The NBN’s FTTC Speed Results Are In (And They’re Pretty Damn Speedy)

The NBN’s FTTC Speed Results Are In (And They’re Pretty Damn Speedy)
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The tech that could revolutionise the roll-out of the National Broadband Network is one step closer to reality. The first installation of a FttDP — or fibre to the curb — connection has been completed in an NBN trial in Victoria, and the results are impressive.

Editor’s Note: In this article, we’re using ‘fibre to the curb’ to talk about the tech you might have already heard of as ‘fibre to the driveway’ or ‘fibre to the distribution point’. And why curb rather than kerb? NBN says it’s in line with international spellings of the tech.

Coburg in northern Melbourne is the home of the first NBN fibre to the curb trials, and the early particular installation that NBN has called on for its latest announcement has managed to hit an impressive 109Mbps download and 44Mbps upload speeds. Using the same VDSL tech as fibre to the node, this fibre to the curb install ran over a 70-metre copper line to the closest telecom pit, rather than the longer copper runs required to reach the FTTN nodes generally at the ends of streets or suburban crossroads.

Fibre to the curb has the potential to be a Goldilocks technology for the ongoing NBN rollout — it uses fibre to much closer distances to homes and businesses than fibre to the node, without requiring the expensive installation on private property that fibre to the premises needs. NBN says that the average cost of a fibre to the curb installation is projected to be $2900 versus the $4400 average of FTTP. It expects to serve a million premises with FTTC during the NBN rollout.

NBN nodes used for fibre to the node also require mains power to be supplied to the node, where individual fibre installations like FTTP and FTTC are passively powered. FTTP installations, NBN says, often require ‘trenching’ to run a passive fibre optic cable to the point of connection on the side of a home or business, and it’s this additional process that is costly and time consuming.

However, it’s important to note that while promising, this is only the first speed result we’ve seen from any fibre to the curb connection, and has been shared through NBN’s media outreach — so end users should be wary of the cherry-picked result that’s being shared with them. As fibre to the curb installations reach the mainstream in the next couple of years, we’ll get a better picture of everyday connection speeds and real-world results.

A blog post attributed to NBN chief executive Bill Morrow accompanying the announcement of the first fibre to the curb installation talks it up to no end. Saying it offers “an identical end-user experience to fibre-to-the-premises”, Morrow said the installation’s $1500 saving per premises also comes with far less inconvenience to users. Morrow said fibre to the curb would only have been possible under the multi-technology mix instituted by then-communications minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2014.

“Back then, our people were told to design and build the fixed-broadband network no matter the time or cost. By bringing FTTB, FTTN, HFC and soon HFC into the network we have been able to address this problem.” Morrow goes on to say that an all-FTTP network is hugely attractive — even to him, as a former telecoms industry engineer — but “not feasible to do in a country like Australia.

“Of course, I understand why some people come out with glib catchphrases like, ‘Do it once, do it right, do it with fibre’. If only it were that simple in the real world.”

Morrow says that the NBN company has to make commercial decisions on how much to spend on the network, because those costs are — necessarily, he says — passed on to consumers. “This network is not being delivered as a free gift — the government wants taxpayers to get their $49 billion back and expect a small return as well.” That money is recouped from the fees NBN charges retail service providers, which make their money from… taxpayers.

“If we decided tomorrow to upgrade the entire FTTN footprint to FTTP — upgrading nearly five million premises at a cost of $2000 each — then that’s another $10 billion we would have to recoup for taxpayers.” And, Morrow says, customers aren’t willing to pay — “only 14 per cent of end users are buying 100/40Mbps plans. We could not rightfully sanction piling billions of extra dollars of debt onto NBN — and ultimately the Australian people.”

NBN hasn’t responded to our questions on whether this 109MBps/44Mbps result is the highest possible speed this line could achieve — whether it’s uncapped, or conforming roughly to NBN’s top tier 100/40Mbps connection speed — and whether it was using final hardware that will be rolled out to future FTTC NBN installations. [NBN]


  • I find it interesting that they keep using the number of users on the top tier as a justification for not providing better infrastructure.

    Maybe, they should instead be asking, “If 100/40 performance was available and somewhat guaranteed would you be willing to pay for it?”.

    They rolled FTTN into my area and the NBN’s own tool indicates I can expect 8,22 and now maybe 40 Mbps based on my distance from the Node ( depending on the version of the calculation you believe – and given the copper is so bad the noise on telephone calls makes it nearly impossible to use – I find the top number impossible to believe ).

    So, I will definitely be skewing the numbers because I’m not about to pay for a 100 Mbps connection if they cannot provide it.

    • From a future investment point of view, this is why we will not be able to compete in any industry in the future. Our technology for 2050 is being designed based on how we use it in 2017. This means that in 2050, while the rest of the world is designing in collaboration across space at high speeds, we will be using the equivalent of dial-up. Our political system is designed to think 4 years ahead, not a hundred.

      • Agreed, if New Zealand can have fibre to the premises, why can’t we, we’re one of the most urbanised countries, in the world, sure Australia is a big country, but most of us live in the Capital cities. Most of the rest live in regional cities and towns, with the some of the most automated farming and mining industries in the world. The long distance fibre optic cables, have been there for decades, so we have to go, fibre to the node, fibre to the curb, fibre to the premises, while New Zealand eats our lunch, with their South Korean quality internet. What did we get instead, 12 Barracuda class submarines, with lead batteries, if we’d gone with upgraded Collins, the difference between the cost of the two, would have been enough, for the difference between FTTN and FTTP.

