NBN Co rolling out “kilometres” of brand new copper to ensure FTTN actually works


news The NBN company is deploying many “kilometres” of brand new copper in some areas to ensure that the Coalition’s Fibre to the Node model functions correctly, the Opposition claimed today, with Telstra’s copper network in such bad condition that up to “90 percent” of the copper needed to be repaired or replaced in some areas.

Labor’s initial model for the NBN project had focused on a near universial deployment of Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology, which is the best technology available to serve Australia’s telecommunications needs over the next 50 to 100 years. However, the Coalition has significantly changed the project’s network model, incorporating both the copper and HFC cable networks owned by Telstra and Optus.

The NBN company has previously acknowledged that it will need to remediate some of Telstra’s copper network to successfully deliver the the Fibre to the Node (FTTN) aspect of the so-called ‘Multi-Technology Mix’ — or even replace some copper cables entirely. Fibre to the Node involves deploying fibre partway to customers’ premises from telephone exchanges — and using existing copper for the remainder of the distance from streetside cabinets.

The NBN company will consider in each specific case whether to remediate or replace damaged copper, or whether it will instead deploy other technologies such as Fibre to the Premises, wireless or even satellite access.

The model is popular in Europe, but has a number of technical challenges not found in the more expensive and technically capable FTTP model.

However, in a speech to the Communications Day Melbourne Congress this morning (read the full speech online), Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare said the NBN company was deploying more brand new copper than previously expected.

“I have been talking to some contractors in the field recently to get a feel for how good the copper network is – and how much of it needs work or needs to be replaced. They have told me that NBN’s working assumption is that 10 percent of copper pairs in Fibre to the Node areas will need remediation,” said Clare.

“But in places like Newcastle and the Central Coast, closer to 90 percent of the copper pairs have needed work.”

“In some places the copper is so bad it has to be replaced. Replacing old copper … with new copper. One contractor told me in Newcastle and the Central Coast 10 to 15 percent of the copper lines are having lengths replaced.”

“And this is not just happening in Newcastle or the Central Coast. Another contractor told me in Campbelltown in Sydney that NBN has had to recently replace almost 3 kilometres of old copper with new copper.”

Clare said this was the “real MTM — Malcolm Turnbull’s Mess”.

“Massively over budget, behind schedule, a raft of broken promises, an unrealistic roll out plan that doesn’t ramp up until after another election, and dodgy copper that needs to be fixed or is being replaced with more copper.”

“The Australian Labor Party is the party that conceived and started building the NBN. A fibre NBN. We are the party of fibre. The Liberal Party is the party of copper. They sold it. They bought it back. And now they are replacing it with new copper.”

I’d love to hear from anyone within the NBN company as to how much brand new copper the company is actually deploying. Are Clare’s comments today accurate? Feel free to drop me a line via Delimiter’s anonymous tips form. I’ll also be asking the NBN company to respond via official channels to Clare’s claims.

Image credit: The NBN company


  1. If it is true doubt NBN will admit to it. Its a circus that keeps on giving and the roll out has only just started

  2. why not replace with fibre instead. Pulling new copper through the pit is the same as pulling new fibre. So why ? Even if it’s 1000 metres to 10 metres of new copper, it makes no sense. Over time the copper is gonna corrode again. Plus remediation costs. Plus its susceptible to water, and radio interference. And the speed drops exponentially the further away from the node. With fibre it can be over 10km and still deliver 1Gbps symmetric speeds.

    • The problem is the infrastructure stack around it. Agreed, if copper requires replacement it should be with fibre, but the argument will be made that until it reaches X% in a given area around a Green Pillar (FTTN Node) there’s no justification for it and copper will have to be deployed. Even if it’s replaced with copper, the infrastructure design as I’ve read doesn’t allow easily for mixed mode at the node (ie: a mix of end points on both copper and fibre). Glad to be told I’m wrong there.

