NBN Co is set to bolster the National Broadband Network (NBN) with a $3.5 billion investment, including 'on demand' fibre upgrades to existing fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) connections.
The upgrade will see the NBN's highest wholesale speed tiers made available for up to 75 per cent of homes and businesses by 2023, according to a joint media statement by Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann and Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher.
It also covers existing fibre infrastructure already built in areas served by fibre to the node (FTTN), taking fibre further into neighbourhoods that already use the technology, enabling on-demand fibre upgrades and speeds of up to 1 Gbps.
The upgrade will also look to improve speeds on the hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) network up to 1 Gbps, upgrade the fibre to the curb (FTTC) network speeds up to 100Mbps with the option of on-demand access to 1 Gbps — via G.Fast technology — and resolve in-home cabling issues for premises on the FTTN network.
Fletcher claimed in the statement that the upgrade falls under NBN Co's 2013 strategic review, which he said was to provide upgrades when there was demand for them following the rollout of the NBN.
“This is the right time for this network upgrade. There is a long term trend of broadband demand growth – with a very significant spike this year as COVID-19 has changed the way we use the internet,” he said.
The upgrade, the statement continued, is comparable to the fibre rollout seen in New Zealand, with on-demand deployment of fibre lead-ins to households as requirements exceeded existing line speed capability.
The funding for this upgrade will be sourced from NBN Co borrowing from private debt, Cormann said.
“As well as refinancing the existing $19.5 billion Commonwealth Government loan by 30 June 2024, NBN Co will bring forward these important investments in Australia’s future broadband capability through private debt, which is possible due to its strong future cash flow position,” he said.
In addition to the $3.5 billion, the Federal Government also announced a $300 million co-investment fund to allow NBN Co to partner with governments and local councils for the delivery of technology upgrades, particularly in fixed wireless and satellite areas.
The funding announcement from the Federal Government comes a day after NBN Co’s plan to spend $700 million on establishing 240 new Business Fibre Zones.