NBN fibre-to-the-node trials delayed

NBN fibre-to-the-node trials delayed

Summary: A trial of fibre-to-the-node technology on the NSW Central Coast and Epping in Victoria has been delayed by issues in getting hold of Telstra's copper and securing adequate power.


NBN Co was due to commence live trials of fibre-to-the-node technology in Umina in New South Wales, and Epping in Victoria at the start of May, however neither trial has yet commenced.

As part of the shift to the multi-technology mix model proposed by the new Coalition government, NBN Co first announced its fibre-to-the-node pilot in February, with the company planning on accessing Telstra's spare copper pairs in the two locations serving up to 100 premises each in a trial that was set to commence at the start of May, and run until the end of October.

In the first test run in Umina, the company boasted a single test speed of 105Mbps down, and 45Mbps up on a copper line that was around 100 metres long. The trial was supposed to commence at the beginning of May, however no customers are yet on the service, with NBN Co only signing an agreement with Telstra to access the copper last week.

Speaking at a Budget Estimates hearing last night, NBN Co's chief operations officer Greg Adcock did not address the delay, but said that the Umina trial was "progressing well".

"The 11 nodes in Umina have now all been built. The access to the spare Telstra copper pairs — the agreement to facilitate that — was signed late last week. All the right instruments are in place now for Telstra to come in and hook a node up to the Telstra copper pairs, and for NBN Co to engage with RSPs [retail service providers] so that we can start to provide trials to end users in that area," he said.

The Epping trial was, however, more delayed.

"The Epping trial in Victoria has slowed down a bit, while we work with the utility there to find a power solution. We're working through that," he said.

Negotiations for a wider trial of fibre to the node technology were still underway with Telstra, Adcock added.

"We continue to negotiate with Telstra, and principles have been agreed, good progress has been made, and we believe we will be able to commence that trial in the coming weeks."

It comes as reports suggest Telstra and NBN Co will miss the mid-year target for the completion of the negotiations to overhaul the existing AU$11 billion agreement to allow NBN Co to access Telstra's copper and cable networks as part of the multi-technology mix model NBN.

NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow also revealed that the company is pushing to be able to make deals with RSPs for bulk discounts for broadband requirements, but this would require a legislative change that would allow NBN Co to discriminate. The company has observed that the average downloads per user can vary greatly from RSP to RSP. While the overall average per user is 65GB per month, it can be as high as 90GB or as low as 40GB with some RSPs.

NBN Co's head of product and sales said the non-discriminatory clause in NBN legislation made it difficult to negotiate with RSPs.

"When you have a non-discrimintory type position, it gets very hard to promote the right type of pricing plans for different RSPs for them to then come up with their plans to promote, and get more broadband usage out there," he said.

Morrow said this was something the RSPs had asked NBN Co to address.

"We're at a checkmate situation. The RSPs cannot push higher volume expecting to have a lower cost structure, and we cannot offer up individual RSP-related usage-based services," he said.

Ultimately the decision would be up to the Federal Government, Morrow said.

Adcock also revealed that internally NBN Co has been using a different figure for the number of premises passed to the one available to the public through the company's weekly rollout figures.

According to the company's internal figure, the network had passed 365,378 brownfields premises as of May 26, compared to 349,555 brownfields premises passed as of May 25 on the NBN Co website. This discrepancy was due to NBN Co rounding up fibre serving areas as being ready for service when 90 percent of premises are passed.

Adcock said the figure on the website is more accurate, as the premises serviceable figure — now sitting at 258,418 premises — is representative of how many customers can order a service from a retail service provider.

The Coalition senators last night shut down the estimates hearing half an hour earlier than originally scheduled, amid complaints from former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, who warned that NBN Co executives would be called before the Senate Select Committee for up to six hours to complete facing questions from the parliament.

Topics: NBN, Government, Government AU, Australia


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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  • Copper!

