The First NBN Fibre To The Curb Has Been Turned On

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.

Note: 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

Giz Explains: Every NBN Technology, Compared

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. It's also 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.


Image: iStock

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.


Comments

    only 14 per cent of end users are buying 100/40Mbps plans.

    Because those are probably only the ones who can GET 100/40. Now if we could ALL get 100/40, you can bet your sweet hypocritical ass, we'd pay goddammit.

    *facepalm*

      Also, the pricing of 100/40 plans would also factor into the equation. I'm personally on 50/20 but that's pretty much only because there's a big price jump up to 100/40.

      They did add this note to clarify:

      Note: 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

      Having said that, I agree with you. I personally don't care what the international spelling is - we're Australian, so spell it the Australian way please. Last thing we need is people getting confused with spellings of words like this.

        Why does it matter? It still functions as a word and is understood. Insisting on local spelling is just being pedantic and getting in a twist over nothing.

          Because "curb" in Australian/British English actually means something entirely different to "kerb". That's why it matters.

    That said, given that it's curbing speeds, maybe you were right first time. Hmm.

    only 14 per cent of end users are buying 100/40Mbps plans

    If you'd rolled out to urban areas first instead of regional towns, this figure would probably be higher. For most regional users an upgrade to 25Mbps is a huge jump from their previous connection. It takes time for people to realise what they can do with more bandwidth - urban users already accustomed to 25+ are a lot more likely to upgrade to 100.

    It would have also solved your apparent financial problems (begging for more money from the government) by bringing more customers onto the network per the same amount of work because of population density. I've been arguing for years that this is not how you roll out a major infrastructure project, because exactly this problem ends up happening.

      my only problem with urban areas getting it before regional and rural areas is the fact that i just know if it had gone that way, the NBN would of been scrapped completely once the capital cities were done leaving regional and rural australia to continue suffering.

      That how much faith i have in our government

        In terms of construction and maintenance, the network relies on urban customers to subsidise regional customers. I understand it would suck for regional people, but if it had been built in the urban areas first and then scrapped it would at least be profitable and could be extended later when a more predisposed government came to power.

        Building regional areas first just front-loads expenses and delays revenue generation, which is a really good way to destroy your opex budget, which is a great way to tell the government "we're a big fat budget black hole, kill the project and sell off the infrastructure to private interests". And you can imagine what that would do to a half-built unprofitable network.

          The nbn would be done as soon as Syd and Melb were complete. Which is fine I guess because nobody lives anywhere else and if they do then fuck them anyway.

    only 14 per cent of end users are buying 100/40Mbps plans

    "... and I can't imagine why that would ever change in the future."

      Possibly because they're having enough trouble getting the 12 or 25 they're already paying for.

    If this is the maximum or near maximum you can achieve on FTTC, it's actually pretty disappointing.
    The whole benefit of FTTP is that it can scale dramatically to accommodate the kind of speeds we will require in the future because fibre has tremendously more bandwidth. This tech will not as it still requires copper wire.
    More band aids.

    Oooooooooooooooooooooookay Mr. Morrow.

    That 14% statistic is ridiculous, even if it is accurate. I was house shopping not a few months ago and I was specifically holding out until I found a property that was FTTP equipped (just for the record, I got one, and FTTP is awesome). I was willing to buy a fucking house based around the top tier tech on offer, and I'd wager that I'm far from the only one who would make a decision like this. I'm gonna be in this house for years (decades even), I want to "future"-proof my living standard as best as I can.

    It's the era we live in. Entertainment is being streamed, movies are downloaded, games, comics, music, literature, PORN. Data is consumed on a level never before seen and Australia is one of, if not the most technologically hungry nations in the world; you really believe that if you build it, they wouldn't come(pun intended)?

    I'm not even from here and I feel your pain, deep in my heart. And as @zombiejesus said, if you rolled out in urban areas first, your 14% would look a lot more like 70+%.

      I understand its definitely a useful feature, but is it a deal breaker for buying a house? Personally for me, certainly not. There are many other priorities that i would consider far morw important than nbn.

