NBN Co is set to upgrade parts of its fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) footprint to full fibre, despite the technology already being touted as gigabit-capable.
The surprise announcement was revealed on Tuesday as an extension to the company’s multi-billion dollar overbuild of part of its fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) footprint with full fibre.
NBN Co said today that it planned to make “full fibre upgrades ... available on demand to eligible customers living or working in premises currently served by FTTC”.
“NBN Co is currently engaged in consultation with internet retailers to define the process by which customers living in eligible premises currently served by FTTN or FTTC will be informed that their premises is eligible to receive higher speed services,” the company said in a statement.
To qualify for an upgrade from fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), customers must place an order for a service of 100/20 Mbps or higher.
It is envisioned that the qualification rules will be a bit tighter for those in FTTC areas.
“Due to the faster current capabilities of FTTC, in its consultation paper to industry, NBN Co has proposed that customers living or working in premises currently served by this technology will need to order a plan based on wholesale speed tiers of 250/25 Mbps or higher to qualify for a full fibre upgrade,” the company said.
The idea that FTTC technology already needs upgrading, despite being only a relatively recent introduction to NBN Co’s multi-technology mix (MTM), is likely to raise eyebrows across the industry.
NBN Co started consultations with industry on gigabit speeds for the FTTC footprint last month, though it has been on the technology roadmap for some time.
The need to upgrade, however, casts doubt on the whole FTTC experiment.
NBN Co, as the company has repeatedly said previously, is the "first telco in the world to roll out FTTC at scale".
The rollout has already proven to be more complex and costly than first thought, and FTTC is also the most complained about of all access technologies.
More recently, it has been revealed that FTTC modems and other components have a habit of frying in stormy areas.
NBN Co has put a lot of these things down to “teething issues” before; however, the move to upgrade parts of the FTTC footprint already to full fibre raises doubt about the future of that particular part of the network footprint.
It may be that building a fibre lead-in is a cheaper path to gigabit speeds than continuing to upgrade distribution point units (DPUs) to be capable of supporting the faster tiers. As of last month, around half of all DPUs were gigabit capable.
This appears to be supported by an FAQ published today: "If the [customer's] desired wholesale speed tier can be achieved via our existing FTTN or selected FTTC technology, then nothing will change.
"Fibre lead-ins will only be installed where they’re needed to help achieve the desired speed."
An NBN Co spokesperson has been contacted by iTnews for additional comment.
More FTTN upgrades
The news coincided with an announcement by NBN Co of another 288 suburbs and towns currently served by fibre-to-the-node on the map to receive a full fibre upgrade, should they want it.
The 288 locations Australia-wide collectively cover 900,000 premises. With NBN Co previously announcing two 100,000-premises tranches, it now has 1.1 million premises that may qualify for a free full-fibre upgrade.
Today’s announcement brings the upgrade program to Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory for the first time. It also adds a substantial number of locations for the other states and territories.
NBN Co said in a statement that it would “make further announcements later this year on additional suburbs and towns that will be incorporated into the FTTN to FTTP upgrade program.”
The new suburbs are:
New South Wales
Alexandria, Albion Park, Austinmer, Balgownie, Bankstown, Barrack Heights, Barrack Point, Batemans Bay, Belmont, Bogangar, Byron Bay, Cabarita Beach, Camperdown, Charlestown, Claymore, Cordeaux Heights, Corlette, Davistown, Dubbo, East Albury, Erina, Erskinville, Ettalong Beach, Fairy Meadow, Fingal Bay, Forster, Gerringong, Glenfield Park, Glenmore Park, Gorokan, Horningsea, Hoxton Park, Hunters Hill, Huntleys Cove, Jerrabomberra, Kariong, Kellyville, Kincumber, Islington, Lake Illawarra, Maryville, Merrywether Heights, Milton, Mount Annan, Mount Pleasant, Narellan, Nelson Bay, North Richmond, North Wollongong, Oak Flats, Old Bar, Prestons, Raymond Terrace, Salamander Bay, Seven Hills, Shoal Bay, Soldiers Point, St Georges Basin, Terrigal, Thirroul, Tuncurry, Tweed Heads, Ulladulla, Umina Beach, Warilla, Warners Bay, West Hoxton, Woodbine, Woolwich, Woonona, Worrigee, Woy Woy, Yattalunga.
