Apartment dwellers to get FTTP by July as NBN Co fights TPG

NBN Co will begin rolling fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) services to "key" inner-city apartment buildings by mid-year as it brings forward its multi-dwelling unit strategy in an effort to fight competition from upstart TPG Telecom.
Written by David Braue, Contributor

NBN Co will offer fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) services to residents of multi dwelling units (MDUs) in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane by July as the company fast-tracks an "accelerated rollout" to fend off the competitive threat from rival TPG Telecom, company executives have confirmed.

Chief operating officer Greg Adcock, speaking during testimony to the Senate Select Committee on the NBN, confirmed that the company is "bringing forward our offer of high speed broadband to those MDUs in areas that have been identified as a competitive threat" because TPG had or was expecting to roll out a competing fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) offering in those buildings before NBN Co would normally have done.

NBN Co identified competitive threat from TPG: Morrow. Image: NBN Co

"We have taken steps to be able to accelerate service in those areas," NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow, who joined the company last month and testified alongside Adcock, told the committee.

“There is a potential problem to the model behind the NBN if we have this large-scale, material change of cherry pickers. We feel it is in the taxpayer's interest, and in the interest of NBN Co, to offer a competitive response."

The company had already been talking with building owners in key geographies to gauge their interest in an NBN Co FTTB service – which Adcock confirmed is not expected to be ready until October at the earliest.

Given TPG's rapid recent push to deliver its own FTTB service, NBN Co had brought forward its own efforts and would now use existing products to secure contracts with bodies corporate in what Morrow termed “key buildings” across Australia's largest city areas.

"The most cost-effective way to deploy in MDUs is through FTTB," Adcock explained, "but there is a competitive issue at the moment.”

“The response was to go to the geographies that have been identified and speak to various building owners, and offer the product that we have available to them at the moment."

Since NBN Co's FTTB product won't be available until October and the accelerated rollout would see NBN Co delivering live services to MDUs by the end of June, those MDUs connected by NBN Co would receive FTTP services in the interim.

“The product – the only product – that we have available today is fibre to the premise and that will be the product which we are offering.”

That product, Morrow confirmed, would be FTTP. "The trial of FTTB is still ongoing and we don't have a publicly available FTTB product," he said.

“The product – the only product – that we have available today is fibre to the premise and that will be the product which we are offering.”

Last September, TPG announced that it would undertake an ambitious FTTB rollout that would exploit a loophole in anti cherry picking legislation to run fibre connections directly to MDUs in Australia's most profitable areas.

It 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.

The move directly challenged the financial viability of the government's multi technology mix (MTM) model for the NBN. Two weeks later, communications minister Malcolm Turnbull issued a revised statement of expectations (SoE) that enabled NBN Co to begin planning to offer FTTB and other types of broadband services.

Adcock and Morrow sought to dispel suggestions that NBN Co was specifically targeting the buildings where TPG had already rolled out its FTTB service. “We are not trying to identify where TPG is,” Adcock said.

“FTTB was the plan for a lot of these already, but they had a different date than what TPG was actually targeting,” Morrow addded. “We have been told by customers – the building owners, and RSPs – that they like the fact that we are doing this.”

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