news The NBN company this morning revealed that its trial of “skinny fibre” to some 4,500 homes in the Victorian towns of Ballarat and Karingal had been highly successful, cutting the cost per premise of a Fibre to the Premise rollout by $450 and the rollout time by four weeks.
Several weeks ago Delimiter and a number of other media outlets published a set of leaked documents produced by the NBN company in August last year. The documents detailed the fact that the NBN company was set to trial a new style of fibre cable deployment in the ‘Local Fibre Network’ which delivers fibre to neighbourhoods as part of the NBN rollout.
The aim of the project was to test a new kind of “skinny” fibre deployment which the NBN company hopes will allow it to drive down the cost of rolling out fibre cables around Australia.
The cables involved do not run all the way to customers’ premises. Instead, they run around the local neighbourhood as part of what the NBN company terms its ‘Local Fibre Network’. This aspect of the network supplies a variety of different technologies; although the Victorian trial this year used FTTP connections, Fibre to the Node, Basement or Distribution Point can also be connected to this style of fibre.
In this sense, any cost savings to be achieved by the trial can be applied to any of the NBN’s technologies as part of the Government’s Multi-Technology Mix approach, although one significant benefit is that the cost savings helps to drive the cost of the technically superior FTTP option for the NBN much closer to the FTTN approach favoured by the Coalition.
This morning NBN chief executive Bill Morrow told a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on the NBN in Canberra (click here for the full PDF of his opening statement) that the trial had gone extremely well.
“We have been working on something we call skinny fibre which reduces the amount of civil works needed to push fibre down a street. We’ve taken concepts from paper analysis to field trials and have recently completed 4,500 homes in a fibre application using skinny fibre,” said Morrow.
“This area actually went live a few weeks ago and we’ve been studying the data since then. The findings are encouraging. Relative to costs, we were able to reduce the [cost per premises] by roughly $450 per premises. Relative to time, we also believe we could shave four weeks off the time of the build.”
Morrow believes the technology would primarily be used as part of the NBN company’s plans to use Fibre to the Distribution Point as part of its network. This network rollout method pushes fibre further out into neighbourhoods, but not all the way to customers’ premises.
“We believe there is merit in exploring this technology further,” said Morrow.
“When we combine skinny fibre with Fibre to the distribution point (FTTdp), we see opportunities in unique areas that would otherwise be slated for fixed wireless or FTTN.”
“Further, skinny fibre on its own may be well suited for new developments. It is important to note there are trade-offs with skinny fibre, and it is still in development to some degree. This is a good example of our technology agnostic approach in finding the fastest way to deploy at the least possible cost.”
Su-Vun Chung, the NBN executive account manager at Corning Optical Communications, which is supplying the NBN company with with the fibre used in the trial, said the skinnier cables were the same ones as the NBN company used to connect individual customer premises. He told the Senate Committee there were a number of advantages to using the cables, such as the ability to pass through pre-established underground ducts with little space.
The ability to do away with some above-ground cabinets is also a feature of the technology.
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting