Turnbull flags trial NBN nodes for 1,000 premises

Turnbull flags trial NBN nodes for 1,000 premises

Summary: Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said NBN Co and Telstra are planning a wider trial of fibre to the node technology that will cover up to 1,000 premises.


NBN Co is remaining tight-lipped about a trial for 1,000 premises to be connected to the National Broadband Network via fibre to the node, despite Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull letting details slip last night.

As part of the shift to the multi-technology mix model proposed by the new Coalition government, NBN Co first announced its fibre-to-the-node pilot in February, with the company planning on accessing Telstra's spare copper pairs in Umina in New South Wales, and Epping in Victoria, serving up to 100 premises each in a trial that was set to commence at the start of May, and run until the end of October.

Last week it was confirmed that the trial had yet to start, with NBN Co only signing an agreement with Telstra to access the copper in Umina, while NBN Co was still negotiating access to power supplies for the nodes in Epping.

Despite the trial being over a month behind, Turnbull talked down the delay in an interview on ABC's 7:30 program last night, insisting that it would get under way soon, with a larger deal on the way.

"There are trial sites, there's 11 nodes set up on Umina on the Central Coast and we are finalising the discussions with Telstra to do a big thousand-node trial and which will then roll into the full fibre-to-the-node rollout. So things are moving along very well," he said.

ZDNet sought additional information on the extended trial from NBN Co, however the company declined to comment further.

"I'm not going to speculate about trials," a spokesperson for NBN Co said.

"But it's certainly no secret that FttN will help bring high speed broadband to families and businesses sooner and at less cost to the taxpayer."

Turnbull was also asked to explain why he had said that the renegotiations with Telstra to access its copper and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks for the so-called multi-technology mix model for the NBN were likely to miss their June target. Turnbull said his original statement was a "forecast" rather than a promise, and the negotiations were going well.

"It is very far advanced and it's going very well and the discussions are proceeding very well. But what's really exciting is that the rollout, which has been chaotic, is now starting to stabilise," he said.

"Well I expect we will finalise the commercial terms in the near future and I talk about the middle of the year. But, look, let me just say this: this is a forecast, it's moving along very well, but I don't want to be held to a particular date. You can imagine both parties want to get it wrapped up."

Topics: NBN, Government, Government AU, 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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  • Wow. Turbull (Simon) says ....

    Sorry Josh but Turnbull and many of the MTM supporters have been claiming that not only was the Liberal alternative fully planned and costed, but that the tried and tested technology was being rolled out as we speak around the globe.
    So why the "trial for 1,000 premises to be connected to the National Broadband Network"?
    This is just bullshit. According to Turnbull, FTTN is both cutting edge and tried and tested technology. So which one is it?

    It's about time you stopped writing articles based solely on press releases and media interviews and started doing some real investigative journalism. Get the facts, present them, and then put forward your own opinions. Not this wishy washy pap.
    • seriously?

      Have you been around IT for 5 seconds?

      No one with more than a single brain cell takes something that is tried and tested in other environments and just starts deploying it in your own environment.

      As for cutting edge - yeah that is a valid question. Is something that is the most current generation of a technology and which surpasses all previous generations in its lineage cutting edge or is it just current?
      • Lets develop a new use for copper.

        Yeah. You do have a point. I mean, when a primate first swung a club, that was cutting edge. When another primate used a club with a sharp edge that was also cutting edge.
        But at the same time, other primates were using the bow and arrow.
        Do you get my meaning?
      • Extra brain Cells Discovered.

        Guess switching to rubber tyres on that old horse-drawn cart qualifies as Cutting Edge for some?
    • most of our countries power is still on poles that need replacing

      and cost a packet to fix and maintain and we lose heaps every time there is a cyclone or a bushfire..

      why are we not moving those to underground before rolling out fibre?

      I've also been googling frantically trying to find evidence of other governments spending the same sort of money per capita on broadband internet anywhere else in the world.. and I've found nothing even close. to either libs or alp's plan.. we are by far the only country spending this sort of money for this sized population. it's a bit of a worry all things considered. Especially since the only tangible benefits anyone has come up with so far is faster downloads of GOT and the exporting of our whole IT industry..
  • Selection

    May I suggest the FTTN Trial be conducted in safe LNP seats, that way their supporters are trapped on FTTN until after the rest of the build is completed.
    Any inadequacies will be reflected straight back to the minister.

    They would not have the guts to do that tho
    Abel Adamski
    • can i out my hand up for it?

      If its anywhere near as good as the FttN connection I had at my last residence (an apartment building in Melbourne) then I'm more than happy to get it now and see how copper vs Cat 6 UTP works over the last segment.
      • Copper vs. Cat 6 UTP?

        Just being picky here, but for the uninitiated, Cat 6 UTP *is* copper. Unshielded, twisted pair copper.

        I suppose you're comparing it to the very thin Telstra pairs? One is POTS, the other basically Ethernet cable. You can get a decent 1GB comfortably over Cat6, but the Telstra pairs to the DSLAM are rather fraught with connection issues, often managed with very poor moisture and other environmental controls (i.e. plastic bags, rubber bands and (where posh) silicone sealant.
      • yup .. me too.

