The government’s $3 billion upgrade of half of the fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) footprint to full fibre will be significantly less impactful than announced, with only 400,000 premises expected to have active last-mile fibre connections by FY24.
NBN Co’s new corporate plan, released Wednesday afternoon, shows the number of activated brownfields fibre premises is only expected to grow by 400,000 between now and FY24.
The company said it expects to add about 200,000 brownfields premises a year from FY23.
CEO Stephen Rue confirmed the company’s forecasts.
“We see the additional lead-ins being built into 200,000 premises approximately in each of the years of 2023 and 2024,” he said.
The company’s new corporate plan provides some detail about how the upgrade of half of the FTTN footprint will work.
"NBN Co will proactively build a Local Fibre Network (LFN) from the existing node placing fibre deeper into neighbourhoods," it said.
"The fibre already built to the nodes as part of the FTTN build, known as the Distribution Fibre Network (DFN), will be utilised and incorporated to deliver new FTTP services.
"Fibre lead-ins from street frontages to individual premises will only be built when customers order higher speed plans."
Responding to questions from iTnews, Rue confirmed only one-in-five upgraded FTTN users are expected to have active higher-speed internet services over fibre by 2024.
This is vastly different to what was announced earlier on Wednesday and is likely to cause many hopeful FTTN users to have to reset their expectations.
“What we are doing is we are pulling fibre for 2 million homes from the node into the neighbourhoods or effectively into the kerb outside their street, if you will,” Rue said.
“That means that 2 million homes in the FTTN footprint by 2023, if they say choose, will be able to order a higher speed service than they have today - so that is not a putting fibre lead-in into 2 million premises.
“What it is is providing the choice for people in that footprint to order a higher-speed than they can today.
“And our plan anticipates that around about 20 percent of those homes by that period of time will have chosen to do that.”
The corporate plan does not project beyond FY24 so it is not clear whether NBN Co expects that rate of activation among FTTN to FTTP upgraders to continue.
Chief operations officer Kathrine Dyer said NBN Co expects the first upgraders to be able to connect to fibre-based high-speed services as early as June next year, but more likely “in the second half”.
“As we manage the complex rollout, we’ll be looking at utilising the industry the best way we can,” she said.
“We’ll plan the network and the work to make sure that we are progressing through the build pipeline as quickly as possible.”
Dyer said more updates on the cadence of the upgrade would be made in the coming weeks and months.
However, in good news, NBN Co said it would consider upgrades from 50Mbps to 100Mbps-plus tiers.
"It would be somewhere between 100Mbps and the near gigabit that would be the likely target to upgrade," it said.