      Id say very intelligent to consider it in the long term knowing it is a service that would eventually happen in the area. But surely the cost of having it installed later on wouldnt be a huge offput versus the house having the right amount of rooms, useful spaces, close to ameneties you use, schools etc etc

      But thats just me!
      Ive lived withoit internet for the last 15 months because there is no available lines until the nbn is installed early next year. Having no internet is not so bad. The outside is pretty rad.
      And its free! (:

        While it was a very important aspect of my purchase decision, it certainly was not the only one, nor was its absence a deal breaker. Conversely, I wouldn't avoid buying a house that ticked all other boxes, just because it didn't have FTTP, but with the amount of houses for sale and new developments in this area, I had plenty of options and plenty of time to make sure the house had all physical aspects I was after, as well as technological.

        I understand the sentiment that the outdoors is pretty rad, and yes free, but that just doesn't resonate for someone like me. To each their own is the fairest way to put it. I didn't mean to paint a picture that exemplified my decision making was based solely around having FTTP, but it's higher on my list than most things, and likely, higher up the list than a lot of people would put it. But hey, I'm a technophile; if you're more a "Bear Grylls" type, well, get out there in that wilderness and drink your own piss! Or something like that.

    FFS.... Why? Why would you go so close to the house, and the coper it the rest of the way? Just give in, and do what Labor was going to do. Fiber To The HOME. To the physical WALL.

    This is nothing more than the Government looking like there doing something innovative, but really, its just half assed.

    Our fttn gets turned on Friday, already been in contact with optus and for the top speed 100/50 or whatever, its 20 dollars less then my current adsl plan with free install so im pumped, i currently only get about 5/0.5

      Do you mind me asking how much your Optus plan will be?
      I'm currently on ADSL with TPG costing me $59 a month for unlimited. I should be NBN ready mext month so started shopping around and Optus seems to be telling me it will be $110 per month for a 100M connection. Is that consistent with what you are paying?
      And noting their terms also say ... "Many factors affect speed and you will experience download speeds below 100 Mbps during peak times (7pm to 11pm)"
      At lest they are being honest!

        $80 a month for base speed with unlimited data and fetch box or $100 for the top speed, i think they are both $20 less with out fetch. im under no illusion about the speed but even if it tops out at 25 odd mbps then that 5 times the speed and 20 dollars less then i pay now

      from the sounds of everyone else who I've talked to who has NBN you're gonna struggle to get anywhere near 100/50. One of my good friends started off getting 100/50, and as more and more people joined the NBN in our city the slower and slower it got. He's now only getting about 30 down :\

        yeah no doubt but itll be much quicker then 5/0.5 lol

    I actually wonder if they're upgrading my area to FttDP. They switched on Cable NBN back in March/April, but the past month and a half they've been out in my street digging up trenches and laying new cables down.

    50/25 fixed wireless here.

    Yeah not even close NBN. An absolute joke.

    All the talk about this technology being faster than that technology is pretty much irrelevant for your average home user because most people just can't afford to pay for the higher speeds.
    Basically, the NBN pricing where RSPs are charge for "bandwidth" is killing it.
    Look at TPG - Whirlpool reviews are pretty consistent in saying TPG suffers badly from peak period slowdowns. Check their website - You can get an unlimited plan for $99 (which is a reasonable price) on their "Superfast" speed tier. The problem is that TPG consider Superfast to be "12Mbps to 100Mbps". So the only speed they will commit to (12Mbps) is slower than ADSL!
    So let's go to the other end of the spectrum - Aussie Broadband gets very good reviews on whirlpool. They also have a "Superfast" plan but with a 3TB data cap. The only problem is that will cost you $190 a month. That's a crap load of money to spend on just internet, no phone, no nothing else.
    So until the NBN drop their wholesale prices (which will never happen) Australia is going to be stuck with a network which might support 100M connections but which the average Australia can't afford.

    Yeah well now 18 months after NBNco installed a box with HFC, they're sent me a letter saying they'll be inspecting my phone line at some point in the next 3 months.

    I called them to ask if they'd be removing the other box and making good. They couldn't tell me.

    109M download speeds? Wow.. that's almost as high as 110M download speed I was getting on HFC for years before "upgrading" to NBN.
    Identical experience to FTTP? Maybe now.. that is, until all those FTTP users eventually upgrade to 250M or 1G in a few years time and leave everyone else behind.

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