NBN Is Rolling Out ‘Fibre-To-The-Driveway’ To 700,000 Premises, Ditches Optus HFC

nbn, the company responsible for the National Broadband Network (NBN), has cancelled its plans to use Optus hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) assets as part of its rollout and is going to deploy fibre-to-the-distribution point (FTTdP) instead. The technology, also known as ‘fibre-to-the-driveway’, provides faster broadband speeds compared to copper-based HFC. Here are the details.

The current iteration of the NBN uses a mixed-bag of broadband technologies including fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), wireless, and HFC, which combines fibre and copper.

Pundits have criticised the NBN since a large portion of it is still dependent of copper, which is viewed as outdated. Instead, they favour an all fibre network that was planned when the Labor party was in Government using FTTP. The current Coalition Government prefers FTTN because it’s cheaper to roll out, even though copper maintenance costs are expensive.

nbn had been trialling FTTdp, which is viewed as a compromise between FTTP and FTTN. While it does still use copper to make a connection to a premise, the fibre is brought closer to the user. FTTdp uses skinny fibre, which is cheaper to deploy and easier to upgrade than regular fibre.

nbn had been coy about whether they will commit to including FTTdp in their mixed-technology NBN. Today, the company made the announcement that it was indeed taking the plunge with FTTdp and plans to deploy the technology to 700,000 premises that were originally covered by Optus’ HFC network.

Leaked documents had shown nbn noted that the Optus HFC network, which the company paid $800 million for in 2011, was not fit for purpose and considered overbuilding it.

This is what nbn said in today’s announcement:

“The company stated FTTdp would be considered for deployment to select premises that had previously been ear-marked for either Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) or Hybrid-Fibre Coaxial (HFC) in areas served solely by the Optus HFC network.”

Unfortunately for Redcliffe in Queensland, since the Optus HFC-based NBN was already launched there, the suburb will not be getting the FTTdp update.

nbn chief network engineer officer Peter Ryan said:

“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. This includes premises in the FTTN footprint that have too high a cost per premises (CPP) and premises served solely by the legacy Optus HFC footprint that are yet to be made ready for service.”

Internet Australia (IA), the non-profit peak body representing internet users, has applauded the announcement.

“It has long been known that much of Australia’s HCF (Pay-TV) cabling has not been well maintained and would not be fit-for-purpose,” IA CEO Laurie Patton said. “It is to be hoped that this is the beginning of the industry’s long desired return to building a 21st Century broadband network. The next stage needs to be abandoning the ageing Telstra copper wires in favour of an all fibre rollout, except in the remote areas where fixed wireless or satellite is the only answer.”

No word on what nbn is going to do with the Optus HFC network it paid $800 million for.

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