Tonight I punished myself with several hours of online viewing. No, I wasn’t watching Stan or Presto (well, if I’m honest, I did watch episode 4 of Better Call Saul on Stan, but along with that:) – I chose to watch Senate Estimates. Shoot me now.
As a democracy, it’s pretty awesome that we have a bunch of elected representatives (in this case Senators) who get to grill government-funded organisations like the NBNCo, and we get to watch the proceedings live.
That said, it can be a bit of a “head against the wall” viewing experience when you realise the politics at play.
So, leaving all that aside, we’ve got some good news.
The NBN has been a political football. The last Federal Election saw an end to the magical NBN plans of delivering Fibre-to-the-home. Fibre-to-the-home would have delivered the best possible long-term network for the country. Speeds we can barely imagine, however, it would have cost a bomb. Don’t kid yourself, it would be almost ridiculous to consider that cost, plus, goodness knows when it would have been built.
Under CEO Bill Morrow, the NBNCo has shifted its focus to simply delivering the NBN to all Australians.
You’ll hear a lot of talk about a “Multi-Technology Mix”. Put simply, that means the NBN are looking at any number of ways to actually deliver the “minimum speed guarantee” which is the basis of the NBN going forward.
In recent weeks the big news for Australians – particularly those in our biggest capital cities – is the acquisition of the Optus and Telstra “HFC” network. The HFC network is that grey (or black) cable which runs along the telegraph poles through the streets of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane which was rolled out for the Foxtel Pay TV service many years ago.
Hundreds of thousands of Australians have the cable running right into their home. They’re watching Foxtel through that cable.
No-where near as many have called Bigpond or Optus and are getting the Internet through that very same cable.
Right now, aside from those lucky buggers who have Fibre to the Home NBN connections, Cable internet is the best possible speed connection you can get. I am a Bigpond Subscriber and pay to receive speeds of 100Mbps downloads, and around 2Mbps uploads. I’m very happy with that, except for the upload speeds.
The reason this HFC network acquisition is critical to the NBN is that it provides a direct cable connection to over 3 million of the 10 million Australian homes.
(In Sydney, a huge portion of the currently “unshaded” areas will be covered by HFC connectivity)
That’s one third of all households who will suddenly appear on the NBNCo roll-out maps once the planning for HFC NBN is done. Given the upgrades required are at the exchange, and in small bits of equipment along the HFC network this should be a very fast roll-out, when compared to digging up every street in the country.
HFC will be the reason the majority of Australians – and lets not kid ourselves, the majority of voters – will get their NBN. EFTM expects that the bulk of the planning will be revealed for the roll out of the NBN via the HFC network in the next twelve months.
How will you get the NBN? There’s about six types of delivery as I see it.
- Fibre to the Home
- Fibre to the Node
- Fibre to the Basement
- HFC (Hybrid Fibre Coaxial)
Fibre to the Home
This is the original NBN – loads of lucky homes have access to this, and if you do – you’d know about it. This meant a new cable was run down your street and then run into each and every home.
It offers the best possible speeds today, and perhaps most importantly the best future growth for speeds delivered to your home
Fibre to the Node
Instead of running a new fibre cable into each home, Fibre to the Node – a key principal of the Coalition Government NBN policy – means that Fibre is run to local areas, and a “node” is installed on street corners in these areas. That node then connects the Fibre to the existing copper network to get you faster speeds on your copper line.
This connection will require a new modem, but will give greater speeds than ADSL can offer today. This method will be the one used in the majority of Australia where high densities of populations are located.
Fibre to the Basement
There’s a lot of apartment buildings in our capital cities. Running a new cable into every room in the building is a big ask, and in many cases it’s impossible.
Fibre to the Basement allows for a high-speed Fibre connection to the “basement” of the building and then use the existing copper lines within the building to deliver the internet to each apartment.
It’s essentially Fibre to the Node, but for apartment buildings.
Across remote and rural Australia the idea of getting Fibre anywhere near people’s homes is a stretch. That’s a budget not even the Labor NBN plan considered.
As a result, the NBNCo is launching new Satellites into space which will specifically deliver internet at NBN speeds to Australian’s in rural and remote areas.
(NBN Estimates 400,000 Homes will be covered by Satellite connectivity)
There are some areas which may have large populations, but not have the economics to provide a Fibre link in any way to suburbs, streets or homes.
Wireless internet, just like that which Optus, Telstra and Vodafone deliver, is a perfectly optimal solution in some areas.
NBNCo seeks to install networks for this reason, sitting outside the mobile networks themselves which will allow Internet companies who are retailers for us to call on, to deliver this as one Broadband option.
Covering over 30% of Australian homes, the “Hybrid Fibre Coaxial” network (Pay TV network) of cables is the ideal way to rapidly roll out a NBN connection to homes.
Current tests of HFC networks like that in Australia are showing speeds of 300Mbps up to 1Gbps.
Critically, NBN CEO Bill Morrow told Senate Estimates tonight that HFC tests had shown upload speeds of 46Mbps.
All this will be possible by “retrofitting” the existing network.
While there may be some streets in Metro areas that don’t have HFC cable, the NBN will fill those “gaps”, but for the majority of homes in Sydney and Melbourne, this is going to be their NBN.
(NBN estimates over 3,000,000 homes will be covered by the HFC network)
I for one am encouraged by the HFC network acquisition. It means my existing home which sits on the HFC network will be capable of getting vastly better speeds under and NBN future. Hopefully that’s just a few short years away.
NBN CEO Bill Morrow made it very clear at tonight’s Senate Estimates that the NBN would be complete by 2020 – it’s really not so far away now after all the years of back and forth:)
So, if you’re looking at the coverage maps at NBNCo’s website, and your home is showing up as a “no” for NBN in current plans, walk outside – if you’ve got the HFC cable out the front – ring up and get Cable internet – it’s amazing. And the NBN is going to take it to the next level.
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.