NBN Co to add HFC areas in 2015

Homes and businesses in areas covered by Telstra and Optus cables will find out in the first half of 2015 when they can expect to be connected to the NBN.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Homes and businesses in suburban areas where Telstra and Optus hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) cables are waiting to be taken over by NBN Co will know in the first half of 2015 when they will be connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Through negotiation with Telstra and Optus, NBN Co is hoping to connect over 3.27 million premises to the NBN using the existing HFC cables rolled out mainly in urban areas of Australia. 

NBN Co on Monday announced 419 towns where construction of the NBN would commence between now and June 2016, with over 3 million premises to have been passed or have construction under way at that point. Towns covered by the HFC networks were left out of the announcement, however, while NBN Co waits to finalise renegotiations with Telstra and Optus for ownership of the networks.

NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow said on Monday that the Telstra deal will likely be wrapped up by Christmas, and ZDNet understands that the Optus deal is awaiting the completion of the Telstra deal.

Speaking before the Senate Select Committee on Tuesday evening, Morrow said that HFC areas to be connected to the NBN would be announced "some time in the first half of next year."

The company's new HFC recruit Dennis Steiger said that once NBN Co acquires the networks, it will need to assess the infrastructure, and prepare it for connecting to the NBN. This will include clearing the spectrum on the network, replacing old DOCSIS 1 modems and ensure that the HFC networks can cope with the traffic demand over the next few years.

Despite concerns from former communications minister Stephen Conroy, Morrow said that the HFC networks would be up for the job.

"We believe the network is in adequate shape," Morrow said.

There were currently 1.7 million homes in the HFC footprints already have lead-ins, reducing the cost of connecting to the NBN in those areas, with 1.5 million without. Morrow said that it would be a "one- to-two hour job" to connect those premises, because most HFC was above ground.

For multi-dwelling units in the HFC footprint without lead-ins, such as apartments, he said it may make more sense for NBN Co to instead roll out fibre to the basement.

The HFC networks will have DOCSIS3.0, something Telstra and Optus have already implemented, to ensure that the networks could offer up to 100Mbps, Morrow said. Steiger said there was "no immediate driver" to roll out DOCSIS3.1 for even faster speeds.

A ZDNet analysis of Monday's announcement revealed that approximately 320 of the 419 towns announced for NBN construction in the next 18 months were in Coalition electorates. In a role reversal from his 2011 position, Conroy questioned whether Coalition MPs were consulted on the locations for the network rollout.

Morrow said that he had no consultation with Coalition MPs prior to the announcement. A spokesperson for NBN Co told ZDNet on Monday that the locations were determined in line with the company's November announcement

He also revealed that for existing premises in Tasmania, those not connected to fibre today would likely not get fibre to the premises, and instead would get fibre to the node, fixed wireless, or satellite.

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