Optus has completed a substantial upgrade of its HFC cable network in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney that will allow residents in supported areas access to speeds up ranging up to around 80 megabits per second (Mbps) or more, using the improved DOCSIS 3 standard.
Speeds on the network have historically maxed out at around 20Mbps - similar to the top speeds on rival ADSL2+ networks. However, most customers could only receive slower speeds - for example, up to 10Mbps.
Optus general manager of fixed network strategy Michael Wagg said the telco had tested around 6,000 customer connections and had come up with an average of just under 75Mbps download speeds - although the median was 81Mbps. In general the speeds will represent a four-fold improvement on the previous access.
"We're stoked about it," said Optus consumer marketing director Austin Bryan this morning in an interview.
The update will put Optus almost on par with Telstra's HFC network in Melbourne, which has been upgraded to 100Mbps speeds. However, in Brisbane and Sydney, the Optus upgrade will put the SingTel subsidiary's cable network far ahead of Telstra's. Telstra upgraded its cable network in those areas to 30Mbps in July.
In total, the new speeds will be available to more than 1.4 million homes across Optus' HFC cable footprint in the three cities. The company does not offer the cable product to businesses, having focused on the consumer market.
To attain the higher speeds, current Optus customers will need to upgrade their cable modem to a new model, as well as pay for what Optus is describing as a "Premium Speed Pack" as a bolt-on to their current plan for an addition $15 per month.
The modem upgrade is slated to start at $99 for existing customers, and between $149 and $199 for new customers. Optus HFC plans can start quite low - for example, it is currently offering a 120GB plan (with 50GB of on-peak and 70GB of off-peak quota) for $49.99 a month when bundled with a home phone. But the company also has higher-priced plans.
From a technical perspective, Wagg said the upgrade involved rolling out new Cisco hardware in Optus' network. The existing hardware is also from Cisco, but the US vendor won the DOCSIS 3 rollout after a competitive tender. The new end-user modems will also be supplied by Cisco.
Eventually, Telstra will stop providing broadband services over its own cable network as part of its deal with NBN Co to move its customers onto the National Broadband Network as it is built.
When asked about the long-term future of Optus' network, Bryan said it would come as "no surprise" that the company continued to have "constructive conversations with NBN Co".
He said it was important to realise that the NBN was a future solution - whereas the DOCSIS 3 speed upgrade would bring benefits to customers immediately.