NBN Co signs up Arris in AU$400m HFC network deal

The cable TV networks owned by Telstra and Optus will be getting an AU$400 million upgrade before being incorporated into Australia's National Broadband Network.

Arris will upgrade the Optus and Telstra hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks for NBN Co in a deal worth AU$400 million.

ZDNet has confirmed that NBN Co has signed up Arris to install new cable modem termination systems (CMTS) and upgrade the two networks out to approximately 230 exchanges across Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne in a three-year deal. The company beat out rival telecommunications giant Cisco to the agreement.

NBN Co gained access to the HFC networks as part of new agreements signed late last year. According to the company's product road map, NBN Co will begin connecting customers to the HFC networks in March 2016, and will pilot services in the fourth quarter of 2015.

It is understood that the networks will be DOCSIS3.0, with no plans to upgrade to 3.1 at this stage, and NBN Co is planning on offering download speeds of up to 100Mbps.

Arris president of network and cloud services, Bruce McClelland told journalists on Monday that much of the DOCSIS1.0 modems would need to be upgraded to 3.0, and this would allow the company to offer more reliable services. He said 3.1 is a possibility but a decision for NBN Co.

"From our perspective, it's well down the development path, and we'll be in trials towards the end of the year," he said.

Upgrades could take at least four hours for each node, with user outages as short as 15 minutes long.

NBN Co said the upgrade to the legacy networks would not just be a re-badge of the networks.

"We're not simply re-badging the existing HFC networks from Telstra and Optus, we are substantially building a new and upgraded network.We will be significantly extending that network, and putting at its heart a very powerful new engine," NBN Co CTO Dennis Steiger said.

Steiger was not available for a question and answer session on Monday, and much of the detail around when Australians can expect to see the upgrades be completed remains unknown.

McClelland said it was "unfair" to compare NBN Co's planned HFC networks to the current state of the HFC networks.

"The experience the Australian public has now is not going to be the same once we upgrade the network to the same standard we have at Comcast," he said.

NBN Co will need to build lead-ins for approximately one third of the 3.27 million premises passed by the networks, but Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull previously indicated that he is quietly confident that much of the HFC network upgrades will be completed by the time of the next election in 2016.

The lead-ins will be built by construction contractors, not Arris.