news The NBN company yesterday revealed its board and the Federal Government were blocking a switch to a Fibre to the Distribution Point model, despite the fact that new revelations have shown the cost of the FTTdp option is coming very close to that of the technically inferior Fibre to the Node incumbent model.
Labor’s original model for the NBN called for a near universal rollout of the technically superior Fibre to the Premises technology around Australia. However, the Abbott and Turnbull administrations switched the model to a complex ‘Multi-Technology Mix’, which is seeing the copper and HFC cable networks owned by Telstra and Optus re-used as part of the rollout.
A large part of the MTM mix is a technology known as Fibre to the Node, which is seeing fibre extended partially into Telstra’s network to neighbourhood ‘nodes’ or cabinets, and then Telstra’s existing copper network used for the remainder of the distance to houses and business premises.
However, over the past several weeks it has been revealed that the NBN company has been trialling a mechanism, known as ‘skinny fibre’, which has the potential to drastically cut costs and allow much cheaper fibre deployments. The technology has already been trialled successfully in Ballarat and Karingal in Victoria.
If deployed more widely, in combination with extending fibre close to customers’ premises (in a technique known as Fibre to the Distribution Point), the technology could allow significantly higher speeds than FTTN — comparable with FTTP, even approaching a theoretical 1Gbps.
In a fraught hearing of the NBN Senate Select Committee yesterday, NBN chief executive Bill Morrow revealed the NBN’s board had considered switching the NBN to a FTTdp/skinny fibre model.
However, the full details of the consideration were only revealed on last night’s Lateline program on the ABC (we recommend you click here to watch the full program).
Lateline relied on a new set of leaked documents from the NBN company to show that the cost of the FTTdp/Skinny fibre combination could bring the NBN’s per-premises cost down to just $400 more than the existing FTTN rollout.
Morrow directly implied that it was a political decision — not a technical decision — as to whether to proceed with the FTTdp/Skinny fibre rollout, as it would require slightly changing the Statement of Expectations which the Government issued the NBN company upon taking office.
That statement currently requires the NBN company to deploy the NBN in the fastest possible manner, at the least cost. The FTTdp/Skinny fibre combination would cost a little more and take a little longer, meaning it would violate these terms.
Asked why the NBN company would not pursue the new option, Morrow replied: “That’s a question you really have to ask the politicians.”
Image credit: Office of Communications Minister Mitch Fifield