NBN goes to market for FTTdp hardware


news The NBN company has gone to market to purchase ‘Fibre to the Distribution Point’ (FTTdp) hardware that will allow it to deploy fibre further out into its growing Fibre to the Node network, as speculation increases that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will formalise a widespread FTTdp rollout ahead of this year’s Federal Election.

Under Labor’s previous near-universal Fibre to the Premises model for the NBN, the HFC cable and copper networks owned by Telstra and Optus would have been shut down. However, the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix plan instituted by Malcolm Turnbull as Communications Minister in the Abbott administration is seeing them acquired and upgraded by the NBN company.

One of the key technologies being used, Fibre to the Node, has come under sustained attack over the past several years, as many Australian technical experts believe it will not serve Australians’ telecommunications needs for more than a handful of years.

To address some of the issues with regard to FTTN, the Opposition has predicted that the Government will announce this year that the NBN company will deploy fibre further out into Telstra’s copper network, in a technique known as ‘Fibre to the Distribution Point’ or FTTdp.

FTTdp would see fibre extended from the neighbourhood ‘nodes’ used under FTTN and reach the curb outside customers’ premises.

The NBN company revealed in late October that it was trialling this technology. At the time, it told a number of media outlets such as The Australian newspaper and ZDNet that it had used the FTTdp model coupled with the G.Fast standard to achieve laboratory trial speeds of 967Mbps on a 20m copper loop length and 800Mbps on a 100m copper loop length.

The company also trialled the technology in a real-world setting, where copper cables ran 100m from the basement to the fifth floor of an apartment block in Carlton, Melbourne. The apartment tested was able to reach speeds of 522Mbps down and 78Mbps up during the trial. It believes that it can achieve even higher speeds with further advancements.

Shortly before Christmas, as first reported by the jxeeno blog, the NBN company quietly published a statement on its website inviting vendors to send it information about their FTTdp offerings.

“The purpose of this Expression of Interest (EoI) is to seek responses from organisations that believe they are capable of supplying [Distribution Point Unit] equipment and equipment-related services for deployment of FTTdp solutions by NBN Co Limited (nbn),” the company said.

The majority of the NBN company’s existing Fibre to the Node hardware is supplied by French vendor Alcatel-Lucent, and it is believed the company would be likely to be a strong contender to supply the hardware for any future FTTdp deployment by the NBN company.

Will the NBN company announce this year that it will deploy FTTdp throughout its FTTN network? Yes, I think it will. For the company to do so would do much to neuter the ongoing complaints by many about the fitness of the controversial Fibre to the Node technology for the next several decades. This would be a very valuable debating point for the Government, going into the Federal Election.

At a minimum, I expect the NBN company to announce that it will use FTTdp to address ‘trouble’ spots in the FTTN network — areas where it is not able to use FTTN to achieve the base speeds of 25Mbps which the Coalition has promised all of Australia. This would make sense.

In general, I see the deployment of FTTdp in the NBN network as a good thing — the further fibre can be deployed in the network, the better. However, obviously I still see the best end game scenario as being deploying fibre all the way to Australians’ premises in a Fibre to the Premises scenario. The reality is that FTTP is the only technology that will serve Australia’s telecommunications needs over the long-term.

Image credit: NBN company


  1. Isn’t one of the biggest issues with deploying Fibre deeper into the Network, the Asbestos in the pits?
    How much might Asbestos in the pits slow down and increase the cost of any FTTP or Fttdp deployments, or determine who gets FTTN and who gets FTTdP/TP in any future MTM technology mix change? Unless aerial deployment of the Fibre is available, doable, and not too costly or time consuming as an alternative.

    Noting that under the revised Telstra/NBN agreement Telstra negotiated
    “Significantly reduced remediation obligations – NBN Co responsible for remediation of ducts and pits in FTTN and HFC regions – Telstra’s remediation obligations within FTTP regions have been capped”.

    Which implies that NBNCo are now responsible for all costs and management of Asbestos in the Telstra owned pits in those FTTN and HFC (possibly Optus) regions that might be earmarked for FttDp, FTTP technology changes, straight out FTTP or future upgrades or overbuild of FTTN to FTTP/dp.