    Any mention of copper within the NBN makes me cry! I'm sure Australia will look back in 50 years & say "What happened there? What a huge mistake"
    We are rapidly progressing into the 19th century & this mistake will severely damage Australias future capability = depressing!
    • I'm not sure

      There would be any copper left in 50 years but stranger things have happened.

      I also don't know why the nbn is trying to do this stuff from scratch on their own - why don't they approach transact, iinet and I forget who the other company was - and ask them how they did the vdsl2 trials way back in 2009 (before labor shut them down) and ask what issues they had and what advice for doing it more smoothly. This whole start from scratch stuff is just nuts.

      Same with the fibre rollout - why didn't they start by sitting down with Telstra and Optus and going over the hfc rollouts from the 90s to learn from those experiences and go from there - or just contract a consortium of Telstra/Optus/iiNet/TPG to do the rollout in the first place - surely it would have been quicker.

      Also this whole removing the discrimination block would be a bad thing. They should be just offering up data at the cheapest rate possible to all - otherwise it will just end up back with cities getting cheaper deals and rural paying more which is part of what it was meant to resolve.
      • Transact

        Transact didn't use Telstra copper, they ran their own thicker copper especially for VDSL to get good results. HFC is not FTTH through underground ducts. It's an aerial rollout and very different to GPON. As to contracting Telstra/etc, they are contracting the companies they contract to do their work.
        • In Fact

          Same feet on the ground, just different vests and a Telstra margin on Top
          Abel Adamski
  • Power to the Fraudband

    One of the criticisms of the FTTN model was power. Getting power to 80,000 cabinets. Not easy. Not Green.

    If they can't manage to get power to a handful of cabinets during the trial, how the hell are they going to manage it across 80,000 more cabinets?
    • Don't be silly grif...

      ... the real brains of the coalition, think they are called Abbott and Pyne, have told us all how the 'market' will solve all our issues... so obviously the 'market' will provide instantaneous power solutions for all Malcolm's pretty little boxes...
  • Delays

    But but but..... the new MtM was supposed to not have delays. Sooner, faster, cheaper. Maybe we can only have one of those and we chose the wrong one.
  • Hail The Monty Python Flying Circus

    Or is it Fawlty Towers, or the Goon Show. Or maybe any number of bad Comedies.
    Power Problems. Shock Horror who would have thunk it - BT paying up to 27,000Pounds to power a cabinet
    Cherry Pickers killing margins - Nah Never happen, besides competition is better, with FTTB, it will be mini monopolies, so Competition?
    Discount pricing, bye level playing field. Telstra has approx 70% of broadband customers. Guess who will be the winner there, plus all the loot from the copper and HFC.

    Corruption anyone?
    Abel Adamski
    • The Link


      Re the gift to Telstra with their 70% of Broadband

      The CBN is looking more and more like a Telstra Charity Benefit
      Abel Adamski
  • Sooner! Faster! Cheaper!

    Well what type of Gov did the Australian people vote in if this is what they can offer and nothing can be shown for it! It's June now as MT has stated by 2015 Australia would have a better NBN.
    Come 2015 we will be still waiting for the Negotiations to finish and we will be still stuck with
    the ADSL crap that should of been removed in the labor Gov.
    I am so glad I did not vote for MTM.
    What is happening with the NBN any way?
    Can someone please inform us?
  • What is happening with the NBN?

    That's about Tony's only stated policy that wasn't a lie.

    Murdoch now gets his Foxtel networks protected & upgraded at public's expense in return for 3 years of campaigning to Kick This Mob Out.

    Telstra pockets 11 billion & still remains in control of our communications.

    Yes, They're open for business, Big Business & Funny Business while we get to pay far higher monthly charges for a Later, Slower, Dearer confidence scam.
  • More crap

    Fraudband is still juggling numbers to try and justify it's roll out. Start another bullshit review Turnbull so we can tear it to bits. You and your government are all bullshit on everything you do.
    Back to the copper age what a joke.