As the NBN develops every year, the technology underpinning it improves. That's the main hope we have for Australia's copper infrastructure, which is being used for fibre to the node — and, potentially, fibre to the distribution point. The NBN is trialing a variety of technologies that promise to massively improve the speed of existing copper already in the ground, including by using the already-installed HFC cable networks previously operated by Telstra and Optus.
A new standard called XG.FAST will potentially be able to deliver speeds of up to 8Gbps on short copper runs — around 50 metres or less — making it suitable for the short last-metres connection of a service like FTTdp, which is currently in testing and achieving near-gigabit speeds, rivaling a full fibre to the premises install at a fraction of the overall cost.
While XG.FAST may not make it to commercial applications for some years, it points to there being some potential for the copper network that NBN paid $11.2 billion to Telstra for. It's the successor to the commercialy available G.Fast, which can be used with the last-mile copper of FTTN setups rather than the shorter setups that XG.FAST requires for the best possible speeds.
NBN is also working on a device that will be able to merge the existing HFC cable networks run around its current footprint with the short-distance copper loop that most houses currently use to connect their phone lines or ADSL internet services to in-pit copper networks. HFC's hybrid fibre-coaxial design has a higher current headroom of bandwidth than copper, and would allow an easy speed upgrade for customers within the cable footprint not currently connecting to the NBN on a HFC connection.
While both of these devices aren't as elegant a solution as a full fibre to the premises rollout, they do show promise for copper. Up to 500,000 homes around Australia may be connected to the NBN via FTTdp in the future, so faster copper-based solutions are equally important as fibre development. [iTNews / SMH]