        I'lll take a VDSL connection right now.. put the FTTN box 150 metres from my house and hook me up.. I'll take that any day over the crappy connection I have now.

        It will tide me over nicely till LTE6 or some other wireless tech makes it all redundant anyway.
  • something i do wonder

    Is that if FttN is being done because its cheaper than all Fibre, then why couldn't there be a middle ground with Cat 6 UTP over the last hop? The cables are good for up to around 100m are more hardy than fibre cables and can handle gigabit speeds.

    So is it issues to do with electrical interference or cost or just not wanting to do the work over the last hop?
    • Really

      the reason y MTM is surpose to be cheaper is that they are useing the current copper. They wont be replaceing the copper with cat6 like iinet did in ACT for there FTTN network they built there only upto 300m.
    • The last Option

      It is the last bit, fibre is actually cheaper.
      Note Greenfields are all FTTP because of it's superiority in every way.
      The ONLY reason for FTTN is that incumbents already have the copper that is paid for in situ, their maintenance and service and stores are all copper equipped and trained.

      We are not in in that position

      To replace the lead in with CAT X would entail similar work to fibre and mean that expensive to provide and operate and maintain powered street cabinet would still be needed, unlike fibre which just requires small units with passive optical splitters, they can actually be fitted within larger pits as water proof and not powered

      It is the last section to the customer who is the only service on that sector as different to the common fibre feeding the Cabinet which means that apart from being run in better ducting and pipes or even arial it is shared among hundreds
      Abel Adamski
      • nope.. copper is already there.. fibre is not

        so it's not cheaper to use fibre for the last leg, because you have to pull the copper out of asbestos ridden pits and run Fibre and dig up roads and front yards etc.. verses installing a node near the phone junction box and linking it in.. big difference compared to ripping it all out and running fibre. the only reason the costs are even close is because labor locked us into contracts to expensive to get out of.
        • You misunderstood

          You need to follow the thread properly. Aesonaus was asking the purpose of FTTN and suggested lastly whether it was to avoid the work over the last hop. Abel replied yes and mentioned, as an aside, that FTTP is cheaper than Ethernet or copper if you actually are doing the last hop as well, such as in greenfields builds.
        • Also a suggestion

          Another view is that even though copper is already there, the copper in some sections is so old and corroded that plonking in a brand new node would see no improvement at all. You would literally have to rip out the last x many metres and replace it, otherwise you would see a great outpouring of money and no improvement. In these scenarios, fibre would again be cheaper, as the cost of the work required as well as the cost of the copper cable would match that of laying down new fibre, with no conceivable advantage.
  • The main objective.

    Surely the main object of the exercise is to undo the mess made by Howard, Senator Luddite etc., when the WHOLE of Telstra was privatised. That was equivalent to selling all of Australia's roads to a single company!
    Untangling that requires either the nationalisation of Telstra's network, or building a more modern one parallel to it and compensating Telstra. The NBN needs either to by-pass Telstra's whole network with fibre, or to assume ownership of it, wires and all, one way or another.
    So far, to me, the Coalition policy reeks of lobbyists.
  • Puhleeese can we move form the technology argument

    The technology argument is clouding the bigger picture. Should Government even be doing this ?. Unshackle the private sector, or include them and we can install FttP for a fraction of the cost of this @#$% government funded tragedy. It has slowly stepped backwards from crappy NBN Co designed FttP to even crappier FttN. ... and all the while Australia sinks further behind our trading partners.
    • ah yes...

      ... the way the private sector has been improving our communications networks for the past few decades... boldly innovating and installing a first class... oh, no, wait...
    • It's all about the practical implications

      No private entity will install FttP where there is existing FttP, therefore it would be the US model of local/regional monopolies. There would be no worthwhile return on the huge investment for the 2nd player to arrive and there would also be a range of restraints, physical and legislative to name two, which would be a nightmare in practice. We're right with you in being impatient with the NBN Co comedy of errors and recognising the need to be competitive with our trading partners, but solutions need to be workable (they're about to find out that FttN in Australia isn't - watch the excrement hit the fan).
    • Um, no, actually we can't...

      The problem here is that the wrong technology choice has huge implications for overall cost.

      In the strict business sense of that, choosing FTTN meant being unable to bypass Telstra's aging copper, and at the same time committing to a path that did not include the last-mile costs, which are significant. That last mile wasn't costed, wasn't considered, and Telstra will certainly not hand it over without quite a few billion dollars over the top of the rest of it. FTTP would have bypassed that cost, and Turnbull was negligent in not considering it.

      Adding street nodes, powered, unnecessarily, puts a huge extra cost on the overall move to a competitive national information highway, which is a technological choice that puts it economically out of reach.

      And -- should the public sector be doing this?
      Who's going to pay for national coverage? The private sector? Farmers, who live and die by the commodities market? No, they simply lose out. And national services delivery will be forever held back because the whole country can't receive those services digitally.

      No, we cannot move from the technology argument, sorry.

      Also in business terms, there is an uncounted but blisteringly high opportunity cost to the economy. Without the fast upload speeds possible to an all-fibre rollout, we cannot compete on the international market for the information-based work that our universities are turning out. Frankly, if you had the soul of an Auditor, you'd be rather frightened by the off-sheet costs.