The First NBN Fibre To The Curb Has Been Switched On

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The tech that could revolutionise the roll-out of the National Broadband Network is one step closer to reality. The first installation of a FttDP -- or fibre to the curb -- connection has been completed in an NBN trial in Victoria, and the results are impressive.

AU Editor's Note: In this article, we're using 'fibre to the curb' to talk about the tech you might have already heard of as 'fibre to the driveway' or 'fibre to the distribution point'. And why curb rather than kerb? NBN says it's in line with international spellings of the tech. -- Cam

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Feeling a little bit confused by the stupidly complicated and ever-changing rollout of the National Broadband Network around the country? Us too, to be honest with you. Here's our quick guide to the different types of NBN that might be installed at your home or business.

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Coburg in northern Melbourne is the home of the first NBN fibre to the curb trials, and the early particular installation that NBN has called on for its latest announcement has managed to hit an impressive 109Mbps download and 44Mbps upload speeds. Using the same VDSL tech as fibre to the node, this fibre to the curb install ran over a 70-metre copper line to the closest telecom pit, rather than the longer copper runs required to reach the FTTN nodes generally at the ends of streets or suburban crossroads.

Fibre to the curb has the potential to be a Goldilocks technology for the ongoing NBN rollout -- it uses fibre to much closer distances to homes and businesses than fibre to the node, without requiring the expensive installation on private property that fibre to the premises needs. NBN says that the average cost of a fibre to the curb installation is projected to be $2900 versus the $4400 average of FTTP. It expects to serve a million premises with FTTC during the NBN rollout.

NBN nodes used for fibre to the node also require mains power to be supplied to the node, where individual fibre installations like FTTP and FTTC are passively powered. FTTP installations, NBN says, often require 'trenching' to run a passive fibre optic cable to the point of connection on the side of a home or business, and it's this additional process that is costly and time consuming.

However, it's important to note that while promising, this is only the first speed result we've seen from any fibre to the curb connection, and has been shared through NBN's media outreach -- so end users should be wary of the cherry-picked result that's being shared with them. As fibre to the curb installations reach the mainstream in the next couple of years, we'll get a better picture of everyday connection speeds and real-world results.

NBN's List Of Expensive FTTP Installations Is An Obvious Ploy

This morning, NBN released a list of the 10 most expensive fibre to the premises (FTTP) installations rolled out under its original network plan. Despite the company generally staying tight-lipped about 'commercial in confidence' information -- including in its reports to the Senate committee charged with keeping it in line -- it's clearly happy to publish data that supports its government-mandated multi-technology mix.

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A blog post attributed to NBN chief executive Bill Morrow accompanying the announcement of the first fibre to the curb installation talks it up to no end. Saying it offers "an identical end-user experience to fibre-to-the-premises", Morrow said the installation's $1500 saving per premises also comes with far less inconvenience to users. Morrow said fibre to the curb would only have been possible under the multi-technology mix instituted by then-communications minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2014.

"Back then, our people were told to design and build the fixed-broadband network no matter the time or cost. By bringing FTTB, FTTN, HFC and soon HFC into the network we have been able to address this problem." Morrow goes on to say that an all-FTTP network is hugely attractive -- even to him, as a former telecoms industry engineer -- but "not feasible to do in a country like Australia.

"Of course, I understand why some people come out with glib catchphrases like, 'Do it once, do it right, do it with fibre'. If only it were that simple in the real world."

Morrow says that the NBN company has to make commercial decisions on how much to spend on the network, because those costs are -- necessarily, he says -- passed on to consumers. "This network is not being delivered as a free gift -- the government wants taxpayers to get their $49 billion back and expect a small return as well." That money is recouped from the fees NBN charges retail service providers, which make their money from... taxpayers.

"If we decided tomorrow to upgrade the entire FTTN footprint to FTTP -- upgrading nearly five million premises at a cost of $2000 each -- then that's another $10 billion we would have to recoup for taxpayers." And, Morrow says, customers aren't willing to pay -- "only 14 per cent of end users are buying 100/40Mbps plans. We could not rightfully sanction piling billions of extra dollars of debt onto NBN -- and ultimately the Australian people."

NBN hasn't responded to Gizmodo's questions on whether this 109MBps/44Mbps result is the highest possible speed this line could achieve -- whether it's uncapped, or conforming roughly to NBN's top tier 100/40Mbps connection speed -- and whether it was using final hardware that will be rolled out to future FTTC NBN installations. [NBN]

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Comments

    I reckon those 100/40 numbers would rise if the entire FTTN solution was capable of it..

