Australia's NBN Launches FTTB Service

Australia's NBN has launched a fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) service as part of its overhaul of the country's broadband infrastructure.

The service is being rolled out to approximately 6,000 homes and businesses in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra and will support average download connections of 89 Mbit/s as well as 36 Mbit/s on the upload, according to the operator.

According to local press reports, around 2,000 homes and businesses can already subscribe to the FTTB service, which NBN Co Ltd. plans to extend to around 90,000 homes and businesses by the end of 2015. Its ultimate goal is to provide FTTB to around 1 million premises throughout Australia.

NBN will not offer the services directly to end-users but instead sell capacity to Internet service providers active in the retail market. NBN already claims to serve as many as 44 such retailers.

FTTB is one of several technologies that NBN is deploying to provide high-speed broadband connections to Australian consumers.

Thanks to agreements finalized last year, the government-backed operator has been taking control of networks owned by Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) and SingTel Optus Pty. Ltd. , Australia's two largest privately owned operators, and using these to develop its wholesale business.

The political objective is to ensure that at least 90% of premises in the country can obtain a service of at least 50 Mbit/s while guaranteeing the remainder connection speeds of at least 25 Mbit/s.

For more fixed broadband market coverage and insights, check out our dedicated broadband content channel here on Light Reading.

Although FTTB is ideal for providing high-speed services to apartment blocks and so-called multi-dwelling units (MDUs), it appears uneconomical in many other cases.

For that reason, just 11% of the 12.4 million premises in NBN's target footprint will receive an FTTB service. NBN intends to rely on fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) architecture to serve 3.6 million premises and hybrid fiber coax for another 3.3 million, but a variety of other technologies also figure in its scheme. (See Did Arris Just Upend Cisco for Major Oz Deal?)

Table 1: Multi-Technology Mix: How NBN Will Reach Australian Homes

Technology Premises (M) Percentage of premises
FTTP 3.1 25%
FTTN 3.6 29%
FTTdp/B [distribution point/building] 1.4 11%
HFC 3.3 27%
FTTN (remote footprint) <0.1 <0.1%
Fixed wireless 0.6 5%
Satellite 0.4 3%
Total 12.4 100%
Source: NBN

The deployment of FTTB is expected to support the launch of FTTN services in the third quarter, although there remains concern that copper lines serving individual homes and offices may be in a poorer condition than infrastructure used in MDUs.

It should also help NBN stand up to TPG Telecom, an infrastructure rival that is providing fiber-based broadband services to apartment-block residents and claimed to have 19,000 FTTB customers in January.

While the TPG threat may have compelled NBN to focus on the FTTB deployment before turning its attention to other technologies, NBN indicated that prevailing infrastructure conditions had aided its relatively quick launch of FTTB services.

"Eliminating the need for individual building designs and in-building wiring cuts down on construction time," said John Simon, NBN's chief customer officer, in a company statement. "Removing the need to install new equipment in the home accelerates the ability of people to connect."

News of the FTTB launch comes weeks after NBN flagged plans to launch a DOCSIS 3.1 service early next year over its HFC network.

As reported by Light Reading, NBN intends to begin DOCSIS 3.1 field trials by the end of the year with the aim of launching a commercial service by March 2016. It says it will extend DOCSIS 3.1 services to its entire HFC footprint of 3.3 million homes by the end of 2019. (See NBN Takes DOCSIS 3.1 Down Under.)

DOCSIS 3.1 is designed to support download speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s and upload speeds of more than 1 Gbit/s.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

thebulk 3/31/2015 | 10:03:54 PM
High Fiber Diet More fiber is always good and helps to ensure a provider can push their service to the future. NBN seems to be using an intersting mix of FTTB and FTTN.
Sign In