NBN Co outlines its new rollout plan

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NBN updateWe’re all curious to know, when will Australia get to experience a “super fast” broadband speed? If ever.

If NBN Co makes good of their promise, Australians are going to see the completion of the National Broadband Network (NBN) project by 2020.

According to NBN Co, the new national rollout plan for the National Broadband Network – based on the multi-technology approach – will bring fast broadband to all Australian’s sooner than first thought. The plan is to accelerate construction to an additional 1.9 million homes and businesses, across more than 400 cities, suburbs and towns by June 2016. This means 100,000 premises per month will be connected to the network, for the next 19 months.

Needless to say, many are doubtful if NBN Co will be able to pull this off given that in the last 4 years since the rollout began, just over 300,000 premises have been connected to the network.

However, NBN Co’s CEO Bill Morrow is adamant saying, “We’re committed to bringing fast broadband to all Australians as quickly as possible. The new multi-technology approach enables us to do just that. Over the past year, we have carried out successful trials of a range of new technologies, revised our build processes and are renegotiating our partner agreements. As a result of this work, we are able to provide forecasts that reflect the next phase of our network build.”

Multi-technology mix

The Coalition-approved mix of technological strategies include fibre to the premise (FTTP), fibre to the node (FTTN)/fibre to basement (FTTB), fixed wireless/satellite and upgraded pay TV cables or Hybrid fibre-coaxial cables (HFC).

In NBN’s new plan, areas where NBN FTTP has been deployed or is in advanced stages of being built, will remain part of the FTTP rollout. Whilst the NBN fixed-wireless or satellite networks scheduled for deployment, will remain part of the fixed-wireless or satellite rollout. Furthermore, areas served by the Optus or Telstra Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) cable networks will get connected to an upgraded HFC network on the NBN. The rest, NBN Co said, will likely get fibre to the node or fibre to the basement (for multi-dwelling units such as apartment blocks).

FTTP vs. FTTN

FTTN connects to old (and in some cases, new) copper telephone lines from multiple premises to a single node which then connects to fast broadband fibre, instead of connecting premises directly to the fibre.

If you will recall, the previous Labor government had planned to connect 93 per cent of premises directly to fibre (fibre-to-the-premises, or FTTP) by 2021, assuring broadband speeds of up to 100 Mbps. However, since the change of government in September 2013 and after experiencing some major snags in the rollout, this model was scrapped by the Coalition government and replaced by the multi-technology mix approach which is said to be more cost-effective and faster to rollout.

The first FTTN trials were done in April 2014, in Umina, NSW. It revealed promising speed-test results of an average download speed of approximately 98 Mbps over a period of a week, and upload speed of 33 Mbps over a copper line length of 190 metres.

Many are very sceptical about the effectiveness of FTTN. There’s the argument that the distance from a node to a building (and the often deteriorating condition of the copper being used) will make connections slower than those on fibre and to the premises. Even the Department of Communications and Telstra warned the Government that speeds achieved in the Umina trial may not reflect real-world results. Still we’re told, FTTN is now the default technology of choice.

The new promise

It’s important to highlight that the latest NBN Co rollout plan does not include connections on the HFC infrastructure and the long-term satellite service as both will be added in the future forecast, according to NBN. What’s certain for now is that the fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) services are expected to be launched in the first quarter of 2015, whilst FTTN could be available in the Q3 of 2015.

As to the breakdown of the updated rollout roadmap, New South Wales will get the highest number of premises added to the network with 659,000 premises scheduled to be connected by June 2016.

PLANNED CONNECTIONS BY STATE

– Queensland: 379,000

– Victoria: 286,000

– Western Australia: 240,000

– South Australia: 161,000

– Tasmania: 106,000

– ACT: 57,000

– Northern Territory: 25,000

Meanwhile, as part of its first federal budget, the Coalition government recently announced that it will cease to provide funding for NBN Co after mid-2018. This means NBN Co. will have to rely on complete private funding in only 48 months’ time to complete the project. With this latest development, we can only hope NBN doesn’t end up over-promising and under-delivering… again.

To know the status of the rollout in your area, check here.