Turnbull talks 1Gbps over FttN NBN

Turnbull talks 1Gbps over FttN NBN

Summary: Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has suggested that his version of the NBN may be able to deliver 1Gbps speeds thanks to developments in DSL technology.


Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has leapt upon the developing DSL standard G.fast that vendors have promised will be able to deliver 1Gbps over copper.

The International Telecommunications Union is moving toward making G.fast a DSL standard by March 2014. G.fast promises fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) speeds over short distances of copper through a combination of DSL technologies, including pair-bonding, vectoring to eliminate cross-talk on VDSL2, and "phantom mode", which creates virtual pairs between copper pairs.

The high-end speeds of up to 1Gbps can only be achieved over very short distances of copper, between 100 metres and 200 metres.

Speaking at a Business Spectator lunch in Sydney yesterday, Turnbull said that this new standard is something that was not included in his fibre-to-the-node (FttN) National Broadband Network (NBN) policy, but suggested that it is something that could be assessed should the Coalition win the federal election later this year.

"There is an even more souped-up version of that called G.fast, which is just starting to be deployed commercially, which, over short copper runs, I mean 100 metres, can deliver over 1[Gbps]," he said.

"What has happened in relatively recent times is that that difference [between copper and fibre] has compressed. Now you're seeing a difference in the service level that is available in fibre to the node, fibre to the basement has become much less."

The proposal would mean that in many locations, the node would need to be brought much closer to the premises, such as in the basement of multi-dwelling units, in order to reduce the distance enough to achieve those promised speeds.

Turnbull said the argument that the Coalition's policy is using outdated technology falls flat when looking at all the innovations in the uses for the existing copper line.

"The Labor party will say our party is using an old technology. The technology we're talking about using, whether it be vectored VDSL or G.fast, they are not old technologies; they are the latest," he said.

Under the Coalition's proposal, around 22 percent of premises will still receive fibre to the premises, but this will mostly be for new buildings where the NBN is already rolling out, and in areas where the copper line has degraded and cannot achieve a minimum of 25Mbps. Turnbull indicated that more premises could get fibre if the price is right.

"We've set out what we expect an NBN Co configured in a more rational manner will look like, but if we can do more fibre than we've anticipated, that would not be a bad thing. I'm not arguing that fibre to the premises is a bad technology; if money and time were no object, I would certainly do it."

First and foremost after the election if the Coalition wins, Turnbull has said that an analysis will be undertaken in NBN Co of the cost of the current rollout, and the best alternative to proceed with to see the network rolled out fastest and in the most cost-effective manner. He said that he believes this would only take 60 days, because staff in the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy as well as NBN Co would already be working on it.

"Our aim is to get it done in 60 days. I would expect that there is a fair bit of preliminary work being done both in the department and in NBN Co, because government departments always do anticipate a change of government," he said.

"I think if we do win the election, we won't be presented with a blank sheet of paper; there will be a fair bit of work done already."

Turnbull also floated the idea of NBN Co taking over running Telstra's hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network, rather than shutting it down as the current deal with Telstra stipulates.

"With the HFC, there is more talking to be done. One option is the HFC becomes part of the NBN Co network," he said. "We're open at looking at different solutions there. One option is that it is operated by Telstra there as a wholesale asset."

Any option would be better than the current plan, he said.

"There's got to be a better solution than paying Telstra billions of dollars to switch off a HFC network that is capable of delivering very high-speed broadband now and into the future. On one level, that is an extraordinary episode of asset destruction."

But Turnbull said that the HFC network would be dealt with later, as NBN Co under the Coalition would not prioritise the HFC areas for overbuilding with the fibre-to-the-node network.

"The HFC areas where people can get 100Mbps you wouldn't be overbuilding with the current technology in the next three years," he said.

Turnbull said that if he had been able to start from scratch, the ideal broadband policy would have been to structurally separate Telstra's fixed-line asset into a separate company, and then organise for the company to upgrade its network, subsidising the upgrades in the more expensive regional locations.

