Australia’s NBNCo ‘tries cheaper FTTH’ project

03 March 2016 | Alan Burkitt-Gray


Australia’s National Broadband Network is looking at ways of going back to its original plan to deliver fibre to most homes in the country.

That was the original idea when the NBN was set up by the previous Labor government, but was scrapped when the party lost power in 2013, to be replaced by a cheaper option using fibre to the node. The project is being handled by NBNCo, a state-owned equal access wholesale operator that is building a fast broadband network to all homes in the country, replacing Telstra’s copper.

Now Australian newspaper The Age was revealed leaked documents about a trial of what it calls “a new, low-cost fibre-to-the-premises technology that could achieve the speed and reliability of an all-fibre system to the home, as originally intended by Labor, but at a reduced construction price”.

The paper says that the company has successfully tried a multi-technology local fibre network, which uses thinner optical fibres than in the previous design. The system has already been tested in two communities in the state of Victoria, the report says.

The report says that construction cost using the new approach will be half of the original cost of $A1,200 per home.

Following the report, Australia’s politicians immediately descended into an argument, with Labor accusing the government of “lying” about the true cost of fibre to the home. According to The Age, communications minister Mitch Fifield said: “It’s outrageous for Labor to suggest the NBN has been misrepresenting the cost of fibre to the premises. Any claims this is a secret plan are nonsense.”

The Age quoted an NBNCo official as saying: “It’s a matter of public record that FTTP is part of our technology mix and is the most expensive and the hardest to build, so naturally we would always look at ways to reduce cost and time. The fact remains FTTP costs $4419 per premises to build, as reported at our half-year results on 5 February, and is far slower to roll out than FTTN, which costs $2300 per premises to build.”