NBN Co set to go live with HFC in March 2016

NBN Co will begin connecting customers via the Telstra and Optus cable networks in March 2016, according to the company's updated product road map.

NBN Co's commercial offering of services on the existing cable networks acquired from Telstra and Optus will not begin until March 2016, potentially six months out from the next federal election.

The updated Product Roadmap (PDF), released on Friday, is the first to take into account the new Telstra and Optus agreements with NBN Co to hand over the existing copper and hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) networks for use in the National Broadband Network's (NBN) "multi-technology mix" rollout.

NBN Co has already stated that some of the 3.27 million premises covered by the HFC networks today will know in 2015 when they can expect to be connected to the network. NBN Co's updated product road map reveals that NBN Co expects to conduct a pilot of HFC in the fourth quarter of 2015, before connecting customers from March 2016.

That gives NBN Co just six months to begin connecting HFC customers before the potential time of the next election, at around September 2016.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull reportedly told Liberal Party colleagues in a party room briefing that with the inclusion of the HFC networks, the NBN could potentially reach 47 percent of Australians by the time of the election.

When asked by ZDNet on Sunday, Turnbull wouldn't confirm whether he believes the network would reach 47 percent coverage by the time of the next election, but said that NBN Co's own three-year rollout plan released early next year will likely provide a much greater insight into where the network rollout will be at in 2016.

NBN Co's chief customer officer John Simon said that NBN Co is also on track with some of the other technologies planned for release in 2015.

"We are continuing our fibre-to-the-basement pilot in inner-city Melbourne, with around 45 end users currently experiencing average download peak speeds of 89Mbps and average upload speeds of 36Mbps," he said.

"We will be working with our industry partners and ISPs over the next few months to ensure the FttB product has been tested in preparation for commercial launch, which is scheduled for Q1 2015."

The construction of the fibre-to-the-node component of the network is also continuing in northern New South Wales and Queensland, and construction commenced on the much-delayed Epping trial in September. Simon said that NBN Co is working with retailers for a pilot in Epping over the coming months.

He said that the trials will continue until the commercial launch of fibre-to-the-node products in the third quarter of 2015.

NBN Co will also be conducting a pilot of 50Mbps down, 20Mbps up services on the fixed-wireless LTE network in the second quarter of 2015.

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