He said that the New Zealand model, where Telecom NZ split its wholesale arm, Chorus, into a new company, is the best way to do it. However, he said that it is "fantasy football" at this point, because Telstra isn't interested in doing it.

Topics: NBN, Government, Government AU


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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  • Remember Telstra....

    In the 2003 Broadband Competition Inquiry talked about Telstra then Board Management talked about "Sweating" the copper it was 5 minutes to midnight aka ~10-15 years - that was in 2003 - G.Fast is very much talking about that.



    If Turnbull does this, then Telstra will do walk over this and build FTTP.

    It is simple as that, Phil Burgess suggested this on ABC interview (ABC's Four Corners (2011 I think) and will also be asking for compensation as it is under law.

    We may get the Infrastructure Competition that he wanted, but at what cost?
    • Your position is farcical

      Telstra, nor anyone else, isn't going to overbuild NBNCo infrastructure (Labor or Liberal). There's never been the business case for it.
      Richard Flude
      • More NBN news

        "It is expected up to 200 workers helping roll out the National Broadband Network in Tasmania will be out of a job by Friday.

        The NBN rollout has been plagued by problems.

        Asbestos concerns halted remediation work in Telstra's cement pits about nine weeks ago, depriving subcontractors of work.

        Telstra has not set a date for it to recommence."

        And we were told the issue wouldn't affect the rollout;-)

        The fun continues:
        "Subcontractors say the new pay rate is inadequate and would see them operating below cost."

        Yep, still on target and budget (ROFL)
        Richard Flude
        • Perspective

          "The company has formed a view that it poses a threat to the business model of by far its most important asset in Australia, the Foxtel cable TV monopoly it jointly owns with Telstra."
          "Telstra has not set a date for it to recommence."

          Funny about that and that so many of the issues and delays which are the main reason for the Contractors problems come back to Telstra, News Ltds PARTNER
          Abel Adamski
      • Yes, Go for it Malcolm!

        Problems all solved. All the Libs will need to do then is install a powered node at every building in the country plus a few extra power stations.
        Sure to be faster & cheaper considering FPPT would take 80 years & cost eleventy hundred Billion!
        Isn't that right Richard?
  • On the subject of Vecting, G.Fast etc...

    Malcolm is using more slogans again.
  • Derp?

    Forgive my quite possible ignorance on the topic (but hey, Turnbull's ignorant as well so what's good enough for him...) but would this only be possible if the copper being used was in the best possible condition? And given that Australia's copper is in a worse state than the metal in my fillings, wouldn't everyone just be better off replacing the copper with fibre rather than replacing the copper with new copper? I guess being pig stubborn as a Liberal means no, but with their U-turn on the Gonski plan I can hope that one day they'll also see the light along a fibre cable and admit their FTTN just doesn't have the nation's long term interests at heart
    • Yep pretty much nailed it

      Thats exactly it, our Copper is terrible and it'll all need replacing anyway. Not much else to say at that point as using what you have is the only reason to stay on copper.
      Ayden Beeson
  • Keep spinning there Coalition

    I like that Malcolm talks about the gap between fibre and copper closing, but fails to mention 10gb/s, 40gb/s and 100gb/s fibre which is around now on the same fibre that does 100mb and 1gb.....

    Pretty sure that 100mbit fibre / 24mbit (theoretical max) ADSL = 24% speed gap whereas 100gbps fibre vs 1gbps G.Fast DSL (theoretically, not really even around yet) = 1% speed.

    I agree, a gap is changing Malcolm but not in the direction you're talking.
    Ayden Beeson
  • Airplane analogy

    "The Labor party will say our party is using an old technology. The technology we're talking about using, whether it be vectored VDSL or G.fast, they are not old technologies; they are the latest," he said.

    It's like trying to attach Vectored Thrust Rockets to a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 to make it fastest, more manoeuvrable, and able to hover.
    Sure it sounds awesome to a technology junkie, and the Rockets are newest, latest and greatest technology, but have you thought about what you're attaching it to? And those Vectored Thrust Rockets are not cheap.
  • Rupert FoxTel avoids competition again.

