NBN Co has gone live with its latest form of technology, fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC), with 1,000 homes in two suburbs, Coburg in Victoria and Miranda in New South Wales, the first in Australia to have the option to connect to the service.
In what NBN Co described as a “world first”, the new form of technology sees NBN fibre optic cable laid out to a telecommunications pit underneath the curb or footpath, with NBN Co then using the existing copper network to connect the short distance to the home.
It enables fibre to be closer to the home, compared to fibre to the node (FTTN) technology, which uses the existing copper network for a longer stretch underground before it gets to the home, causing slower speeds.
NBN Co said the technology could deliver wholesale speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (mbps) and had the potential to offer higher speeds through its new “copper acceleration technology”, G.fast, of up to one gigabits per second.
Who will get FTTC?
The technology will only be installed in premises that currently do not have the NBN, with NBN Co planning to connect 1 million Australian homes and businesses with the FTTC technology by 2020.
And despite calls from organisations such as not-for-profit peak body Internet Australia for the FTTC technology to replace all future rollout of FTTN, Minister for Communications Senator Mitch Fifield said it all depended on cost.
“NBN look area-by-area at what makes sense in a given area in terms of cost and logistics,” Senator Fifield said on Sunday after launching the product in Miranda.
“All of the NBN that isn’t already constructed is in planning or design. At the moment the best estimate is that it’ll be about a million premises nationwide that will benefit.
“That could change at the margins.”
University of Sydney telecommunications infrastructure researcher Dr Tooran Alizadeh described the move to FTTC as a “small step in the right direction”.
Existing NBN customers won’t benefit
She said NBN customers currently experiencing problems with slow connections on the NBN would miss out on the new technology.
“At this point in time NBN Co is not making any promises about a re-do over, which means that people who already have the NBN, whatever quality of issues they have, this change will not impact them.
“And remember there is still a lot of people around the county with no NBN connection, we only celebrated the half-point of NBN connection a few months back.
“We find ourselves in these never-ending trial phases … it shows that we haven’t done a good job of infrastructure planning. We shouldn’t be in this situation after a number of years after the roll-out.”
Higher Speeds with FTTC
But those who have connected to FTTC are reaping the benefits.
Rebecca Nilan has been using the FTTC network under a trial at her home for the past month.
“The speed is tremendous,” Ms Nilan said.
“We started off at 10mbps and now we’re at 80mbps.
“We have two iPads and two mobile phones on, plus Netflix, on in our loungeroom and we don’t lose speed.”