In-home FttN wiring testing needed, costly: NBN Co

In-home FttN wiring testing needed, costly: NBN Co

Summary: NBN Co needs to test and fix customers' in-home copper wiring to get the best speeds from VDSL2, but it's the most expensive and least preferred of three options for in-home connectivity, the company's advice to the Coalition government warns.


Connecting customers to a fibre-to-the-node (FttN) National Broadband Network (NBN) will require testing of in-home wiring and a network termination device (NTD) that costs more than the equivalent NTD in the current fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) rollout, NBN Co warned the incoming government in an assessment of the three possible scenarios for NTD deployment.

The quality of in-building copper can significantly impact FttN performance: NBN Co.
(Image: CC BY-SA 3.0 Adamantios)

The assessment — contained in a confidential report prepared by NBN Co for the incoming government's "blue book" at the request of the now Department of Communications — warns that "FttN-based services will require in-house remediation as well as incur a modem cost that exceeds the cost of equivalent fibre-based end-user equipment".

A one-off credit for new installations "may be warranted" to ensure that the cost of end-user connections isn't too high, the report suggests.

The need for remediation of customers' in-home wiring may be more problematic, since the performance of VDSL2 technology favoured in the Coalition government's plan varies widely depending on the quality of any particular line.

This includes not only the Telstra-owned copper between the FttN node and the customer premises, but also the in-building wiring that runs to their wall socket.

This is more of an issue in apartment buildings, where in-building wiring may be extensive and old, leading to unpredictable performance. Reports from two residents of one Sydney apartment block using the technology, for example, suggest that one was getting 92Mbps on his service, while the other maxed out at 28Mbps.

Without on-site testing of every premises connected to the network, actual performance of FttN NBN services would be unknown, the report notes, warning that without further remediation, NBN Co would only be able to guarantee 25Mbps and 12Mbps speeds to all premises.

"FttN solutions are unable to provide significant amounts of guaranteed bandwidth," the report notes in an assessment of three major options for rolling out the NTD.

The three possible approaches for delivering NTDs in an FttN rollout include:

Option A: NBN Co supplies and installs a VDSL2 NTD at the end user's premises

Voice services would be delivered using VoIP services through the built-in UNI-D or UNI-V ports. This option "is not preferred due to increased rollout costs from installing CPE", the report advises.

"However, this configuration is the closest to the current architecture used in the NBN rollout today. It can deliver the UNI-D and UNI-V ports, and enables enhanced activation and assurance methodologies to be implemented on FttN (eg, a service is easy to diagnose remotely when an NTD is installed in a premises)."

Option B: The FttN service is delivered to the first wall socket in the premises

Retail service providers would supply the NTD and guide the customer through its installation, much as ADSL services are set up today.

"Issues associated with customer premises wiring would be the responsibility of end users and/or their RSPs. If there are additional socket and wiring extensions, the speed performance of the service can deteriorate significantly."

This approach would eliminate an NBN Co truck roll, but would potentially reduce the quality of the connection. "Issues associated with customer premises wiring would be the responsibility of end users and/or their RSPs. If there are additional socket and wiring extensions, the speed performance of the service can deteriorate significantly."

Voice would be delivered from a "soft switch outside the NBN", and NBN Co would shunt this traffic onto the copper line. Use of an in-home splitter — at additional cost — would then aim to minimise the effect of poor wiring by splitting data and voice services at the premises. "This requires further investigation due to the technical complexity," the report notes.

Option C: The FttN service is delivered to the first wall socket in the premises with no NTD present

This scenario would also see customers or their RSPs supply and install their own FttN gateway. Telstra would deliver voice services over the existing copper, with NBN Co delivering broadband services from the FttN node. However, the NBN Co report notes, "this is likely to be inconsistent with Telstra's structural separation obligations". It would also potentially strand customers, since it relies on the Telstra copper network, which Telstra has indicated it wants to retire.

NBN Co's report had separately identified the desire to reduce the number of truck rolls as an overriding consideration for delivering the rollout quickly and cost effectively, noting that the Coalition's current staggered plan should be modified so that the rollout can be completed in one go instead of two.

Turnbull has previously dismissed the report as "totally political" and out of date — despite subsequent evidence to the contrary — and has promised that details of his network's cost and technological models will be revealed soon.

Turnbull recently received the findings of the strategic review, but has delayed its release and defied calls by the Senate to make the document public. Turnbull's office has advised that the government "expects that the report will be released by the end of the year".

Topics: NBN, Broadband, Fiber, Government AU, Australia


Australia’s first-world economy relies on first-rate IT and telecommunications innovation. David Braue, an award-winning IT journalist and former Macworld editor, covers its challenges, successes and lessons learned as it uses ICT to assert its leadership in the developing Asia-Pacific region – and strengthen its reputation on the world stage.

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  • Can Someone Explain this to the Pollies pleas

    This is another case of a False Economy. Can someone please point the LNP to the appropriate Wikipedia article to explain what I mean.
  • What a failure. FttN is obsolete.

    With FttN, they can only guarantee speeds of either 12Mbps or 25Mbps.

    Even then, with old copper lines, those connections might be flakey.

    If you want to receive a 4K video stream, you need an absolute minimum of 15Mbps, and that's for a very very compressed version of it. You need more bandwidth for a comfortably high quality version.

    4K video is becoming the standard. Screens, home video cameras and even phones will all handle 4K video. Qualcomm is developing a phone chip that can do it. They will ALL be 4K. So, all those proposed 12Mbps FttN connections will be unfit for purpose as soon as they're installed.

