Something Ziggy responded that he was well aware of as far as I can find there are no answers to the above questions only speculation. And that isn’t good enough for a project of this magnitude.

    • The Node build in FTTNode is just a small DSLAM located on the roadside instead of the exchange building, this is fed by street power, and typically has battery back up, the same battery backup that exists in exchanges which have disel (i think) power generators in even of blackouts.

      I think the backup batteries will always be essential as it will allow phones to work in event of a blackout in the area, the same way todays telephone exchanges provides power to the phone. As for FTTP , the equivalent setup is by having the battery power back at the home when NBNCo installs their modem, to provide connnectivity when the area suffers a blackout.

  9. Watch as they cherry-pick the best sites for FTTN with the newest copper, claim this represents the average conditions around the entire country and then proceed to steamroll over all counter-arguments with the assistance of the ABC and Rupert, like they’ve been doing forever.

    • Nah Telstra will prob do done remediation because some people have said they had seen Telstra trucks around the trial sites before there where setting up the nodes. Once it’s shown the it works on new copper and joints they can sell it to NBNco and wipe there hands leaving the rest of the country to rot.

  10. “11 nodes set up on Umina on the Central Coast” but no customers connected to it ?
    What a farce, a vital part of the testing is to actually connect as many customers as possible to the trial nodes, and see if it still works.

    How exactly can you roll out 1000 nodes, when you haven’t finished testing the first 11 nodes properly ?
    Oh sure one shop front, on one node got 105mb/s, now add everyone else that has broadband/or wants it. Practical experience with BT VDSL2 shows it will drop to or below 87mb/s when you add more customers.

    It’s a con, no one outside of NBNco/Telstra/Turnbull’s office have tested this FTTN in real world conditions. How can we assume it’s going to work for us end users, when no one has had the chance to review it ?

    • 1000 nodes is easy when all you do is change the codes on a bunch of existing Telstra “TopHat” RIMs and hand out new modems. With the recent installation of Alcatel-Lucent 7330 ISAM tophats, if the RIM is ADLS2+ capable then it is VDSL capable.

      Given Switkowski won’t even promise 25Mbps they could get 1000 nodes on round 1 and another 1000 from the balance of the tophat program with very little effort. Even easier than the HFC takeover and it adds tens of thousands of houses for virtually no effort.

      Just what Malcolm wants, improve nothing, do next to nothing, boast about the numbers and claim it as evidence of the MTM brilliance. Perhaps that will be the new headline speed, 1000Mbps = 1000 Malcolm boxes per spin.

      • Yep. Sitting here not 150 metres from the Top Hat cabinet, wondering just how many years it will take for the political machine to spin enough – all so that some engineer runs a config script change and bugger all else.

        In the meantime, I do get consistent 20Mb/s (dropped from 24Mb/s with crosstalk due to more users getting on the cabinet) and even have interleaving turned off. So it’s not ALL bad; people in the next street are stuck on a CMUX that was slated for Top Hat but then they killed that project. All I see from them on the local Facebook group is “I can’t get a port” or “we’re only getting 2mb/s!”.

  11. Does this mean that everyone connected to the node they are trying it on will be down for quite some time? And if it fails the subscribers will have an outage?

  12. Never give government the keys to a massive project. Start changing the locks instead

    • Err… no private company was or is willing to take on such a nationwide build, to the cost cost of 10’s of $b’s, which leaves the government or SFA…

      This is why we “had to have NBN MK1” in the first place… or else we would keep falling behind, internationally.

      Sure NBN 1 had teething problems (ironically with whinging private contractors, lazy Telstra and a hostile MSM who saw FttP as a threat to what they actually believe is their entitlement to enshrined $b’s in profits per annum) but NBN1 was sound…

      As opposed to the Turnbull complete fuck up (remember the FttN the current government actually opposed and referred to as fraudband in 2007, when it was still useful)…

      So if this is what you are gauging to make your comment…. then and only then, would I have to agree

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