The company charged with building Australia’s National Broadband Network, nbn, has moved to quell calls for it to abandon its fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) rollout amid plans to step up the footprint of its alternative fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) technology,
Fresh reports suggesting that nbn may be set to favour the newer FTTC technology – also known as fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FTTdp) – over its existing FTTN technology for future deployments has led to questions over the continued FTTN rollout.
One of the more outspoken critics of the NBN rollout has been Laurie Patton, CEO of Internet Australia, a not-for-profit peak organisation representing Australian Internet users.
Patton has previously criticised nbn for continuing to roll out its network using the existing FTTN technology while the FTTC alternative is available, suggesting on 1 March that nbn should abandon the FTTN rollout while the newer FTTC/FTTdp technology is available to use.
“They’ve [nbn] already announced they’ll use FTTdp in lieu of the Optus HFC (Pay TV) cables that have been found to be unusable. So why continue to roll out inferior technology that they know will need to be replaced?” Patton said.
“If FTTN isn’t considered good enough for Optus customers how can they expect anyone else to settle for an inferior product?
“Our internationally respected technical experts assure me there is no such thing as an upgrade path for FTTN and it will need to be replaced within 10 to 15 years, if not sooner,” he said.
The criticism came after nbn chief, Bill Morrow warned that Australians must pay extra to be upgraded from the copper-wire based FTTN service currently provided under the company’s roll-out strategy.
During a Senate Estimates hearing on 28 February, Morrow told Senator Deborah O’Neill that Australians will have to pay more for superior technology to receive faster broadband speeds than can be delivered via FTTN.
“When we see that people are willing to pay more than what they are paying today for 25 Mbps, then we will build a business case," he said at the time.
Yet the company now looks as if it may be gearing up to prioritise the FTTC technology over FTTN, despite having already put the wheels in motion to roll out large portions of the network via its FTTN footprint.
The FTTC technology came to the fore last year when nbn revealed it would consider using the technology to connect over 700,000 premises previously earmarked for connection to the network via existing Optus Hybrid-Fibre Coaxial (HFC) infrastructure or FTTN technology.
The FTTC technology sees nbn deliver fibre all the way to the telecom pit outside a premises, reducing the reliance on Telstra’s legacy copper network for the final leg of a connection, and offering the potential for a much faster connection. FTTN, on the other hand, involves an existing copper connection to a street-based cabinet.
"We have tested FTTdp over the last year and we're confident we can now deploy the technology in areas where it makes better sense from a customer experience, deployment efficiency, and cost perspective,” said nbn chief network engineering officer, Peter Ryan, at the time.
Now, Ryan is working to convince critics of the company’s move to consider favouring FTTC while still going ahead with the rollout of the FTTN footprint, suggesting that the older technology facilitates the use of the newer one.