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Department says 'vast majority' of FttN lines to get 25Mbps speeds in December

As of May, almost 140,000 premises with FttN could not hit 25Mbps.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

With the 18-month period of co-existence -- where fibre-to-the-node (FttN) infrastructure also needs to support legacy services over copper, such as ADSL -- coming to an end across Australia, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications has said it expects the "vast majority" of FttN connections to hit the minimum 25Mbps speed on the National Broadband Network (NBN).

By comparison, NBN only guaranteed speeds of 12Mbps in co-existence.

"NBN Co Limited has indicated that, as at 1 July 2020, co-existence has ended on 5,750 nodes out of a total of 27,933 nodes in the fibre to the node footprint," the Department said in response to questions from the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network.

"The vast majority of fibre to the node lines are expected to achieve a peak speed of at least 25 megabits per second by December 2020."

The department further said that as of May, almost 140,000 FttN premises were not capable of hitting the 25Mbps mark.

"This reduction from the figures NBN Co provided in April 2019 mainly reflects the company's progress on ending co-existence, but also the impact of ongoing network optimisation work," the department said.

"Where the network is not capable of providing the minimum wholesale download speeds after co-existence has ended, NBN Co will take action to rectify any issues in its network so that the requirements of the Statement of Expectations are met."

In response to another question, the department said NBN was unable to proceed with 120 fixed wireless sites. It added that it also decided to move premises on 26 fixed wireless sites onto its fixed line technologies.

"The changes mean that around 22,000 premises that were planned to be served by fixed wireless or were served by fixed wireless or satellite will instead be served by fixed line, while around 20,000 premises that were planned to be served by fixed wireless will instead be served by satellite," it said.

In June, NBN said it was unable to roll out fixed wireless to 500 premises in rural areas around Adelaide and users were shifted onto satellite instead.

"Opposition to fixed wireless towers in this part of the Adelaide Hills continues to be an obstacle to securing a lease for a suitable site with a willing landowner," NBN said at the time.

It further added 21 premises were moved from FttN technology onto its satellite service after encountering rocky soil.

"The presence of rock in the soil more than tripled the deployment cost for fixed line making it cost prohibitive," it said.

"Fixed wireless was not considered in this case due to the very low premises count meaning that deployment of this technology is also cost prohibitive."

The department said it was unaware of any plans to shift customers off satellite services after the initial network build is complete.

It also detailed the fixed wireless sites that were shifted to satellite.

Those sites were Beechmont, Beechmont North, Blackheath, Blue Mountain, Bonogin South, Boyland, Brigadoon, Broken Head, Bulahdelah East, Byers, Clagiraba, Clyde North, Cornelia, Crabbes Creek, Daylesford, Dooralong, Dulong, Dural East, Fairney View West, Federal, Ferguson, Fingal, Forrestdale, Gilston, Glenorie, Glenorie West, Grose Vale, Gwinganna South, Hellfire Pass, Humbug Scrub, Humpty Doo South, Kangaloon, Karnup South, Kenthurst West, Keppel Sands, Kilmore East, Kingsholme, Kooralbyn, Kulangoor, Lakesland, Lamington North, Lillian Rock, Maroota, Moolap, Moss Vale, Mount Samson West, Mount Walker, Mulgoa North, Mylor, Neranwood South, Nerong, Nethercote, Onkaparinga Hills, Ourimbah West, Pheasants Nest, Piggabeen, Pomborneit, Reesville, Robertson South, Smithfield South, Smiths Gully East, Springbrook North, Springbrook South, Stoneville, Surveyors Bay, Talbingo, Tamborine South, Theresa Park West, Tomewin, Toolern Vale, Torquay East, Uki North, Upper Brookfield, Verrierdale, Verrierdale East, Wedderburn, Wellard, Wendoree Park, Wisemans Ferry, Witta, Wolvi, Woorabinda and Wooragee.

At a committee hearing in June, Department of Finance attempted to pour cold water on the idea of writing down the value of NBN, stating that any movements in value are dictated by accounting standards.

"The value of NBN in government-funded statements is in line with the Australian accounting standards. So there isn't an ability for the government to unilaterally choose to write down or determine the value of NBN," Department of Finance first assistant secretary for financial analysis, reporting and management, governance and resource management Tracy Carroll told the committee.

"For the financial year most recently completed, NBN is valued on the basis of the net assets. There's a process being undertaken right now, for the financial year that will end on 30 June 2020, to consider what's the appropriate value for the NBN that would be reflected."

Carroll added that there is no expectation of a write-down this year.

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