300,000 more houses are getting the NBN's faster fibre-to-the-kerb

Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Getty Images

An NBN executive today announced that new fibre-to-the-kerb technology will be rolled out to 1 million premises, up from the previous plan of 700,000.

The NBN started as fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) under Labor, which would have offered homes and businesses the fastest speed possible. The Coalition replaced that with fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) — using the old copper lines from the nearest neighbourhood “node” to the premises – at much slower speeds.

The NBN then developed world-first fibre-to-the-kerb technology as a ‘third way’ compromise. The configuration, which the company calls FTTC (also known as fibre-to-the-driveway), brings fibre all the way to the front of the house or business, so the length of copper is reduced for better performance.

FTTC is in testing and is due to roll out commercially next year in selected Melbourne and Sydney suburbs, as revealed in February. The NBN’s plan then was to grant fibre-to-the-kerb to 700,000 premises.

“With work well underway on bringing these premises into the network fold we have our eyes firmly on the future so I’m very proud to announce that we’ve decided to extend our FTTC footprint to one million premises,” said NBN chief network engineering officer Peter Ryan at the CommsDay Summit today.

“Having a technology as flexible as FTTC in our suite of network tools allows us to be agile with the build. These premises in the expanded footprint will now be delivered more efficiently from a cost and time perspective – a great outcome for these homes.”

When the superior FTTC technology was first announced, people already on FTTN, and due to receive it, accused the NBN of treating them “unfairly”. The company was forced to defend itself against the criticism, saying immediately replacing every FTTN area with FTTC was logistically impossible.

“I can appreciate that people are excited by the potential of FTTC but on a project the size of the NBN you cannot just tear up 18 months of design, planning and construction work that is in the pipeline for FTTN deployment to several million homes and change them to FTTC – that is not how things work in the real world,” Ryan said last month.

He said at the time that with FTTC being a world-first rollout, there were too many unknowns with costs and installation times – so the company was unable to commit to more than the 700,000 premises initially promised.

Boosting speeds on other technologies

The NBN also told announced that its trials, conducted in conjunction with Nokia, of NG-PON2 technology was going well and that it could deliver 10Gbps (10,000Mbps) speeds to the lucky houses with fibre-to-the-premises. Currently the highest speed tier widely available through retailers is 100Mbps.

Ryan told the conference audience that G.Fast and XG.Fast technologies were also promising, meaning FTTN customers could see 300Mbps squeezed through their copper lines sometime in the future, citing an example in Britain.

“This gives NBN the confidence that our build is in-line with global market leaders like BT, as well as DT in Germany which is also building a mass FTTN network and eyeing technology upgrades.”

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