NBN jacks up 750Mbps coverage to 'nearly' all HFC premises by end of 2021

As company begins upgrading fibre-to-the-node connections around the country.

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Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet

The company responsible for running the National Broadband Network (NBN) around Australia said on Tuesday it is beefing up the number of hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) lines that are capable of getting speeds over 500Mbps.

In May, the company said it would have all of its HFC customers capable of receiving its 250Mbps superfast tier by June next year, with only an initial 7% of HFC customers able to get its ultrafast tier.

Although nominally a 500-1000Mbps plan, HFC ultrafast is configured to provide 750Mbps with the potential to burst up to 990Mbps, with burst durations to occur "between 1 to 50 seconds at least once a day".

On Tuesday, NBN said by the end of November, it would have over 25% of its HFC footprint able to get an ultrafast plan.

"The company expects that by June 2021 over two-thirds of premises in the HFC network footprint will be able to order NBN ultrafast broadband, and it forecasts that by the end of 2021 nearly the entire HFC network footprint should be able to order NBN ultrafast broadband," it said.

At the same time, the company announced the beginning of construction to provide upgrades from fibre-to-the-node to full-fibre connections on demand.

The first 100,000 premises will be situated in Belmont North, Charlestown, and Toronto in the Newcastle suburbs; Carramar, Castle Hill, Holsworthy, Liverpool, and Wetherill Park in Sydney; Osborne in South Australia; Cannington and Double View in Western Australia; Lyndhurst and Narre Warren in Victoria; and Acacia Ridge, Browns Plains, Eight Mile, and Oxenford in Queensland.

"The footprint for the 100,000 eligible premises has been designed by NBN Co where we anticipate strong demand for higher speeds; where NBN Co has established construction and delivery partners with an existing workforce in place following the recent completion of the initial build of the NBN network; where it can deploy with speed and agility; where it is cost-effective to start work now; and in a way that the investment is most likely to spread and multiply economic activity across the nation," the company said.

"NBN Co will work closely with internet retailers over the coming months to define the process by which eligible customers can express their interest in ordering a higher speed broadband service and acquiring a fibre lead-in to their premises."

In order complete the upgrades, NBN is building what it calls local fibre networks that take fibre along street frontages.

As expressed last week by NBN representatives at Senate Estimates, when a customer orders a service that their copper connection cannot handle, NBN will at that point build the fibre lead-in to the premise.

The end goal of the network upgrade will be to ensure that for a cost of AU$4.5 billion, 75% of NBN's fixed-line network will be able to access 1Gbps speeds by the end of 2023, which will also include HFC and fibre-to-the-curb. Fibre-to-the-basement is not part of the upgrade.

The money for the project to upgrade 2 million premises will be sourced from private debt markets.

Speaking to journalists while launching the NBN 2021 corporate plan last month, NBN CEO Stephen Rue said the on-demand upgrade plans were previously planned to begin when NBN became cashflow positive on the other side of 2023, but he would not be drawn on whether it would be to the same scale as its new plan.

It is expected that the first fibre-to-the-node users will be able to order upgrades in the second half of next year.

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