Telstra and Alcatel-Lucent trial FttN for Coalition NBN

Telstra and Alcatel-Lucent trial FttN for Coalition NBN

Summary: Telstra and Alcatel-Lucent are testing out fibre-to-the-node technology in what will no doubt be a pitch for construction work on the National Broadband Network under the Coalition government.

TOPICS: NBN, Fiber, Telstra, Australia

Telstra and Alcatel-Lucent have confirmed that they are working on a fibre-to-the-node (FttN) trial that could be picked up as part of the Coalition's rework of the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout.

The trial, first reported by the Australian Financial Review, was started after the Coalition's election win on September 7, and was part of a long-running technology partnership with network vendor Alcatel-Lucent.

"Alcatel-Lucent has been our access network partner for many years, and we regularly test technologies with them. We have recent experience with FttN-like technologies through our Top Hat rollout," the spokesperson said.

"We started the VDSL vectoring trial just after the election, and it is going well. We haven't demonstrated its capabilities to anyone yet."

Telstra and Alcatel-Lucent worked together on the company's first FttN pitch back in 2005, and then on the unsuccessful NBN tender in 2008.

Prior to becoming the new minister for communications last week, Malcolm Turnbull frequently highlighted the VDSL vectoring work being undertaken by Alcatel-Lucent in Belgium with Belgacom, and in Austria with Telekom Austria, as a potentially more cost-effective alternative to delivering fibre to the premises to 93 percent of Australian premises today.

As FttN involves installing a node on the street corner and then using the existing copper line to the premises to offer VDSL services, Telstra will need to be involved in the construction of the FttN NBN because it still currently owns the copper lines. The Coalition will first need to renegotiate the AU$11 billion Telstra NBN deal in order to access the cable.

Telstra's CEO David Thodey has said that the company would like to see a quick renegotiation, but the trial indicates that Telstra has an interest in getting more construction work out of the new NBN. Although Telstra did not directly receive any major construction contracts for the NBN under Labor, the company has been heavily involved in the on-the-ground work with pit and duct remediation. In August, Thodey said that Telstra would like to assist wherever possible in the construction of the NBN, and Turnbull has said that he would have given more of the construction work to Telstra in the first place.

The speeds on the FttN trial will be of most interest, but Telstra is remaining tight lipped on it at this point. On VDSL, speeds range up to a maximum of 80 megabits per second (Mbps) down, depending on the length and quality of the copper line. Anywhere farther than 300 metres from the cabinet or node sees a massive reduction in speed.

As part of this internal trial, Telstra has been using VDSL vectoring, which cuts down the noise on the copper line, allowing even higher download and upload speeds.

According to an analyst briefing document from Alcatel-Lucent, the Belgacom trial has a copper loop length of 500 metres, with preliminary lab and field test results showing a minimum downstream speed sans vectoring of 20Mbps, and with vectoring a minimum downstream speed of 65Mbps.

A Telstra spokesperson today said that Telstra's current trial has no customers at this stage, but that the trial has been "delivering the expected FttN speeds". The spokesperson did not disclose the length of the copper line, or the location of the trial.

The Coalition's proposal would currently see around 71 percent of premises receiving fibre-to-the-node services instead, although this figure will largely depend on the outcome of the reviews and audits the Coalition is currently undertaking into NBN Co, the current rollout and the best options for broadband.

An Alcatel-Lucent spokesperson confirmed the Telstra trial, and said that the network vendor is working on VDSL vectoring trials with between 40 and 50 telcos worldwide.

Topics: NBN, Fiber, Telstra, 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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  • Telstra has used FTTN for years

    I know people on Telstra FTTN. Line speed is variable.

    I have no doubt that it is possible to deliver expected line speeds to some users.

    I also have no doubt that thee speeds cannot be delivered on a significant number of lines.

    Telstra can and should have rolled out VDSL to any area currently not getting 5Mbps or more.

    Telstra can and should have dropped line extenders into any long line to achieve speed boosts.