      • But isn’t a mix of end points the basis behind the Fibre on Demand option much-spruiked before the election?

  3. I don’t doubt it for a second. They will do anything to make the FTTN look good at start. Seeing how close election is now.

  4. Must say, Labor definitely seemed to be stepping up the attack on the MTM lately. Better late than never I suppose.

    Sadly, it will probably end up just making it all the more depressing when Labor inevitably adopt it as their own policy if they win the next election (which is a mighty big IF at this point). They’ve said themselves that it’s too costly to unwind the MTM at this point. The best we can probably hope for is a higher percentage of FTTP in the overall mix, but FTTN and HFC are here to stay.

  5. It’s astounding
    time is fleeting
    madness takes its toll…

    Let’s do the copper timewarp again.

    • Well… They will go back to FTTP where there isn’t HFC or FTTN already rolled out…. Since they are tied down to paying for the HFC anyway, it would be silly to put FTTP into HFC areas already being used and generating income.

      • Nope, JC says they’ll renegotiate the contracts to put the FTTP roll out back on course … just like Malcolm did to F’K it up in the first place!

        • I’m sure eventually that would be the case, I’m not saying it would stay that way, but being held up by more negotiations with Telstra for another 2 years would be the new definition of insanity.

          They might start renegotiating the terms by which they must use HFC until such point as they roll out FTTP in an HFC area, but it would be ridiculous to not roll out FTTP to areas that are not serviced by HFC/FTTN already then fill in those areas later.

          • There’s no need to negotiate anything, aiui NBN Co retained the right to choose what technology it uses no matter the location.

          • Yes…. But it also has to pay the maintenance fees of the HFC network until such time as Foxtel no longer wishes to use it.

            SO… Upgrading HFC areas first, is a monumental waste of money.

          • There’s an old corporate trick used to get rid of of unwanted assets, transfer them to a subsidiary and then cut off the subsidiary – wouldn’t it be great if a resurrected NBN Co transferred all of it’s “copper assets” to a subsidiary and then let it fail!

            It’d be the ultime F’You to the Libs and Telstra!:-D

      • I agree, there is no need to upgrade existing HFC and FTTN in the short term. Best refocus rolling FTTP & FTTB to people stuck on adsl and finish that first. When that’s done, I guess it will be 5-10 years in the future, there will be enough demand for fiber from the HFC & FTTN crowd that we could safely upgrade those to fiber without everyone screaming white elephant.

        • As I said above, they may have to renegotiate having to pay maintenance on the HFC once they are no longer using it, but yes, I think thats the most likely thing that will happen IF Labor get back in, which with Turnbull now PM, is less and less likely. He isn’t likely to make any massive gaffes like Abbott.

  6. The nbn company are upgrading their office desktop monitors from 15″ to 17″. The press release is quoted as saying “CRT is proven technology. We’re technology agnostic, LCD monitors don’t add any functionality over CRT’s and we don’t want to lock ourselves into a technology that may soon be superseded. A full cost benefit analysis has been performed at the government’s request, and will be available under FOI when it’s no longer deemed a matter of National Security.”

    It is assumed access to the CBA will be allowed once the equipment has been fully depreciated. A number of experts in this field have approximated this to be between 2030 and 2035.

    The gym located only a few hundred metres from the nbn company office has been contracted to provide the labour to carry the new equipment from the delivery truck to their installation locations throughout the office. This contract doesn’t cover plugging the devices in. That information is currently unavailable.

  7. It is just astonishing that a party could be so wasteful, immature and irresponsible that they would roll out an inferior technology simply because the other guys wanted to roll out a superior one.

  8. Claire’s comments are widely open to interpretation. 3km of copper means nothing without the context – he could be talking about 50m of a 30 pair binder. The figure is only meaningful in the context of how much copper is in the service area, and the relative cost of replacing it vs moving to fibre – which no one in this thread knows the answer to.