    As Malcolm confessed: "The HFC areas where people can get 100Mbps you wouldn't be overbuilding with the current technology in the next three years,"

    Is the real reason for this entire stupid journey into a flawed FttN model, and leave the HFC areas untouched, just to protect the FoxTel monopoly in those areas? It can't be money (the FttN won't be cheaper) nor rollout speed (no really, it won't be any quicker - just read between the lines and note the weasel words in the LNP policy; more caveats than an insurance contract).

    And why else would MT say "Any option would be better than the current plan (of shutting down the HFC)"?

    So my area will stay stuck with HFC and ADSL2+, probably forever, if the LNP get in.
    Australia's interests superseded by the corporate interests of VIDs (Very Important Donors) once again.
    • FTTN is demonstratively cheaper and faster to deploy

      Many real world examples that contradict your position, none that support it.

      I can't understand why MT is talking speed, fibre will always have considerable advantage. Possibly he was referring such speed exclusively for FTTP MDU installations (NBNCos FTTH MDU model a disaster).

      The use of the HFC investment is a solid idea. With minimal investment 100mbps can be offered to a large number of premises very quickly.
      Richard Flude
      • None that support it

        Do a quick search for countries that are pushing FTTP, not every plan will be exactly the same as they have different situations to AU but there are lots of them..

        Cherry picking examples isn't going to prove your point only cloud the truth.

        Technology isn't the question here.... FTTP is the best technological option.

        The only debate that should be going on is "Should it be built now to produce maximum benefit for Australians". My vote is for yes.
        • No question others are doing FTTP

          But none as cheaply or as fast as FTTN. Avoiding the last 200m has massive savings in time and money; you can't simply wish it not so.
          Richard Flude
          • And you cannot simply wish...

            Wish that the last 200m of copper is capable of carrying 1Gbps. *Some* copper could, but a lot could not. If you have to replace the last 200 you might as well do it with fibre rather than copper. It's the labour cost of doing it that's expensive, *not* the material.
          • You Know What Would Have Been Really Cheap?

            Sticking to dial-up.
          • And finishing the last 200m

            is going to cost substantially more if you move forward with a FTTN network architecture as you are not just replacing the last 200m. Do the job right and do it once!
      • Facts please

        Where in the world is a non incumbent building a FTTN network faster and cheaper than they would a FTTP network.?
        Abel Adamski
        • Where are the non-incumbents

          building FTTP?

          NBNCo will need to acquire the copper network under the coalition. NBNCo is effectively buying it out anyway under Labor (paying for its customers, retired in most areas after 18mths).

          However over building the network with fibre is very expensive and time consuming as evidence by their laughible rollout updates (third revision meet only by including premises that can't order any services).

          You can argue FTTH (model used by Labor) is worth the additional money but stop claiming they're the same price, it's ridiculous and not supported by anyone in the industry.
          Richard Flude
          • Where are the non incumbents building FTTP ?

            Telstra can still use the copper for other services if it wishes
            Rollout Rates have been steadily climbing as expected, yes still issues with Telstra and contractors but resolvable.
            Claims re same price take into account the total cost to build completed 2021 including CAPEX and OPEX and upgrades, and the fact that the same core infrastructure is needed, the same trunking, backhaul, transits and POI's. These actually along with common satellites and rural wireless make up approx 70% of cost.
            To change to FTTN will actually be an interesting challenge considering the guaranteed minimum speeds promised. The quoted comparisons generally are .64mm copper which we have quite a bit of in the longer runs which are the ones that will be replaced by fibre to the node, the local runs especially less than 30yrs age have a high proportion of .4mm and .32mm. the lighter guage greatly impacts the performance, plus the joints, etc.
            To a) change tack and replan and test every pair will be expensive, plus replace copper cables (copper cable is actually more expensive) especially when pipes are already full.
            Plus the power provisions for the nodes and mini nodes.
            Interestingly the hifher value areas will tend to be the older better maintained areas with heavier guage copper so suitable for VDSL so for better will have to pay for FTTP - they can afford it, the lower value areas (wrong side of tracks) will have the poorer state of lesser adequacy and will be more likely to have to be FTTP
            Abel Adamski