NBN Co backs away from 'misleading' FttN products

NBN Co's high speed products might now come with a warning that the full speed may not be achievable on fibre to the node, following controversy over plans to retain the fibre speed tiers.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

NBN Co is backing away from its original plans to offer the existing NBN Co fibre product speed tiers on fibre to the node, even though the technology will not be able to offer the same higher speeds as available on the fibre.

As part of the shift to the so-called multi-technology mix model for the National Broadband Network as directed by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, NBN Co is in the process of developing new product sets for retail service providers to onsell to customers across fibre to the node, fibre to the building, and hybrid fibre-coaxial.

According to a discussion paper distributed at NBN Co's product development forum with retail service providers such as Telstra, Optus, and iiNet, NBN Co had suggested it will retail the existing speed tiers at 12Mbps/1Mbps, 25Mbps/5Mbps, 50Mbps/10Mbps, and 100Mbps/40Mbps as currently exists on fibre to the premises today, but with a caveat that for the 50Mbps and 100Mbps products will offer "up to" those speeds, indicating that the speed seen by the end user will be subject to the quality of the copper line from the node to the premises.

NBN Co had sought to absolve itself from responsibility for the line speed achieved by customers, according to reports, with the company stating in the discussion paper that "selecting the correct speed tier will be the responsibility of the end user and the provider."

The company said at the time it will not prevent users from ordering the "up to 100Mbps" service for lines that get speeds lower than 50Mbps, even if the 50Mbps tier comes at a lower price.

But today NBN Co indicated that it was step away from the "up to" measurement following criticism from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Instead, NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow told the Senate Select Committee for the NBN that while NBN Co was confident it could offer the speeds on the tiers up to 50Mbps, for 100Mbps, NBN Co was "exploring the best ways of qualifying" that the speed achieved on fibre to the node might not reach 100Mbps.

On the ongoing Umina and Epping trials of fibre to the node services that were announced before the NBN Co and Telstra signed a deal for a 1,000 node trial out to 200,000 premises, NBN Co chief operations officer Greg Adcock said that a retailer had one service on order in Umina across all 10 nodes.

In Epping, NBN Co is still in negotiation with energy supplier SP AusNet over powering for the nodes. Adcock said that one node had been powered, but NBN Co is seeking an unmetered power deal before standing up more nodes in the suburb.

"We had power to one node but it is inappropriate which is why we're working with the energy supplier there, SPAusnet for an unmetered power solution," Adcock said.

"With the node that is stood and powered, [SP AusNet is] now doing independent throughput tests with an independent authority."

On media reports that estimate that NBN Co's power bill for 50,000 nodes could reach upwards of AU$89 million per year, Adcock said that extrapolating the cost of powering all nodes from the cost of one node didn't take into account NBN Co seeking deals to power the nodes on an unmetered basis.

"We are in negotiations with power companies at the moment for powering nodes," he said.

NBN Co's fibre to the basement trial now has 50 customers on it, Morrow said, but the company has yet to reveal any detail on the speeds achieved for customers on the service, and he said that given NBN Co has yet to finalise its FttB products, the customers on today are on the highest speeds possible.

In the latest statistics released by the company, 42 percent of customers in existing premises (brownfields) have taken up the 12Mbps/1Mbps plans, while 34 percent are on 25Mbps/1Mbps plans. A total of 5 percent are on the 50Mbps/20Mbps or 25Mbps/10Mbps plans, while 19 percent are on the 100Mbps/40Mbps plan.

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