NBN Co and Telstra have struck a $150 million deal to deploy fibre-to-the-node broadband to about 200,000 premises in NSW and Queensland.
Under the deal, Telstra will roll out about 1000 nodes in Belmont, Bribie Island, Queensland, Boolaroo, Gorokan, Morisset, Hamilton, Bundaberg, Caboolture, Gympie and Warner.
The NBN will expand its current FTTN pilot in Umina on the New South Wales Central Coast.
The agreement for a thousand-node FTTN trial represents an interim step while NBN Co, Telstra and the Government finalise changes to the existing definitive agreements covering Telstra’s participation in the NBN. It is anticipated that these changes will include arrangements for NBN Co to gain access to Telstra’s existing local access network.
A spokesperson for communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said NBN Co will work closely with telecommunications retail service providers to finalise the design of its FTTN products and provide services to end-users, such as Very-high-bitrate Digital Subscriber Line technology (VDSL).
"Early line tests using VDSL indicate that download data rates of up to 100 megabits per second and upload data rates of up to 40 megabits per second are achievable over copper lengths of a hundred metres," a spokesperson said.
"The top available downloads speeds are approximately 17 times faster than current average fixed line broadband connections to Australian households.
The spokesperson said these speeds allow ten high definition television shows to be streamed to a single household or business concurrently.
"A three minute YouTube video will be able to be uploaded in as little as 42 seconds, compared to up to 20 minutes on today’s average ADSL connections," he said.
NBN Co will continue to deploy its FTTP, fixed wireless and permanent satellite networks during the period of the FTTN trial deployment.
The contract with Telstra will ensure the initial rollout of FTTN focuses on areas categorised as ‘underserved’ in the Government’s MyBroadband broadband quality study.
NBN Co estimates areas underserved with broadband account for around 28 per cent of the premises in the roll out regions.
NBN Co, chief executive, Bill Morrow, said it was a progressive step in the evolution of the NBN.
"It shows we are determined to get on with the job of delivering fast and reliable broadband to Australians while wider negotiations with Telstra continue," he said.
“The extensive pilot program we’re announcing today will deliver valuable insights into how to build a sustainable and consistent program of work that allows the industry to ramp up and deploy the FTTN element of the NBN at scale.”
Morrow said the agreement between the two companies was intended to leverage Telstra’s expert design knowledge of its copper network combined with NBN Co’s own skills and resources as well as those of the Australian construction industry.
"The cost of the trial activities will be funded from within NBN Co’s peak funding envelope approved by the Federal Government," he said.
"Talks between the two companies regarding the renegotiation of the definitive agreements, including access to Telstra’s copper to support FTTN-based services, are ongoing and progressing well."
NBN Co is also working with the telecommunications industry to develop an FTTN product set.
Today’s agreement represents the second phase of FTTN build activity. The first phase involved the construction of small scale FTTN sites in Umina in the Central Coast in NSW and Epping in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.
Parliamentary secretary to the minister for communications, Paul Fletcher, said the announcement demonstrated how FTTN could help bring broadband more quickly to regional areas.
"That is good news because upgraded broadband can help regional communities capture improved economic, educational and social opportunities," he said.
Since September 2013, the number of households and businesses with active service over the FTTP network has tripled from 48,000 to 146,000.
In the same period the number of premises passed by the FTTP network has almost doubled to 482,000.
However, a number of the premises passed by NBN Co under both governments are still unable to connect to services.
The news comes as NBN Co updates its website.
The changes include a new design to make it easier for families and business to find out when the NBN is coming, improved navigational tools and better organisation of content for wholesale customers and builders, electrical contractors and building developers, as well as councils.
An announcement later today from the government and Telstra is expected to shed more light on the details of the pilot.