    Meanwhile, head over to whingepool and you’ll find people who are on FTTN now with attainable rates > 100/40 on FTTN.

    • If you are physically pulling new cables in a street, why would you pull new copper regardless of length?

      • Probably because it is more cost effective to provide users with a service they’re willing to pay for.

        • People have plenty of options on FTTP, they can choose the service they wish, be it. Try again.

    • FTTN would be yet to encounter the congestion of a major roll out. The copper gauge in Australia is also thinner than in most other countries. That all makes FTTN pretty useless.

    • Similarly, just because SOME people are able to attain 100/40 on FTTN, nobody claimed that some wouldn’t get that speed.

      FTTN is a crapshoot. People right next to cabinets will very likely get the speed they apply for, people at the end of the copper run from a node? Well, that’ll be up to many factors.

      FTTP? You sync at the speed you order.

    • Why is there always an apologist who wants to desperately try (unsuccessfully BTW) to justify third rate obsolescence for Australia and Australian’s?

      • Not really and not what I said at all. What I said were Claire’s comments were open to interpretation … and the first actual figures from FTTN are better than people anticipated.

    • “you’ll find people who are on FTTN now with attainable rates > 100/40 on FTTN”
      [Citation needed]

  9. Meanwhile, head over to whingepool and you’ll find people who are on FTTN now with attainable rates > 100/40 on FTTN.

    How many? (people assumes more than one)

    What distance from the node?

    No link to thread provided, reason?

      • Hey, dirt roads are great! You can go 100Km/h with your car facing any direction! (Arguably… You don’t get to choose the direction your car is facing at any time…. but its a feature!)

      • Rizz
        Nah is should be everyone back to floppy disks.

        I remember the days of installing wing commander with 15 – 30 floppy disk

        • Installed Windows 95 on a computer back in primary school, something around 35 or 40 floppy disks from memory.

          Plus side, you can throw them like mini-frisbees, so you can in theory increase the data transfer rate from person to person!

      • Seriously? You cant give number the distance or even a link to the topic?

          • I’d like to read it, can you provide a link?

            Asking for this information is an “attitude”?

          • @HC apparently requiring evidence goes against Conservative values, they operate on “Feelpinions” and “faith”. It explains why they hate science so much!

          • Of course Derek I assumed that much but I like to at least give people a chance. Besides in this day and age how hard is it to copy/paste a url…

  10. Ridiculous enough in itself, but it points to yet another lie from Turnbull and his NBN who insist there is a future upgrade path from FTTN to FTTP. Clearly if this were true they would be replacing some with fibre and the majority in decent areas could remain copper.

    Telstra’s copper has already been paid for, so rather than continuing this nonsense, or trying to move fully to FTTP, the current FTTP rollout could continue as is and NBN could hold out on copper until G.Fast is mature, then begin FTTdp which can deliver decent enough speeds with an easy upgrade pathway. NBN should allow ISPs to bundle FTTdp upgrades to fibre with internet plans so consumers can choose when they want fibre, cough up a piece of the cost, and own their house’s fibre eventually, same as buying a phone with a plan.

    • FTTdp should be the model being deployed if they are so fixed on reusing the copper. It would provide speed enough for the next 10-15 years, and those who do actually NEED fibre, would be able to purchase a reasonable fibre upgrade, if you’re only talking about the small distance from dp to house.

  11. This is madness, MADNESS. We need the idiots out AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE.

    • I believe he’s hanging out in a cave in Iran, enjoying blistering fibre speeds whilst (in true Turnbullian style) telling us all that copper is good enough for Australians :(

  12. So this just shows that FTTN is a dud. Bought the copper and now have to replace it. A lemon indeed. This government has made a mess of the NBN and they do not want to admit it. It is amusing to see how desperate they’ve become to prove FTTN is just as capable as FTTP because things have been only been going downhill for NBNCo and people are starting to catch on. Vote 1 for Labor. Come dig up my lawn and install fibre anytime.