    A few homes I have seen already are only capable of getting around 25 to 30 down so why would they sign up for a 100/40 plan?

      That's certainly true for me, I pay for a 50/20 plan and get most of that most of the time with HFC.

        That's really all you need for the most part. HFC, even at mbit, is pretty damn good.

    "managed to hit an impressive 109Mbps download and 44Mbps upload speeds"

    Why is that an impressive speed? It's like, passible for modern internet but hardly something that's going to impress someone from overseas.

    Better to say it hit an acceptable 109Mbps.

      It's impressive because it's still a partly copper solution.

      I think FttDP should have been the "compromise" technology instead of FttN. It would likely allow 100/40 for most people, whilst enabling those who really need or want higher speeds than that to pay for a 100% fiber connection at a reasonable price.

      I'm still slated for HFC in 2019 (yes really) despite not having any HFC in my or any nearby streets. So I'm looking at the FttDP trials hoping that they decide to go with that instead in my area. I can't believe they would actually roll out new coax!

        Copper is still capable of delivering those speeds, and more. You can theoretically get 100 Gbps out of copper, its just over such a small loop length that its pointless. No real point pushing that if its only possible over 1m...

        Wow. How did you work out what technology you're slated for? My region in Hawthorn is supposedly being rolled out late 2019 and I had assumed it would all be fibre to the curb by then.

          I fill in the "Check your address" form every few weeks to see if anything has changed:
          https://www.nbnco.com.au/

          Planned availability: Jan-Jun 2019*.
          Some premises may require more work before they are ready to connect.
          Planned technology: nbn™ Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC).

          Last edited 23/10/17 2:28 pm

    I'm left wondering what the available line speeds would have been if all the NBN were capable of 400/400 or 1000/1000.

    Instead of the 12/1, 25/5, 50/20 and 100/40 at current price scales, would we have had 50/20, 100/40, 200/80 and 400/200 at the same price points? And possibly even a 1000/1000 for businesses?

      FttP is capable of those speeds. Or at least 700/700 right now. They just aren't offered at retail. Which is on the ISP's, not NBN

      Those 100/40 plans mean there's actually 140 Mbps available, they just arbitrarily split it so its locked to 100 Mbps down and 40 Mbps up, but that's a decision by the ISP. They can just as easily set it to 70/70, they simply don't offer it. And it shouldn't cost any more than a 100/40 plan, the cost is tied to that 140 Mbps total, not the split.

      As there are also 1 Gbps plans out there, that means theres a 1400 Mbps bandwidth available, which potentially means a 700/700 synchronous connection is available. If there was a way for the user to decide how to split that, it would do what you wanted.

      Because of how the net works, you're never using 100% of your bandwidth, so theres an argument that letting that ratio be dynamic would be more cost effective. And would be a great selling point for an ISP.

      Would also be helpful for FttN users stuck on lower upload bandwidths, and maybe get a little more mileage out of ir for those stuck on it.

    Please can we nip this in the bud early. It is FTTK, that is K for Kerb, we don't speak American spelling around here.

    Now this is where it gets interesting, "curb" may well be the US spelling of what we call the kerb, the bit that supports the side of the footpath (not sidewalk), but it also has a lot of embarrassing meanings NBN Wise.

    The concise Oxford Dictionary defines "curb" thusly:

    curb
     noun
    1 a control or limit: curbs on cigarette advertising. (also curb bit) a type of bit with a strap or chain attached which passes under a horse's lower jaw, used as a check.
    2 North American variant spelling of kerb.
    3 a swelling on the back of a horse's hock, caused by spraining a ligament.
     verb keep in check; control.

    ORIGIN
    C15: from Old French courber 'bend, bow', from Latin curvare (see curve).

    Don't know the correct term for an economic gaffe (a la Freudian Slip), but FTTC sure isn't in check or controlled and it has never behaved within any defined or specified limits.

      Hi mate, if I had my way we'd still be writing FTTDP, but FTTC is the term that NBN has chosen to use -- and in the interests of not confusing consumers further, I've made the call on Gizmodo using FTTC as well.

      Semantics that interest you and me and a few others aside, I don't want to be throwing yet more acronyms into an already complicated situation where the Joneses in Average Suburb, QLD have to read a spiel on why I'm writing FTTK/FTTDP/FTTD instead of FTTC like NBN is.

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