NBN Co CEO Stephen Rue says that scaling up the roll out of fibre to the curb (FTTC) is “perhaps the biggest challenge” faced by the network wholesaler over the next couple of years.
The company aims to have 1.4 million premises able to order fibre to the curb services by 2020.
“As you know, FTTC means that we are taking fibre very deep into the network,” Rue said in remarks prepared for a CommsDay conference in Melbourne.
The average copper length on ADSL is 2.5 kilometres, the CEO said. NBN Co’s fibre to the node (FTTN) rollout has reduced that to around 500 metres, but FTTC involves taking the fibre to within about 30 metres of most premises, Rue said.
Hooking up homes and businesses using FTTC involves two key construction challenges for the company. One is ensuring NBN Co’s Distribution Fibre Network is significantly closer to premises than is the case with FTTN. The other is ensuring that the pits where the fibre connects to a home or business’ copper phone line are of an adequate size and in good condition.
“This means we are not only pulling the fibre a lot deeper into the network but we are pulling it down residential streets,” Rue said. “There, we often have to remediate pits and install new conduits and that adds time and complexity to the build.”
Rue said NBN Co was working with its delivery partners to “explore every possible avenue for speeding up the build.”
“We have a great record in accelerating the deployment of all of our technologies by working closely with our delivery partners and equipment suppliers,” he said. “This is exactly what we are hoping to achieve with FTTC as well.”
NBN Co in 2016 initially launched trials using FTTC. The company in September 2016 said it would use FTTC instead of hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) in areas where it had originally intended to leverage the HFC infrastructure rolled out by Optus. Earlier this year it revealed it would swap out more HFC for FTTC in its rollout plan.
So far end users with FTTC connections have reported very high levels of customer satisfaction, according to NBN Co. Rue said that although NBN Co wants to speed up the roll out of FTTC, “we don’t want to do so at the expense of customer experience”.