news The NBN company today revealed it had completed its HFC cable in the Queensland region of Redcliffe and was on track for a June commercial launch of the technology, with users on the trial achieving average downlaod speeds of 84Mbps and average upload speeds of 33Mbps.
In a statement posted on the company’s blog, NBN public affairs manager Tony Brown noted that the company launched the pilot on Optus’ HFC cable network in November. The trial has seen the NBN company both upgrade the SingTel subsidiary’s HFC cable network with additional network hardware, as well as opening it for wholesale access.
The company had three retail ISPs participate in the trial — Telstra, iiNet and Exetel.
“NBN is delighted to announce that our HFC pilot has achieved fantastic results. In a test period between December 1 and January 20, the HFC pilot end-users averaged speeds of 84/33Mbps from their RSPs Layer-3 networks over that period,” Brown wrote.
The NBN company said that independent analyst firm Ovum had “verified” the results of the HFC trial, in a report which is available online (PDF).
“The HFC pilot results are very encouraging as we look to ensure that our HFC end-users are able to access the same speed tiers from their RSPs as our Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) end-users, with wholesale speed offerings up to 100Mbps downstream and 40Mbps upstream,” Brown wrote.
“Indeed, our achievement in offering wholesale upload speeds of 40Mbps is particularly impressive as very few HFC operators around the world offer upload speeds as fast as this. Only ComHem in Sweden and UPC in Switzerland are delivering upload speeds faster than the 40Mbps wholesale speeds we achieved on the HFC Pilot.”
Brown noted that although the NBN company was “delighted” with the speeds it had achieved in the pilot, they were “really only just the beginning” of what the NBN company could achieve on its HFC cable infrastructure.
“On our HFC pilot, we were using the current generation DOCSIS 3.0 technology, but from mid-2017 we plan to deploy next-generation DOCSIS 3.1 technology which is capable of wholesale downstream speeds of 10Gbps and wholesale upload speeds of 1Gbps,” Brown said.
“So whilst the pilot demonstrates that we are able to deliver great wholesale speeds of 100Mbps downstream and 40Mbps*, the great news is that the rapid improvements taking place with DOCSIS technology means that we could be able to generate much higher speeds going forward – speeds that will be right up there with what we can achieve on our FTTP network.”
“In addition, our HFC Pilot demonstrates once more that existing network assets, whether they be HFC or copper networks, are capable of delivering great speeds to end-users with new technological advances promising even greater speeds ahead.”
The results of the trial would appear to blunt some of the recent criticism of the NBN company’s re-use of Optus’ HFC cable network as part of its network rollout.
Internal documents leaked in November appeared to reveal that the NBN company was considering overbuilding the Optus HFC cable network, in a move which appeared to dramatically validate long-standing criticism that the HFC cable technology could not meet Australia’s future broadband needs.
The documents — dated 3 November — openly stated that Optus’ HFC network was “not fully fit for purpose”, with some Optus equipment “arriving at end of life” — needing to be “replaced”. Some Optus HFC nodes were “oversubscribed” compared with Telstra’s HFC cable network and would “require node splits”, while Optus’ cable modem termination systems didn’t have “sufficient capacity to support NBN services”.
The document explicitly stated that some 470,000 premises in the Optus HFC cable footprint would need to be overbuilt, with a significant impact to the NBN company’s peak funding requirement ranging between $150 million and $600 million. The document also explicitly stated that the NBN company will miss its financial year 2017-2018 HFC ready for service target.
The results of the Optus HFC cable upgrade trial would appear to cast doubt upon this internal NBN document.
However, in his blog post, Brown did also include a caveat, warning HFC cable users that the NBN company’s infrastructure may not always deliver the theoretical maximum which they had paid for. This is a phenomenon already witnessed in the Fibre to the Node portion of the NBN rollout.
“As with all our network technologies, NBN delivered wholesale HFC speeds to RSPs, and the speeds experienced by HFC Pilot end-users on those Layer-3 networks can be affected by a range of factors,” wrote Brown.