NBN Co will add fibre-to-the-curb to the upgrade options available under its ‘Technology Choice’ program.
Executives from NBN Co told a parliamentary committee that a user-pays upgrade option would be developed for fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) customers that wanted to switch to a FTTC connection.
“In an FTTN area we have to bring fibre outside the house in order to deploy FTTC,” chief network engineering officer Peter Ryan said.
“So therefore it depends on the distance from that house back to the nearest point of NBN fibre, which is typically back at the node. Hence that distance will cause the cost to vary.”
Upgrade options to an FTTC connection currently do not show up on the company’s website.
However, there are clues that new options will soon be on the table for NBN users that are unhappy with the access technology they have been given.
Currently listed on its website are two new Technology Choice options that are currently listed as being under development - “HFC to FTTP” and “FTTC to FTTP”.
That makes Ryan’s and his chief financial officer colleague Stephen Rue’s comments the first confirmation that technology choice options will be provided where FTTC is the destination technology.
“We will be doing that,” Rue said. “It’s just a matter of time.”
An FTTN to FTTC option could prove popular, given FTTN users are responsible for the majority of applications filed under Technology Choice.
One of the things delaying that option is the FTTC rollout itself.
Ryan said he “wouldn’t say we’re having problems” with the FTTC build, but he admitted it is taking longer than first expected.
“The issue is we’re remediating more [pits] than we had ... anticipated when we put together the [rollout] schedule, and that’s causing problems more around productivity of resource in terms of kilometres of FTTC deployed because we’re having to upgrade or replace more pits,” he said.
Ryan said there were several causes behind the extra pit replacements.
“One, if the pit is made out of asbestos and we have to do any work to the pit then we have to replace the pit,” he said.
“Secondly, and probably most importantly, it’s not until we get into the field that we often understand [what we’re dealing with].
“We limit the distance between the DPU [distribution point unit - a kerb-side box inserted into the pit] and the house to about 100m. Therefore until we get out into the field, to the specific houses, and we understand exactly which pit is feeding what house and the copper length distance to that house, that determines how many DPUs we can put inside that pit.
“If the number of DPUs is more than the number the pit can physically handle, then we have to increase the size of that pit.
“That’s typically what determines it, and that’s why you can determine so much more when you actually get into the field, versus a desktop design.”