        The strategic value of a marginally better submarine, over massively better communications, even just for the military, would obviously favor, spending the money on FTTP. But instead we decided to favor a boondoggle, for a departmental feifdom, in South Australia, as an electoral bribe, South Australia, would have benefitted more from FTTP, than Barracuda. Like here in Tasmania, where the earliest and best regional NBN, in the country, is causing the transmigration to flood in, with cheap real estate and a cooler climate, given global warming, rentals are harder and harder to get.

        • Don’t forget that under the original plan, we would have FTTP the same as New Zealand right now – it was Abbott / Turnbull that blew it. The slow initial roll out that the Liberals used to destroy the original vision of the NBN was because Labor wanted to show it was committed to regional Australia by rolling out to certain rural locations first (which due to the distances involved obviously was much slower to roll out). As soon as the FTTP hit metropolitan areas, it was quicker / cheaper to install than FTTN. It’s the Liberals who have blown it.

          Fibre to the curb is a joke, they may as well be just connecting premises straight up with fibre to future proof the connection and enable 1gbps speeds with no further upgrades in the future. It’s just political bloody mindedness.

          I’m one of the few with the original FTTP connection, and it’s solid with an 80/40 connection. If it were uncorked by the ISP and NBN co, I could have 1gbps right now as I do at work… and no we don’t use the gigabit connection for streaming services etc. like the govt. loves to complain about, it’s used for real-time international collaboration / sharing of files internationally for development etc.

  • I’m looking forward to FTTC in our place in January, we’re located in Pascoe Vale, the next suburb up from Coburg, and according to the rollout map, should be live around January-March.

    It’ll be a nice replacement for the 10/1 vividwireless modem we’ve been using for a year (which, in turn, was a nice replacement for the 3-4/0.5 ADSL2 we had before that…)

    • I certainly don’t have the choice. I’m on the 50/20 plan (FTTN) and get 48/18; don’t get me wrong its a huge improvement on my previous ADSL connection which was 6/1. My max sync rate is 58/22, but I am acutely aware that 50% of the houses in my street can get a maximum of around 50/20 and the other half of my area get get between 70-100Mbps. Previously I had a max sync rate of 36/18, I had to spend hundred’s of dollars to get someone to rewire my house (the undocumented cost the Govt. ignores). There is a digital divide on my street (never mind across the whole country) that I can do nothing about. How does this effect house prices as digital becomes more and more important in people’s lives? I’m starting to hear people say they deliberately chose to live in a FTTH area….

  • Just this morning there was a running commentary of just how bad the NBN connections are so far. Virginia Trioli mentioned how when it rains her FTTC connection drops out because of the copper connection, which is a problem we were having before we had our FTTP connected. We were lucky enough to have our NBN connected just before Abbott slimed into power and it is petty fast. Politics in this country has become solely intent on getting into power and completely misses the reason they are supposed to be in power.

    • I always remember when politicians say, “why would you want to download movies faster” completely missing things like the medical industry being able to remote operate on patients, etc. It is a short-sighted, ignorant bunch of people who fail to understand the full potential of the technology.

      • That’s what happens when most politicians have a legal background: cleverly use words to get what they want, rather than what is correct and necessary. We need more engineers/technologists in power.

      • I heard only last week that around 56% of total bandwidth in Australia is currently used for streaming services.
        If true, then the comment about downloading movies is not that far off the mark.

        • Streaming services for sure, but it is the future. And the demand will continue to grow. War and pornography drive innovation (the need to kill and get off). The Govt. is about a decade behind in their thinking. Companies like Netflix, Apple, Stan, etc. have come through and very quickly killed off the video movie rental industry (digital disruption).

          I work for a very large finance enterprise, and things are changing faster than the Govt. will be able to cope with. I see bureaucrats stuck in the thinking of trying to get more people funnelled into ever increasingly congested road systems. But the future is with big infrastructure projects like NBN. Digital disruption for office spaces has well and truly landed, people are still in denial though. Landlords are starting to feel the pinch as technology changes the office landscape at a rapid pace. I’ve seen quite a few office blocks try to quickly convert into residential in response.

          The NBN means we are now able to have call centre staff reliably (much more reliably than ADSL) working from home on a permanent basis. Over 80% of our head office staff now work from at least 1 day a week and over 30% work from home at least 2 days a week. A growing number of our call centre staff are now working from home full time. This is driving down our costs and increasing profits. So its not something that is going to go away its going to need more and more.

          • Got that right, Tasmania, has the earliest and best regional NBN in Australia, here in Devonport, I’m getting 50 MB/s, I might upgrade to 100 MB/s, I’m looking into fibre to the home. There’s $250 million in construction going on, one block away, 30 channel high definition TV, supermarkets, carbon fibre aircraft 15 minutes away, day trips to Melbourne, on the Spirit of Tasmania, for $80, $90 more to add a car, a $2.50 Spirit of Devonport ferry away. No wonder, they’re building a 150-200 room hotel, an hour away, flights to Sydney, for $70, park the car for a week, at the airport, for $80. Those carbon fibre aircraft, 15 minutes away, go to Melbourne, for $100, in an hour.

            If the rest of Australia, wants to see distance crushed, they’d better go to FTTC or better FTTP, it’s crushing anyway, Hobart, just got international airport status, I have 4K UHD YouTube. I make 3D panoramic photos and post them to Facebook, my phone is 4K, loved the new Ghost Busters in UHD, it takes a minute, to load a photosphere, loading uncompressed UHD, video takes ages, I wish the companies, would compress it for me.

            The future is commuters loading entire seasons of UHD TV, news, picking and choosing, what to watch VR/AR, high bandwidth demand driverless cars, with thousands of transceivers, bored passengers demanding pixels.

  • “NBN nodes used for fibre to the node also require mains power to be supplied to the node, where individual fibre installations like FTTP and FTTC are passively powered. ” FTTC is not passively powered – it is reversed powered from the customers premises.

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