NBN: There were more faults on fibre than satellite

Eighteen months after launching services, NBN saw 2.5 faults per 100 active services on fibre to the premises, compared to 0.7 per 100 across satellite.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) company has revealed that it saw the most faults on active services after eighteen months of service on its fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) network, and the least on its satellite service.

In response to Senate Estimates Questions on Notice, NBN said it is "not straightforward" to compare the rate of faults across different technology types.

"Fault rates vary, not only due to the characteristics of the access medium, but also due to the period of time that a product has been in the field. This is largely due to the continuous improvement of processes, technician training, and general understanding of the technology," NBN explained.

As such, NBN provided information on average faults per month per 100 active premises across a three-month period that spanned the 17th to 19th months following the launch of each network technology.

According to the table, NBN saw 2.5 faults per 100 active services on FttP back in 2012; 1.5 faults per 100 active services in 2013 on fixed-wireless services; 1.2 faults per 100 active services on fibre to the node/basement (FttN/B) after 18 months of service in 2017; 2.6 faults per 100 active services on hybrid-fibre coaxial at the end of 2017; and just 0.7 faults per 100 active services across satellite at the end of 2017.

In response to another Question on Notice, NBN said in determining whether to deliver a 100Mbps fixed-wireless -- which was killed off because it could cost AU$1 billion to offer due to requiring additional towers, backhaul, and spectrum -- it needed to consider "the change in the usage behaviour, but also the associated cost of upgrading the network to meet increased demand, take-up, and concurrency".

"It [is] worth noting that in 2011, the fixed-wireless network was being designed with a Committed Information Rate (the speed available if all users on a cell were operating concurrently) of around 500Kbps and an assumed take-up rate just over 20 percent," NBN explained.

"As at 18 June 2018, 549 fixed-wireless towers have a take up rate of more than 50 percent. Of these, eight have a take-up rate of more than 80 percent.

"It is important to note that take up rates do not always directly correlate to congestion levels, which are also influenced by other factors such as the number of cells on a particular tower."

As of June 18, NBN said 1,972 fixed-wireless towers are on-air, with just 362 of these connected via fibre backhaul and the remaining 1,611 towers utilising microwave backhaul.

"NBN's fixed-wireless network is dimensioned to ensure that microwave backhaul links do not form a point of contention, but instead provide enough capacity to carry all the traffic generated by towers," the company added.

NBN said the next version of its wireless network terminating device (WNTD) will be deployed in all fixed-wireless locations regardless of the speeds available.

"The withdrawal of the current WNTD is not triggered by an ability to support 100/40 plans now or in the future," NBN said.

"The new WNTD rollout is planned for Q1 of FY19, based on successful completion of device testing. All new service requests, irrespective of speed-tiers, will use the new WNTD, as the current version will be phased out from the supply chain."

In an effort to improve its fixed-wireless offering, NBN had last month amended its network design rules to reduce the number of premises able to connect to each cell, as well as updating the maximum bandwidth capacity available.

"The planned maximum number of connected premises in a sector has typically been 110 premises but is now moving towards 56 premises in each sector, driving the need for additional sectors to support capacity demand (this may vary depending on the exact positions and radio conditions of the served premises)," the new rules say.

"The maximum bandwidth planned for the microwave hub site back to a FAN [fibre access node] site has been 900Mbps, but is now moving to 4Gbps to support capacity growth, allowing for the aggregation of up to eight eNodeBs [base stations], with a maximum of 2,640 end users."

The changes followed criticisms about congestion on the fixed-wireless network, with CEO Bill Morrow last month telling the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network that the company is considering implementing a Fair Use policy capping download allowances for "extreme" or "super" users.

Also in response to Questions on Notice, in terms of technology choice applications -- with NBN last month revealing that from 358 applications since July 2012 for its area switch program, it has just two sites up and running, one site being built, and 15 applications "in flight" -- NBN said that one each have succeeded in McKellar, the Australian Capital Territory; Albion Park Rail, Bellbird Heights, Castle Hill, Corowa, Goonellabah, Green Point, Kellyville, Leeton, Mollymook, Muswellbrook, Orange, Parkes, Picton, Port Macquarie, Ryde, Thirroul, Tuggerah, Tumut, Woy Woy, and Yass, New South Wales; and Bahrs Scrub, Bokarina, Buddina, Buderim, Harristown, Jimboomba, Joyner, Moggill, Newtown, and Rockville, Queensland.

Technology choice applications have also succeeded in Aberfoyle Park, Belair, and Kadina, South Australia; Bridport, Brooklyn, East Devonport, Longford, Penguin, Round Hill, Ulverstone, and Wivenhoe, Tasmania; Berwick, Castlemaine, Newborough, and Williamstown, Victoria; and Karratha, Karrinyup, Landsdale, Middle Swan, Mount Lawley, North Coogee, Piccadilly, Vasse, Wembley Downs, and Yakamia, Western Australia.

As of May 25, NBN had 5,900 service class zero premises in its FttP footprint, and 73,000 in its FttN/B footprint.

Meanwhile, NBN said around 30 percent of all HFC lead-in cables are aerial, while the remaining 70 percent are below ground.

In regards to spending, NBN further revealed that the filing fees for its "Bring it on" slogan cost approximately AU$3,842; while it also spent a total of AU$1.5 million on 201 overseas trips during FY16-17 for executives, which comes out to an average of AU$7,463 per trip on flights, transport, accommodation, and associated expenses.

Mobile blackspot backhaul funding


Also in response to Senate Estimates Questions on Notice, the Department of Communications revealed the amount of federal government funding in each round of the mobile blackspots program that went towards the cost of backhaul to connect each new base station.

Under round one of the mobile blackspots program, the federal government contributed AU$30,175,412 of the AU$107,769,328 total cost of backhaul; AU15,661,563 of the AU$58,005,788 under round two; and AU$10,006,859 of the AU$18,194,289 total cost of backhaul under round three.

The department also revealed the ratio of mobile network operator (MNO) to non-MNO -- including Commonwealth, state, and third-party -- contributions to the program.

According to the government, the ratio was 48-52 MNO to non-MNO under rounds one and two, and 45-55 under round three.

The government last month announced that the first base station built under round three of the mobile blackspots program has gone live, with Telstra providing coverage to East Lynne in New South Wales.

The government had in April revealed which telcos will be taking a slice of the AU$60 million funding under round three of the mobile blackspots program, with Telstra being designated 89 locations across the nation, Optus 12, and Vodafone Australia one.

Optus is building 114 new mobile sites under round two of the Australian government's mobile blackspots program while Telstra is responsible for 148, down from the 429 it was allocated under round one.

Vodafone Australia will build out just four mobile base stations under round two after being responsible for 70 under round one.

Updated 12:55 pm AEST 18 June 2018: Clarified the fault numbers were from a three-month window across the 17th, 18th, and 19th month, not following the launch as previously reported.

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