Banks, Campbell, Conder, Dickson, Gordon, Hume, Lyneham, O’Connor, Reid, Turner 10
Aireys Inlet, Albert Park, Alfredton, Barwon Heads, Belmont, Berwick, Caroline Springs, Cowes, Craigieburn, Deer Park (additional footprint), Delacombe, Derrimut, Echuca, Fairhaven, Geelong, Geelong West, Grovedale, Hampton Park, Hastings, Highton, Kalimna, Kangaroo Flat, Lakes Entrance, Leopold, Mernda, Mornington, Ocean Grove, Pakenham, Pearcedale, Rosebud, Sebastopol, Seymore, Somerville, Sunshine West, Tarneit, Torquay, Traralgon, Warrnambool, Waurn Ponds, West Wodonga, Wodonga. 40
Alexandra Headland, Andergrove, Bargara, Bayview Heights, Beaconsfield, Bellara, Bentley Park, Blacks Beach, Brinsmead, Buderim, Bulimba, Burpengary, Burpengary East, Caboolture, Caboolture South, Cannonvale, Castaways Beach, Clifton Beach, Coolangatta, Coolum Beach, Cooroibah, Craiglie, Currimundi, Dolphin Heads, Earville, Edmonton, Eimeo, Forest Lake, Freshwater, Glenella, Griffin, Heathwood, Kawungan, Kewarra Beach, Lawnton, Meridan Plains, Monoora, Mooloolaba, Manunda, Marcoola, Marcus Beach, Maroochydore, Minyama, Mooroobool, Morayfield, Mount Coolum, Mount Pleasant, Mount Sheridan, Mountain Creek, Murrumba Downs, Newtown (4350), Noosa Heads, Noosaville, Ormeau, Pacific Paradise, Pacific Pines, Parrearra, Peregian Beach, Port Douglas, Proserpine, Redlynch, Rothwell, Seventeen Mile Rocks, Stratford, Sunrise Beach, Sunshine Beach, Tewantin, Trinity Beach, Twin Waters, Upper Coomera, Urraween, Victoria Point, Warana, White Rock, Woree.
Andrews Farm, Ascot, Ascot Park, Balcatta, Edwardstown, Exeter, Glanville, Grange, Largs Bay, Munno Park West, New Port, Port Adelaide, Seaton, Semaphore, Tennyson, West Lakes, Woodville West.
Balcatta, Balga, Bayswater, Beaconsfield, Beckenham, Belmont, Bentley, Bicton, Cannington, City Beach, Cloverdale, Coogee, East Cannington, East Fremantle, Fremantle, Gosnells, Hamilton Hill, Highgate, Hilton, Huntingdale, Karawara, Karrinyup, Kewdale, Maylands, Midland, Morley, Mount Lawley, Nollamara, North Fremantle, North Perth, Osborne Park, Palmyra, Redcliffe, Riverton, Rivervale, Rossmoyne, Samson, Scarborough, Shelley, South Fremantle, Southern River, Spearwood, St James, Stirling, Tuart Hill, Waikiki, Waterford, Wembley Downs, Westminster, Yokine.
Camdale, Cooee, Devonport, Howrah, Legana, Ocean Vista, Park Grove, Paklands, Sandy Bay, Shorewell Park, Tranmere.
Alice Springs, Araluen, Braitling, Ciccone, Desert Springs, East Side, Gillen, Ilpara, Larapinta, Ross, Sadadeen, The Gap.