NBN Co reveals early ratios for FTTN replacement

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NBN Co reveals early ratios for FTTN replacement
NBN Co's nodes may still dominate.

Newer FTTC unlikely to be dominant access tech.

NBN Co is set to replace as much as 37 percent of planned fibre-to-the-node connections in some areas with fibre-to-the-curb technology.

The network builder this week provided the first glimpse of just how big a role FTTC could play in former FTTN-only areas of the rollout.

Many areas in the FTTC footprint are set to be a mix of FTTC and FTTN connections. The company has previously not said what the ratios of each would be.

However, a small sample of data shows that Geelong in Victoria will go from 100 percent FTTN to around 63 percent – with the remaining 37 percent of connections to be made with FTTC instead.

In real numbers, 11,027 out of a total 29,659 premises in Geelong are now scheduled for FTTC.

It’s a similar story – though on a much smaller scale – in the NSW south coast town of Moruya. There, 31 percent of premises – 546 in real numbers - have been flipped into the FTTC footprint.

Not all FTTC/N areas will hit this level of conversion, however. In Tuross Heads, 22 percent of premises are due to be shifted into the FTTC footprint, while in Ballina, which includes Lennox Head, under 14 percent of FTTN premises will be switched.

Though only a small set of the 650 suburbs and towns that are now expected to be part of the FTTC rollout, the data provides some indication of just how much NBN Co is backing away from FTTN.

As it stands, in these areas FTTN is still set to be the dominant access technology, although some small towns in the rollout appear on NBN Co’s maps to have been converted to full FTTC.

The ratios of FTTC to FTTN are likely to disappoint some industry observers that had hoped to see a more wholesale replacement of planned FTTN connections.

An important – as yet unreleased – ingredient to understanding FTTC’s potential will be in the cost per premises compared to FTTN.

The latest cost per premises for FTTN/B (NBN Co doesn’t break out its costs for FTTN only) are $2172.

NBN Co said it is not yet reporting a cost per premises for FTTC “due to [the] early stage of that deployment program”.

It appears to have a working forecast of the cost but declined to reveal details for fear they could jeopardise build negotiations.

“Contracts in respect to the design and build of the FTTC premises are still under negotiation with delivery partners, and to indicate our forecast costs would jeopardise the commercial outcome of these negotiations for NBN Co,” it said.

“These forecasts are therefore commercial in confidence."

About one million premises have been placed into the planned FTTC footprint. Construction of one-third of the footprint is due to begin by the end of this year.

Commercial FTTC services are expected around the middle of next year, though NBN Co has already kicked off sandbox testing of FTTC equipment with some of its retail service providers.

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