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by Michelle Goldsmith, Utility Associate Editor

Since the transition to a multi-technology National Broadband Network was announced, there has been much speculation over which specific technology will be deployed to which areas. The final answer to that question may be a step nearer, with the release of the NBN Multi-Technology Deployment Principles and NBN Co’s rollout forecast for December 2014 to June 2016. 

Deciding which technology goes where

Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB), hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC), wireless and satellite broadband are all likely to play a role in the multi-technology mix NBN.

The NBN Multi-Technology Deployment Principles govern how NBN Co determines which technology is used to connect premises to the National Broadband Network.

The choice of technology will be made on an area-by-area basis, prioritising the minimisation of peak funding, maximising economic returns and enhancing the company’s viability.

Areas identified as poorly served by the Broadband Availability and Quality Report will also be prioritised for connection ‘to the extent commercially and operationally feasible’.

For each service area NBN Co will consider whether:

• Existing infrastructure can be leveraged to deliver the required bandwidth and reliability to premises.

• Delivery partners have available construction capacity. Sequencing needs to be matched to construction capacity in particular areas with a preference for a contiguous work front.

• Network complexity can be reduced by consistent use of technologies within a particular area. Advances in technology may mean an alternative approach may be preferable.

NBN Co will also consider:

• Opportunities to prioritise under-serviced areas.

• Opportunities to achieve early/high revenue (e.g. from areas with a large number of business customers).

NBN Co states that this approach means that for most households and businesses:

• Areas already served by the Optus or Telstra Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) cable networks will most likely receive fast broadband over an upgraded HFC network.

• Areas where FTTP has been deployed or is in advanced stages of construction are likely to remain part of the FTTP rollout.

• Areas earmarked for NBN fixed wireless or satellite networks will remain part of the fixed wireless and satellite rollout plan.

• All other areas are likely to receive FTTN deployment, or, in the case of multi-dwelling units such as apartment blocks, FTTB.

The company states that these principles will be regularly updated and amended as required.

NBN Co is also required to inform the public of the business rules it establishes to determine which technology is used in each locality, and regularly update this information to reflect technological and commercial developments.

Forecasting the future of the NBN

NBN Co’s new national rollout plan details the construction work scheduled to take place during the 18 months from December 2014 to June 2016. This forecast is provided as an indicative view of the rollout, which will be updated each quarter to reflect any changes.

The rollout plan outlines the first premises to be passed using the multi-technology approach governed by the multi-technology deployment principles as each technology product becomes available.

NBN Co’s most recent corporate plan suggests that the company’s FTTB product will be ready to connect apartment buildings sometime in the first quarter of 2015 and the FTTN product will be ready in the third quarter of 2015.

All in all, the forecast suggests that a further 1.9 million premises will be connected by the end of the 18-month period, towards the ultimate goal of eight million connections to the NBN by 2020.

The company also hopes to connect premises using upgraded HFC cable connections during 2015, now that they have finalised negotiations with Optus and Telstra for access to their HFC networks.

As a result of ongoing negotiations at the time, these premises were not covered in the forecast. However, now that the $11 billion Telstra and the $800 million Optus deals have been finalised, the expected number of premises passed by the June 2016 date could be significantly higher.

The agreement will see the telcos gradually hand over ownership of copper and HFC networks to NBN Co, a vital step in order for FTTN and HFC connections to be incorporated into the multi-technology rollout. NBN Co will then be responsible for the remediation and upkeep of these networks to ensure they are fit for purpose.

The announcements of the national rollout plan and the deployment principles that will govern it, in addition to the deals allowing NBN Co to access the HFC and copper networks, brings the public a little closer to being able to determine the final shape of the network. It may also provide NBN construction partners an indication of how their work may change when the new FTTN and FTTB rollout products are released. Meanwhile, trials of HFC and FTTN rollout methods continue.

nbn-fibre-hauling

Estimated additional premises covered by June 2016

Queensland: 379,000

Tasmania: 106,000

New South Wales: 659,000

Northern Territory: 25,000

South Australia: 161,000

Western Australia: 240,000

Victoria: 286,000

ACT: 57,000

National total: 1,913,000

Rollout progress – December 2014

Queensland: 154,518 covered; 61,513 activated

Tasmania: 65,871 covered; 26,934 activated

New South Wales: 206,117 covered; 92,692 activated

Northern Territory: 25,404 covered; 5,776 activated

South Australia: 28,852 covered; 11,010 activated

Western Australia: 61,503 covered; 24,431 activated

Victoria: 177,972 covered; 71,641 activated

ACT: 33,024 covered; 15,565 activated

National total: 753,261 covered; 309,562 activated

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