Put out by the top hat

Put out by the top hat

Summary: Will existing regulation cover Telstra's implementation of Top Hats across the country, or indeed any new technology ahead of the NBN?


Telstra is installing TopHats across the country to resolve the broadband-blockage issue presented by remote integrated multiplexers (RIMs). The Competitive Carriers Coalition believes that this raises a question about competitive equivalence.

Across Australia, there are thousands of RIMs that have historically done a great job of improving the quality of phone calls for households a fair distance from the phone exchange. They created a problem, though, for the roll-out of broadband, blocking the transmission from a DSLAM in an exchange and the customer premises. Now Telstra is fixing the problem with TopHats; DSLAM equipment that sits above the RIM cabinets.

On this week's Twisted Wire podcast, Mike Wright, Telstra's executive director of Networks and Access Technologies, says that there are 550 TopHats to date, with plans to install 2000, serving 130,000 households.

Whilst that's great news for homes that now have access to higher broadband speeds, it raises questions about the relevancy of existing regulation. Assuming that this new equipment is VDSL capable, could Telstra flick a switch to turn it on, and, if so, what are their obligations to provide equivalent access?

Matt Healy, chair of the Competitive Carriers Coalition, said that it's an example of how Telstra has a competitive advantage in the delivery of higher-speed access, along with its upgraded cable network. He's also concerned that the TopHat roll-out is potentially the start of a fibre-to-the-node (FttN) approach "by stealth", which could influence opposition policy towards broadband.

Tell us what you think; does existing regulation cover the implementation of newer technologies ahead of the NBN? Call the Twisted Wire feedback line on 02 9304 5198.

Topics: Telcos, Broadband, Government, Government AU, Telstra


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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  • Looking forward to the upgrade

    Personally i am looking forward to the upgrade - For 2 years after i moved into a brand new estate i i couldn't get ADSL at all. Then after many phone calls to Telstra, finally was able to get ADSL1. Now 10 years on i am looking forward to getting ADSL2 and the speeds associated with it. So is this a stealth FttN possibly, however i know for a fact that we have fiber running to our node now - and from what i have been able to find out, most nodes have a fiber running to it, so from another point of view, the FttN is mostly in place already - so then all Telstra needs to do is have the facilities from the Node to the Home and the backhaul that again is mostly in place from what i have been told or been able to find out over time. Does it matter if Telstra is implementing a FttN - frankly no, from my point of view, the Liberal Party has stated now that they will not stop the NBN, but will attempt to continue the project in a more cost effective manner according to the shadow communications minister. If this means that it is to use the "stealth Telstra" FttN in the meantime, and i can gain faster broadband access, then i really don't mind and based on other people i have spoken to generally over time, they don't either. People want and expect fast internet access today - not a year more years from now. Any technology that will facilite faster access now is welcome in my book.
    Darren Blackley
    • Your speed?

      Darren, what sort of speeds were/are you getting on ADSL1?
      • ADSL1 Speeds i am currently getting

        around 755kbps so i expect to see some good adsl2 sppeds
        Darren Blackley
  • Reality Bytes

    "People want and expect fast internet access today - not a year more years from now. Any technology that will facilite faster access now is welcome in my book."

    You could have had that 10 years ago, the only reason you are getting it now is the NBN is coming.
    However as the Libs will win, what you will have is all you ever will have. Judging from elsewhere in the world, the upgrade from FTTN to FTTP is actually very expensive for the customer and no Government will ever pay for it. Australia's comms will be controlled by an unfettered Telstra making massive profits, sure a scattered few vertically integrated competitors.
    This is the only chance we will ever have for an integrated business capable National network. Once the Libs scramble the egg it can never be unscrambled.
    Once again Australia throws away any opportunity for a better and more prosperous future.
    Save this and save some of the articles and posts on Delimiter and revisit them in 10 years time
    In 10 years time you will be whingeing about the inadequacy and expensiveness of your service
    Abel Adamski
    • Reality Bytes 2

      First Phil there are two valid POV's
      1) Telstra is a Listed Corporation with a responsibility to it's shareholders to maximise value and profit.
      2) The Government is planning for the best long term competitive result for the Nation.
      They are mutually exclusive
      First the Telstra aspect
      a) Focussing on Media content as recently advised. With full support from the Media Providers trying to lock out competition.
      b) Their NBN pricing which is very expensive on top of which is compulsory copper line rental, and a very active recent sign up program. Practically discouraging their customers from migrating to fibre NBN. Guaranteeing low take up rate especially in Regional.
      c) Their rushed Top Hat program, once again locking in Broadband customers into an effective FTTN product
      d) Whilst they begrudgingly wholesale on their fibre and FTTN, it is on the basis of reselling the Telstra product without the ability to provide competitive media offerings.
      e) It would appear Telstra has also been playing hardball in the way of causing delays, not just the Time for the agreement, but also in access to facilities.
      Abel Adamski
    • Reality Bytes 3

      f) The Coalition and elements of the media are very focussed on take up rates and meeting targets, and is definite on cancelling the FTTH, going FTTN, voila the Top Hat program. There is a good probability Telstra will end up owning the NBN assets which will then be on their terms. The Coalition appears to be extremely supportive of Telstra, after all they reversed Keatings separation that was in process. Plus they are very supportive of upgrading and extending the Cable TV network under the Guise of B/B competition.
      It is the Big Picture, an exquisite play that Telstra cannot lose as long as the coalition does what they have promised and what sectors of the media are pushing for.
      The Nation loses, we will eventually pay more for less, have less true competition at the retail end. Telstra will have an even more unassailable monopoly and the competitors will be decimated, reduced to being resellers.
      All the benefits for Australia's future the NBN can facilitate will be as mist in the morning sun
      Abel Adamski
  • top-hat upgrade completed in my area!

    Well i am excited - i have just found out my top-hat upgrade has been completed and commissioned this week. I have been an had a look at the shiny new cabinet and it is indeed all there. I have contacted Bigpond and requested an update to my adsl profile to adsl2. I have just been advised that the change to the line profile will take place at midnight tonight. So i will report back tomorrow on if the change has taken effect and the effects of the change to the line speeds.

    FYI i have actually had much better experience faster and more helpful using the live chat feature on the telstra website than calling them. I was on live chat for lest that 10 minutes and the changes have been applied to my service. Now it is just a matter of waiting for them to apply.
    Darren Blackley
  • ADSL2 is now live on top-hat upgraded RIM!

    Further to my earlier comments i have now restarted my modem and the line speeds are now ADSL2 here is a speed test http://www.speedtest.net/result/2076013012.png - Am very happy with the results and it was in this instance dealing with Telstra - PAINLESS!
    Darren Blackley
  • Cynical move Telstra!

    I cant help but feel cynical about Telstra's Top Hat program. Where were you Telstra when throusands of people were left stranded on RIMs and you offered to do nothing for a decade. Now, with the prospect of a FTTN NBN on the horizon, suddently it makes commercial sense - or should that be political sense - to upgrade the decrepit RIMs. Was Top Hat part of your 13 page NBN 1.0 proposal?

    Oh and Mike, I dont buy your excuse that when RIMs were deployed, ADSL was not known about. Just ask your Telstra Research Labs people who had ADSL running in the 1980s.