    “the scale of asbestos material in Telstra’s ­infrastructure remained largely unknown. It had previously ­estimated that up to 20 per cent of the company’s eight million pits nationally could contain the hazardous material, but Ms Hughes said the company was relying on the public to report potential cases for priority work. “We do have an asbestos register and it dates back to the days when we were postmaster general and many of those pits were first laid,” she said. “No records were kept of the content of those pits and there are literally millions of them. “Every time we find one with asbestos-containing material we add it to the register.””



    • “We do have an asbestos register and it dates back to the days when we were postmaster general and many of those pits were first laid,” she said. “No records were kept of the content of those pits and there are literally millions of them.

      I call the comment above BULLSHIT!

      The PMG, Telecom and Telstra record the type of pit (size & material) & conduit (diameter & material) installed on their ‘Cable & Conduit Plans’. All pits and conduits were labelled with an ‘A’ for Asbestos.

      This is an ill informed comment from someone who seems to know little about Telstra’s network infrastructure.

      The replacement of these pits only solves part of the asbestos problem, when the mandrel & hauling lines are installed to haul the cable from one pit to the next, it drags the asbestos dust from the conduit into the re-mediated pit, onto the hauling line and onto the cable now housed in the new plastic moulded pit.

      This cable is then handled by the cable jointer usually with bare hands, the asbestos now in it’s most dangerous form – asbestos dust, most workers in the industry now would not even be aware of this as they would see a nice shiny new plastic pit & give it no further thought

      • Asbestos is only an issue if they are removing the pit, if the pit is just greeting new gear in it there’s no issues.

  2. And notFTTP takes choice out of users control and produces inequalities for not good reason other than short term thinking.

    • It’s still a lottery what ever way you look at it and shows a tragical disregard for Australia’s future comms economy. Turnbull is still fiddling with his fly trying to find the balls that Abbott bit off, maybe he can find some innovation while he’s down there.

  3. typo?

    “FTTdp would see fibre extended from the neighbourhood ‘nodes’ used under FTTP and reach the curb outside customers’ premises.” – I think you mean FTTN here.

  4. This is an interesting development, the tender is for reverse powered FTTdp hardware that is fed via GPON. This would seem to mean that the FTTN cabinets could be dispensed with almost entirely, they could go back to building out FDHs instead, which must be cheaper and can be ideally located without compromising based on access to power.

    If NBNCo deployed FTTdp universally in an area, then this could be a good/ish thing, if they are mixing the ADA between FTTN and FTTdp then I think this is just further complexity and mess for the network.

    FTTdp is only a positive IMHO if the GPON network is essentially based on the FTTP architecture with FTTdp avoiding the lead in conduit issue. People should be given a choice to pay for FTTP at the time FTTdp is rolled out though so they get some economy of scale.

    But even if there is an easier upgrade path from FTTdp to FTTP, the resulting FTTP network will not be the same as originally designed. NBN Co have cut corners and ripped all the “link protection” out as a cost cutting measure. A fibre cut in the distribution fibre network could take out significant portion of the network as the B side loop will no longer be available.

    But it doesn’t solve many problems for NBNCo, like in areas with direct buried copper. NBNCo are already refusing to service those in the fixed line footprint and moving them onto Satellite instead.

    The answer to whether FTTdp is a good thing is actually another question… Will NBN Co build it properly or cheap and nasty? All evidence points to the latter.

  5. “FTTdp would see fibre extended from the neighbourhood ‘nodes’ used under FTTP and reach the curb outside customers’ premises.”

    Are you sure about this?

    The FTTdp device is meant to be fed by GPON, but there is no spare fibre allocated to the FTTN cabinet. Do you think NBNCo plan on installing GPON LT cards in the FTTN DSLAM?

    • Yeah I was confused by this as well. It’s all well and good as a future upgrade path from FTTN, but for those areas upgrading from the CAN direct to FTTdp it would be ludicrous to install a node distribution point…

    • I’ll go out on a limb and suggest this might be for area’s where people would be otherwise sharing a node cabinet with just a few people due to distances between properties (ie hobby farm outer suburbs).

