NBN VDSL trials a success: NBN Co CTO

NBN Co's chief technology officer Gary McLaren has said that the speed and product trials of VDSL technology conducted by NBN Co have proven to be a success.

NBN Co's chief technology officer Gary McLaren has said that NBN Co lab trials of VDSL technology have shown that the speed improvements talked up by vendors have proven to be true.

As part of the statement of expectations provided to the company by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull after the election in September, NBN Co was asked to assess alternate technologies for the NBN rollout, including VDSL.

NBN Co had previously submitted advice to the government outlining the need for what NBN Co calls "fibre to the building" technology to make it simpler for the company to roll out the network to multi-dwelling premises such as apartment blocks and town houses where access to the ducts leading into a unit is not as easy as it is for single unit premises. NBN Co has blocked access to the release of this advice, and the Australian Information Commissioner is currently reviewing an appeal request submitted by ZDNet.

McLaren said today that the company had undertaken lab trials to "check what the vendors were saying is real" about VDSL and vectoring.

ZDNet understands that the company approached vendor Alcatel-Lucent to work on a trial of FttN, and the company has already conducted a small trial of the technology, with a view to extending the trial out further in the near future.

McLaren told the NBN Rebooted conference in Sydney today that the trials had been a big success.

"[With] VDSL and vectoring, there is a substantial improvement in the performance of broadband speeds, both downstream and upstream speeds," he said.

While he could not state what speeds he was seeing on the network, he said that the product specifications across all fibre, satellite and fixed wireless also work on VDSL2.

"The good news is that we've done that testing. The constructs we've developed earlier on... all translates very well, very much into the VDSL," he said.

He said that pending the outcome of the strategic review in early December, NBN Co would be conducting more VDSL trials with service providers soon to iron out some of the remaining product issues.

It comes as Alcatel-Lucent has flown its global president of fixed networks Federico Guillen to Australia to "educate" NBN Co on the benefits of what the company calls fibre-to-the-x. That is, taking fibre out to the most economic point and then using a variety of technologies, including VDSL and vectoring over the copper network.

Contrary to reports from other media outlets, Alcatel Lucent denied that its existing NBN deal was currently up for renegotiation. Guillen declined to comment on the state of the agreement with the government and NBN Co, and would not say whether he thought Huawei's ban from the tendering process under a renegotiated deal would impact the final cost the government will get for fibre to the node technology.

"I don't know and I don't care. I am competing with them and I am competing with other competitors all over the place," he said.

Despite the fact that Alcatel Lucent had not rolled out any VDSL technology in Australia, Guillen was confident that the success the company has had in other markets across the world could work in Australia.

"The landscape is huge but in the end there is a significant portion of the population in the cities. So in that regard it is not that different," he said.

"Of course there are rural areas which are quite different, and in those areas I would go with wireless. In dense areas, it is the same. It all depends on the loop length."

Guillen also would not disclose whether he had tested VDSL with Telstra.

McLaren also declined to state how long NBN Co had privately been advocating for VDSL to be used as part of the NBN to the government before the election.