Govt open to NBN using skinny fibre, FTTdp, says Fifield


news Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has confirmed the Government is open to using ‘skinny’ fibre and Fibre to the Distribution Point models as part of the National Broadband Network, as speculation continues to mount the two technologies may form the basis of a new Coalition NBN policy to be released ahead of this year’s Federal Election.

Over the past several weeks, a series of leaked documents have revealed trials that the NBN company has been carrying out of ‘skinny fibre’ and Fibre to the Distribution Point technologies.

The combination of the two technologies appears to offer the NBN company a mechanism for delivering Fibre to the Premises-like speeds at a cost not incomparable to the Coalition’s preferred Fibre to the Node model. This has led to speculation that the NBN company could, in line with a potential new Coalition NBN policy, announce a shift from FTTN to FTTdp/skinny fibre as part of the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix approach to the NBN.

At the National Press Club last week, Communications Mitch Fifield was asked by Fairfax journalist Matthew Knott whether he would support the FTTN policy being replaced with the skinny fibre option. You can see the full transcript online here.

In response, Fifield repeated the Government’s ongoing line that it takes a “technology-agnostic” approach to the NBN, supporting whatever technology that would see the NBN rolled out “fastest and cheapest”.

“That’s why we have fibre-to-the-node. It’s why we have HFC. It’s why we have fixed wireless. It’s why we have satellite and there is still some fibre-to-the-premises which was instigated by our predecessors. We think that’s the right approach,” said Fifield.

The Minister noted that skinny fibre could reduce the civil works cost of the NBN in some circumstances, “so we’re not against skinny fibre”.

“That’s why NBN is looking at it,” he added. “It’s not been a secret trial, as has been reported. In fact, it was referred to by NBN in their half-year results, so secret it is. So skinny fibre could have application but not just to fibre-to-the-prem but could also have application in parts for HFC and fibre-to-the-node.”

“So we’re not averse to doing things that will see lower cost … if there is a good role for skinny fibre, hey we’re all for it.”

Fifield also gave a second indication that the Government was open to the FTTdp/skinny fibre combination in a media release the Minister issued last week in response to Labor comments on the issue.

Although the release was largely concerned with rebutting specific Labor comments, Fifield also noted as part of the statement that FTTdp was already part of the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix approach to the NBN, with it being referenced in the Executive Summary of the 2013 NBN Strategic Review.

“In fact, the company has advised that the FTTdp footprint will reach around 300,000 premises,” Fifield said.

However, Fifield also attempted to pour cold water on some of the claims being made around the FTTdp/skinny fibre technologies in general.

The Minister told the National Press Club that Fibre to the Node still cost around half as much as Fibre to the Premises, even if skinny fibre was included as part of the FTTP model.

for the Opposition to pretend that somehow skinny fibre represents their dream of a low cost fibre to the prem is not the case.

In addition, his separate media release, Fifield said the claim that the FTTdp/skinny fibre combination could bring costs down to the same level as FTTN was not true.

“Yesterday the nbn CEO advised a Senate committee that FTTdp optimised with skinny fibre would in fact be 25%-30% more expensive than FTTN,” he said.

Image credit: Parliamentary broadcasting


  1. ” “Yesterday the nbn CEO advised a Senate committee that FTTdp optimised with skinny fibre would in fact be 25%-30% more expensive than FTTN,” he said.”

    So what? The relevant question is would it be worth the additional expenditure?

    • It’s just an excuse to push their outdated agenda. FTTN is more than worth the additional expenditure, despite what the govt. says.

      In general, it’s better to spend more if the benifits are worth more. Any first year economics student – any reasonable person – can tell you that.

      • I think you got something wrong there. It should be pretty much any other option BUT FttN being worth the additional expenditure…

        • Whoops, you’re right. I must have been thinking too quickly for my fingers to keep up properly.

          To clarify, I meant that FTTP is worth the additional expenditure, not FTTN.

    • Exactly! The huge benefit to services and future upgrade is being completely ignored.

  2. Nowhere did he say there will be a shift from fttn to fttdp.
    He’s only parroting the plan to do some fttdp where it’s uneconomical to connect with fttn.

    • yeah I’m guessing this is keep those outside the 800m range where MTM won’t put in another node from having to use satellite etc. This does make not being near a node desirable if the case though lol.

    • “He’s only parroting the plan to do some fttdp where it’s uneconomical to connect with fttn.”
      Yeah… just about everywhere.

  3. “Yesterday the nbn CEO advised a Senate committee that FTTdp optimised with skinny fibre would in fact be 25%-30% more expensive than FTTN,” he said.

    if you ignore that FTTN is a short term solution that wastes boat loads of active powered equipment and large cabinets, costs more to run, provides worse services with lower speeds that wont meet the needs of around ~1 million Australian’s and Businesses who would happily pay more for them and so cant generate the higher revenues !!!

    • Not true! By default, it becomes a mid term solution, simply because those damn fridgenodes are going to be haunting our landscape for decades, purely out of Government stubborness.

      For the same reason dialup is still a thing, those nodes, and hence FttN, are going to be an option for far longer than they should be, just because they are there, and people are grandfathered onto them.

  4. Are they sure about the costings regarding powering up the locations?

    LV networks have substantial overhead assets and a LV UGOH (Underground-Overhead) connections are not cheap. The installations of these would necessitate trenching work. Likewise, where the electrical supply is not overhead but rather a LV underground network, the junction needs to be made available and tapped also requiring digging works to be performed.

    Again, this work isn’t low cost in established locations (as opposed to greenfield developments, where again, fibre makes more sense).

    • Fttdp is reverse powered from the users premises via the copper pair and their modem.

        • Out of date draft copy WIP hypothetical sceanrios figures that have no meaning as to the actual costs involved if and when it does happen.

          But then you know that, that’s why you use them.

          • And yet the rollout continues based on the reasoning reflected in the HFC (and FTTN) financials in that table.

          • Martin, don’t you know, only figures in the CP 16 are accurate, and any other documents from NBN, even when they list the same prices for known technologies, can’t be trusted, because they’re not “official”

  5. We need a work truck, but we dont want to spend that much money.

    I know! Lets buy a Great Wall! Then we’ll say its the most cost effective option.

    That’ll work wont it?

    The whole debate around cost comes across like that to me. Cheaper cheaper cheaper!!! Well, you get what you pay for.

  6. Of course they are “open” to using FttDp. It’s not FttP. So long as it’s not FttP anything regardless of expense and of how much “existing infrastructure” is actually “reused” then it’s all fine with coalition clowns.

  7. The Govt has told the NBN to build it cheaper (or to use the cheapest possible method). But they are open to any technology as long as it’s the cheapest available to that area.
    They haven’t changed position, just the way they are saying it.

  8. Looming election, this is Fifield handing out lolly pops to unsuspecting kids, don’t fall for it kids, Pinocchio almost ended up being a donkey, “hee-haw”. Fifield nor Turnbull can be trusted just think about it.

      • Why don’t you contact Labor and ask them, instead of asking on the comments thread of a technology news site to people who are not ALP Members.

        Jason Clare is on twitter, might be a good place to start.

Comments are closed.