NBN Co has announced a three billion dollar plan to upgrade half of Australia’s fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) connections to full fibre by 2023.
This news comes just months after NBN Co purchased an extra 50,000 kilometres of copper wire to help finish its network roll out by its June 2020 deadline.
Now, it looks like part of that will be upgraded, anyway. This is important because not all NBN connections are made equal. FTTN is partially made up of this old copper wire leftover from phone lines and older internet connections. For people on FTTN connections, its this wire that runs from the local node to your house.
Comparatively, FTTP users are directly connected to the NBN fibre network, which is faster.
But it won't just be FTTN connections getting 'last mile' upgrades to reach 1 Gbps speeds. $400 million will also be used for hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) upgrades and a further $100 million into fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) upgrades. This brings the total upgrade plan to $3.5 billion.
Seven years later
Back in 2013, the Coalition changed Labor's plans for a majority fibre NBN network. Today, the government is standing by this decision while also announcing a widespread network upgrade seven years later.
"The 2013 decision by the Coalition to roll out the NBN quickly, then phase upgrades around emerging demand, has served Australia well," Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, said in a statement.
“From the outset the plan set out in our 2013 Strategic Review was to get the network rolled out as quickly as possible – and then deliver upgrades when there was demand for them. We’ve steadily delivered on our plan for seven years; the further investment announced today is exactly what our plan envisaged,” Minister Fletcher said.
“This is the right time for this network upgrade. There is a long term trend of broadband demand growth – with a very significant spike this year as COVID-19 has changed the way we use the internet.”
Financing for the upgrades will be provided by private debt markets. As reported by itnews, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the financing will occur in conjunction with the refinancing of the $19.5 billion Commonwealth government loan for the NBN network roll out.
“NBN Co will bring forward these important investments in Australia’s future broadband capability through private debt, which is possible due to its strong future cash flow position,” Minister Cormann said.
This news comes just a day after NBN Co announced its new Business Fibre Initiative on Tuesday. This involves creating 240 'business fibre zones' that will be upgraded to gigabit internet over the next couple of years. These zones include rural as well as metro areas in every Australian state and territory.