news The NBN company appears to have slightly reworked a blog post it published yesterday defending the state of the copper network it is buying from Telstra, in effect removing its claim that it had not had to replace any copper to ensure the Coalition’s Fibre to the Node technology functioned correctly.
Earlier this week Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare alleged that the NBN company was replacing “kilometres” of dilapidated Telstra copper cable with brand new copper to ensure the Fibre to the Node network being built by the NBN company would function correctly. In some areas of Newcastle and the Central Coast in NSW, Clare said, close to 90 percent of the copper pairs in the area needed remediation.
The NBN company has not responded to a formal request from Delimiter to address Clare’s comments.
However, in a post on the company’s blog today, NBN public affairs manager Tony Brown rejected the claims.
“So far, in our FTTN deployment we have not had to replace any copper – or perform any substantial remediation work – to the copper running from our street cabinets to end-user premises. All we have had to do so far is very basic work in removing bridge-taps – basically redundant copper lines – in order to optimise network performance.”
Following the publication of the article, however, the NBN company appears to have updated its blog post to substantially change the meaning of that paragraph. The paragraph now states:
“So far, in our FTTN deployment we have not had to replace any copper – or perform any substantial remediation work – to the copper running from our street cabinets to end-user premises with new fibre. All we have had to do so far is very basic work in removing bridge-taps – basically redundant copper lines – in order to optimise network performance.”
This addition has the effect of changing the meaning of the paragraph. The NBN company has essentially backed away from its claim that it has not replaced any copper cables and now only states that it has not replaced any copper cables with new fibre specifically.
The NBN company has left the following paragraph intact, however: “To date we have not had to replace substantial lengths of existing copper with new copper, what we have been doing is necessary work compressing copper at the street pillars (located next to our street cabinets) in order to enhance network performance.”
The news comes as the NBN company and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield appear determined to address what the pair have described as misconceptions about the FTTN technology being used as part of the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix vision.
FTTN is a popular technology used throughout Europe and other countries, with the UK in particular using the technology to upgrade the network of incumbent telco BT. Early results from the NBN’s trials of the technology have shown it will offer users a substantial upgrade over existing ADSL broadband connections.
However, in Australia a strong debate has arisen about whether the quality of Telstra’s copper network — which is many decades old — is up to the task.
The concept of replacing ageing copper with brand new copper — and not technically superior optic fibre as under Labor’s previous NBN plan — has sparked outrage in Australia’s technology community. There are also concerns that the model will leave Australia languishing in global broadband rankings and merely require a further upgrade to a full fibre model down the track.
In addition, there are critics of the technology in the UK. One of the UK’s foremost telecommunications experts, a former chief technology officer of British telco BT, has publicly stated that fibre to the node-style broadband is “one of the biggest mistakes humanity has made”, imposing huge bandwidth and unreliability problems on those who implement it.
“We’re in a particularly exciting phase of the project right now,” Fifield told the Communications Day Melbourne Congress earlier this week.
“The first commercial fibre-to-the-node services are just coming on-stream and I look forward to dispelling the myths around this technology in the months ahead as orders start flowing in.”