NBN Co begins fibre-to-the-basement rollout

Approximately 6,000 premises in Sydney, Melbourne, and the ACT will be the first to be connected to the NBN via fibre to the basement.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

NBN Co has commenced planning design and construction for fibre-to-the-basement services to 6,000 premises in Sydney, Melbourne, and the Australian Capital Territory.

The company announced on Monday that 43 apartment blocks with 6,000 premises in total across Sydney, Melbourne, and the ACT will be the first to be connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN) through fibre to the basement.

NBN Co expects approximately 2,000 premises to be ready by the end of March.

According to documents issued to retail service providers (RSPs), and seen by ZDNet, the apartments are located in suburbs including Civic in the ACT; Carlton, Keysborough, and Brunswick in Victoria; and Sydney City, Haymarket, Rushcutters Bay, Elizabeth Bay, Potts Point, Balmain, Pyrmont, Randwick, Erskineville, Mascot, Alexandria, and St Leonards in New South Wales.

It comes over a year since NBN Co commenced trials of fibre-to-the-basement technology in Melbourne.

NBN Co said that the average download speeds for the trial users were 89Mbps down and 36Mbps up over the vectored VDSL.

This is markedly down from the 108Mbps down, 48Mbps up speed test result trumpeted by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull in December 2013.

NBN Co said it has been conducting more trials with retail service providers since then, and would be ready to begin connecting customers by March, with the 6,000 premises expected to be passed by the end of June.

Under the former government, NBN Co had previously advocated for including fibre to the basement as part of an alternative method for accessing apartment blocks, including creating a separate policy for it in the draft 2012 corporate plan. This proposal was removed after it was submitted to Cabinet under the former Labor government.

ZDNet sought access to the document under Freedom of Information; however, NBN Co blocked its release on the grounds that it would reveal Cabinet deliberations.

NBN Co will be looking to get fibre-to-the-basement customers connected quickly, as TPG is rolling out its own fibre-to-the-basement network to 500,000 premises across Australian capital cities.

TPG began connecting customers late last year, but earlier this month it was revealed that TPG had suspended selling its fibre-to-the-basement product after Turnbull announced a carrier licence condition that would require TPG to offer a comparable wholesale product to its competitors over the network.

TPG said it was not given enough time to develop a wholesale product by January 1, 2015, even though the company said it was already planning a product when the licence condition came into place.

"Once the draft CLC [carrier licence condition] was issued, we were forced to put the implementation of that development work on hold. It would be impossible for us to offer the product at the price point if the CLC is implemented, since the costs associated with compliance with the CLC are huge," TPG general counsel Tony Moffatt said.

By July 1, the company must also have structurally separated its retail and wholesale businesses, under the CLC.

According to the company's product road map, NBN Co will likely commence offering commercial fibre-to-the-node products to retailers in the third quarter of this year, while services on the hybrid fibre-coaxial networks will begin being sold in March 2016.

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