First NBN FTTC areas unlikely to be able to order retail service

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First NBN FTTC areas unlikely to be able to order retail service

Gap between construction and service launch.

Residents of the Sydney suburb of Hunters Hill are likely to be the recipients of the first fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) deployment in Australia, but they won’t be able to actually order a retail service.

iTnews last week uncovered what appears to be an early teething problem with the now-underway FTTC rollout, whereby the first wave of homes won’t be able to order a retail service from day one, despite otherwise serviceable FTTC connections.

The extent of the disconnect between technical and retail serviceability for FTTC is now more difficult to quantify, after NBN Co culled all FTTC areas and ready for service (RFS) dates from its online maps late Friday.

However, iTnews was able to extract a partial dataset of updated RFS dates for FTTC areas before they were pulled offline.

While Coburg in Melbourne is ostensibly the first area to be cabled for FTTC, it appears part of Hunters Hill, west of the Sydney CBD, has the first RFS dates.

Hunters Hill – where the median house price is $2.78 million – will be a mix of fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) and FTTC connections. RFS for the FTTC portion was anticipated to be “October to December 2017”, before the dates were pulled offline.

This is well ahead of the expected availability of commercial FTTC services, which as of last Friday was pushed back slightly to “mid-2018”.

An NBN Co spokesperson declined to comment on the apparent disconnect between the RFS dates in Hunters Hill  - and elsewhere - and the apparent lack of readiness of retail FTTC products.

It is understood that NBN Co is aware that some FTTC premises will be technically ready for service ahead of the planned commercial launch of the service.

FTTC premises in these service area modules (SAMs) will simply not go live until FTTC services are officially launched. In other words, the earliest FTTC-cabled areas will likely face a wait before they can order a retail internet service.

Hunters Hill isn’t the only suburb where this is likely to occur; research by iTnews shows that Emu Heights, Emu Plains, Leonay, Glenbrook, Lapstone, Howlong, Uralla and Walcha – all in NSW – have had their RFS dates advanced to “January-to-March 2018”, again before FTTC's commercial launch.

In Queensland, Agnes Water and Fortitude Valley have the same RFS dates. It could also affect Rowville in Victoria, though iTnews was only able to derive partial RFS data for Victoria before it was culled from NBN Co’s site.

A larger tranche of FTTC premises are scheduled for RFS between April and June of 2018, more or less in line with the planned commercial launch for services.

The launch of FTTC services on the NBN is being closely watched and somewhat keenly anticipated, as it promises a better broadband experience than alternative technology like fibre-to-the-node (FTTN).

While FTTC was initially pitched as a replacement technology for customers with substandard Optus HFC cabling, it has since become clear that FTTC is being groomed as a replacement for FTTN in many remaining areas of the NBN rollout.

It’s unclear when NBN Co plans to reinstate FTTC data to its online maps.

Areas previously designated to receive FTTC now show up as future recipients of a generic “fixed-line” service. RFS dates previously published by iTnews, including in our reconstructed three-year plan, have been completely wiped.

Comment was being sought from NBN Co at the time of publication on why the data was pulled offline and whether it would be reinstated.

There appears to be no reason to believe NBN Co’s plans for broad deployment of FTTC have changed drastically.

Rather, the data cull may have been undertaken to shield the company from delays in RFS dates if it encounters problems as it begins deploying FTTC technology into production.

At present, FTTC technology is expected to serve about one million premises. Last week, NBN Co added 50 new suburbs to the planned FTTC footprint.

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