NBN Co will flip a portion of its planned HFC network into the fibre-to-the-curb footprint but it will not abandon HFC altogether.
The company has been the subject of weeks of industry rumours of a large-scale change to its rollout plans, fuelled by delays to its HFC remediation project and a long pause in updating its official map.
A change will be confirmed when NBN Co CTO Ray Owen addresses the CommsDay Summit in Sydney this morning, though it is not as far-reaching as rumoured.
NBN Co will start by flipping 440,000 premises from HFC and FTTN over to the FTTC footprint.
The number isn’t broken down, but is understood to largely consist of premises in Telstra HFC-cabled areas that do not have a lead-in (“in-fill”), or that are currently just outside a Telstra HFC network border but were intended to be added (“extension”).
The change does not affect any premises caught up in the HFC freeze at this stage, though iTnews understands some “frozen” premises could be flipped to FTTC in future.
On that front, NBN Co also said today it will begin to lift the HFC freeze - which affects about 700,000 users - from late April, though progress will be slow.
The network builder said it will start by re-releasing just 1000 HFC premises in Sydney and Melbourne to retailers.
It will then follow with “around 38,000 HFC premises by the end of June in select areas across Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth”.
Having only 39,000 of the 700,000 HFC premises unfrozen by the end of the fiscal year is likely to result in some financial restatements.
NBN Co had previously only estimated its financial hit based on the assumption everything would be back online by the end of June.
Making the remainder of the frozen HFC network serviceable will now extend through the back half of the year, based on NBN Co’s projections.
“From July onwards NBN Co expects to significantly ramp up the release of HFC premises to retailers, forecast to hit around 100,000 premises per month,” it said.
NBN Co said in late February it had completed proof-of-concepts in six service area modules for the remediation work required to raise the performance of its HFC network.
It has also continued to build out new portions of the HFC network but not released them for sale.
The timeline for how the HFC network will come back online is to be progressively added to the official NBN map.
The first map update is due around April 18, though it will contain revised dates only for about 200,000 premises that were impacted by the freeze.
The remediation work itself is said to have added about $145 in cost to each premises in the HFC footprint. The most recent cost per premises (CPP) estimate for HFC is $2403.
By contrast, the only CPP estimate ever provided for FTTC is $2900.
The HFC premises to be flipped into FTTC would have cost the company over $2900, as a new lead-in is understood to cost around $1000 extra on average.
However, cost is only one component. Last month, research by the ACMA showed that some HFC customers were left waiting weeks for NBN activation, mostly because they did not have a lead-in cable.
NBN Co is hoping that moving the rest of customers in that situation into the FTTC footprint instead will prove a smoother transition onto the national broadband network.