NBN signs NetComm Wireless for FttDP equipment

NBN and NetComm Wireless have announced signing a master agreement for the latter to supply DPUs for NBN's fibre-to-the-distribution-point network.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The company rolling out Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) has announced that NetComm Wireless will be supplying its fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FttDP) -- also known as fibre-to-the-curb (FttC) -- distribution point units (DPUs) and related services.

Under the Master Equipment and Services Supply Agreement, NetComm Wireless will supply an unspecified number of one-port and four-port DPUs to be installed in pits outside premises to connect the legacy copper with fibre.

NetComm Wireless said the supply of services would "likely commence" in FY18, with CEO and managing director David Stewart saying the DPU solution to be used was "specifically developed" for NBN.

"NBN is delighted to bring NetComm Wireless on board as a technology partner. We have tested FttC over the past year, and we're confident we can now deploy the technology in areas where it makes better sense from a customer experience, deployment efficiency, and cost perspective," NBN chief network engineering officer Peter Ryan said.

"Delivering FttC will not only allow us to deliver speeds of up to 100/40Mbps using VDSL, but will also allow us to offer even faster speeds in the future with some of the new technologies that are becoming available.

"NBN has a flexible and technology-agnostic approach to deploying the NBN network, and we are confident that when we launch FttC services we will deliver a great experience for end users."

NBN in September announced that it would be replacing the Optus hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) footprint with its FttDP network, with up to 700,000 premises to be covered by the new network technology, which will also be deployed in some areas previously slated to receive fibre-to-the-node (FttN) network connections.

ZDNet revealed last month, however, that NBN will be launching its FttDP network not with new G.fast as per its trials and research on the benefits of the faster network technology, but instead with old VDSL technology.

NBN on Tuesday said it decided to use VDSL across its FttDP network "in order to make it simpler for our retail service providers to offer services to end-user premises".

NBN has been trialling FttDP across Sydney and Melbourne since April, previously saying that it would look at launching FttDP services in 2018 for "several hundred thousand" premises. In October last year, NBN signalled its intent to deploy FttDP for premises that are located more than 1 kilometre from a node.

Last week, the Australian government announced that it would be loaning the extra AU$19.5 billion needed for NBN to complete its rollout of high-speed broadband across the nation.

NBN was originally given AU$29.5 billion in equity by the government, with the remaining AU$19.5 billion to be sourced through private debt funding by NBN itself once the government's funding ran dry.

However, under the surprise decision by the federal government, NBN will not need to go to market to fund the remainder of the fixed-line broadband project.

"To help ensure that NBN can fully focus on the remaining rollout as it significantly ramps up, the government has decided to provide the remaining funding required to complete that rollout through a government loan to NBN Co Ltd on commercial terms," Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said in a joint statement.

"In anticipation of a future privatisation of NBN as provided for in the NBN Companies Act 2011, it is expected that this loan will be re-financed by NBN on external markets in 2020-21."

According to the ministers, the government loan on commercial terms is the most cost-efficient way for NBN to raise debt and secure funding without impacting the time frame of the NBN rollout.

NBN CEO Bill Morrow said the government's decision to provide the remaining equity needed for the project will allow NBN to focus solely on the rollout.

"NBN has been advised the government will loan the remaining AU$19.5 billion required for the total AU$49 billion base case peak funding forecast. This allows the NBN executive to fully focus on building and operating the network, to bring fast broadband to all Australians by 2020," Morrow said in a statement to ZDNet.

"NBN welcomes the decision which is in the best interest of the Australian taxpayer. With security of funding in place, we are focused on the job at hand of building the network and providing fast broadband access and universal connectivity to all Australians by 2020."

The decision comes despite the government saying in May during the announcement of its Budget 2017 that having to provide additional equity contributions if NBN failed to raise debt privately would impact Australia's financial position.

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