A milestone was reached recently, with the NBN today announcing that more than half of all Australian homes are now ready for service and can order an NBN connection from a telco.
That’s 5.7 million homes ready to make the switch and more than 80,000 new homes a week being added.
CEO Bill Morrow said of the news “I’m proud to announce that one in two Australians are now able to enjoy the benefits of fast broadband by connecting to the nbn™ network through a retailer. Nationwide access to fast broadband will become the platform to launch Australia into the next phase of its digital future – it will change what our jobs will look like, where we will live and how we fare on a global scale.
“The rollout of the nbn™ network is one of the most complex and ambitious initiatives to be undertaken in any market across the world. We’re building a nationwide network that has the ability to deliver wholesale speeds which are currently are currently around eight times faster than the average capacity available on the majority of Australia’s existing broadband services. Our team is on budget and ahead of schedule to connect millions of Australian homes and businesses in the next few years and ask for your patience as we make the transition from the old to the new network.”
Nowhere near that number of homes are actually connected though, with that number hitting above 2 million recently – delivering the infrastructure is just one part of the journey.
The biggest issue now for the NBN is not just completing the build by 2020, but educating Aussies about what the NBN is and why they need – or have – to connect.
The NBN is a new national telecommunications infrastructure – every single home and business in Australia will use NBN infrastructure to connect if they want a fixed line phone and home internet.
Importantly, the NBN is just the wholesaler, no home or business deals with or buys from the NBN. You choose your Internet and Phone plan from a Retail Service Provider (RSP).
The line into your home is the part the NBN takes care of, while the RSP takes care of the connection from your local “exchange” (newly build NBN Point of Interconnect – POI) to the wider internet.
How well your connection performs and what speeds you get is determined in the first case by two important factors.
- What speed plan you choose
- How good the link to the internet is that your RSP (Telco) has installed.
At this stage, the overwhelming majority of Australians are choosing the slowest two speed plans, 12 and 25. Over time as competition drives prices down, that will no doubt change. But for now, many Australian’s don’t see a need for higher speeds and are choosing to replace their ADSL service with a similarly priced and similar speed internet via the NBN.
2.2 million homes are connected, 5.7 million are now able to connect and the NBN plans to complete the network build by 2020. That’s not to say everyone will be connected by 2020 – as we’ve seen with the take-up rate so far, some people take their time.
You have 18 months to choose and NBN plan after it is available in your area. After that time, any existing phone and internet services will be disconnected.
While many people bemoan the fact the NBN is “taking forever” to install, it’s important to actually check with the source – enter your exact address into the NBN website to get an estimate on your home, or find out if you’re already ready for service.
The NBN website will give you a date range when they plan to be in your area – and for me, and many others, it’s been quite accurate for the last 12-18 months.
Nope, we’re not all getting Fibre to the home. That horse has bolted. Instead, the current plan is what’s known as a “Multi-Technology-Mix” or MTM.
This uses a range of different methods to get a connection to your home, which in each case also allows multiple telcos (RSPs) to service your home and offer you deals.
Fibre to the Home – FTTH
The rolled gold version of the NBN. An optical fibre cable is stretched all the way into your home, and your modem connects to it.
Fibre to the Node – FTTN
New Fibre links are installed from the NBN POIs (there are 121 of these new “exchanges” around the country) and run to suburbs. A cabinet is installed on the side of the road where these Fibre connections end, and they then interconnect with the existing copper lines that run to our home.
This is by far and away the most controversial of the technologies in use. Many argue it is archaic and won’t support our future needs. And while it’s certainly no FTTH it will deliver much faster speeds then current ADSL.
Currently, ADSL users who live a long distance from their telephone exchange (many many many Kilometers), and this means a severely degraded service. Many people unable to get more than 5mbps downloads.
Under the FTTN model, a Fibre connection and node will be built much closer to those homes. For those living closest to the node itself, just like today with the Telstra Exchange – a high speed outcome. For those living further from the node (median distance is 500m, the rare extreme case might be 1300m) they will be able to get speeds that are lower, but still many multiples higher than ADSL. 50mbps is expected for those at the end of the node chain.
Fibre to the Curb – FTTC
In a new technology being tested by NBN for deployment from next year, Fibre will run all the way along each street in these areas. This means each home will be just meters from the Fibre, creating a high-speed connection.
Hybrid-Fibre-Coaxial – HFC
Just shy of three million homes in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane have had the “Foxtel Cable” running by their home for a decade or more. This cable was owned by Telstra, and until now has offered “Bigpond Cable” – capable of 100mbps downloads and around 2mbps uploads.
That cable is now owned by NBN, and is being connected to their network. Users on HFC are able to order 100/40mbps speed plans, with tests already underway to upgrade this to higher speeds in the future.
Fibre to the Basement – FTTB
For tall buildings and apartments, it’s difficult to re-cable every single apartment. So a Fibre connection is built into the “Basement” – or the comms room of the building, and distributed using the existing in wall cabling.
This is mostly similar to FTTC for speed, putting apartments closer to the Fibre.
There are also some instances of other Telcos directly connecting buildings with technology – sadly, they’re only doing that now, not 10 years ago before the NBN was mandated to do so.
In areas where running cable to every home would have been logistically and financially challenging – a “Fixed Wireless Tower” is installed. These appear like mobile phone towers, except instead of servicing mobile devices they are pointed directly at homes who have a small receiver placed on their roof.
These homes are able to order 50mbps speed services
For the most remote and rural homes, the NBN has spent billions on launching new Satellites into space. These Satellites provide NBN services to those unable to be connected via any of the other above technologies.
While it is the slowest of the technologies, it is still an improvement on previous internet services in those areas, including legacy Satellite providers.
Great question:) Because our telcos were not upgrading the infrastructure to Australians, particularly those in rural towns, the Government had to step in.
This means every Aussie home gets a minimum viable Broadband service, facilitating new business and communications opportunities.
If we’d left it to the telcos, we’d still all have nothing much new, except for those folks in the most affluent areas who might be willing to pay a bit more.
Oh, and once it’s complete, the NBN as a wholesaler is making money, profit. Pays back its debts and then becomes a viable asset for the Government.
Won’t be long until we’ll be going to an election talking about privatising the NBN and what we’ll do with the cash from the sale.
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.