NBN Co cannot offer FTTB in TPG-serviced buildings: Morrow

NBN Co cannot offer FTTB in TPG-serviced buildings: Morrow

Summary: Technical restrictions mean that NBN Co will not be able to offer its pending fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) product in buildings where TPG Telecom has already installed FTTB services, NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow has confirmed. The alternatives? FTTP to the apartment – or no NBN Co service at all.


Bodies corporate will only be able to sign up to one fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) provider because the technical limitations of VDSL2 and VDSL vectoring technologies preclude NBN Co from installing DSL-based services in buildings where TPG Telecom had already installed FTTB, NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow has confirmed.

Testifying before the Senate Select Committee on the NBN this week, Morrow – supported on technical details by outgoing NBN Co chief technology officer Greg McLaren – said the company would be forced to roll out fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) services directly to multi dwelling units (MDUs) to bypass FTTB equipment that TPG had already installed.

NBN Co will have to use fibre-optic cabling inside MDUs where TPG has already set up FTTB. Image: CC BY-SA 3.0 BigRiz

This was necessary because installing FTTB equipment from two different providers was “well known” to cause interference problems, McLaren said.

"It's well known with DSL systems that if you have [two services] running over the same copper binder, the same copper cabling, that there is interference between them," McLaren said. “That happens today in ADSL networks.”

Senator Stephen Conroy asked whether VDSL2 vectoring technology – crucial to delivering high speeds under the government's multi-technology mix (MTM) alternative NBN strategy – would improve the situation.

"Vectoring solves that problem when it's coming from one DSLAM,” McLaren responded, “but when it's coming from independent DSLAMs then the advantage of cancelling out the interference disappears. It becomes a situation where it's more like a non-vectored service."

While the Communications Alliance had conducted “quite a bit of work” on the problem – and had provided a working paper on the issue to the NBN cost-benefit analysis headed by Dr Michael Vertigan – McLaren conceded that he was "not aware of" any company, anywhere in the world, that had found a solution to the problems posed by having two independent DSL services on the same copper.

Technical reality meant that NBN Co would have to resort to using FTTP in MDUs where TPG had already installed its FTTB infrastructure, Morrow said.

"If TPG were to get there first, from a business point of view [the problem] is not the technological limitation," he said, "because you could still run fibre up to the rest of it and bypass the copper induction factor that occurs."

TPG began live trials of the technology in March, offering services to customers in Pyrmont, Ultimo and the Sydney CBD; Southbank, Docklands and the Melbourne CBD; and Fortitude Valley and the Brisbane CBD.

NBN Co has fast-tracked the rollout of FTTP to those buildings and will, Morrow confirmed during the hearings, be delivering FTTP to select MDUs by the end of the financial year.

That did not mean all MDUs serviced by TPG would get NBN Co FTTP, however.

Commercial, not technical imperatives would guide NBN Co's decision about whether to deploy infrastructure in such buildings, Morrow said, because if TPG were able to cherry-pick the most profitable buildings the lost revenues would affect NBN Co's revenues "considerably".

“The reason why we would have to hesitate as to whether we could go in there is because the model shifts considerably,” he said. "If all those buildings have been served and there's very little revenue to be had in there, that raises questions with the economic model that's been put together for the NBN.”

"We have no opinion or concern about which way this gets resolved; it just needs to be noted. If we go from TPG to a competitive market in that space, it's an issue that must be addressed."

NBN Co is currently developing its FTTB product and expects to bring it to market in October.

Topics: NBN, Fiber, Government AU, Telcos


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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  • Cherry Picked

    Well, there you go. Cherry picked. People in those buildings are now *almost* locked into going with TPG, exactly the scenario the NBN was designed to prevent from happening. Slow clap for all involved.
    • Alternatively...

      The alternative is that it forces NBN Co to roll out FttP. They are providing services that THEY control to everyone, whether they control it by buying (ie HFC) or building.

      TPG controlled connections doesnt meet that mandate, and they need to provide a 25 Mbps connection in one way or another. Fixed wireless or satellite arent an option in an urban area, so the only alternative may be to roll FttP out over the top of the FttB build.

      Time will tell.
      • Really

        Sorry, do you honestly believe that will be permitted.?


        A relevant comment with a valuable link

        News Ltd CEO Kim Williams
        “Mr Williams took aim at Australians for downloading content on BitTorrent and using proxies to get around geographical restrictions on foreign websites.”
        And he warned that it would only increase as more people got faster access to the internet.
        “It is getting worse and will get even worse still once everyone in Australia has access to super-speed broadband through the National Broadband Network,” he said.
        “Some say internet traffic will quadruple between now and 2016.”

        “Yes, Netflix And Hulu Are Starting To Kill Cable”

        “Fetto said that cable companies, which of course are often also the gatekeepers to the Internet, will have to get more creative with their billing to make up for the revenue lost by people who are cutting the cord.”

        Charles Foster Kane

        May 05, 2014, 11:29AM
        Abel Adamski
        • Some say

          “Some say internet traffic will quadruple between now and 2016.”

          Choice words from the CEO of one of the few companies that stand to lose from the change in the marketplace. Only every organisation that is measuring this projects greater-than-exponential growth, including our own ABS. That figure actually looks almost conservative enough to be misleading. It's the elephant in the lounge room. To say that the Internet-related industries are vast and growing massively doesn't cover it. Networks need to get in the ground and in the walls soon.
  • Reality

    All other Companies that have fibre assets in suitable areas will be forced to follow and build their own vertically integrated mini monopolies that will be unlikely to ever be upgraded as they have no competition. The shareholders will demand that for maximum return on their investments

    The insane delusions of the benefits of infrastructure competition are in the process of being exposed as the fantasy land delusional fraud they are.

    However if Conroys insistence of fibre to all premises including MDU's was adhered to they would be less likely to take this path as multiple fibre infrastructures would be feasible. Maybe he was smarter than his detractors
    Abel Adamski
  • Cleverness to Australia... "Hi, can I be in your name?"...

    ... Australia to Cleverness... "F... off mate"...
  • Debunked

    The idea that VDSL2 cannot work with more than one provider is utter rubbish. Sure it's not optimal, but the effect over short runs in apartment blocks, e.g. 500ft is relatively small.


    All this shows is that NBN has moved from being a silent slow-moving dithering mess, to a press-release plan-on-the-run and fud generator.
  • FttB can use Coax ie Digital TV cable

    It would be much better to use the coax in MDU's and this is a standard for this situation. Since MDU sites would most likely upgraded for digital TV, this would be much better to use than 50 year old twisted pair. Speeds of 80, 160 and 320 mbps are standardised.

    MoCa is the current standard.