NBN ditching Optus cable for new Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point tech

29 September 2016

NBN will not use HFC cable purchased from Optus for $800 million, and now will instead rely on new Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point technology (FTTdp) to connect as many as 700,000 premises.

Leaked NBN documents published by Fairfax last year revealed internal concerns about the quality of the Hybrid-Fibre Coaxial (HFC) cable, describing it as "not fully fit for purpose". The documents suggested that some Optus equipment had reached the end of its life and would need replacing, and that network was congested due to over-subscription.

Under the 2011 Labor government, NBN paid Optus $800 million to eventually decommission its HFC network and eventually transfer its customers. Under the following Liberal government, a revised agreement was made that gave NBN the option to use and acquire parts of the Optus HFC network to deliver the National Broadband Network.

NBN will still use Telstra's HFC network as part of its Multi-Technology Mix (MTM) rollout.

"HFC remains a highly valued part of our MTM deployment," said NBN Chief Network Engineering Officer, Peter Ryan, "however in balancing the requirements to convert Optus’ current network architecture and design to be NBN ready, and the opportunity to introduce FTTdp, makes the new technology compelling in these selected areas."

FTTdp can almost be described as a hybrid of Fibre-to-the-Premise and Fibre-to-the-Node. Rather than taking fibre to a central node in a neighbourhood, fibre is laid directly to a property's kerb. The final connection is made with copper. Not only does this facilitate faster download speeds of up to 500Mbps, it would make it cheaper for a customer to get a direct fibre connection to their house or business.

"When we consider the advancements we've made in FTTdp, combined with the up-to-date learnings we have on the Optus HFC network, NBN has confirmed it will deploy FTTdp in those areas where the use of the Optus HFC network was planned, with the exception of the already launched network in Redcliffe, Queensland," said Ryan.

"The move to FTTdp was outlined in the 2017 Corporate Plan where we stated NBN's overall HFC footprint would be between 2.5 and 3.2 million by 2020, with more premises being served by FTTN, Fibre-to-the-Building and FTTdp. These ranges reflect NBN’s flexible and technology-agnostic approach."

Fast moving traffic light trails at night image via Shutterstock.

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