  13. NBN Co has been a joke from the start – and as much as I hate to say it (well, hate may be too strong a word) – that is Labors fault.

    Telstra should NEVER have been able to win that tender – they took themselves out by not fulfilling terms of contract – then were given accomodations that other tenders didn’t have. I have little doubt that if G8 had won the tender, this would not have been an issue.

    Then the liberal idiots (including ‘I’ll be devoted to my leader Abbott until I’m not’ Malcolm) – instead of taking a good idea and putting their own stamp on it (‘make it better / cheaper’ whatever bloody slogan they wanted) – they have to pander to a leader that probably couldn’t even turn his own computer on, a communications minister who made a LOT of money off this technology overseas and knows that (despite the stupidity bordering on …. actions of labor mentioned above, that) Labors NBN was better than the coalitions plan, but didn’t have the balls to stand up for it (plus, hey, he’s already rich, so he hardly cares about enabling masses of new opportunities for others, eh?).

    Bloody stupid.

  14. I live in Bethanga that already has fibre optic connected to the local school and through the streets (maybe owned by Telstra though as it was part of a State Government Initiative back in 2005).

    NBN solution for Bethanga? Fixed Wireless tower at the top of the most prominent hill in the area.

    Why can’t they just use the existing fibre optic? Even as a backhaul network with copper to the premises.

  15. They are installing down the road from me at the moment..Want me to stop and ask them how much copper they are using??

    • If they are down the road from you then why not? Also ask them whether they are using thicker copper and how much of the copper they think they are replacing on average in a particular area. Thanks.

  16. Whatever it takes to defend Murdoch and their ridiculous fraud to prevent Fibre and stifle access to VOD.

    HFC should have been dismantled and is heavily congested also.

    • +1 all the reviews are blatant fraud and allowing the Telstra share holding execs at NBN to negotiate a new deal with Telstra is a blatant conflict of interest and on its own should be a trigger for voiding it!

    • Ps can you imagine the fuss the libs would have made of Quigley kept his personal Alcatel shares considering NBN Co bought quote a bit of GPON equipment from them?

      They attacked him as it was trying to show personal conflict of interest where there was none, aided and abetted by the conservative dominated Murdoch media of course!

  17. ” Replacing old copper … with new copper”.

    Has anyone told Malcolm that the ‘new copper’ will eventually have to be replaced.What a bunch of brainy Politicans we have.

  18. If we are talking digging up the old shitty cables to the house, people should absolutely refuse this completely and ask for fibre.

    If we are talking about the runs of cable to the pits. They are really clowns. Have they seen the pits ?

  19. I see the entire thing imploding. Liberals imploding.

    As if they went to an election with a costing on HFC and relaying copper, they didn’t, it would make them look like idiots.

  20. Its True, they are replacing the copper line out the front of my place and have been doing so for a while in the area in central west NSW.

    • nbn is also working to deliver high speed broadband to Australia up to eight years sooner and for $20 billion less of taxpayers’ money than if we had continued down the path of a predominantly all-fibre network.

      Technology agnostic. Unbelievable.

      It’s another politically motivated piece with no pertinent information like distance and speeds. Just “we’re rolling out FTTN and getting results, trust us they those results are good because we say so”. Supposed end user accounts unverifiable, we have to trust this too but doesn’t even ask them the question “what would you prefer?” because obvious GimpCo wouldn’t like the answer.

  21. Yes copper will be remediated. It should be.

    Remember NBNco has to make FTTN profitable; so they will replace like-for-like with respect to copper tails, to ensure deployment classes and occupancy numbers are all sufficient.

    We are not going to see copper replaced with fibre, so arguing over remediation is a bit pointless.

    Not agreeing with using FTTN isn’t the same as not agreeing with ensuring whatever is being built actually functions; conflating the two seems to be happening a lot.

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