    We only have really bad internet now due to Telstra not caring and the Coalition legislation not requiring service.

    We could have line extenders for the worst cases now at much lower cost than FTTN and then Fibre to follow. This approach would be much less wasteful than the FTTN approach with fibre from the nodes at greater later expense.

    News of a trial by Telstra is old hat (pun intended) as I remember their FTTP trial. This is pointless.
    • It's a problem when non technical people rule our world.

      Just came back from living in the USA where AT&T supplies FTTN under the name of "AT&T Uverse". I is better than regular ADSL for sure. But it is not new and they SHOULD have been doing it for the last 8 years anyhow. The NEXT generation should be either some completely wireless delivery (wifi to the block) or Fibre to the premises. Using FTTN in this day is basically just getting ourselves to where we should have been for the last few years. It's nothing new.

      I remember sending a letter to the minister for communication in 1995 after I came back from 4 years in the the USA suggesting that they look at setting up a national TCP/IP infrastructure as that was coming fast. I received back a letter stating they were happy with the exisiting non IP (OSI) based infrastructure and that OSI networking was the way of the future.. still have that letter somewhere I think..
      Julian Elischer
      • I note that you did not mention that it was a Labor Government

        in 1995.

        Not that the female Comm's Minister in the Coalition Government was any good. I've forgotten her name, but she single-handedly set-back comm's by a decade.
  • Amazing how quickly Telstra is moving on this now. Seems they do want to squeeze as much as they can out of the obsolete copper. An inefficient and clumsy solution, as nasty hack to tide us over until they figure out it was a waste of time and money and roll out a proper FttP network... well to the lucky few in cherry picked areas. That's our Telstra!

    Also you can count on only the best results will being noted and used as an example of what everyone can expect too. When shopping for a new internet plan in apparently 2016 "Up to 80mbps" will somehow sound so much more impressive than 100mbps does now... Just don't mention the upload speeds here either.
    Hubert Cumberdale
    • Accepting the inevitable

      All Telstra seems to be doing is that simple thing you seem unable to do - accept it that like it or not, we have had an election and a change of government with a very different policy to the old one. Had Telstra sat on it's hands and done nothing, you would no doubt be complaining that it was being obstructionist.

      We all have two choices. We can either whinge about not getting our way, or move forward to get the best outcome given where we are.
      • And yet...

        when people try to get the best outcome given where we are, they are shot down by comments such as "suck it up, Labor lost". 300k petition gets fobbed off, with "democracy spoke at the election" coming from Turnbull, and other suck comments.

        People ARE trying to get the best outcome, thats why we still debate the issue. The best outcome isnt FttN though, but apparently the best thing we're supposed to do is shut up and not comment on the fundamental flaws of such a rollout?

        Sorry, that wont work.
        • Labor did lose and the Coalition does have a mandate.

          Do you understand how elections work in Australia?
          • Just like

            Labor had a mandate for pink batts, carbon tax and expensive school buildings i suppose ;-)
          • Sure I do

            I certainly understand how elections work in Australia. Do you understand how democracy works?

            You're a troll that has no interest in the debate, we get that. That doesnt mean people arent going to voice their opinion, and if other stories floating about follow through, it may just mean we were right all along, and are making that key difference by speaking up now.

            How does it feel to know that Turnbull hasnt just halted the FttH build as his first step, and then opened the door for the whole build to stay as FttH?

            Must make you feel pretty sick knowing that Labor might have been right.
      • Sounds like someone hasn't been paying attention... at all.

        We all knew what would happen to the NBN if the coalition clowns got in. In fact if you bothered to read my comments here you'd notice that none have been more accepting of the impending Turnbull disaster than me. Furthermore if you head on over to Delimiter you'd notice that I even tell those with petitions to stop wasting their time.

        As for whinging and "moving forward". That's a brilliant line. If only those who say it now took that advice after the 2010 election. Certainly puts it all in perspective doesn't it? Seriously, those complaining about Turnbull's gimped network to be have more right to complain about it than the religious anti-NBN zealots ever did. If this isn't apparent now it will be in 2016 and beyond.

