NBN today officially launched its fibre-to-the-node offering, with the company aiming to have half a million premises able to order FTTN services by the middle of next year.
Under NBN's plan for a 'multi-technology mix' National Broadband Network, FTTN and fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) will eventually connect 4.5 million premises.
NBN is aiming to have 3.7 million premises ready to sign up for FTTN services by mid-2018.
FTTN/B is intended to make up the biggest component of the fixed line network, connecting 38 per cent of Australian homes and businesses (followed by hybrid fibre-coaxial, HFC, at 34 per cent; fibre-to-the-premises, or FTTP, will be used to connect 20 per cent).
FTTN is the "next step on our MTM journey," NBN's chief customer officer, John Simon, said today at the launch of the technology.
FTTN relies on a copper phoneline for the connection to an end user's home. The use of the copper network required an extensive re-negotiation of NBN's agreements with Telstra.
Under the new agreements, signed in December, NBN will progressively take ownership of copper as it rolls out FTTN.
The reliance on Telstra's copper has been a source of criticism, with NBN admitting that it did not yet have a full picture of the state of the network.
Simon said that most of the copper network is being removed. Despite the step away from FTTP, fibre will be deployed "deep into the network," Simon said.
NBN is not responsible for the condition of in-home copper wiring, Simon said.
It will be up to retail service providers to deal with the issue of degraded in-home wiring, with RSPs deciding whether to pass the cost of remedying it to end users.
FTTN will allow a quicker and cheaper rollout of the National Broadband Network, Simon said. NBN has estimated the cost of deploying FTTP in brownfields areas at $4400 per premise, compared to $2300 for FTTN.
The technology is also more convenient for households and businesses because it doesn't require access to the end user's premises, the NBN executive said.
NBN will offer asymmetric services for residential users and symmetric committed information rate services with speeds of up to 40/40Mbps for business that can be sold by retail service providers.
For residential users the base product speed classes include 12/1Mbps and 25/5Mbps. However, end users will potentially be able to order faster speed services depending on the capability of their line, with three additional 'up-to' speed tiers of 25/5-10Mbps, 25-5/5-20Mbps and 25-100/5-40Mbps.
"An 'up to' means when the service is ordered, the RSP will be able to have the line rated... we can rate that line and provide an indication... as to what speed tier it performs into. And if the end user wants, they can order a higher speed tier," Simon said.
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The largest factor in the theoretical peak speed available to an end user over FTTN is the distance from the cabinet where the fibre terminates.
Acknowledging that FTTN deployment is still at an early stage, NBN is currently estimating that around 50-60 per cent of users will potentially be able to access 100/40Mbps speeds using the technology, Simon said.
Ninety per cent of end users in the FTTN footprint will be able to access speeds of a minimum 50/20Mbps.
"This is a significant difference and a significant uplift on what the average DSL2 type services today [achieve]," Simon said.
In an FTTN trial in Belmont, NSW, end users 400 metres or less from the node have consistently received speeds of 100/40Mbps, and end users located more than 700 metres from the cabinet have achieved speeds of 60/20Mbps (on the data link layer).
More than 20 RSPs have signed up to sell FTTN services, NBN said.
They include Telstra, Optus, Optus Wholesale, Exetel, TPG and its subsidiaries iiNet and AAPT, and the subsidiaries of the M2 Group (Dodo, iPrimus, Commander).