      You know to try and deal with the distance issue that fibre solved a long time ago.

  6. Question for any network engineers – if you have fifty year old copper into your house, what is the best thing to upgrade it to? Replace with CAT 3? Use twisted pair strands from CAT 5/E? STP CAT 7/8? What would happen if you used low gauge OF copper, like 10 gauge? Obviously low gauge copper isn’t used normally because it is very costly and inefficient, but would there be a substantial and measurable benefit from 30m of old CAT 3 upgraded to 30m of 10 gauge or 8 gauge cable? Would it significantly reduce attenuation and subsequent signal quality loss?

    • OK, I’m not a network engineer, but my current ADSL2+ connection inside the house (I’m going onto FTTP within a month – yay!!!!) is 10 meters of >>10yo POTS extension cord from the POI in the kitchen wall through an ancient gas arrestor surge protector. Isolation testing with a previous ISP showed no significant degradation of signal, all numbers like S/N and Attenuation were within ±2% of un-isolated measurements using the router’s facilities: that is, completely insignificant given the usual variation in these numbers. My experience with the new ISP gave significantly improved numbers…

      So a not completely fatuous suggestion: just get some 30m POTS extension cords and use those. It’s got to be cheaper than CAT cable?

    • Cat 5E/6 etc is basically what I’d be wiring a residence up with (not a network eng either) if I had to be doing anything like that, heck its what our offices are being done with atm for phones and networking.

      • Yeah all offices are cabled with CAT 5 to 6 for both phone and networking, it means you can patch in whatever gear you need at the cabinet. Using CAT 5E is negligible cost, I have two 300m spools of it on a shelf, as well as 220m of outdoor STP CAT6. There is actually an issue using it to replace a single pair CAT 3 – the ungrounded wires act like an aerial, picking up every bit of radio frequency which can cause EMI and degrade performance. I’ve seen a shorter run of CAT 5 perform worse than the old (and longer) CAT 3 it replaced.

        But I also have rolls of speaker cable, which has lower resistance than CAT-anything. Yes, it’s significantly more expensive than CAT 6, but I have a few hundred meters lying around so I wouldn’t miss a few dozen. I was just throwing an idea around ’cause I’ve never heard of anyone doing that. Probably because it’s bone-headed and there’s a good reason for it, but as I don’t know I thought I’d ask a stupid question ;-)

  7. NBN goes to market for magic beans that will grow the beanstalk of superfast internet?

    Where’s Jack?

  8. FttN failed and outdated even before it has been rolled out (such a suprise!). FttDp another intermediate step before FttP end goal. FttN not sufficient but GimpCo cannot admit FttP is the correct way to go for political reasons. Clowns desperate for a face saving solution have decided to turn to FttDp… remember when we were promised 25mbps for all by the end of 2016?

    • HC
      Be interesting to see how much more of a delay and added cost of switching to FTTdp since its added 6-8 years for FTTP

        • You too HC :)

          Well what’s not to be happy about, it’s the year we will “all” receive the promised blinding speeds of 25mbps-50mbps, isn’t it?

          • Just 360 days to go too!

            Exciting times isn’t it Rizz?

            That 25mbps super dooper blistering fast speed will certainly make a big difference over the 12mbps “high speed” connection I’ve been using for the last ten or so years…

    • A distraction just in time before the general public have fully sized up FTTN ? perfect for the next election, Turnbull can ramble on about how it was true that he and his set are nimble and adaptive, deploying just what Australia needs rather than anything over the top but the inclusion of the new tech will make it near impossible for any journo to grill him with vaguely concrete numbers and projections . the guy was already able to effortlessly confuse the issue when it was a question of FTTN vs FTTP for main technology but now with HFC and G.Fast stuff in the mix he will be in his element. I hope someone from Labor at least manages to breakdown in simple terms for the general public stunts like doing a fake technology rollout launch after a year of actual rollout for the pretense that you can achieve many tens of thousands of connections in a few weeks OR highlights that when Turnbull blows out quotes about the cost for the NBN had Labor continued their rollout he is actually using projections for a scenario where Labor took over today and dropped everything to switch back to FTTP right now.

