The NBN is really coming – the next 12 months will see a huge change for average Aussies

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.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 11.13.34 pm (2)

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.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 11.11.19 pm

(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.

  1. Fibre to the Home
  2. Fibre to the Node
  3. Fibre to the Basement
  4. Satellite
  5. Mobile
  6. 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)

It’s coming

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.

CATV Double02



  1. Middo

    February 25, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Poor me living on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Something for unborn grand children to look forward to judging but current maps.

    • Trevor Long

      February 25, 2015 at 9:46 am

      No HFC near you mate? Then it’s Fibre to the Node for you!

  2. Middo

    February 25, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Actually I will be in the HFC footprint so hopefully some news soon!

    • Trevor Long

      February 25, 2015 at 9:59 am

      Exactly, Hopefully you’ve got Cable internet now – and when the NBN comes – new modem and you’re set for super fast speeds!

  3. Tony of Poorakistan

    February 25, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Trevor, all they are doing is expanding Foxtel’s footprint at taxpayers’ expense.

    No way will they upgrade the HFC network properly BEFORE signing people up. This will be a matter of claiming numbers as soon as possible to keep Turnbull happy and that means signing people up ASAP. They MAY grudgingly split nodes and increase channels later when the sound of complaints gets loud enough, but that’s many years down the track.

    BTW – what are HFC users supposed to do for a telephone when there is a power outage in the area? FTTN users have battery backup in their nodes, real fibre users (lucky bastards, as you say) couldn’t care less as they are on a passive network that doesn’t need backup except at the premises. NBNCo have no intention of doing anything so you won’t even be able to make an emregency call in the event of a power outage, especially if , like me, you live in an area with minimal to no mobile coverage

    • Trevor Long

      February 25, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      I’m calling complete BS on your opening line. And let me tell you what that opening line does to the rest of your argument – ruins it.

      Your last paragraph – ironically just a “BTW” is actually the best point – and a great question, that’s one I will put to Bill Morrow.

      As for Foxtel – breaking news Tony – Foxtel has 100% footprint – via HFC and Satellite. Any small infill the NBNCo does on the HFC network will have a tiny effect on Foxtel’s network.

      As for Upgrade, again, BS mate, they are buying a network, and have capital plans in place to upgrade it – because the current HFC doesn’t meet the minimum upload requirements of the Government’s NBN plans – at the very least, but moreover, they have the capital, they WILL spend it and we WILL get a better network.

      Why so negative? Take a chill pill – stop looking at the world through negative glasses I say.

    • Tommy

      March 12, 2015 at 11:24 am

      I’m on HFC. It was great, but slowly others are also getting it, and now speeds on weekends is much slower than before. 110Mbps during the week but 85Mbps and significantly more packet loss starting on Friday night. Also, upgrades are not as simple, because when they rolled out HFC they didn’t actually cable everyone, so even now I see Telstra cablers from time to time. Once all the ADSL folks are to be switched over, it means a good deal of cabling to the premises are in order.

  4. Tony of Poorakistan

    February 25, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    Foxtel is now an ISP .. they’ll be the first to sign up to sell internet over HFC as a doubleplay (bundle) with their crap pay TV content. So yes, the HFC footprint will instantly give them an extra 1 MILLION potential subscribers. No wonder people think Murdoch is the puppet master and the NBN was destroyed to benfit his companies.

    And we don’t KNOW what the minimum guaranteed speed is. The election promises were cast aside almost as soon as the election was over and I think the last we got from the spin machine at NBNCo was that they would do their best to ensure that they delivered 25Mbps downstream bandwidth to the RSPs at the POI. Nothing about uploads and nothing about what percentage of 25Mbps at the user site will be considered an acceptable service.

