NBN Co to file patent on new HFC workaround

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NBN Co to file patent on new HFC workaround

Fuses coaxial cable with VDSL.

NBN Co plans to patent an approach it has developed to allow it to bring VDSL to homes in Telstra’s HFC footprint that lack the necessary lead-in cables.

NBN Co chief technology officer Dennis Steiger today revealed the network builder had been testing the novel approach "for some time now" and was in the final stage of filing a patent for the technology.

"The technology absolutely works, we've built prototypes, proved that it'll work in the field ... we're really going to see interest in that beyond our own applications," Steiger said.

The setup would involve using a distribution point unit (DPU) in the pit outside a customer's premise to connect HFC and copper in areas where the underground lead-ins for HFC have not been built, to allow customers to access the high speeds of VDSL.

NBN Co is expecting to encounter unbuilt lead-ins - where copper is used as a lead-in to the premise instead of HFC - for several hundred thousand premises in the HFC network it acquired from Telstra.

Lead-ins from the HFC network to a customer premise generally would have only been built if a service was ordered.

The problem historically is addressed by either switching an area to fibre-to-the-node to avoid the cost and time involved in building a new lead-in for each premise, or by running the HFC cable up an existing Telstra lead-in where feasible.

However, NBN Co acknowledged it was not yet in a position to launch its new approach any time soon.

It is restricted by the fact that no hardware currently exists to support its novel approach.

While NBN Co says it has proved the concept can work, it faces the problem of convincing its equipment suppliers to invest the effort into building kit for what would likely be a very limited run.

Building specialised hardware would also likely push the $150 - $250 per DPU price NBN Co currently pays significantly higher.

It would similarly need to convince its retail service provider partners to spend time and money on tweaking their systems to work with the new technology, which would form only a tiny portion of its overall network.

However, Steiger indicated this was just the start of the network builder's attempts to formalise some of its technology experiments.

"One of the things that's really really different about NBN Co is .. we can do things in really unique ways. And I think we're going to regularly start filing patents around some of the technology we're creating."

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