NBN Will Roll 'Fibre To The Curb' To 700,000 Homes Around Australia, Abandoning Optus Cable

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The rollout of Australia's NBN will abandon almost all of Optus's HFC cable network that it paid $800 million for back in 2011, with up to 700,000 homes around the country instead being connected to the NBN through fibre to the distribution point -- a new technology that brings many of the advantages of fibre to the premises to a fibre to the node-style construction method.

FTTdp, also called 'fibre to the curb' by NBN, will be rolled out within the Optus HFC network footprint, and will replace the hybrid fibre-coaxial cables that were originally planned to continue in service as part of the incumbent Liberal government's multi-technology mix NBN. One area of the Optus network, Redcliffe in Queensland, is already connected to the NBN via HFC and will stay that way but the rest of the footprint will be switched to FTTdp.

NBN paid $800 million to Optus in 2011 to eventually decommission the telco's HFC network and transfer its customers to the NBN, with a revised agreement in 2014 giving NBN the option to use HFC as it chose -- which formed a significant part of the Liberal government's apparently significantly cheaper MTM rollout. That agreement remains in place, but the network will instead be eventually decommissioned as originally planned. A 2015 leaked document slammed the quality of Optus' network and may have contributed to this decision.

Fibre to the distribution point sees optical fibre rolled out 'to the curb' of individual homes in a street or suburb, much closer than the end-of-street sites of many fibre to the node installations; this allows it to achieve higher theoretical download and upload speeds than FTTN. It also allows a fully fibre to the premises rollout to individual homes to be made available after the initial installation at a much lower cost.

NBN is still using Telstra's cable network to connect customers to the NBN using HFC technology, though -- and that progressive switchover will continue with 900,000 services expected to be available before the middle of 2017. A total of up to 3.2 million homes will be connected to the NBN through HFC according to the national broadband network company's updated corporate plan from August of this year.

From NBN's chief network engineering officer Peter Ryan: "We have tested FTTdp over the last year and we're confident we can now deploy the technology in areas where it makes better sense from a customer experience, deployment efficiency and cost perspective. This includes premises in the FTTN footprint that have too high a cost per premises (CPP) and premises served solely by the legacy Optus HFC footprint that are yet to be made ready for service... nbn has confirmed it will deploy FTTdp in those areas where the use of the Optus HFC network was planned, with the exception of the already launched network in Redcliffe, Queensland.

"The move to FTTdp was outlined in the 2017 Corporate Plan where we stated nbn's overall HFC footprint would be between 2.5 and 3.2 million by 2020, with more premises being served by FTTN, Fibre-to-the-Building and FTTdp. These ranges reflect nbn’s flexible and technology-agnostic approach. HFC remains a highly valued part of our MTM deployment, however in balancing the requirements to convert Optus’s current network architecture and design to be nbn-ready, and the opportunity to introduce FTTdp, makes the new technology compelling in these selected areas.”

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