    • Trevor Long

      February 26, 2015 at 12:34 pm

      Tony, Foxtel is an ISP, so is iiNet, internode, Telstra, Optus and a whole bunch of others. Any “advantage” that is “given” to Foxtel is given to all! Until now the cable internet service on those lines was only available on Telstra or Optus, how you see that opening that up to more providers is giving Foxtel and advantage I don’t know.

      Take your anti-Murdoch and anti-Foxtel blinkers off mate, it’s embarrassing.

      The NBN was not destroyed, it was changed, to ensure it is delivered sooner and cheaper – and while i’d bloody love to have FTTH – it was going to blow out in price and time – this is a bloody good compromise for a home user and we should be stoked!

      Love the debate, but unless you want to put a real name and email on the line – that’s enough of this one mate:) I love discussing these things, but not with Anonymous people with a grudge…

      • Tony of Poorakistan

        February 26, 2015 at 12:50 pm

        The advantage to Foxtel is that they alone can offer cable TV over the taxpayer funded increased footprint for HFC. And this cable TV runs on a different spectrum on the cable so cannot impact the web experience for anyone at the premises. Other ISPs can only offer services like Netflix, Presto and Stan over IP, which chews your usage, costs you more money and potentially (at 25Mbps for 4K) impacts any internet usage at the premises. The advantage is significant given Foxtel will bundle the products, making it difficult to compete when you include download costs. A Foxtel user can watch 10 x 10GB movies at no additional data cost. A Netflix user will pay for 100GB of data on top of anything else so the advantage to Foxtel is significant.

        And that’s a real email address and my name is Tony 🙂

  5. Aaron

    February 26, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Hi Trevor. I’m in Perth WA, about 25km’s from the CBD in the suburbs. My suburb of Carramar does not even show up on the NBN website with a date of when we can expect to have the NBN here. A lot of talk has been about how the NBN will rollout to homes in Sydney and Melbourne faster. Are you able to shed any light on how this will make the NBN come sooner to WA.

    Many thanks,


    • Trevor Long

      February 26, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      I think you’re like 90% of the population – you need to wait patiently – in the next 12 months I expect large parts of the country to be “mapped” with estimated dates for completion.

  6. Greg

    March 3, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Hi Trev, finally we have a sensible,sustainable and achievable plan. I work in the industry to some degree, and I said the minute Labor released their original plan, that it would be well over $80bn to roll it out. (under their original plan) The replacement of the cable alone was billions, because of the metres involved. Now we have a sensible plan to get everyone a decent connection all around the country. Secondly, this should have been rolled out to businesses in capital cities to start with, so it could be paying itself immediately while the rest was being done. But no, all they did was roll it out in stupid areas that were never going to see a proper uptake. Begs belief really!! Anyway, I for one can’t wait to see what the upgrades to the HFC network will bring, being a current Telstra cable customer.

    Thanks again for an informative article.

  7. Tommy

    March 12, 2015 at 11:05 am

    Broken promises and mindless ledes. Change is not a map and another promise, those are simply rhetoric. Change is a difference in the real world. 2016 completion is just not happening. And the majority of Australians will see absolutely no change this year.

  8. John Aitken

    October 8, 2015 at 10:16 am

    G’day Trev. – I’ll settle for your HFC if that’s the best I can hope for, – even better, I’ll happily settle for Satellite, I was granted access to that already because of poor TV reception. – BUT.!!! It sounds like I’m going to get neither in Wyoming NSW, & as for – Fibre to the Node.???
    That sounds like a bad case of “BS & W” to me.

    My limited understanding of Science & Technology, is that no matter which way they try to politically paint it, – it can only be as fast as it’s slowest link. Aging copper wire is aging copper wire.!!! So I cannot see, no matter how fast it comes down the fibre to the node, how it can be “significantly any faster than the way it is today. Just money spent & wasted on a half assed do it on the cheap cop out.

    Sounds like an unadulterated sell out by the 3M’s to me. – That’s – (“The Mental Midgets from Management &/or Marketing”).
    Feel free to enlighten me. 🙂

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