    In a 1980s style household, you have a telephone line and MULTIPLE televisions in different rooms of the house. Now, if you translate those viewing habits to the FttN, it can't happen, even with 25Mbps. It can't handle television, let alone telephone calls and web surfing that other people in the household might be doing at the same time.

    There are two facts about television. First, it will disappear from over-the-airwaves and move 100% to the internet (radio spectrum is more valuable for other mobile purposes). Second, it's all moving to 4K, an undeniable fact. Panasonic is quoted as saying that all its video cameras will be 4K in a year or so.

    The FttN network will not be able to handle the average daily household activities.
    • I already have 30Mbps

      With "unlimited" cable and that is only there if only one person in the household is using it. Add in family PCs, tablets and smartphones all fighting for that bandwidth and the rate can often get down to 1Mbps for a device. My 4G phone can also provide around the same data rate on a good day, but is also capable of dropping down to 1Mbps depending on network use and signal strength.

      The worst part of FttN is that the government is using tax payer money to allow the rich to use their petty cash to get FttP, while the rest of us have to make do with low speeds and a decrepit copper network. If the government is investing our money in an NBN then I want to see 100Mbps as the base speed with much higher speeds available in the future.
      • ...

        Well there is that selfishness again, with the whole "I" when the NBN stands for "National Broadband Network" ?
        • It's an example and an opinion

          Not only is it an example but it is illustrating that the non-typical 'I' case of 1 user per household requires more than the FTTN option.

          It's also an opinion.

          BTW I (yes another example) have 100Mbps HFC which copes OK with the needs of a 4 person household in that it works well enough for the needs of my 80+ year old mother most of the time, but not always.

          It certainly does not work well enough for me if I need to upload anything though. The upload speed is woeful When I am doing 9 hour uploads it's just stupidly inefficient.

          But my desire for a better network is not for me as much as it is for those I know that have small businesses or work from home and are stuck on very slow ADSL.

          In fact I questioned Turnbull on the very issue of in-building cabling problems - and his first response was mini-nodes - which was irrelevant - his second response when I pointed out that wasn't an answer was 'I don't know what's going on there'.

          Not the answer I was looking for when people are limited in their ability to function productively by the copper network. I was hoping for a real guarantee of some sort that there would be a solution for these people.
  • No wonder they are dropping in the polls

    They want childcare workers to hand back a pay rise, want to get rid of Holden, and now pursue a FttN solution that all the experts are telling them won't work. The average punter on the street isn't going to see faster response times, and is probably going to have to pay more than what they do now.

    How long will it take before sanity prevails?
    • You're right. The average punter won't see the difference

      To see a difference in speed, you need to increase by a multiple of times.

      Yet the average person will be asked to buy modem gear that is more expensive than what the optical fiber equipment would have been. All for just a marginal benefit.

      I don't think people will want this half-NBN solution. If people don't want to adopt FttN, it will become a financial disaster.
      • You need overhead for most tasks

        The speed you need is at least the speed of the peaks in use or in streams - not the average.

        If you need something done fast now - you need the speed to get it done fast now. Not some thought that you can average everything you do out over the month. That's ridiculous.

        Imagine working out how far you drive in a month and dividing that by the number of hours in a month and buying a car that does only that speed. We'd all buy cars that do only 2km/hr. This is following the Turnbull logic as expressed many times.

        With a broadcast stream of a live event the data rate may average 10Mbps - but may peak at much higher than this - likely as the try is scored because the complexity of the motion at that moment is high. So a network to carry live sports requires much more than the average bit-rate.

        For a movie it's not so bad as the bit-rate can be optimised by non-real-time processing to limit the peaks plus you can buffer large amounts of a movie - or download in which case the bit-rate is not much of an issue.

        The other factor is that very few people these days have only one thing happening on their internet connection. Your phone is probably checking mail and receiving messages via the internet, as well as checking for OS and app updates etc. Any one of these activities will cause peaks in your bit-rates. If your connection is running close to it's capacity then these peaks will cause traffic jams which will result in retransmitted packets and therefore stream problems.

        NBNCo FTTP has seperate dedicated capacity for PayTV which means that a PayTV live sports stream is just not affected by your other internet activity.

        So yes we didn't get (relatively) stable streaming (SD/HD) until we went from 20Mbps HFC to 100Mbps HFC but it's still not up to FTTP capabilities.

        To support the TVs being sold right now (UHD) the data requirements are way above what we are streaming on 100Mbps. FTTN doesn't have a hope of consistently delivering across the population for current tech requirements for live sports.

        Meanwhile movie downloads have been possible on ADSL for most people for quite a while - and this is not the reason for the NBN.
  • If not working why need to insist...

    If the FTTN is costly and provides poor service, the government must invest on FTTP instead to ensure a reliable connection in every household.
  • Which government/country - oh I see.

    Pity I had to intuit which country/government this piece was talking about. As ZDNet is now a totally undifferentiated international site, some guidance for the reader would be helpful.
    Manek Dubash
  • A lot of effort to fit a square peg into a round hole

    The amount of energy, effort and money being wasted on this stubborn determination to provide anything but FTTP is galling.

    The intitial set-up and planning and rollouts for FTTP took time as the industry adapted to the new FTTP plan. Just as we reached a tipping point in efficiency the nation installs Abbott and Turnbull and now they insist on reinventing the wheel - only they keep coming up with a hexagon rather than a wheel...

    Seriosuly thinking of leaving the industry - too political and not because it makes sense - rather just to be different.

    Ideologues are ruling our country and not for the national good.