        The NBN (the proper one) has been scrutinised over the years to an almost psychotic levels by these types. Now they want us to be silent for their convenience? Get out. Considering what Turnbull has promised and also what he is throwing away just to satisfy his own and Abbott's political ego but also wasting $30+ billion of taxpayer money in the process on a redundant solution I'd say they are right to be pissed.
        Hubert Cumberdale
        • We also knew what would happen if the Labor Luncatics got back in

          Another 3 years of debt, waste an incompetence.

          Another 3 years of excuses as to why the NBN is delayed, running over budget and why contractors are pulling-out.

          Yes, the Labor NBN is technically superior to that of the Coalition but what point is that if it is not actually getting built!
          • Try to focus. It's all about FttN now. Turnbull's time to shine... and so far he's not doing so well though and as such you are in no position to talk about things getting built. There's only 1194 days to go and not even one node has been installed. At this rate it'll be the year 2,000,000 before they finished.
            Hubert Cumberdale
          • Re: We also knew...

            etc. but you’ve conveniently forgotten that Australia was practically the only first-world nation to barely feel the effects of the GFC. Perhaps the alleged “debt, waste an [sic] incompetence” were worth it.

            "Yes, the Labor NBN is technically superior to that of the Coalition but what point is that if it is not actually getting built!”

            There’s no reason why the coalition shouldn’t recognise that they’ve made a mistake – mandate or no mandate - and implement the only solution that makes sense, namely FttH.

            With _symmetrical_ broadband and static IP addresses, all the home computers in the country could act like a proper IP network, of the sort you usually only see in universities. The benefits of this are huge.

            With fast upload times, it would be possible to do offsite or cloud backups in a reasonable amount of time.

            Small and home businesses can rent super-computer time by the hour, which allows them to do world-class design and engineering computations, without the huge overheads of running a supercomputer centre - but only if the upload and download speeds are roughly same.

            (It takes a long time to upload - say - all the constraints that would be needed to optimise a car’s engine with a genetic or conventional numerical method, or to upload all the data required to do a microclimate simulation of a region you’re thinking of buying for viticulture.)

            This is why the article above disappointed me so badly. We’ve reached the point where download speeds are essentially good enough.

            If you want to do anything _more_ than watch streaming HDTV, there’s little point in improving download speeds - at least _until_ upload speeds equal _download_ speeds!

            I think the coalition should abandon FttN completely and stick with ADSL2+, until they think the books are healthy enough to afford do the (FttH) job properly.
      • Best Outcome?

        Probably for many of us it will be to stop paying line rental on our failing copper & go all wireless instead.
        That is until that collapses from overload due to lack of spectrum & we attempt to catch up to the rest of the world on FTTP.
  • Telstra strategy

    Do not assume that because Telstra is doing the trial that they favour one architecture over the other.

    They are simply good strategists. They know they need to fully understand capability and cost before entering negotiation with Turnbull. Increasing the information asymmetry in Telstra's favour is simply smart.
  • Sauce for the goose...

    While FTTH was the leading contender for NBN, concerns were constantly raised about it's reliability: frequently ignorant statements from politicians, media and amateur technologists - such as "fiber optic cable only lasts 15 years". This is despite the fact that FTTH is a well established technology, with industry standards published for 15 years and millions of users around the world.

    All of a sudden we have Vectored VDSL, for which the ink is still wet on the standards and no commercial deployments, and the reliablity is perfectly suitable for NBN and millions of Australian citizens. For NBN, will advanced VDSL be held to the same relailbity standrads and proof as FTTH?
  • heh

    I see trolls have set up shop on zdnet.
    • Are you refering to those

      who have some knowledge of how technology works and disagrees with FttN or those with their heads in the sand and believe absolutely everything Turnball and Murdoch have fed them and agree with FttN