Lots of great political commentary today from across the interwebs calling the NBN’s announcement of an expansion of their fibre footprint a backflip, but what many or most are missing is both the devil in the detail, and the genius of the plan. There’s good news and bad news in here folks.

Rather than shooting off at the hip, I took the time to talk to the CEO of the NBN Stephen Rue today shortly after the announcement was made.

LISTEN: NBN CEO talks to Trevor Long about the Fibre and Gigabit Update

Who gets Gigabit Speeds on NBN?

By 2023, 75% of the fixed line NBN network will have access to Gigabit Speeds.

This includes:

  • all FTTP customers (Already able to get 1Gbps)
  • all HFC customers (currently only 7% can get 1Gbps, 70% can get 250/25)
  • all FTTC customers; and
  • 2 million FTTN customers.

Who misses out on Gigabit Speeds on the NBN?

After this next rollout of Fibre is complete, there will be no change to the speeds offered on Fixed Wireless or Satellite services .

Importantly, there will also still be 2.5 million homes connected to FTTN that will not have the option to request a Fibre upgrade “on demand”. That will come after what one can only assume will be yet another push out of the Fibre footprint.

Which FTTN Areas get Fibre NBN and which do not?

At this time the NBN has not released a map or roll-out schedule for their FTTN Fibre upgrades. This means we don’t know who will fall into the haves, and who will fall into the have nots category.

Will every FTTN upgrade be FTTP?

No. Speaking to Mr Rue, it seemed clear that in some cases FTTC could be a viable option for provision of Gigabit Speeds, though his answer also made it clear that FTTP was the most likely scenario.

How much will the upgrade cost home-owners?

There is no plan to charge home owners who are eligible for the FTTN to Fibre upgrade for the lead-in installation. Instead, that is covered by the NBN because you are essentially committing to a higher speed plan, at a higher cost, thus there is higher revenue for that premises.

Is this a mega backflip?

Of course it will be reported that way, heck, Kevin Rudd who dreamt up the original NBN is already saying that.

However, because it was never completed, we’ll never truly know what it would have cost to build Rudd’s “Rolled Gold” NBN. Anyone who tells you it would have fit within the original budget is dreaming, or smoking some epic drugs.

Importantly, if you listen to Mr Rue speaking to me today, he makes the case for this plan being a very sound and wise business decision.

The NBN is now finished with it’s large scale works. There are still more homes to connect, but for the most part, it’s done.

So with more Fibre in the streets they can charge businesses for what we call asymmetrical connections(500/500 speed for example) which helps fund the residential arm of the business.

And instead of running rolled gold fibre into every single home, the NBN will simply use existing trenches to run the fibre up the street, and only put the “lead-in” to the house where it’s wanted, or needed.

If your great grandmother needs Gigabit, I’d be amazed. So keep her home on FTTN where she can get 25, maybe 85 speeds and a phone line.

When someone else moves in, and they want Fibre – they can order it, and it will be installed.

Those who disagree entirely with the Multi-Technology-Mix approach will find ways to make this all seem like a bad look for the Government, when in fact, it’s just smart business by the NBN which will benefit the government in many cases.

Unfortunately, it leaves a big hold in the roll-out for those who will still be on FTTN for the next three years at least.

I’ve been calling for some time for a road-map for developments and upgrades to the NBN. Today’s news is welcome, but it’s far from complete and leaves 2.5 million homes wondering, and 4.5 million wondering if they’re going to be left wondering.

Got me?