NBN’s chief executive, Bill Morrow, says the company is not currently contemplating expanding the number of premises connected using fibre to the curb (FTTC).
“We’ve recently announced an expansion of that program and there’s no plans at this point to be able to improve from that level,” the CEO told a Senate Estimates hearing. He later qualified rolling out more FTTC as being an “unlikely” move.
The most recent expansion referred to by Morrow was the announcement last month that NBN planned to connect another 440,000 premises using FTTC. Those premises had previously been earmarked for connection using fibre to the node (FTTN) or hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC).
Most of them were within the footprint of Telstra’s HFC network (which is being transferred to NBN ownership) but did not have existing HFC lead-ins.
FTTC relies on shorter lengths of copper than FTTN, although it still uses existing copper phonelines for the final connection to a household. The copper interfaces with optical fibre via a distribution point unit (DPU).
If NBN’s plans remain unchanged, by the time the National Broadband Network is completed around 1.5 million premises will be connected with FTTC.
FTTC is the newest of the technologies comprising the ‘multi-technology mix’ being used by NBN. NBN began trials of the technology in 2016.
Originally FTTC was expected to be used primarily for connecting a few hundred thousand premises for which FTTN was judged to be unsuitable (because of their distance from the node, for example). NBN later revealed it would also use FTTC for most of the households that sit within the Optus HFC footprint.
NBN launched commercial FTTC services last month. The company has revealed it plans to offer G.fast services over FTTC beginning later this year; initially at least the company is expected to target the enterprise market with the super-fast technology.
Although Morrow’s comments might seem to shut the door on more FTTC, as recently as mid-April the CEO said he was open to using more FTTC — if the cost of rolling it out is reduced.