As the National Broadband Network continues to take shape, the Federal Government has introduced and is consulting on various new policies to allow for enhanced competition in the broadband sector. In addition, NBN Co has made a number of announcements of its own regarding the technologies that will be used to enable the transition to a multi-technology NBN rollout model. A further 550,000 premises have also been added to the national construction plan, with work expected to commence by September 2016.

FTTB goes live

NBN Co’s commercial fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) product has been released, with around 2,000 premises ready to connect to the service at the end of March 2015.

The technology will now be used to connect multi-dwelling units to the NBN when it is identified as the most appropriate technology option according to the NBN Multi-Technology Deployment Principles.

The company has already begun connecting 6,000 homes and businesses in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra to the NBN via FTTB. All up, more than one million homes and businesses across Australia are expected to receive the NBN via this type of connection.

Trials of FTTB connections achieved average speeds of around 89Mbps download and 36Mbps upload.

The NBN FTTB rollout may have to compete with TPG’s rival rollout in some of the high-density areas expected to be most profitable. Until the FTTB product was released, NBN Co’s commercial response to this competition involved connecting multi-dwelling units via fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP). However, rolling out FTTB, which involves connecting fibre-optic cable to a building’s existing wiring, may allow more buildings to be connected in a shorter time frame, as it does not require new infrastructure to connect each individual premise within the building.

“Eliminating the need for individual building designs and in-building wiring cuts down on construction time. Removing the need to install new equipment in the home accelerates the ability of people to connect,” said NBN Co’s Chief Customer Officer, John Simon.

Mr Simon also stated that the company’s FTTB connection success boded well for their Fibre-to-the-node product, expected around the end of the third quarter 2015, as many aspects of the connection process were similar.

NBN Co commits to HFC standard

Revised agreements with Telstra and Optus mean that NBN Co will incrementally gain access to these companies’ HFC networks, enabling it to incorporate upgraded HFC connections into the multi-technology NBN rollout.

NBN Co has now announced that it will be rolling out the international telecommunications standard Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) 3.1 for HFC connections to the NBN. This standard was developed by research and development consortium, CableLabs.

The upgraded cable theoretically has the capacity to reach speeds of 10GBps and a maximum upload speed of 1Gbps, although actual speeds will depend on the number of premises connected to a run of coaxial cable. HFC networks upgraded to DOCSIS 3.1 specifications can also deliver up to 50 per cent more data than is possible over current cable networks.

“NBN will utilise a network that is already deployed across millions of homes and businesses in Australia.  By re-architecting the ratio of homes to a node and the use of the latest technology underpinning DOCSIS 3.1, Australia’s HFC network will become one of the most state-of-the-art technologies used to deploy broadband services,” said NBN Co’s Chief Technology Officer, Dennis Steiger.

“Effectively, this technology has the potential to offer speeds equivalent to what’s on offer by full fibre-to-the-premises and up to 100 times faster (up to 10Gbps) than what is currently provided by today’s HFC network.”

Field trials of the technology will launch in the US later this year.

NBN Co’s HFC customer pilot is expected to begin in the last quarter of 2015 and the initial product release is scheduled for the first half of 2016. US technology firm Arris has been contracted to integrate the HFC networks into the rollout and provide network technology, including the Cable Modem Termination Systems (CMTS).

The process of upgrading the HFC networks to DOCSIS 3.1 specifications will occur from 2017.


New rules for new developments

The Federal Government is soon expected to release the new Telecommunications Infrastructure in New Developments Policy, which outlines a number of changes in regards to the NBN rollout in greenfields. The final policy is expected to remain largely unchanged from the draft policy, with some small alterations.

In the interim, NBN Co has begun to implement some of the changes.

NBN Co states that its understanding of the anticipated changes which are effective from 1 March 2015 are:

  • Deployment charges on a per lot/premise (MDU $400, SDU $600) basis will apply to all new developments approved by NBN Co on and after this date.
  • This will include developments lodged with NBN Co before this date but not approved.
  • Deployment charges will not apply to developments approved by NBN Co before this date, or for those covered by a pre-existing developer agreement prior to this date.
  • All stages covered by master plans appended to pre-existing Developer Agreements will be covered by the terms of those agreements and therefore the new charges will not apply to such stages.
  • A new developer agreement will need to be executed for any future stages that do not form part of an existing developer agreement and such stages will be subject to the new charges.

The objective of the new policy is to improve the efficient supply of telecommunications in new developments through effective competition, while ensuring residents in new developments have ready access to modern telecommunications infrastructure.

The draft policy allows developers to choose from competing infrastructure providers that comply with minimum standards. It will also see NBN Co levy a deployment charge on developers for infrastructure.

Where it doesn’t have backhaul available to connect a new development, NBN Co may charge developers a co-contribution of up to 50 per cent of the first $1000 per
lot of capital costs it incurs. Developers will be liable for
100 per cent of backhaul costs in excess of $1000 per lot.

The changes will apply to all projects approved by NBN Co from 1 March 2015. However, because of notification requirements, these charges would only be collected from the second half of the year.

Rolling out further changes

The NBN rollout continues its transition towards a multi-technology rollout and is currently undergoing legislative reforms to become part of a more competitive high-speed broadband sector. The recent incorporation of FTTB connections into the rollout mix and the promise of upgraded HFC and FTTN look to play a large role in the shape of Australia’s broadband future, while further legislative changes and reforms remain on the horizon.


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