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.
“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