NBN sees more fibre to the node, less cable in network

Cost per premise of HFC higher than expected

An updated corporate plan has seen NBN cut the number of premises expected to be connected via hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) cut from 4 million to 2.5-3.2 million.

The plan, released today, indicates NBN expects to see fibre to the node (FTTN), fibre to the basement (FTTB) and fibre to the distribution point (FTTdp) — technologies the company bundles together in its public figures — used to connect 5.1-6.5 million homes, up from 4.5 million in the previous corporate plan.

“We had originally circled a number of homes — about 4 million — to be slated for HFC,” said NBN CEO Bill Morrow at a briefing on the plan. “That now is down in to a range of 2.5 million to 3.2 million. Now many of those have shifted over into the FTTN/B/dp environment.”

Under deals with Optus and Telstra, NBN is taking ownership of their HFC assets.

The number of homes expected to receive fixed wireless has also increased.

Fibre to the premises (FTTP), which the previous corporate plan had said would connect 2.4 million premises will now connect 2-2.5 million.

“The range is really important for us because we do not really understand until we actually get into the field, doing the design work, as to which technology is optimal,” Morrow said.

Morrow said there were a number of reasons for slashing the use of HFC. At the time of the last corporate plan, NBN had not signed contracts with equipment suppliers and delivery partners for the HFC rollout and the company still lacked a lot of data from Telstra and Optus.

“Through the year we’ve been able to close all of that out,” the CEO said.

“The reduction in HFC premises reflects a transition of higher cost HFC premises to FTTN/B/dp following further understanding of network planning and design and delivery arrangements,” the corporate plan states.

The previous document expected the cost per premise for HFC to be $1800 — NBN now expects it to be $2300, putting it level with FTTN (but cheaper than FTTP connections in brownfields areas, which come in at $4400).

CPP for other technologies is otherwise largely consistent between the plans. “Having that experience, having those contracts in place for all of those other technologies allowed us to be able to predict last year what would expect,” Morrow said.

NBN launched its first HFC services in the Brisbane suburb of Redcliffe in June using Optus HFC infrastructure.

NBN in July released details of construction partners that will carry out work in the Telstra HFC footprint. Under a $1.6 billion agreement with Telstra signed in April, the telco will take charge of the planning, design and management for the bulk of the HFC rollout.

A leaked document that included an unflattering assessment of the Optus HFC network is linked to controversial Australian Federal Police raids against Labor staffers.

Discussions with Optus about its HFC assets remain ongoing, Morrow said today.

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