OptiComm wholesale HFC shows up Optus

Greenfields fibre broadband provider OptiComm has opened up its hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network in Butler, Western Australia to wholesale access, something Optus has claimed could not be done.

Greenfields fibre broadband provider OptiComm has opened up its hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network in Butler, Western Australia to wholesale access, something Optus has claimed could not be done.

OptiComm took over running the HFC and PON (Passive Optical Network) networks in Butler from the developer in November. At the time, broadband vendor e-wire was the sole vertically integrated provider to the 2500 HFC residents, and the 1200 PON residents in the Brighton Estate. Managing director Phil Smith told ZDNet Australia that over December and January, OptiComm began upgrading the HFC to the DOCSIS 3.0 (Data-Over-Cable Service Interface Specification) standard, to allow customers to get 100 megabits per second (Mbps) downloads and 40Mbps uplink. He said this was an ongoing process that was being done in stages.

As part of the DOCSIS upgrade, Smith said the company opened up the HFC network to wholesale, and iiNet signed on its first customer to the service last week.

"We didn't do anything that amazing because we basically followed the DOCSIS standards to be able to implement open standards. There are people out there claiming you can't do open access on HFC and we've proved that if you follow the standards you can do it."

Both Telstra and Optus have upgraded their HFC networks to DOCSIS 3.0 and both networks are set to cease offering broadband as part of deals they have with NBN Co to transition HFC customers onto the $35.9 billion National Broadband Network fibre.

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has suggested that the HFC networks could be opened up to competition instead of being replaced by NBN Co's fibre network, but Optus has previously told the competition regulator that it didn't have the ability to supply wholesale services.

"Optus does not currently have the technical ability to supply wholesale access services over its HFC network and has no plans (or incentive) to upgrade the HFC network to do so in the future," Optus stated.

Over the weekend, Turnbull seized on OptiComm's revelation stating that the claims that wholesale HFC was not possible were "particularly egregious" given that OptiComm just followed the DOCSIS standard.

Smith said that although OptiComm specialises in fibre-to-the-home networks, the company has a number of workers who have experience working with HFC.

"So we did have HFC expertise in our company. We knew the network because a lot of those guys were involved in the original build anyway."

Smith said that HFC with bonded DSL would be capable of getting 87Mbps uploads, and said claims that the HFC network would be congested were greatly exaggerated.

"There are hundreds of customers on that network and the couple that have gone 100Mbps so far, they're clocking it at 98Mbps [in speed tests]. We're not seeing the congestion issue. Most of these networks, you can run to a reasonable contention ratio without noticing a major drop-off."

He said that OptiComm was looking for other opportunities to expand both in terms of greenfields developments, and picking up existing networks. He said OptiComm was currently in a "honeymoon period" for providing fibre for new housing estates where developers were getting OptiComm to step up, as NBN Co had a massive backlog in its greenfields fibre requests from developers.

"Some developers are saying there have been a number of delays on NBN and we're seeing a reasonable amount of business coming to us because of that. I think that's a honeymoon period, and I expect at some point once NBN gets its act together [it] will make life much harder for us."


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