NBN to fix slow FTTN speeds after copper network switch-off

NBN reveals details of FTTN speeds

NBN will take action to fix fibre to the node (FTTN) services not capable of achieving download speeds of 25 megabits per second after legacy services on the copper network are switched off.

The government has directed NBN to deliver speeds of at least 25Mbps to every household. However data released today revealed that 6 per cent of households with FTTN connections are struggling to achieve that performance.

In an answer to a question on notice from a Senate Estimates hearing in May, the government-owned company released a breakdown of the calculated Layer 2 attainable bitrates based on the measured attainable line rate for each service using the technology.

NBN cautioned that the figures don’t reveal the ‘real world’ speeds encountered by end users, which can be affected by a retail service provider’s purchase of capacity (CVC) as well as the bandwidth of an RSP’s own network and the quality of in-home wiring.

Six per cent of premises fell into the 12 to 25Mbps category, while a further 29 per cent were capable of downstream speeds of 25 to 50Mbps.

A third of premises with FTTN services can achieve 50 to 75Mbps, while just under a third — 32 per cent — are capable of speeds in the 75 to 100Mbps range.

NBN noted that the attainable speeds on services may ultimately be greater: Currently, FTTN services co-exist with legacy services on the copper network, which limits performance.

“Where the network is not capable of providing the minimum wholesale download speeds after coexistence has ended, NBN will take action to rectify any issues so that minimum standards are met,” the company said.  

The use of FTTN for fixed-line connections has been a source of controversy. Originally NBN had planned to use fibre to the premises (FTTP) for all of its fixed-line rollout. However, following the Coalition’s 2013 electoral victory, the company switch to a ‘multi-technology mix’, which includes FTTN, hybrid fibre-coaxial, fibre to the building (FTTB) and, more recently, fibre to the curb (FTTC).  

FTTN relies on the copper network to connect a household to a powered node and has a lower theoretical maximum speed than all-fibre connections. However, NBN has argued that the technology has an upgrade path thanks to emerging standards such as G.Fast and XG.Fast.

Shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland has filed a freedom of information request seeking access to NBN’s database of estimated theoretical maximum speeds for households.

In the wake of complaints about network performance, NBN’s CEO, Bill Morrow, has said that some of the blame lies with RSPs for under-provisioning capacity and trying to sell low-speed-tier broadband plans, rather than being attributable to NBN’s mix of access technologies.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is preparing to examine end user experience on the network, employing powers granted to it by the Telecommunications Act to gather information from a range of participants in the NBN market.

Read more: 55 technicians out of work after Telstra NBN contractor folds, union says

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is establishing a performance monitoring regime also focused on NBN connections.

The ACCC said recently it expects to launch court action against RSPs over broadband speeds before the end of the year.

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