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Backflip to the home: NBN to upgrade FttN areas with fibre

NBN's AU$4.5 billion plan will see 75% of its fixed footprint gain access to 1Gbps speeds.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet

What a decade of useless and wasteful argument that was.

After years and years of ridiculous claims -- such as those made by then-Shadow Communications Minister cum Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2011 that there was no evidence end users would receive any benefit from getting access to broadband speeds higher than those available under ADSL2+ technology, or that 1Gbps was a marketing gimmick -- NBN will now embark on upgrading its network.

The end goal of the 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. The money for the project will be sourced from private debt markets.

Seven years too late: The missing piece from the Coalition's NBN plan 

Part of the money, up to AU$700 million, will be used to take fibre to businesses and create fibre zones around Australia, with another AU$300 million already allocated to fibre upgrades alongside state governments and local councils.

That leaves AU$3.5 billion for residential upgrades under today's announcement.

"Under this investment program, in areas currently served by FttN, all existing fibre infrastructure already built to nodes will be incorporated," shareholder NBN ministers Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a statement.

"There will then be a further investment to take fibre deeper into neighbourhoods, through building local fibre networks that run along street frontages."

Speaking later at a press conference, Fletcher said two million homes serviced by fibre-to-the-node (FttN) would be upgraded to a full-fibre connection.

Similar to the business fibre program, the upgrades will be on-demand, with hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC), and fibre-to-the-curb (FttC) connections to also get upgrades of existing infrastructure to hit the 1Gbps target. 

"From the outset, the plan set out in our 2013 Strategic Review was to get the network rolled out as quickly as possible -- and then deliver upgrades when there was demand for them. We've steadily delivered on our plan for seven years; the further investment announced today is exactly what our plan envisaged," Minister Fletcher said in a statement, presumably forgetting the prior decade's politicking.

"This is the right time for this network upgrade. There is a long term trend of broadband demand growth -- with a very significant spike this year as COVID-19 has changed the way we use the internet."

The ministers said the upgrade program would create 25,000 jobs across the country over two years.

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