NBN to get 250Mbps on entire HFC network by June 2021, only 7% can get 750Mbps

New wholesale pricing structure leaves cable users guessing.
Written by Chris Duckett on
Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet

The wholesale pricing changes flagged by the company responsible for deploying the National Broadband Network (NBN) across Australia at the end of 2019 came into force on Friday, and along with the new 100/20, 250/25, and 1,000/50Mbps speed tiers, a bunch of caveats were also released.

NBN said its new 500-1,000Mbps plan, which the company has dubbed as ultrafast, would only be available on 18% of its network, which would include its fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) footprint along with an "initial" 7% of the hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) footprint.

"This will provide an opportunity for NBN and RSPs to work together to understand customer demand, usage patterns, customer satisfaction with speed performance and the future growth profile," NBN said in reference to the HFC footprint.

Even if an HFC customer is able to get an ultrafast plan, it will be configured to provide 750Mbps with the potential to burst up to 990Mbps. Burst durations are set to be "between 1 to 50 seconds at least once a day".

For the 250Mbps speed tier, labelled as superfast, NBN said up to 70% of HFC customers would be able to receive those speeds, with plans to extend to the entire footprint by June next year.

Both of the above plans are available to 100% of the FttP footprint.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the new plans showed the network's "upgrade potential".

"The launch of these plans is evidence of the NBN's substantial capacity and flexibility to deliver services to meet the current and future needs of its users," he said.

"While for many Australians the existing speed tiers will be sufficient at this time, it is important that NBN Co continues to evolve its products through new speed tiers in order to stay ahead of changing user demands."

See also: ACCC report and COVID-19 highlight how CVC is an artificial handbrake on the NBN

Not surprisingly, Labor saw it as a chance to attack the Turnbull NBN plan.

"The announcement today is a vindication of the original fibre plan, but raises some troubling questions," Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said.

"Why is the Morrison Government now prioritising 1,000 megabit speeds on HFC, when some Australians can't even achieve 25 megabits per second speeds over copper?"

Earlier this week, ISP Aussie Broadband said it would immediately be offering 1Gbps plans.

Customers will be able to take up a 1,000/50Mbps service with unlimited data for AU$150 a month, with its 250/100Mbps unlimited plan new retailing for AU$210 a month, and its 250/25Mbps plan now selling for AU$130 a month.

Along with the wholesale pricing changes, NBN will now begin to overprovision services by up to 15% of extra layer 2 capacity so that tests the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) run at layer 7 can match the speeds claimed by internet service providers.

However, 1Gbps plans will not receive the ill-conceived boost.

"Our priority is to help deliver high-speed broadband to premises across Australia and, as we complete the initial volume build to 11.5 million premises, we are starting to unleash higher speed tiers on a phased basis," NBN Co chief customer officer of residential Brad Whitcomb said.

"Launching the three new higher wholesale speed tiers is the next step in our network evolution and we will continue to upgrade the network to offer higher speed services to more customers over time."

On Thursday, NBN said it had seen a new record of peak throughput on its network, recording 14.5Tbps on May 19. Once again, the traffic was driven by a Call of Duty update.

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