Turnbull: NBN fibre-to-the-basement trial a 'blistering' success

Fibre-to-the-basement trials in Melbourne have produced download speeds of 108Mbps, according to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Early fibre-to-the-basement trials with Alcatel-Lucent have produced download speeds of 108 megabits per second, and 48 megabits per second upload speeds, according to Australian Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

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

In NBN Co's strategic review, the company recommends using fibre to the basement for multi-dwelling units such as apartments, where it is more cost prohibitive to roll out fibre into every apartment.

Although NBN Co did not conduct any fibre-to-the-node or fibre-to-the-basement trials as part of the review, it had been undertaking some initial lab trials, and this morning, Turnbull revealed that NBN Co has tested fibre to the basement in an apartment block in Melbourne.

"Since the change of government, NBN Co has been trialling that previously prohibited technology. The first results are in — in an apartment building in Melbourne, over 150 metres of internal copper wiring is delivering download speeds of 108Mbps, upload 48Mbps," Turnbull said in a blog post.

"That's blisteringly fast, and at a fraction of the cost of taking the fibre into every apartment."

NBN Co had previously advocated for including fibre to the basement as part of an alternative method of accessing apartment blocks, including a separate policy for it in the draft 2012 corporate plan. This proposal was removed after it was submitted to Cabinet under the former Labor government.

ZDNet sought access to the document under Freedom of Information; however, NBN Co blocked its release on the grounds that it would reveal Cabinet deliberations. ZDNet appealed this decision in June this year, but six months on, the Australian Information Commissioner has yet to review the case.

The strategic review released on Thursday also calls for almost one third of Australian premises to use the existing hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks owned by Telstra and Optus to access the NBN, after the company makes upgrades to the network. NBN Co already has deals in place with the two companies to move HFC customers over to the NBN, but the agreements in their current form would not let NBN Co take ownership of the networks.

Although Telstra and Optus are likely to be tough negotiators, Turnbull has said that he believes renegotiations can be resolved quickly.

"The road ahead for NBN Co is challenging, incorporating additional access technologies adds complexity, but it saves over AU$30 billion and more than three years of construction," he said.

"There are important negotiations to be had with Telstra and with Optus. But I am confident the goodwill and spirit of openness will see them concluded much sooner than many think."

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