  9. If you are going to do FTTdp you may as well go the whole way and do FTTP!!! The savings would be negligible.

    Once again, do it once, do it with fibre.

    • Exactly FZ…

      Once again it’s the “anything but what they did”, because thay can’t ever admit the others actually did it right. Regardless of all of the obvious and disgraceful wastage (time/money etc) in between…

      So we can (if FTTdp actually comes to fruition) then look forward to the usual FTTN copper throwbacks (yet again) morphing and flip flopping. This time into FTTdp fanboys and as a consequence, they’ll again contradict primarily every word they uttered previously, err, just as they do now, I’m guessing ;)

      While of course the majority here will keep replying to stupid contradictions by saying WTF, whilst as usual, remaining steadfast in our simple yet correct position of FttP.

    • Installers I have spoken to are getting paid less than $300 to run fibre from the house to street….. which therefore is roughly the upgrade cost from FTTdp to FTTP, not much considering it will last 50 years.

      Whilst I think FTTdp is actually half decent, a lot better than FFTN, I’m willing to pay the extra 50c per month for FTTN :)
      ……especially considering 10G-PON is here….40G is coming soon!

  10. More bullshit policies to come. Just stick with FTTP and get rid of the band aid fixes this Coalition Government is producing. Sack the lot of them.

    Wow FTTdp, what’s next after that?

    • Fibre to the garden? They measure exactly halfway between the fence line and the front wall of your premises and put a junction box right in the middle of your front garden, that you’re not legally allowed to move or touch…

  11. Does this mean 2015/2016 will go down as the FTTN era? Sort of like the Paleocene era?

    Imagine the archeologists of the future; digging down thru the layers they come across this thin iridium-like veneer of FTTN that signals the stillborn remains of MTM-classic.

    And spare a thought for the poor sods getting connected to nodes now! As with dinosaurs they too get frozen in time like some museum piece – all due to the political machinations of Turnbull and Abbott.

    Still FTTdp is better and next year when they announce FTTgg (Fibre To The Garden Gnome) it’ll be better yet. Naturally anything but FTTP.

    • I’m one of those poor sods. 450m walking distance from the node, so probably 500m copper length.
      I’m expecting to max out at about 60mbps based on the signal quality I get to the TopHat located right next to the new FttN node.
      It’s certainly been an interesting Internet ride for us in this house.
      We’ve gone from 3G to WIMAX (Telstra built the Tophat 3 months into our 3 year contract) to 4G (interim service when a neighbors tree blocked out the WIMAX 18 months into the contract) to ADSL2+ from the Tophat in the past 5 years. March/April 2016 we’ll likely move to VDSL2+. And I’m guessing we can expect to be stuck on that for a good 20 years.

    • *Gnome is wearing NBN(Co) Vest and is actually a VDSL capable wifi router powered by a car battery buried just under him.

  12. This is great news. By spending 50% more than FTTP we can achieve 50% of the speed of a single connection!
    Of course when you concider that FTTP can deliver 2x1Gbps, 2x100Mbps and 2x150kbps(voip) at the same time, this means we will be spending 50% more for around 1/5 the speed, and a very small fraction of the utility.
    But Mal does not have to admit that he was wrong.

  13. I’m not sure Turnbull can afford a big switch with NBN. It already looks a bit of problems, but another big switch will just make it more clear that they don’t know what they’re doing.

  14. Given what I’ve seen in my area; the install from the ‘drop point’ to the house is by far the hardest, most manual part of the install; if installers are getting $300 for that it’s pretty skimpy and will induce lots of subcontractors to be doing substandard work.

    I don’t know how much the back end infrastructure changes but if you can get fibre to your driveway and still use your existing copper lead in at much shorter length and get > 500MB download and decent upload, with the ability to upgrade your cable at your own need/requirement, that would satisfy the vast majority of the premises and avoid a lot of uncertainty about the project and de-risks it to a large degree.

    Happy either way, just hurry it up!

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