Copper in Perth 'better than anticipated': NBN

In response to reports that the copper being used in the FttN rollout in Perth is 'disastrous', NBN has said it is actually in a better state than anticipated.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The National Broadband Network (NBN) company has said the state of the copper being used in Western Australia for its fibre-to-the-node (FttN) network is in better condition than expected, contrary to reports that it is "disastrous".

The West Australian on Wednesday published an article claiming that NBN had left live copper wires exposed to the elements while rolling out FttN in Cannington, Perth; however, NBN has said that the streets surveyed for that report were not in a ready-for-service (RFS) zone.

"The copper shown in the photos is not in an area that has yet gone 'ready for service' and is still under construction," an NBN spokesperson explained to ZDNet.

The spokesperson added that the state of the legacy Telstra copper in Cannington has actually exceeded expectations, and should not have many faults needing replacement.

"So far, the copper has been in better condition than anticipated," the spokesperson said.

"We have conducted some modest remediation on removing bridge-taps and repairing joints, but have not yet needed to replace any copper from the node to the home."

NBN's FttN network was switched on in September last year, involving fibre being rolled out to a node on each street and then utilising the existing copper network between the node and the home.

The company on Monday revealed that as of March 10, it has spent AU$44.2 million on acquiring new copper to be used between nodes and pillars.

NBN had in October said that while copper lines between the node and the home will not need to be replaced, it would need to add or replace copper between the node and the pillar where necessary.

"We have to put new copper in to run to the pillar that serves all of our homes from our node to that pillar. And that could range in distance between right next to each other ... it is a short section, but it is new copper that has to go in the ground that doesn't exist today," NBN CEO Bill Morrow told Senate Estimates at the time.

He added that defective cabling could also be replaced, with more copper also added where there is not enough to service homes.

"The other area to where we could be putting copper ... is that if there are defective joints that are out there that have a trouble rate that's too high, we'll need to go ahead and make that investment to replace that joint as it stands," the chief executive said.

"And then in the other case that I mentioned, if it turns out that there's not enough pairs going down the street to be able to serve all the homes that are there, then we may actually have to add pairs in that path to be able to get to each one of the homes."

Morrow's comments came just a week after claims made by NBN that it has not had to replace any of the legacy copper between node and home in installing its FttN network, with end users able to achieve high speeds while relying on existing infrastructure.

This was followed in December by a leaked internal NBN document revealing that the cost to replace or repair the legacy copper network will amount to AU$641 million.

"State of copper network considerably worse than expected, leading to extensive work beyond the node," the document dated February 26, 2015, said.

NBN ranked this risk as "almost certain", with "major" consequences.

"Decision to minimise remediation during build could reduce speeds available, create additional burden on connect, and hamper timely migration."

This figure was a significant increase from the AU$90.4 million total estimated in the December 2013 Strategic Review.

In December, NBN also contracted Telstra for AU$80 million in first-year revenue to repair faults on the copper, fibre-to-the-premises, and hybrid fibre-coaxial networks.

NBN said it now has 30,000 active FttN services, with download speeds averaging 83Mbps and upload speeds 36Mbps.

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