NBN: Fibre to the world

Summary:In this feature, ZDNet explores how fibre deployments across the UK, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States are being achieved, at what cost, whether they have been successful, and how they compare to Australia's NBN.


  • Project: Fibre to the premises

  • Area: 9,984,670 km2

  • Population: 34 million

  • Premises to be passed: 3.3 million by Bell, including 800,000 by Bell Alliant

  • Percentage: Not yet finalised

  • Cost: Unclear

  • Government/private/mix: Private

Bell and Bell Aliant in Canada are both now going down a fibre-to-the-premises path for Eastern and Atlantic Canada, respectively.

"The business case has evolved as we've learned along the way. Just like with anything, the more you do something, the better you get at it." — Bell Aliant

Bell Aliant was the first to cover a city with fibre in June 2009, rolling out FttP in Fredericton and Saint John in New Brunswick. Since then, the rollout has expanded to cities big and small, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to small areas like Sudbury, Ontario. The company aims to have 800,000 premises passed by the end of the year, which is more than half of the homes in Atlantic Canada.

The company currently has 110,000 subscribers on its FibreOP network, and Bell Aliant is the only provider on the network. The initial rollout cost Bell Aliant CA$60 million (AU$56.4 million), but each new town the company has brought into the network has added tens of millions of dollars to the project each time.

A spokesperson for the company told ZDNet that it had begun to notice cost savings in deploying the network as it went along.

"The business case has evolved as we've learned along the way. Just like with anything, the more you do something, the better you get at it. Since 2009, we've built efficiencies into the process," she said.

"Now that the infrastructure exists in many of our larger centres, we're able to go back in and extend the build where it makes good sense, adding nearby communities and suburbs, again, where the business case exists."

Plans come in a number of tiers, starting at CA$29.95 for a 20Mbps down, 5Mbps up service with unlimited data usage. The company offers a top speed of 250Mbps down, 30Mbps up for CA$249.95 per month.

Bell Canada has an FttP network in Quebec City at a cost of CA$225 million (AU$211 million), and FttN services in Montreal and Toronto, as well as legacy DSL services.


The reason why Quebec City was chosen for FttP is that 85 percent of the premises in the city are serviced via aerial infrastructure, meaning there was no need to get into each duct to replace the existing network, making it "competitive to FttN" on a cost basis. Following the completion of this rollout, Bell said it would likely roll out more FttP to new housing developments.

Depending on the service availability, plans range from 5Mbps down and 1Mbps up at CA$34.95 per month up to 175Mbps down and up for CA$99.95 per month. For an extra CA$10 per month, the data allowance is unlimited.

Topics: NBN


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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