NBN eyes gigabit speeds on all network technologies

The CTO of NBN has pointed towards GPON, DOCSIS 3.1, XG-FAST, Carrier Channel Aggregation, and QAM to attain gigabit speeds across most network technologies in the future.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The company rolling out the National Broadband Network (NBN) across Australia has outlined the upgrade paths for each of its network technologies that could see most parts of the multi-technology mix (MTM) attain gigabit speeds over the next five years.

On its full-fibre fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) network, users could be upgraded to Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) technology that would see them attain speeds of 1Gbps download and 400Mbps upload, NBN said.

Networks utilising copper for the last mile, including NBN's fibre-to-the-node (FttN), fibre-to-the-basement (FttB), and fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FttDP) networks, would be upgraded to XG-FAST technology, with NBN earlier on Wednesday announcing that it is trialling XG-FAST technology with Nokia in hopes of reaching aggregate speeds of between 5Gbps and 8Gbps.

Hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks, meanwhile, could use DOCSIS 3.1 -- currently due to be launched in the second half of 2017 -- to reach speeds of 1Gbps/100Mbps, while Full-Duplex DOCSIS 3.1 could reach up to 10/10Gbps.

Over NBN's fixed-wireless network, used in regional areas, NBN said it could use Carrier Channel Aggregation (CCA) combined with improved Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) beyond 2020 to possibly attain 1Gbps/100Mbps services.

Satellite, the broadband technology being used in the most remote areas of Australia, could grow to speeds of around 100/40Mbps through TPEP improvements and additional satellite capacity.

"It is about making sure we provide a minimum performance level today with an upgrade path. This is vitally important," said NBN CEO Bill Morrow.

NBN's 2017 Corporate Plan revealed a base case of 2 million or 17 percent of premises that will be covered by FttP; 6.1 million or 51 percent by FttN/B/DP; 2.8 million or 24 percent by HFC; and 1 million or 8 percent by fixed-wireless or satellite.

NBN chief technology officer Dennis Steiger also revealed the broadband company is in the final stages of filing a patent to use HFC as backhaul for a VDSL distribution point.

"We've actually been on that for some time now, and this is in the final phases of filing a patent," Steiger said on Wednesday.

"The technology actually works, we've built prototypes, proved that will work in the field, so we are going to see if there's any interest beyond our own application.

"One of the things that's really, really different about NBN is we have access to HFC, we have access to ... do things in really unique ways, and I think we're going to start regularly filing patents around some of the tech that we're creating."

NBN last week revealed that it would be replacing up to 13 percent of Australian premises that were slated to receive HFC with FttN, despite the technologies having the same cost per premises (CPP), with Steiger calling the process "reallocation" due to having more knowledge of those network footprints.

"It's not prioritisation so much as reallocation, and that's purely on what makes the most economic sense in each area," Steiger explained on Wednesday.

"Does there need to be a redesign? Not necessarily, it depends on the nature of each distribution area."

NBN on Wednesday also provided an update on what speeds its FttN and FttB networks are delivering on a layer 1 line speed estimate between the end user's equipment and NBN's VDSL2 DSLAM: FttN layer-1 attainable speeds see 33 percent of premises able to attain 80-100Mbps down and 56 percent attain 30-40Mbps up.

FttB layer-1 attainable speeds, meanwhile, see 90 percent of premises able to reach 80-100Mbps down and 88 percent 30-40Mbps up.

(Image: Screenshot by Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

NBN is currently trialling FttDP across Sydney and Melbourne, with a possibility of launching FttDP services in 2018 at approximately 500,000 premises, although this footprint could be expanded thereafter.

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